Women and the priesthood

In the original version of this post, I responded to a statement in a recent Salt Lake City Weekly article about WAVE. I conflated an editorial statement by the journalist with a summary of Tresa Edmund’s description of WAVE. I apologize to Tresa. I have edited the post to reflect her kind correction. My comments in this post should not be viewed as a critique of WAVE or their positions, but as a response to the idea promoted by the journalist who wrote the article.

The perennial debate. The Salt Lake City Weekly had an article about WAVE, a group of feminists who are seeking to promote equality within the Church. After quoting Edmunds about WAVE’s hope to be viewed as faithful members, the author wrote:

The key to avoiding such confrontations will mean primarily avoiding contentious issues such as reclaiming female ownership of priesthood authority. This authority is given only to male members of the church, but was granted to women in the early years of the church’s history, between 1830 and the 1850s.

Unfortunately, this quoted passage perpetuates something akin to historical fraud. No such ownership existed and it wasn’t granted from the 1830s and the 1850s, at least not in a way that the author appears to be asserting. The group may want to distance themselves from the “radical” characters of the 1990s, but the author of the article, at least, appears to think that they share the same premises.

Now it is important to note that “priesthood” has meant different things at different times. What often happens is that people take current definitions and then try to map them on the past (or the converse). So let’s start from the beginning and talk about what priesthood has meant.

As our friend W. V. Smith has shown (see his twelve-part series on D&C 107), the first meaning of priesthood apparently meant simply the status of being a priest in the church (and not say, a teacher). Similarly, the High Priesthood, was tantamount to being ordained to the office of high priest.

Now David Whitmer in looking back asserted that in the early years there was no talk of “priesthood,” only “authority”; but it is clear that he was misremembering. There is simply too much documentation to the contrary. But he is correct that the early missionaries often spoke of the association of priesthood and authority. These traveling evangelists contrasted the difference between other Christian baptism and Mormon baptism as one of proper priesthood authority. Fairly swiftly, priesthood was the referent to any office (deacon, teacher, elder, and later seventy, apostle, etc.).

Some have argued that because women were authorized to heal by the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, that they had “the priesthood.” I think that they do so because healing rituals in the church today are performed by the invocation of priesthood authority. But this is not the case in the early church. All church members were authorized to perform healing and blessing rituals. A similarly faulty argument would be to say that women hold “the priesthood” today because they speak in church, and in Joseph Smith’s day only priesthood holders did the same, often invoking the authority of the priesthood in the process.

I’m going to skip ahead a bit to Nauvoo, even though there were some interesting things in between; this is a blog post after all. In Nauvoo Joseph Smith revealed his expanded Temple liturgy and associated cosmology. He created a quorum to mediate the transmission of the temple rituals. Contemporary participants called this quorum various things, including “the priesthood” and variants thereof (it is frequently referred to as the Quorum of the Anointed now). Women became members of this quorum and acted in the capacity of “priestess.” It is important to realize that this priesthood was a radical expansion of the term (think of the change in the “new and everlasting covenant” over time). This priesthood was a synonym for heaven and represented an interconnected kinship network that governed eternity. (For a more detailed description of what was happening see the papers written by Sam and I respectively on adoption theology due out next summer with JMH). Children born in the covenant were “heirs to the priesthood” or had to become such by temple sealings. What priesthood? The eternal heavenly family, where priests and priestesses reign through eternity in the Kingdom of God. Joseph Smith’s temple quorum was simply this “priesthood” on earth.

Now, the relationship between this new cosmological priesthood and the older governing priesthood of the church is somewhat ambiguous in Joseph Smith’s teachings. And we don’t have a lot to go from (basically the last two years of his life). It is clear that Smith viewed the Relief Society as an integral part of the restored church. And it is clear that Smith used the temple quorum and the governing priesthood of the church separately. We can only speculate whether he would have collapsed these institutions. But it is also clear that those who succeeded Smith viewed the new cosmological priesthood and the church’s governing priesthood to be discrete (for a more detailed description of the complexity and evolution of the term in Nauvoo and Utah, see the paper on female healing Kris and I have forthcoming in the winter JMH).

We don’t talk about the temple cosmology in terms of priesthood now very much. Moreover the twentieth century saw a dramatic shift in the structure of priesthood authority with regards to church administration and liturgy. These, however, are generally amplifications of previous themes and not exactly changes in taxonomy.

As far as I can tell, besides shifts in vocabulary, I don’t see what priesthood exactly has been taken from and could consequently be granted again to be owned by women.


  1. I think this is why my feminism is political….

    There seems to be a hope on the part of WAVE that the Church is more open to these arguments than it used to be. I do not see that.

  2. “The group may want to distance themselves from the “radical” characters of the 1990s, but they apparently are founding their world-view on the same premises.”

    Are you talking about the September 6?

    I think that arguments for feminism should be rooted more in arguments about agency and equality. Church history as a moral argument is often a disaster for two reasons. 1. The history is not always right. 2. The history does not provide a basis for a moral argument.

  3. My friend, Josh Gillon, a Ph. D candidate in classical studies at Princeton presented a paper on this topic at the Sunstone Symposium in SLC last month. I couldn’t attend, but he let me read a draft. Is this post informed by his presentation?

  4. I think he means people like Sonja Johnson.

  5. and Margaret Toscano–and her sister.

  6. Margaret and her sister (blanking at the moment) would be September 6. Johnson is much earlier (and even more complicated).

  7. Chris, They aren’t part of the official 6, though Maxine Hanks would definitely be in there.

  8. Okay, I guess I have always grouped them together.

  9. I don’t know Gillon or his work.

    And yes, in the early 90s, the idea that women had had “the priesthood” and then had it taken away was fairly strong among the popular writers, from which WAVE is apparently trying to distance themselves.

  10. “I think that arguments for feminism should be rooted more in arguments about agency and equality. Church history as a moral argument is often a disaster for two reasons. 1. The history is not always right. 2. The history does not provide a basis for a moral argument.”

    Chris, you’re certainly right here on some level, but history can also play a powerful persuasive role in opening people’s eyes to what may be possible. Lester Bush’s article on the history of withholding the priesthood from black males is a prime example here.

  11. Gillon’s Sunstone presentation was described here at BCC (I think) as a profanity-laden “rant.” Doesn’t sound calculated to effect change…

  12. Nope, not BCC. This is Mormon Heretic’s description from Mormon Matters.

    “I thought Joshua Gillon’s presentation called “Mormon Women Had the Priesthood in 1843: Examining the Claims” might be interesting. I was greatly disappointed. Josh is a PhD candidate of philosophy at Princeton, having completed a BA at BYU. His talk was nothing more than a rant against the church. He mis-characterized Michael Quinn’s discussion of women and the priesthood. He employed tedious grammar exercises to make his points, and finished off with an F-bomb to end his presentation. It was definitely the worst presentation I have ever heard at Sunstone, though there was another terrible one later in the day.”- http://mormonmatters.org/2010/08/17/sunstone-2010-a-feminist-recap/

  13. My 2 cents:

    I think it’s going to be hard to push much on “priesthood” for women as I don’t know that will happen in my lifetime. Things I would like to see, which are potentially doable:

    1) Changing of the focus on what we teach our daughters from purely being a good wife and mother and temple marriage to actual life skills. We expect our sons to be good husbands and fathers and have a temple marriage – yet still find time to teach them much, much more.

    2) A formal way to go back to the “old” way of letting women heal and other things, which are more rightly done through faith in Christ anyway, as evidenced in recent conference talks about healing by people who aren’t even LDS, let alone priesthood holders.

    3) A separation of administration and ordinances. Let priesthood holders perform ordinances for which the priesthood is necessary – which may be only men but which are a small subset of the “Church”. Let women serve in administrative roles from which they are currently excluded. Let them be counselors in the bishopric or stake presidency. Let them be called as counselors in area presidencies or mission presidencies. Let them be in temple presidencies. Let them be ward clerks or executive secretaries. If the prophet can have a female secretary (ie. David O McKay and Clare), why can’t a bishop. There are MANY MANY things in the church hierarchy right now that don’t specifically need “priesthood” but which are administrative in nature. Let women serve. Give them a voice in all of these areas.

  14. This discussion made me think about the Genesis group and the priesthood ban, which only complicates things, re Chris H’s comment:

    Church history as a moral argument is often a disaster for two reasons. 1. The history is not always right.

    While there is some reason to compare what WAVE is doing with what the Genesis Group was doing, the difference is that history turned out to be on the side of Genesis, whereas as J points out, it’s not so much so for WAVE. Changing vocabulary is one big reason why understanding our doctrines is like nailing jello to a wall.

  15. Uh, the Genesis Group was and is an official auxiliary of the Church, organized by then-Elders Hinckley, Monson, and Packer. It was not a lobbying group.

  16. Ben,

    The three founders of the Genesis group approached the church first, and Hinckley, Monson, and Packer were assigned to work with them. I can’t remember which of the three founders it was, but he appears in Margaret Young and Darius Gray’s documentary, “No one Knows”, and basically says “We were lobbying for the priesthood”. The imprimatur of official recommendation came after they had already drafted the idea and approached church leadership on it. They had the motive of wanting to fellowship and keep African-American members of the church within the church, but I think it is pretty clear that they thought and promoted the idea that the best way to do that was to end the PH ban.

  17. I just wanted to point out that the assertion that the priesthood “was granted to women in the early years of the church’s history, between 1830 and the 1850s” was not made by any of the members of WAVE. That sentence was written by the journalist writing the article, and is not attributed to anyone else. While the journalist’s view on the subject might have been informed by members of WAVE, it could have been informed by any number of other things as well (including by Margaret Toscano, who was also interviewed for the article).

  18. Vada, you make a credible point. I read the journalist as summarizing Edmunds’ point (otherwise it looks like she is putting words in her mouth, which is poor form). I’d welcome a clarificaiton.

    I also just noticed that I mistakenly said in the original post that it was with the Trib. That was a mistake. I appologize and will correct the mistake.

  19. Vada, I was going to say the exact same thing. The journalist said what he said, but the OP should not attribute what he said to WAVE or Tresa Edmunds, when they asserted no such thing.

  20. After rereading the original post, I think that I was pretty open to a number of interpretations on who is speaking. I note the “apparent” position of WAVE, that the “article does betray a hope” and that “the quoted passage perpetuates” unfounded ideas. As mentioned, I am happy to receive any clarification.

  21. The key to avoiding such confrontations will mean primarily avoiding contentious issues such as reclaiming female ownership of priesthood authority. This authority is given only to male members of the church, but was granted to women in the early years of the church’s history, between 1830 and the 1850s.
    J., I think the operative word here is authority rather than priesthood. Authority granted to women in the early years includes ownership of RS facilities and projects, control of the writing of manuals and learning materials, as well as performance of certain ritual religious observances such as healings and blessings. I think your post here is important in pointing out that the connection of these types of things with priesthood is nebulous, but your last line: “I don’t see what priesthood exactly has been taken from or could be granted again to and consequently owned by women” seems a bit myopic, considering the radical diminishment in women’s authority over the years.

  22. J. Stapley — thanks. Your openness to correction is more than I usually see anywhere.

  23. Thanks Stephen.

    BiV, unfortunately, I don’t believe that your points really affect the analysis. Sure, there have been times of more institutional autonomy among LDS women…but not from 1830-1850. And I know very well about the dynamics of liturgical authority. But the reality is that the excerpted text said what it said. And the things that it said are typically viewed as a “big deal” among interested parties. Ignoring that is, I believe, observing incorrectly.

  24. I’m glad there are places where people can say what they really think. Sometimes it alarms me how people think of this issue…

    …not that I don’t have presumably liberal interpretations of what “priesthood” means. I think I’m bothered by extremes in both camps.

    For example, I do think that some aspects of “priesthood” are about uniquely male as some aspects of child bearing are female. There seems to be (and so we’re told) something universal and eternal in this, and it’s not only been important to me, but as crucial as it was to Abraham to seek the blessings of the fathers. In this sense, priesthood is distinctly male, for I am male, and it matters to me.

    That said, I also think there are aspects of the priesthood that are just as distinctly female. This does seem to be our great mishap as a Church, but then, is this anything really that new? I think D & C 121 spells it out pretty clearly, though we seem to so often miss the nuance…”the powers of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven”…

    If that doesn’t resonate of union (i.e., male and female), I don’t know what does.

    The priesthood does not, nor ever will exist in a vacuum.

  25. American Yak, while I realize that it is not exactly what you said, I want to be clear that I find the Motherhood:Priesthood dichotomy generally incoherent. While I’m not opposed to complimentary characteristics between populations (in fact I think they make a lot of sense), it is important, for me at least, to see the temporal nature of temporal systems, even when they are ecclesial in nature.

  26. Thanks for the opportunity, J. I will happily correct you. ;)

    Yeah, I know WAY better than to make such a ridiculous claim. My statement ended with the quotation mark, the rest was all the very nice reporter, who admitted he was not an expert on Mormon feminism, so I have no idea where he got those dates.

    If you notice, right after the bit you quote he goes back to another attributed quote from me, which made that part about women having had the priesthood seem like an obvious aside to me.

    You might also notice that the next quote from me mentions that we’re specifically NOT advocating for the priesthood, so it would be a bit weird for me to talk about some alleged return to a priesthood we’re not actually advocating for.

    Mike S. has totally the right idea of where we’re coming from. In fact, I talked to the reporter a bit about calling women to jobs currently requiring the priesthood that have nothing to do with ordinances, and then as a throw away line I mentioned the bit about changing tables in the mens rooms. The Weekly comments are going crazy over that one because a few buildings took the initiative to put them up on their own so that must mean there is no problem. Ug.

    Those newspaper comments make me want to run into the positively nurturing embrace of the gentle folks here at BCC. ;)

  27. Oh and, I never would have used the word “lobbied” that appeared in the headline, and since the author said in his article that we’re NOT lobbyists, I’m thinking that was an editorial decision.

  28. J. Stapley,

    Just to clarify that, as I understand it, WAVE does not view itself as lobbying the church. In fact, later in the article they mention that Tresa considers WAVE more a think tank than lobby group. It was the writers of the article who put lobby in the title. Though I am not associated with WAVE, I know some people who are, and I think it accurate to say that Tresa’s views on women holding priesthood in the past are not necessarily representative of everyone in the group.

    Other than that, I’m with you on what you said.

  29. How is it incoherent? I’m not speaking of complimentary characteristics, per se, though I do think these powers are — rather, I’m speaking about how neither power — the nurturer and the provider, as we’re accustomed to thinking about it — how neither power is divisible, but rather a union of male and female.

    In that respect, I do believe BOTH women and men hold the priesthood, just as both rear and nurture children, but I also believe there are distinctions WITHIN the union, and so I suppose this might be considered complimentary. But again, it’s not the distinction that is narrowing or compartmentalized or solitary, but rather binding in union.

    In some sense, it seems frustratingly too easy to recognize the value of the mother’s gift to humanity and ignore the distinctly earthly maleness of priesthood. And I don’t mean “service,” necessarily as we throw that word around.

    Contrast this, for example, with an unchaste man, who roams the earth scattering his seed wherever his sad soul takes him. It is much easier to hold the woman accountable, be it by physical manifestation, yet we hold the man’s feet to the fire.

    So we ought to inversely look upon the powers of the priesthood and have renewed respect for TRUE righteous authority and power. Power is an important word to me. RIGHTEOUS power. FAITH, POWER, and PRIESTHOOD. There is something distinctly male for ME in it, which is also found in union.

    So, how exactly is it incoherent?

  30. Tresa Edmund says:

    My comments are disappearing into the bowels of the internet, so before I try to rewrite what I said, I’m going to test posting under my own name.
    [comments have been freed–not sure what the problem was -admin]

  31. Tresa Edmunds says:

    OK, sorry, normally I’d wait to be sprung from moderation* but I wanted to nip this in the bud before it got any further.

    *How did I end up in moderation? Have I been sleep-starting-fights again? [still trying to figure out how you ended up in the spambox–it is by mistake entirely -admin]

    Thanks for the opportunity, J. I will now happily correct you. ;)

    The commenters coming to my defense are right, I said nothing about women formerly holding the priesthood. I know WAY better than to make such a ridiculous claim.

    What I said ended with the quotation marks, and then the very cool but admittedly non-expert reporter filled in his own comments there. I have no idea where he got those dates, and since my interest in church history has never been chronological, I couldn’t even tell you what those dates correspond to. The fact that he picked back up after the bit you quoted with another attributed quote from me made that bit seem to me like an obvious aside.

    If you’ll notice, the next part he quotes is me saying how WAVE is specifically NOT advocating for the priesthood, so it wouldn’t make much sense for me to be talking about an alleged return to a priesthood we’re not advocating for.

    I also said nothing about “lobbying.” As the author mentioned we’re more “think tank” than anything else, I’m thinking that was an editor looking for a headline.

    Mike S. has the right idea about our goals. In fact, I talked to the reporter a bit about allowing women to hold positions currently requiring the priesthood that have nothing to do with ordinances, and then at the end I tossed off a throw away line about changing tables and that’s what all the commenters at the Weekly are going bonkers over. Since someone at a few individual buildings has taken the initiative to install a changing table, that must mean that there is no problem anywhere. Ug.

    I tell you, those newspaper commenters make me want to run back to the nurturing embrace of the gentle folks here at BCC. ;)

  32. Tresa, thanks for your comment. I’m not able to access the back-end for a bit, but as I am able, I will update the post and link to your correction.

  33. Okay, some clarification:
    First: Margaret Toscano’s sister is Janice Allred.
    Second: Genesis
    Gene Orr, the youngest and most fiery of the three black men who approached Joseph Fielding Smith about their concerns (holding onto their families in the faith, for example) did indeed say in our documentary (_Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_) that the twice-monthly meetings the three black men had with Elders Hinckley, Monson and Packer were NEGOTIATING meetings, and Gene in particular was eager for the restriction to end. Darius Gray was the diplomat, and Ruffin Bridgeforth had a reputation for not wanting to rock the boat. After several months, the apostles called a special meeting and announced that they were forming a group, and wanted Ruffin to preside. Ruffin chose Darius and Gene as his counselors, and they all chose the name “Genesis” for this organization, which was to serve the unique needs of Black Latter-day Saints.
    So what are the implications of this for WAVE? Things should go great if they have a few apostles supporting them. My impression of the WAVE founders is that they are energetic, utterly sincere, and faithful.

  34. J.–this post is not your usual well-researched and reasoned contribution. I’ll look forward to updates and clarifications as you take account of Tresa’s and Margaret’s corrections and the dope-slap I’m going to administer behind the scenes.

  35. Kristine: why are you treat J. Like some poor student/child in your comment. While he did jump to a conclusion regarding a news article, I don’t think that speaks at all to his level of research or reason. I found it well written and a valid statement. No matter who made the statement in the news article, the article did WAVE no favors by associating it with incorrect history and Margaret Toscano.

  36. Ok, I will never comment from the iPhone again. It makes my already meager abilities to communicate even worse

  37. Glad to hear Tresa didn’t make that claim the article seemed to attribute to her.

  38. Matt, I’ve been an obnoxious Mormon feminist since before J. was born, and I’m practically old enough to be his mother–I can talk to him this way. Also, he knows not to take me seriously.

  39. dope slap? Where can I get one of those?

  40. First, thanks to Tresa for taking on the role as Publicity Director for WAVE. She’s so articulate and energetic that I’m glad she’s willing to give interviews and take the chance that a reporter will mis-represent her vision.

    Second, please feel free to check out the LDS WAVE website. ldswave.org
    Our mission and vision are short and clear. Priesthood is not mentioned at all, but equality is.

    Third, Margaret Toscano is one of my dear friends. While I speak only for myself as a member of the WAVE board, I am in no way distancing myself from her or other Mormon Feminists. She is one of the most caring and sincere people I have ever met.

    Fourth, thank you Margaret Blair Young for your kind words. It was lovely to see you at the retreat this weekend. I hope that your flight home was smooth and that you’re with your family now. I like the idea that we’ll do fine if we have the support of some apostles. Any ideas on how we might procure that support?

    Lastly, J. Stapley, I’m glad you’ve posted about LDS WAVE here. We’re a very new organization and we’re just getting started so we can use all the support we can get. I know we can count on you and the BCC readers to check out our calls to action and do what you can (within your comfort level) to further the cause of equality in the church.

  41. I’m practically old enough to be his mother

    Okay Haglund. Enough with the baloney already.

  42. I have had a chance now to update the post; thanks all for the comments.

    Tresa, please accept my apology for my lack of discernment. I appreciate your comment. And let me be clear: I think that the priesthood claim is fairly common currency, and so I don’t think it is ridiculous that people make the claim (while at the same time, as you notice, I think the claim itself is erroneous). I’m also not trying to back you into a corner. I’m happy to be challenged and hope that I am willing to be persuaded if I am mistaken. As a side note (and a bit of a thread-jack), how do you advocate, discuss, or hope to effectuate change without lobbying?

    Kristine, I’m not sure where Margaret offered any corrections, though her comments are always enlightening. I would love to hear how this post isn’t well reasoned or researched (that invitation is open for all, really).

  43. Baloney. Mothers. Priesthood. Sounds like a fiesta waiting to happen in the stake center parking lot!

  44. “I think that the priesthood claim is fairly common currency”


  45. BTW, thanks J for the post which I found thoughtful and brought out important points.

  46. Kristine, there is the Weekly Article for one. Perhaps I am wrong, though; maybe it isn’t common and that I am constructing a strawman from anecdotal perception. I’m unable to do a search right now to determine if that is correct or not. Hopefully I will be able to later.

  47. Some of the problem here is rooted in the fact the the article is in the City Weekly. While a great read, not the highest form of journalism (okay, I am mostly pissy that they turned me down for a job many moons ago). Still, I think the source should be considered … and there are obvious problems.

  48. Randy (#10), I agree the history is useful, but I think it is primarily useful in illustrating moral arguments and it is not a moral argument in itself. It is very useful in pointing out abuses and injustices. Likewise, it is good for showing contradictions.

    Margaret (#33), Thanks. I have been reading a lot about Janice Allred, mostly her own essays. Very interesting. My name recall was on a low yesterday.

  49. Tresa Edmunds says:

    No problem, J. Sincerely.

    It was the specific dates that made the claim ridiculous to me. I think it’s probably safe to say that it’s common to claim women *have* the priesthood but aren’t allowed to exercise it, or that Joseph *intended* to give women the priesthood, but I’ve never seen anyone pin down 20 years before.

    I wouldn’t say that WAVE doesn’t intend to lobby ever, but I don’t think that as a characterization of our efforts is accurate. Especially right now. We’re not talking petitions or protests. We’re wanting to honestly communicate our feelings with our leaders. Even when we’ve talked about doing a letter writing campaign, there would be no form letter or position to take, it would be up to each person to write their own experiences, whatever those might be. But we’re really not planning on any letter writing right now, what we talk about more is personally communicating with our local leaders.

    Local leaders already have the ability to enact many of the changes we’d like to see, not all, but many. While we’d like Salt Lake to set firmer rules about enacting them, our local leaders can do it on their own right now. So a lot of our early efforts will encourage women to work locally. But all of it coming from a place of faithfulness.

    I think the suggestion of lobbying assumes a method of doing business that doesn’t really fit inside a religious model, particularly this religious model.

  50. “Local leaders already have the ability to enact many of the changes we’d like to see…”

    What would those changes be?

  51. Chris H,
    Fabulous question. We are working on a list for you and many others who are asking the same thing. Stayed tuned to WAVE and you’ll see it shortly.

    (You could also spend some time at ZD, fMh, or Exponent who have been discussing these issues for years)

  52. Tresa Edmunds says:

    Well, the infamous changing tables, for starters.

    Making the YW and YM budgets equal, giving more authority to auxiliary leaders, allowing women to publicly pray (which is STILL a problem in some areas), encouraging women to attend council meetings, using the Stake auxiliary leaders on the high council speaking tour, calling women to positions that don’t require the priesthood etc.

    That’s just off the top of my head a few things that local leaders could do. We’re drafting a much longer list of items and debating the best way to go about communicating it.

  53. “You could also spend some time at ZD, fMh, or Exponent who have been discussing these issues for years”


  54. LOL

  55. The 1830-1850 statement reminds me of statements made by Maxine Hanks (e.g., here and here [see the first several paragraphs under the Priesthood subheading]).

  56. The YW and YM budgets from the church are equal from church headquarters. It’s $50 per active Youth. (and in Primary it’s $25 per active child). President Hinckley announced this a few years back. It couldn’t have been that privately done, because I knew about it as a lowly primary worker. But each local Bishop has control of their allocation within the ward after that. And Each Stake President has (limited) control of how much to allocate to the Ward. (ie- how much to take off the top for Stake business).

  57. Ah, yes, Maxine Hanks–reliable spokesperson for mainstream Mormon feminism.

  58. Matt W.–the problem is that Scouts can do unlimited fundraising to supplement ward budget allocations. This has been discussed ad nauseam on various threads, so let’s not continue that particular threadjack here.

  59. I think Tresa’s comment highlights that there are these nebulous priesthood concepts in common circulation; and thanks Justin for links (plus Kristine, FTW).

    Instead of diverging off into the threadjack that I started, I’d like to encourage comments and criticism of the issues in the original post. Thanks.

  60. Kristine- So can the YW. Our YW do fundraising every year and out fundraise the boys 10 to 1.

    The Official rule in the CHI (page 161 of volume one, which is available on wiki leaks (but should be available everywhere, come on WAVE, that would be awesome!))(This is way to paranthetical)) says:

    “As an exception, a stake president or bishop may authorize group fund-raising activities only when necassary to help pay for annual camps and equipment as outlined on page 160”

    page 160 says: “The church encouarages one anual extended Scout camp or similar activity for young men ages 12-18 and one annual camp or similar activity for young women ages 12-18. The Church also encourages one annual day camp for Scouts ages 8-11”

    Let me pause and say is this the inequity you are talking about. If so, I agree, we need to have some sort of day camp for the 8-11 year old girls. Primary Presidents should really get off their butts and do something about this.

    Anyway, let’s continue:

    “If there is not sufficient stake and ward budget funds, leaders may ask participants to pay for part or all of this annual camp or similar activity by individually earning their own money. If funds from participants are insufficient, the stake president or bishop may authorize group fund-raising activities that comply with the guidelines on page 161.

    “In no case should the expenses or travel for these camps or activities be excessive. Nor should the lack of personal funds prohibit a member from participating.”

    So it really doesn’t have anything to do with the Church’s rule on fundraising, which is equal (with the exception of the 8-11 year old girls! C’mon Primary Presidents!)

    IT may be that in your experience the boys fund raise more because they are going to more expensive places, but again that is all decided by local leadership, not the church at large.

    So all those threads (sources please? This is not your usually well-reasoned or researched approach, Kristine (This is meant to be sarcastic, in case you can’t read tone. The tone is meant to come across as “sit down and shut up, jackass!”)) are stupid. Just because people say something stupid “ad nauseam” doesn’t make it true.

  61. Sorry, J. We cross posted. Ending my tyrannical threadjack now. The parenthetical weren’t all that funny anyway.

  62. John Mansfield says:

    Wikileaks? Try tech.lds.org/wiki/index.php/Funding_youth_camps.

  63. I so love our conversations about how appropriate or inappropriate or appealing or unappealing or helpful or unhelpful this or that particular effort at foregrounding institutional sexism and suggesting possible solutions might be. A few Mormon feminists make almost ridiculously unambitious suggestions for change (not coming, mind you, within a country mile of advocating something as wildly and irrationally radical as female ordination), and we’re not sure if we should just condescendingly pat them on their well-intentioned little heads or point out how ridiculous it is that some persons (also in the category of Mormon feminist) have errant ideas about Church history (unlike, say, people who read historical materials produced by the Church).

    The fact is, Mormon feminists are pushing, to varying degrees and with varying strategies, for changes which will definitely come at some point. We will move, however incrementally, in the direction of decreased injustice. The Church will change. But a new kind of injustice will take root in our collective memory. Alongside the arrival of the Revelation that eliminates institutional sexism will be a new narrative, according to which the whole Church, all the members, especially the faithful ones, were quietly and patiently waiting for this wonderful change. Everyone will have a story about the moment when they heard and they stopped in place and shed a quiet tear and our prayers are finally answered and the Lord in His own due time, &c, &c. Of course it was never a matter of if, just when. All of which not only trivializes but renders invisible the risk undertaken and profound courage demonstrated by those feminists who actually dared make their voices heard despite the mass eye-rolling and/or open hostility from fellow LDS it typically incurred.

  64. Can someone explain how the group can say we’re not a lobbying group. Then goes on to list half a dozen or more grievances and says, “We’re drafting a much longer list of items “.

    Merely for discussion for historical relevancy with no hope in effecting change or having an influence? (ie lobbying)

  65. Thomas Parkin says:


    *snort* :)

  66. I just wanted to say thanks to Stapley for writing (what was for me at least) a really enlightening post. It helped clarify and smooth out some previous ideas I had in mind concerning women and priesthood, which really is a topic (or rather topics) I take much interest in. Great contribution.

  67. I’ve been an obnoxious Mormon feminist since before J. was born, and I’m practically old enough to be his mother

    Were you, by chance, one of the women alive 1830-1850 who received the priesthood?

  68. B.Russ FTW. No disrespect Kristine, it was just very clever.

  69. Well said, Brad. That contemplating the ordination of women causes such a stir and conjures up the specter of “radical” elements is a sad commentary on the status of women in the church. But at least we’ve got the changing table issue sorted out.

  70. Mommie Dearest says:

    I’ve been following this thread with a lot of interest. I don’t know that I have much to contribute beyond my observation that the WAVE sisters, particularly Tresa Edmunds deserve considerable credit for their courage and sensitivity to take on such a nasty minefield as this one.

    I read the City Weekly article and only a few of the comments (before giving up that futile effort) and then seeing how many ways this thread kept (almost) getting hijacked. It’s such a daunting task just to stay on topic yourself, not to mention getting people to focus on the real issues. I am kind of amazed to see how rampant and deep the resistance is to merely discussing the problem. It depresses me, but these women cheerfully soldier on.

    I appreciate their effort, and also JStapely for deftly handling the corrections as they came, and the commenters who served to keep the discussion on track. My brain has been stretched a little, and it feels fine.

  71. ECS, I’m not sure to which stir you are referring. The desire for distance from “radicals” that you point to was a major point of the article about WAVE.

  72. LOL, J. If women and the priesthood weren’t such an incendiary issue, I doubt you’d bother to take time from your busy day to correct the article. I could be wrong, though. Hope all is well.

  73. Oh, I thought you were referring to some stir here. I skimmed over the comments quickly and thought that they were generally respectful. I agree that, generically, female ordination is pretty controversial, as it is in many faiths (see e.g., schism in the CoC and Catholicisized Anglican clergy). This just happens to be an area where I have done a lot of work. Similarly, I think that there are plenty of banal topics (at least to others) that I spend time with to which I would have been equally likely to respond.

  74. Tod (68)–indeed. Well-played, BRuss.

  75. Tresa Edmunds says:

    Brad, I think I might have just fallen a little bit in love. Quit tempting me by exposing your brain and sensitivity, you walking pornography, you.

  76. Molly Bennion says:

    Decades of considering these issues have brought this aging feminist to the conclusion that we are not framing the issues in the truest and potentially most effective manner. To cry “inequality” is to point to those who are institutionalizing the inequality. We instinctively know those would be the bad guys. But no one so branded will be interested in a discussion with his accusers.
    I would rather explore the issue within a discussion of love, not rights or equality. Are we showing love, facilitating love, lovingly maximizing the potential of all to give and receive love; are our ways designed most effectively to help all attain a Christlike love? Which of our practices move us all closer to Christ and which do not?

  77. Matt W. (#60): “Primary Presidents should really get off their butts and do something about [a day camp for 8-11-year-old girls].”

    I suppose you’re right that as a Primary counselor, I should make this happen. But a huge obstacle is that I have no extra-church pre-fabricated auxiliary (Cub Scouts) to lean on for ideas, manuals, respect, materials, staffing, expertise, moral support, etc. That is a LOT of initiative to expect from me! But hey, I promise to try for 2011.

  78. Molly, that is some deep and pure feminist analysis.

  79. Molly,
    I LOVE what you’ve said here (and although I don’t know you, we do have a few mutual friends).

    Would you be willing to write a post for WAVE? We’ve touched on some this in our vision, but an essay would be really great.

    email me at

    Outstanding analysis. Again, I’d love to see your comments at WAVE as well. What do you think? Care to post?

  80. This is why I value BCC. Here we have massive mormon issues (past and present) being discussed wiith care and civility by expert researchers like J, groundbreaking documentarians like Margaret, and those specifically involved in the current affair. Thanks to J for bringing this to our attention. Thanks to WAVE for approaching their faith and culture with sensitive courage. And of course, thanks to Brad for cutting to the quick with sociological wit.

  81. Kristine, I owe you an apology. I am sorry, my conduct on this thread was uncalled for.

  82. Matt, I’m hardly calm and reasonable on this topic; I don’t expect anyone else to be, either. But thank you. (And, just fyi, since _most_ of my bad behavior on this thread was backstage, J. has recovered from both the dope slapping and the teary apology that followed–he was, as always, a scholar and a gentleman about it).

    Cue the violins for “Should You Feel Inclined to Censure”, fade to Kumbayah.


  83. Steve Evans says:

    Violins for hymn-playing detract from the sacredness of sacrament meeting and are therefore discouraged. Kumbayah, being a pagan tune, is of course forbidden entirely.

  84. Justin Bieber helps me to fade… into absolute meaninglessness.

  85. Molly, I’m so glad you said that. I know from my interactions with the WAVE board members that finding that Christlike, loving way to communicate is our deepest desire. It is a challenge to find how to do that and one that we are attempting to sort through. Its from the aging feminists like yourself (you said it, not me! :-p) that we want to learn from and get their experiences, insights and ideas that can guide us.

  86. J. Stapley, I’m just honestly curious. What do you make of the historical references to Joseph Smith and other early church leaders who did state clearly that they believed that women did indeed have the priesthood conferred upon them?

    The best source I can point you to is: http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/women/chapter17.htm#Woman

    If you look past the author’s obvious case he’s trying to make, how do you respond to the specific sources he quotes?

  87. Thomas Parkin says:

    #76 – Molly !!!!!!!!!!

    (In the early days of internet discussion, many people were still paying for bandwidth by the byte and the “me, too” post was one of the bozo no-nos.)

  88. Jenne, just as a word to the wise, you need to know that J. is intimately familiar with the sources and really an expert in this field. It’s unlikely that you or I or pretty much anyone is going to show him something he hasn’t seen. We can disagree with his interpretation (and I do), but suggesting that he hasn’t read enough is a non-starter.

  89. This has been one of the more fascinating and less-abusive threads dealing with a loaded topic that I’ve read on the bloggernacle (are they still calling it that?!) in some time. (Many a preposition there, therein.) Congratulations. (Sometimes folks @ the bloggernacle condescend, which drives me batty.)

    Also, while I sometimes fear that the topic @ hand is too divisive, and people do more damage than good, i.e., some seem to have an ill-bent agenda, I’m interested in learning good things, and it seems many people here are too. Awesome.

  90. Jenne (and Kristine – one of these days I’ll hopefully get your full critique), the original post summarizes (albeit briefly) my dealing with the issues I think you are interested in. I’m sorry my more detailed analyses are not yet publicly available.

    But I think some people are getting dismayed with the final sentence of the original post. Please note that it is descriptive, not prescriptive. There is is plenty of good theology for the establishment of heaven on earth.

  91. Kristine, what you suggest is actually the opposite by my intentions. I expect he has seen what I am referring to, that he is more intimately familiar with a wider breath of resources than I and I am genuinely hoping to learn from him regarding his thoughts on them. He could tell me that they were made up and twisted in a way to support one man’s deranged agenda or he could give me some insights that assist me in understanding what is correct. I make a habit out of respectfully listening to what people say and seeking to learn from whoever may be able to teach me something valuable which in my experience is pretty much everyone.

    J., I still would love to hear your thoughts on the topic I brought up, I found that it was only alluded to in your post and I’m hoping for more detailed explanation.

  92. Jenne, for a start, regarding Quinn’s arguments for healing as priesthood evidence, check out this paper. It traces the development of Mormon healing to 1847, including the involvement of women.

  93. I don’t know if I’d be so quick to pooh-pooh Maxine’s role in Mormon feminism, Kristine.

    We both know that W&A is uneven (and we’ve discussed before in conversation). But it’s still an important piece of current Morrmon feminist. And I know of at least one Mormon feminist whose opinion I respect, who cited Maxine’s book in a discussion of essential Mormon studies texts — and who particularly singled out Quinn’s essay, which goes to the claims on which J. focuses, as important .

  94. I didn’t (and wouldn’t) pooh-pooh her role. I merely noted that she can’t be considered mainstream. I would say the same of Quinn’s essay. It’s important, but not uncontroversial or representative.

    And of course, it’s hard to decide what’s “mainstream” in an already completely marginalized movement.

  95. err, make that “of current Morrmon feminist _thought_ .”

  96. “And of course, it’s hard to decide what’s “mainstream” in an already completely marginalized movement.”

    Amen, sister.

  97. A lot can happen in seven years. And if it is “still an important piece of current Mormon feminism” then you may have part of the reason for its current state.

  98. Actually, in the case of Mormon feminism, I think the mainstream is pretty easy to define: women who talk about equality in the most abstract, nebulous terms possible, while unconditionally submitting to patriarchal, priesthood authority, and NOT bringing up HM or female ordination.

  99. J.,

    You know that I’ve been saying, for years, that more work needs to be done. That there are huge gaps which need to be filled. That W&A is the *only* book that tries to systematically address issues in Mormon feminism, and that that is a *big* problem. I’ve been saying this, vocally, for years. That’s not news.

    Several Mormon feminists weighed in about leading sources on Mormon feminism just a few years ago, and W&A showed up on a lot of folks’ lists. The rest of the lists were generally historical works. This is a problem, as I’ve said repeatedly.

    Yes, W&A is uneven. But unless something comes along to replace it, it will remain a very important text in Mormon feminism.

  100. Brad,
    That’s pretty patronizing. There are plenty of other non-nebulous issues that don’t touch HM or ordination directly.

  101. mmiles,
    I’m not criticizing Mormon feminism. I’m criticizing how “mainstream Mormon feminism” is framed as a subset of the broader LDS “mainstream.” Avoid the core issues, talk about equality in either highly abstract terms, or else reduce it to changing tables. I’m trying to get at how the demand for the mainstreaming of feminism in a profoundly patriarchal culture cripples it and runs the very real risk of actually supporting and/or reinforcing the existing order in the name of feminism.

  102. Kaimi,

    Are you volunteering to write a chapter in such a book. I would volunteer to edit it, but I think a women should do it. Instead of talking about it, let’s do it here and now. I have been wondering what to make of this thread, but I think something can come out of it, and I think BCC is a good place to launch such an effort.

    (At time like this, I regret my poor reputation. However, I am well versed in feminist theory and I think that much can be done.)

  103. Tresa Edmunds says:

    I didn’t find Brad’s comment patronizing at all, I found it laser like in it’s salience. I have absolutely been met with either eye rolling or hostility, and both are equally difficult to deal with because they almost tag team each other. If I bring up those $(*&%@# changing tables to try to be gentle towards the hostiles, then the eye rollers laugh at me while the hostiles huff that since a table exists somewhere there is no problem. If I mention anything substantive, like, say, female ordination, the hostiles go bonkers while the eye rollers pick apart my argument.

    The hostiles and the eye rollers are nominally motivated by different things, but the effect is the same. Women make no progress.

    What I wish with all my heart is that the eye rollers would either put their money where their mouth is and do something if they don’t like our methods, or get on board and recognize it as the tentative baby step towards progress on a very long journey that we recognize it to be.

  104. Tresa Edmunds says:

    “Avoid the core issues, talk about equality in either highly abstract terms, or else reduce it to changing tables.”

    This part, though, I’m not such a fan of. Brad, if you’re saying that this is WAVE’s approach, then you’re dead wrong. If the only core issue is the priesthood issue, then yep, we’re avoiding it. But there’s a whole lot more, and so far the changing table thing isn’t even on our agenda.

    But anybody who thinks that a changing table isn’t a core issue has never had a Sunday calling in a building without one. Those freaking changing tables were a tossed off line in an article and they get all the attention, which is actually something really telling.

    My whole point in bringing up the dang things was as a symbol of how trivial and ridiculously simple some of these changes would be to make, and what a massive effect they would have on a woman’s lived experience. If someone dismisses a changing table, they are dismissing a symbol of the support a woman is given, the value placed on her contributions in other callings, and the benefit of engaged fatherhood. Yes, it’s trivial because it’s such a small change, but it is emblematic of so. much. more.

    Giving black men the priesthood did not excise racism from the church. So, since WAVE is new and longing to gain some credibility before we go after the big prizes, we want to work on excising some of the sexism from the church.

    And if someone can’t see how no male access to changing tables is emblematic of sexism, then we I have a lot more work cut out for me than I realized.

  105. Chris,

    Maxine has been discussing this for a few years. I think that a revised W&A would be a great contribution — and for that matter, a half dozen other books addressing the topic. I don’t want to make this a project about me; but I’d love to contribute to an updated examination of LDS feminism, in any way possible.

  106. Guy Who Usually Uses His Name says:

    Hey folks!
    Good discussion.
    It seems to me that only in the Mormon church could you get a bunch of people, encourage them to go to the temple as much as possible, and, have them, in that place, be told over and over and over again who has the priesthood and how they got it, and then have them all experience collective amniesia when they leave and either not hear it, or not believe it, or have just been sleeping.
    It is just the most amazing thing to me in the whole world.
    I wonder if we will not “get” the priesthood until we “get” that.
    One does not have to agitate or argue for what already has happened. And, the fact that we make no attempt to hide it at all is what is so very striking.
    Perhaps the best way to keep something from the Mormons is to announce it as part of their sacred ritual.
    Think about it, people.

  107. Tresa,
    RE: #104, I don’t think that’s what WAVE’s about, which is precisely why WAVE’s credibility as a “mainstream” Mormon feminist group is being contested and challenged. I’m deeply saddened that female ordination is a question you guys have to back burner or ignore altogether in order to avoid even more serious kinds of marginalization (everything from ridicule to formal Church discipline). I really hope my comment did not come across as critical of or somehow blaming feminists or feminism for this problem. I’m trying to call attention to the hegemonic power of patriarchy which forces women to internalize its discourse and thereby facilitate their own continued second-class status (for example, by defining Mormon feminism primarily in terms of submission to priesthood authority or a willingness to embrace traditional gender roles). I see WAVE as attempting to break through the mold of YW-Values-Feminism, but to do so in a careful, thoughtful, cooperative, productive, and patient manner. And I really do hope you are able to initiate real change, and I’ll do whatever I can to support and help.

  108. Tresa Edmunds says:

    Phew. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear I read you wrong. After your first comment I thought you so thoroughly got it, I’m glad to see I was right all along.

  109. Tressa #103 & #104. Yes that. Exactly that. (So glad you are on the WAVE team.)

  110. Brad,

    If the only way you can keep your status as “walking pornography” is to be in total agreement…this may be a rather abusive relationship.

    If we cannot critique ourselves, we are in deeper crap than I thought.

  111. Tresa Edmunds says:

    Aw, don’t be jealous Chris. I’m sure I can find it in me to objectify you too.

    I think *we* critiquing *ourselves* is valuable up to a point. The first problem with that is that, while I’m not of the brand of feminists that say men can’t be included, male feminists do need to be conscious of the effect of the male voice critiquing the female one, and should be sensitive towards that. The other problem is that in a public setting like BCC, the conversation is not limited to us feminists.

    However, I think Mormon feminists have the self-critique part down, and sometimes it’s helpful to just do something and see what happens.

  112. “The first problem with that is that, while I’m not of the brand of feminists that say men can’t be included, male feminists do need to be conscious of the effect of the male voice critiquing the female one, and should be sensitive towards that.”

    This is likely why I have little interest in LDS Wave.

    “The other problem is that in a public setting like BCC, the conversation is not limited to us feminists.”


  113. oh, geez.

  114. Tresa Edmunds says:

    Can you be more specific than “sigh”?

    Let me explain a little more of what I mean.

    There have been times when I begin to feel like the little red hen. Everybody has an opinion about what I should be doing, or why I’m doing it wrong, or how it’s all a horribly misguided attempt, while they sit comfortably in their anonymity, quiet in their Sunday Schools, offer no support, and risk nothing.

    After a while, I lose interest in hearing what that person’s critiques of my efforts might be.

    If you, Chris, were to contact me with a concern, we would take it seriously, which we have. If J. had a concern, I would take it seriously, as I have. Critiques from people that I am unfamiliar with, as I am with many of the BCC commenters, just become draining and not very helpful. They may be feminists, they may think I have one foot in apostasy, I have no way of knowing. Without that context, a critique just becomes criticism. Which really doesn’t do much in the way of productivity.

    And I’m sorry if my joke was offensive, I was attempting a little levity.

  115. The sigh was me moving on. I will practice my feminism my way and allow you to do the same. Now…moving on.

  116. @ 60. As a primary president, I try to request as much money as possible for our girls. I was told I had to budget $75 for each of the 8-11 year old boys. In my first year, with an inherited budget, that meant that those few boys had 80% of the budget for the entire primary and nursery. I do send my 8-11 year old girls to the same day camp that the boys go to, and their leaders are fabulous. One of the leaders has been in scouting for 20+ years and brings all of the resources and experiences from the structured boys’ program to the girls’.

    I’ve enjoyed reading through the entire thread. As William Bradshaw said in his talk last night (about a different topic), Our responsibility is to learn the truth, to read the papers and then speak up.

  117. reader Rachel- that’s awesome (re girls’ day camp)- As the father of a 7 year old girl, I am very interested in how it went. Did the parents support sending their girls? Did the BSA push back against it?

  118. “There have been times when I begin to feel like the little red hen. Everybody has an opinion about what I should be doing, or why I’m doing it wrong, or how it’s all a horribly misguided attempt, while they sit comfortably in their anonymity, quiet in their Sunday Schools, offer no support, and risk nothing.After a while, I lose interest in hearing what that person’s critiques of my efforts might be.”

    As one who recognized myself in your description — sit(ting) comfortably in my anonymity…risk(ing) nothing — for my feminist concerns, I simply want to say, I think you make an excellent point :)

  119. Matt W.– We have full support from the parents. A lot of them have boys that go to day camp, so it’s nice their girls get to go too (on a different day). We were even able to get the camp to apply to extra fees paid for the boys who didn’t show up to the girls’ (we have to pay in advance, non-refundable, so it’s always a guessing game as to how many will go). The girls cost less than the boys, for the same activities, because we don’t have to pay for the BSA tokens (badges, belt loops, pins) of awards earned.

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