Why I don’t like the priesthood-motherhood analogy: Part one of a million parts

Over the four years I’ve been blogging at BCC I have written dozens of unfinished (and therefore unpublished) posts about gender issues in Mormonism. I’ve found it very frustrating that I can’t finish them. Yeah, there’s a lot I don’t finish, but blog posts that I can’t finish are especially depressing. Because let’s face it, how “finished” does a blog post need to be, really? Well, at some point I figured out the problem: I can’t finish because there’s simply too much to say. And on a subject like gender or gender inequity, which so many people have such strong feelings about, leaving something out means providing a big elephant in the room for your readers to start a threadjack with in the comments section. (I find that last independent clause extremely problematic, but this is only a blog post, after all; I’ll fix that sentence when someone pays me to do it.)

The only thing more frustrating than not being able to finish a blog post is publishing a blog post and watching everyone else have a conversation about something you didn’t bother to address in the original post because you didn’t want to bite off more than you could chew. #firstworldproblems

But heck, I’ve got nothing better to do, and if you’re here reading this, you probably have nothing better to do either. So let’s do this thing. I’m going to start publishing these unfinished posts about gender issues in Mormonism, and I’ve decided the best place to start is my least favorite threadjack-meat of all time: the Men-Priesthood:: Women: Motherhood analogy. I kid myself that by getting it out of the way first thing, I’ll never have to discuss it again.

I’m going to be a good girl and avoid asserting that the priesthood-motherhood analogy doesn’t work and is full of crap because I want to give the appearance of intellectual humility, i.e. a willingness to consider that I might be wrong. Even though I’m not. (Also, “full of crap” is not polite language.) So I’m just going to say why I don’t like it. And then you all can feel free to tell me why I should buy it even though I don’t like it. Bloggers have to blog, commenters gotta comment.

I’ve heard/read a lot of beautiful things about the purposes and functions of motherhood and comparing the act of childbirth to the Atonement and the act of mothering to priesthood service, and it is all very thought-provoking and lovely. I don’t mind the comparisons. Not at all. Childbirth and motherhood are things that many women experience and can easily relate to. There is nothing wrong with comparing them to other, non-mothery, non-birthy things in order to illustrate a point, any more than there’s something wrong with likening the kingdom of God to a woman searching for a lost coin. (I’m sure some of you might expect me to take that parable and accuse Jesus of saying the kingdom of God pays the Tooth Fairy’s salary, which is clearly untrue and therefore that analogy doesn’t work—but no, I’m not going to argue that at all.)

I have nothing against using motherhood as a metaphor for priesthood. Anything that helps us understand the Atonement or the priesthood or any gospel principle is just jim-dandy fine with me. What I don’t like is framing the priesthood-motherhood analogy as explanation and justification for ordaining only men to the priesthood—because while there may be lovely and poetic similarities between priesthood and motherhood that make for fine metaphor, there are substantial differences that render the metaphor inadequate as a means of doctrinal explication. (Man, I think I hate myself a little bit for typing that last sentence. Make that “render the metaphor full of crap.” I’m not cut out for this much politeness.)

To be ordained to the priesthood, a man has to meet certain criteria of worthiness. Yes, sometimes unworthy men are ordained to the priesthood because the human beings in charge of ordaining men are not omniscient. Sometimes unworthy men are allowed to exercise institutional authority because they have been ordained despite their unworthiness (which is hidden from the right people), but they do not exercise the power of God under those circumstances. God knows and cares whether or not a man is worthy of his priesthood. It makes a difference. The only way a man can hold the priesthood and exercise it effectively is to be sufficiently righteous.

By contrast, there are a number of ways women can become mothers and exercise this creative power that people expound upon so beautifully when they’re comparing it to the priesthood. None of these ways involves a woman’s personal worthiness. You don’t have to be baptized a member of the church to become a mother. You don’t have to live the law of chastity. You don’t have to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea. You don’t have to do anything but conceive a child in your womb by any means necessary. You may be an angel or a monster, but you can bring life into the world either way.

By even further contrast, there are many righteous, worthy women who are not mothers and some of them will never be mothers in this life. Some of them are infertile. Some of them are unmarried. Some of them are financially unable to get in vitro fertilization or adopt. It really doesn’t matter why; what matters is that the circumstances of their lives have rendered motherhood impossible. It is beyond their control. That is just not true of men and the priesthood. (Unless the men are black and it’s before 1978. Which it’s not. Thank God.)

The priesthood is sui generis. It is unique in its characteristics. It not only doesn’t have a complement, it doesn’t need a complement. It’s the power of God. One can argue—argue eloquently—that the ability to grow another human being inside you and bring it into this world is a God-like power, and you will get no argument from me. I’ve grown human beings inside me and given birth to them. It’s pretty awesome. But it’s not like the priesthood—which I could have, if I were a man. I wouldn’t even have to be a healthy man or a man with a sexual partner. Life circumstances beyond my control would not determine whether or not I could be ordained to the priesthood and serve the church in that capacity. (Perhaps I’m overlooking something really obvious—some circumstance under which a worthy man might be denied the privilege of holding and exercising the priesthood…after 1978. But it’s just not coming to me.)

As I said earlier, motherhood is pretty awesome. Beyond the whole growing-a-human-being-inside-you business—which not every mother participates in—the experience of mothering is unlike any other experience that I have had. I wouldn’t even argue it’s the equivalent of fatherhood. I’ve never been a father, but I’ve observed that fathers, on the whole, tend to experience parenthood quite differently than mothers do—and not because they’re less involved in their children’s lives but because men and women, generally speaking, tend to think differently and perceive things differently. So motherhood is important and even holy, and it is different from fatherhood–but it’s still not like the priesthood.

Fathers don’t need the priesthood to be good fathers. Fathers need the priesthood to be good priesthood-holders. Good priesthood-holders can serve their families with the priesthood. They can also use their priesthood to serve outside their families. Good priesthood-holders can be fathers or not fathers. A man’s potential for fatherhood is just as subject to factors beyond one’s control as a woman’s potential for motherhood.

I’m okay with rhetoric about metaphorical “mothering” (i.e. nurturing, serving in a mother-like role to people who are not your children), but it isn’t appropriate for every situation because metaphorical mothering is not the same as actual mothering (i.e. nurturing and caring for one’s own children, whether they be born to you or adopted or, under some circumstances, acquired through marriage). When you say every woman is a “mother” or called to be a “mother,” well, that may or may not be “true,” but it can be a hurtful thing to say to a woman who desperately wants children of her own but has been denied them. Regardless, it is more accurate (and possibly less potentially offensive) to say that any woman can be a “mother” metaphorically if she chooses. And any man can be a “father” (metaphorically) if he chooses. The metaphors are still just metaphors.

There’s a reason no one talks about metaphorical priesthood: it doesn’t exist. You can’t exercise it metaphorically. Your actions are either sanctioned by priesthood authority or they’re not. There is no metaphor. If there were, we wouldn’t need the priesthood at all. And last time I checked, Mormon doctrine says we do.

I’m not one of those people who think “equal” means “the same.” (I’m a Republican, for Pete’s sake. You know how loosely we define “equality.”) In theory I don’t even have a problem with a male-only priesthood, assuming that is the way God wants it (and I have no evidence that it isn’t). I also wouldn’t have a problem if the situation changed. A lot of women claim they don’t want the priesthood because they wouldn’t want the responsibility. I don’t want the responsibilities I have now, but if God saw fit to dump some more on me via the priesthood, I’m sure I’d continue to shirk them with the same grace and gentle humor that He’s come to expect from me. I’m less concerned with whether or not I have the priesthood than with what the church teaches about the nature of womanhood and the female role in mortality and eternity. But that’s a whole other subject, isn’t it?


  1. I am a searcher and I haven’t made up my mind about this comparison, so I’m commenting purely based on your analysis. Do I understand correctly that your reasoning boils down to two points: that priesthood is dependent on worthiness while motherhood is not, and that priesthood is unique in character and motherhood is not?

  2. Yesterday at church, someone in Sunday School made the comment “we should remember that motherhood and priesthood work hand-in-hand…without mothers, there’d be nobody to give birth to men.” Sigh.

  3. The problem with analogies is that they can only be narrowly applied. I still think there is a usefulness for the woman : motherhood :: man : priesthood analogy. You just can’t use it to explain everything.

  4. And I wholly agree that for women in the Church who for whatever reason can not have children, the analogy falls flat on its face. Have been/am there with one of my daughters.

  5. I love you, Rebecca.

  6. rameumptom says:

    I don’t compare motherhood to priesthood. That is apples and oranges. I compare motherhood with fatherhood.
    I recognize there is difference in authority between men and women in the Church (as it stands right now). However, power is a totally different thing. I’ve seen men with priesthood authority, who had no power from heaven whatsoever, and I’ve seen women with no priesthood authority exercise great spiritual power through faith and worthiness.
    Then, the greatest priesthood given to humans is the Patriarchal Order of the Priesthood, which is not given to man, but given to man AND woman together. It is the ultimate in fatherhood/motherhood promises, power and authority from God. Bishops, stake presidents and apostles will someday be released from their positions of authority. However, there is no end to the Patriarchal Priesthood and the eternal power and authority that comes with it to the couple that receive it.

    If we ponder upon the phrasing used by the sealer who sealed the man and woman in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, we see great powers, authorities, and promises made.

    I think we sometimes over focus on explaining the differences made in this temporal and temporary earth, instead of those things fixed to last the eternities. Some women may never be married here. Some couples may never have children here in this life. But the promises and covenants of God extend beyond the here and now, beyond the frail existence with its physical, emotional, and mental struggles, as we now see them.

    As noted in Salt Press’ book, “Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah”, 2 Nephi 26:33 notes that God does not distinguish or bias things as we do in this life by wealth (bond, free), race (black, white), or gender (male, female), but “…he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him…”

    We may see the day in mortality when God grants to women the Melchizedek priesthood. If so, what then? Besides making women’s authority similar to men’s for this earth life, what exactly has changed for eternal purposes?

    While I recognize the desire of good women to be able to do more, I often think that there is more than enough for each of us to do, with or without the priesthood. As it is, I can serve and bless people the same, whether called as an apostle or a primary teacher. For me, the concern is not authority, but whether a person is worthy to receive the power from heaven.

    While I understand the stupidity of those trying to compare motherhood with priesthood, I also understand that a righteous woman can have just as much right to power and revelation as the prophet or any other priesthood holder.

    Personally, I would gladly let the sisters go hometeaching, while I just mail cards and letters to those I visit teach! ;)

  7. Thank you. Our RS lesson yesterday was conducted by a member of our Stake Presidency who made this very comparison. I found it condescending and after my daughter (who was visiting from college) told me that she had wanted to walk out we had a good discussion.

  8. JA Benson says:

    Lovely comment Rame, thank you.

  9. The priesthood of God is incomparable and matchless. It is sullied by comparisons with earthly things.

    If this is what Rebecca is saying, then I agree. How beautiful is the priesthood and the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    As humans, we always try to make comparisons and to provide justifications for things we don’t understand or to help teach others — and the priesthood:motherhood analogy serves a purpose. It is incomplete and it might even be outdated, but I suppose someone can use with with good intentions. But it is just an explanation — it isn’t absolute truth. When we see it for what it is, we can see it as harmless and maybe even helpful. It’s like using the glove example as a teaching aid to teach about the resurrection, and then arguing about whether one should wear gloves before Labor Day — the gloves are irrelevant to the truth of the lesson, but they can quickly become the object of argument by those who want to do so.

    So even though the priesthood:motherhood analogy might have been helpful when it was first used, it is mis-used when it is adopted by others as a absolute truth and separated from whatever context it had in its original attempt to be helpful. And it is outdated. So I don’t ever use the analogy myself.

  10. *applauds*

  11. For us, where my husband is pretty much a “stay-at-home mom”, it makes me wonder where that leaves me. My husband gets to be the priesthood holder but is also charged with the primary care of our children, while I work out of the home. And sure, I’m the one with the womb, that womb isn’t much good without him. Whereas he had his priesthood long before meeting me.
    If the priesthood is just a wonderful construct to help men serve and become christlike, I’m all for it (but then why have it be only for men?). But as an EXCLUSIVE divine authority, I have a hard time buying it.

  12. I feel nitpicky here but there is a category of men who are worthy but do not hold the Priesthood. My brother, who was profoundly retarded (that’s the actual term, not an insult), was not ordained. While a retarded woman can bear children, a retarded man will not generally be ordained. Of course this exception actually serves to render the analogy less apt.

  13. Rebecca, if this is the standard of an “unfinished” post, I like to read all of your unfinished posts.

    I agree with your sentiment and your reasoning. As a palliative, the notion that men have the priesthood and women have motherhood is condescending and hurtful (and wrong).

    I agree: let us discuss priesthood as priesthood. If we wish to discuss the issue of men’s holding it and women’s not, then let’s discuss that, but not dismiss it with an analogy that does not hold up to scrutiny.

    Further let us not demean motherhood or fatherhood by failing to recognize that those are the matched pair to be considered.

  14. Good point, cowgirl.

  15. Peter LLC says:

    I recognize there is difference in authority between men and women in the Church (as it stands right now). However, power is a totally different thing. […] We may see the day in mortality when God grants to women the Melchizedek priesthood. If so, what then? Besides making women’s authority similar to men’s for this earth life, what exactly has changed for eternal purposes?

    I appreciate your attempt to square the circle, but I doubt that playing down priesthood as an (apparently) ineffectual marker of authority for the duration of mortality is going to get you where you want to go when “the greatest priesthood given to … man AND woman together” is still mediated by men only.

  16. I want everyone to know that I went to the trouble of logging out of my madhousewife WP account and into my Rebecca J WP account, and WP still wants to keep me logged in as madhousewife, even as it gives me full access to my Rebecca J account and none at all to my madhousewife account. This might be something more frustrating than an unfinished blog post.

  17. rameumptom says:

    Rebecca J #16, no problems. It helps us to realize how conflicted you are with having two user names, neither of which functions as it should….and may well explain your unfinished posts.

    Peter LLC #15, you miss the nuance of what is done here, versus what is for the eternities. Yes, sealers are men. Again, they will all be released from their calling some day. The authority they possess does not mean they also have power, only their personal righteousness determines that. Your statement shows a slighting over who performs the ordinance, the issue is less of who does the ordinance, and more of who receives the ordinance and covenant. God will not ask us at the judgment bar if we were sealers in the temple, but whether we were sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise in the temple.

    We need to make sure we do not miss the forest because of the trees.

  18. Sharee Hughes says:

    Just a note, Cowgirl (#12). We had a retarded man in my ward and, although he was never ordained to the priesthood (and, if I remember correctly, did not even have to be baptized), was allowed to pass the sacrament. So he had the priesthood without needing to be ordained. Not sure quite how that works, but that was the case in my ward.

  19. Just want to say Thank You for this post.

  20. Jacob H. says:

    Didn’t we once upon a time allow women to take part in ordaining others, and give their own healing blessings, etc?

  21. First, Rebecca- try signing in on a different browser (chrome, firefox, IE… whatever you aren’t currently using). Or, try clearing your cookies.

    Amen to Paul:
    “I agree: let us discuss priesthood as priesthood. If we wish to discuss the issue of men’s holding it and women’s not, then let’s discuss that, but not dismiss it with an analogy that does not hold up to scrutiny.
    Further let us not demean motherhood or fatherhood by failing to recognize that those are the matched pair to be considered.”
    Perfectly said!

  22. I’ve never read this analogy in scripture and it seems like a very man-made (and sometimes woman-made) explanation/justification/rationalisation/excuse/reason for why women don’t hold the priesthood.

    It is unfortunate but it is really just a simple matter of teaching things such as Rebecca mentions here but in a polite way. ;) It is not good to expect that others will never make doctrinal mistakes or inappropriate analogies just because they are in this church or even in a position of authority.

    Just because I hold the priesthood does not mean that I have access to the powers of heaven – or even if I do, that I have better access to those powers than faithful women. Also, there are some priesthood ordinances that I cannot perform (such as sealings, temple marriages, restorations of blessings, etc) but I have made similar covenants (under the priesthood) as my wife, or those (men, women and children) that are baptised and partake of the sacrament every week.

    Sisters are set apart under the authority of the priesthood to lead, teach, and serve. In the church, they do not gain these “rights” merely because they are mothers, anymore than men get it because they are fathers. We serve as we are called – because we are called to serve.

    Surely the covenants of the temple teach that God invites men and women to approach him on similar terms – both are cleansed, anointed, clothed, and newly named before they pray, speak and pass through the veil. In fact, both are clothed in the garment and robes of the priesthood – or the full protection of the atonement.

    The full blessings of the priesthood are available to men, women and children in this kingdom (See Doctrine and Covenants 84:19-24) – sanctification and entrance into (and endurance in) the presence of God. We need to teach the doctrine of the priesthood better. Priesthood is not manhood or even fatherhood. Priesthood is power and protection – and it can come to men, women and children.

    That men perform the ordinances is incidental – because we can all (age-appropriately, of course) receive them.

  23. As for the difference in the eternities, it’s still substantial. I am a queen and a priestess unto my husband, for eternity, whereas he is a king and priest unto God. (can I say that on the internet?) That implies I serve/submit to him, he serves/submits to God. He can pull as many women as he’s able through the veil into the celestial kingdom, whereas I am dependent on him to bring me through. And yes, you can say the point is we can all get to the other side of that veil, but the implication of church doctrine is definitely NOT that the inequality is only for mortality, or that we all have the same access to God. My husband is to be the middle man between God and me, for eternity.

  24. Kristine says:

    “That men perform the ordinances is incidental – because we can all (age-appropriately, of course) receive them.”

    Um, no. There’s an experiential component to performing ordinances that we regard as beneficial to men–that’s the “priesthood is about service” argument. It matters.

  25. I recall a quote by Shari Dew stating that the whole motherhood::priesthood inequality issue becomes a non-issue when you go to the temple. Having been to the temple, I happen to agree. But I can see many who have not been to the temple struggle with this topic; I wish there was a better way to address it at an earlier, pre-temple attending stage in one’s life. Maybe it is just one of a number of other topics where the Lord expects us to exert personal study, prayer, and faith in preparation for going to the temple.

    Thanks for this post – I think it helps many to realize they are not alone in their personal struggles and thoughts pertaining to the gospel.

  26. Becca @ My Soul Delighteth says:

    I just want to point out a truth that actually obviates the motherhood/priesthood comparison and that actually obviates the entire women/priesthood conflict at all. Women have the power of the Priesthood. If you don’t believe me, go to the temple and listen carefully and then come back and refute my statement.

    I am a woman and I fully believe that I have the right to just as much Priesthood power as any man on the earth, and I use that Priesthood power every day of my life. I also hold a Priesthood calling. Any calling you receive from a person ordained to an office of the Priesthood is a Priesthood calling – when you are set apart you are given priesthood stewardship over that calling. As you have so clearly explained, ordination to a Priesthood office is different than possesing Priesthood power. I would say that Priesthood ordination could be likened motherhood. As you pointed out, ordination to a Priesthood office (which I would actually equate with “fatherhood” – in he same way women can be mothers without physically bearing children, men are called to be fathers without biologically producing children) does not automatically gift a man the power of the Priesthood. In the same way, birthing a child in no way automatically grants a woman Priesthood power. The power of the Priesthood, both for women AND men is directly related to the worthiness.

    Women are entitled to just as much Priesthood power as men are. Ordination to a Priesthood office is a man’s calling to be a father. A woman’s calling is to be a mother. We were given that calling, I believe, in the pre-existence and that calling was solidified with Eve’s courageous act to be, literally, the mother of all living – not only because she was able to grow children in her womb, but because she had the courage to give us the opportunity to experience mortality. (this next sentence is slightly tongue-in-cheek) I think that fatherhood and the ordination to the Priesthood fell by default to Adam (thus, men) because of Eve’s courage. I actually believe that our gender roles were defined this way before Eden, and that is what Eve understood.

  27. I’ve been to the temple, and rather than nullifying the issue, it made it even more substantial- to me, at least. And this was long before I had any inkling of doubts in the priesthood or of some hidden feminist in me. But I don’t think the temple solves the problem- at least, not for everyone.

  28. Cassandra says:

    Just curious: does anyone have a take on Valerie Hudson Cassler’s analysis? http://mormonscholarstestify.org/1718/valerie-hudson-cassler

  29. Benjamin says:

    Jenn, 23: “That implies I serve/submit to him, he serves/submits to God. He can pull as many women as he’s able through the veil into the celestial kingdom, whereas I am dependent on him to bring me through.”

    You can tell me if you think I’m taking you too literally, but my impression is that it is the Savior that brings all people through the veil. When a husband brings his wife through before their sealing, the husband is still representing the Savior in that exchange.

    That isn’t to say there aren’t power imbalances implicit in the temple (there are plenty of power imbalances implicit in that particular exchange), but I don’t think we teach that a woman gains admittance through the veil via her husband.

  30. I like that idea, but historically there is a lot of evidence that the literal “husband takes you through the veil” was at least at one time, doctrine in the church (from an unvalidated third party source- Sandra Tanner, no less, so take it with a grain of salt, but http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/resurrectwife.htm shows plenty of evidence of that). Brigham Young most certainly taught that, though the church often moves away from things Young taught about the temple and marriage.

  31. This is one of the greatest blog posts ever. You touched on everything wonderful and right. I tip my proverbial hat.

  32. Benjamin says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I’ll read over the reference and hope like mad that we move away from that idea.

  33. Liz Johnson says:

    This is a fabulous post. And I agree with some of the commenters (Jenn, Kristine, etc.) – it’s really easy to say that it “doesn’t matter” because we all benefit from the blessings of the priesthood. It might not matter to you (I notice this argument being most often voiced my male priesthood holders, ironically), but it does matter to me. It really bothers me that in sealing ceremonies, I am expected to give myself to my husband, and he is expected only to “receive” me, not give back equally. It bothers me that my husband is put between me and God in covenant-making. There is a lot about a patriarchal priesthood that might not be troublesome to all, but for me, it creates a lot of dissonance with other things I know to be eternal truths.

  34. rameumptom says:


    The sealing (as with the other ordinances) were established in the 19th century, when man as head of household was the norm. That we haven’t updated certain portions in the temple does not mean it is so. Sometimes words are just that: words. That man and woman receive the Patriarchal Priesthood together and receive all the powers and dominions promised as a couple should be more noteworthy than being insulted that the man receives the woman terminology. Yes, it is archaic, and probably could be updated, but to focus on such minutiae is to miss the big and important things.
    Shall we also be insulted that Christ is a male, or should we be happy that he paid for our sins?
    Must we feel outraged and insulted by everything, even those things that are not meant to insult?

    Can we hope that they change the wording some day? Of course. But that is different than feeling slighted every time one performs a sealing ordinance. As I noted before to someone else, you are missing the forest for the individual trees.

    The crucial part of the sealing is not how we receive or give our hand in marriage, but in the covenant we make with God, and the promises he gives to both husband and wife.

    As to Sandra Tanner, I’m sad that anyone would take her garbage as doctrine. It is too easy to quote Brigham Young and construct a religion that is very different than the one we have today. And no, it isn’t doctrine, even if it were a practice or belief by some today. As I study the gospel, I see man and woman walking side by side into the presence of God. Coverings with veils does not occur in the sealing, and are only part of a symbolic journey, anyway. Don’t take symbolic things so literally.

  35. Utterly adore you for this, RJ. Utterly.

  36. Of course I don’t take Sandra Tanner as doctrine- hence my disclaimer to take it with a grain of salt. If the church had an internet site that addressed its historical changes of doctrine, I’d much rather take it from there, but alas, finding any church-sanctioned documentation on things we once believed but don’t anymore can be very tricky. But both the Journal of Discourses and the History of the Church have mentions of it, enough that without seeking it out, I’d heard it a few times at church, that a woman would be brought into the celestial kingdom by her husband. Heck, my sister has a firm testimony of it, and that testimony is what helps her love the temple all the more, because of her relationship with her husband. Not saying that makes it doctrine, but it is certainly something that at least some members still believe.
    Focusing on minutiae does not make us “miss the big and important things” unless we do it exclusively. For some people, analyzing the symbolism is very rewarding- like my sister. For others, whether it is spiritually helpful or not we can’t help it- we analyze. We ask questions. I can’t turn off that part of my brain. The endowment ceremony is long and repetitive, and I guarantee my ADD-addled brain is going to pick apart the symbolism. If that’s ALL I got out of it, I wouldn’t go.
    But it’s not inherently bad to ponder the symbolism and how it’s supposed to apply to you- isn’t that one of the reasons the symbolism exists? Is there some list of symbolism we’re supposed to embrace and other symbolism we’re supposed to not think too hard about?

    “It is too easy to quote Brigham Young and construct a religion that is very different than the one we have today. ” Boy, ain’t that the truth. Unfortunately, the authority of the church today is the same authority of Brigham Young. If I can discount one, what makes it so I can’t discount the other? (And that pretty much sums up my current disaffection with the church)

  37. Very much enjoyed the post. I believe the analogies that are often used to explain why women don’t have the priesthood are generally guesses. Like Elders Oaks and Holland said about the explanations for the priesthood ban, it is probably better that such explanations had never been given. It’s better to state that we don’t know something when we don’t know something.

    I don’t know why men have the priesthood and women do not. I’m pretty certain, based on my understanding of the temple, that this is a mortal state of affairs. Women in the temple perform a certain priesthood ordinance that is similar to one that will no longer be symbolic. Women may perform it for practical reasons in the temple, but based on what follows in the endowment and sealings, I believe women will be performing priesthood ordinances in the post-mortal realm as well.

  38. I thought about this a bit as I cursed my monthly cycle this morning. Men get to pass the sacrament when they turn 12 and girls get to learn how hide tampons and clean blood stains. They are not the same. (your analysis is much ore eloquent than mine though – thanks for for taking the, “I can be open minded” approach to this. Today. I could not.)

  39. rameumptom says:

    Jenn #36, when I joined the Church at 16 years of age, I had a stake president and Institute teacher that had an inside joke whenever someone quoted a church leader: “has he been dead long enough?”

    Sometimes we forget we are a Church of continuing revelation. Brigham Young was known as much for his speculating as he was for his revelation. Just look at many of his teachings that we now do not agree with today: reasons for priesthood ban, polygamy being eternal requirement, God progresses in knowledge, etc. Even Brigham Young noted that he was not always right, as in the time he preached all morning long. After lunch, he began preaching again and said, “this morning you heard from Brother Brigham. This afternoon, you will hear the will of the Lord.”

    The way I view it, is outside the scriptures, much of what is written by GAs is only good for about 20-30 years, by which time it has often been replaced/augmented/changed via new revelation and ideas. So you can see Mormon Doctrine is no longer published, as it has reached the age of the dinosaurs in revelatory time.

    Yes, we should ponder the symbolism of the temple. But remember that it is symbolic. For those who were not around pre-1991, we no longer do much of the Masonic stuff that once was in it. Why not? Because the symbolism would be lost in an international Church, even among Americans that no longer do much in regards to symbolism of any kind.

    More important than the symbols, are the covenants and personal revelation we receive. The most important things is understanding that it is a process for Adam and Eve and us to return back into the presence of God, with the endowment as a practice theophany and ascension rite. The sealing then becomes the ultimate covenant, as we not only enter into God’s presence, but we receive “all that the Father hath” as noted in the oath and covenant of the Priesthood, which women fully partake of in the Patriarchal Priesthood with their husbands.

    There is so much to ponder and study in these things I’ve noted, than to waste time on verbiage of giving/receiving that probably has no symbolism or significance at all, except as being 19th century terminology.

  40. The problem is we’re then making assumptions about which parts of it are eternal and which are symbolic, just for mortality, and subject to change. Do we just hope personal revelation reveals that to us? Because I could swear my personal revelation has been “this whole thing isn’t for you”.
    The problem is, the masonry that remained after 1991- well, that symbolism is lost on me. I can impose some ideas on it for it’s significance and importance and why it is there, but in the end, the current temple endowment completely does not speak to me at all. If it works for others- and it surely does- than I’m glad it exists and will support it. But if the symbolism and all that is just a temporal means to an eternal end- what’s to stop me from finding a different means to that end that does work for me better? Because frankly, long before my tesitmony was wobbly, I had negative experiences with endowments, and for years have avoided them and only done sealings and initiatories (though now I’m not doing those either because my bishop has said I have too many doubts to be temple-worthy).
    Maybe I was born in the wrong time period and need to wait another 30 years for it to be something that does speak to me.

  41. PS, I’m so sorry for always taking comment threads in a completely tangential direction. As you may be able to tell, I have a LOT on my mind. I’ll try to stop thread-jacking so much.

  42. Becca @ My Soul Delighteth says:

    Women will (and do and have) absolutely perform(ed) Priesthood ordinances. I do not think women perform ordinances in the temple for “practical” reasons. Like I said before – women have exactly as much Priesthood power as they are worthy to exercise. I was endowed with that power in the temple and so were all of you. The Aaronic Priesthood is a preparatory Priesthood – the power of which a woman is endowed with as she enters the waters of baptism and partakes of the sacrament.

    The authority of the Priesthood is different from the power of the priesthood, as the OP clearly pointed out. But women have authority in the Priesthood just as men do. The newly called General RS Presidency was called and set apart by Priesthood authority to preside (preside = authority) over the women of the Church.

    Men and women have different roles. I do not feel that “different” means “inequality” as it seems so many women seem to believe. It is a woman’s right to posses and exercise every power of the Priesthood. The roles in exercising that power are different for men and women, but the power is the same. Would you say that men should have wombs? Should Adam and Eve have both simultaneously partaken of the fruit of the tree? Should there have been a male AND a female Christ? Why is it so hard for us to come to terms with the fact that there are divinely appointed roles for us in our respective genders? I do not feel any less significant in God’s plan for being a woman, nor do I feel that the doctrines (or policies) of the Church demean me as a woman. In fact, I feel that they empower me.

    Could mortality be possible without Eve (female)? Could immortality be possible without Christ (male)? Is one more significant than the other? Was Eve’s act any less noble than Christ’s?

    Does the Church teach anything different than this? No.

    Do members of the Church misunderstand this doctrine? Absolutely. Do some members preach their misunderstandings as doctrine? Every day.

    I believe that a true understanding of doctrine really helps in this situation. I still have a lot to learn myself about the doctrine of gender and the Priesthood, but I am grateful for the knowledge that I DO have and the ability I have to receive a personal witness of this doctrine.

  43. While I don’t know why women don’t have the priesthood in mortality, I do have some guesses. I suspect the reasons may in large part be due PRAGMATIC, PRACTICAL REALITIES in a world of imperfect people. Just a few random observations from my own perspective:

    First, the smaller one. Even as priesthood holders, men seem to often abdicate to their wives in spiritual matters in the home. Giving the man the responsibility to take the lead in spiritual matters as a priesthood duty helps push men toward closing the equality gap in which they are still lacking (speaking generally and not individually).

    The elephant in the room: My wife has no problem when I go out on visits or have extended meetings with my assistants in the high priests group. She didn’t mind the long hours I often spent with the bishop as one of his counselors. Now envision those two callings where I’m going out every week making visits with my female assistant or sitting in the driveway for a long time after a meeting having an intense conversation with my female bishop. Imagine the bishopric having to pause and question the motives of the new Elder’s quorum president and his recommendations for counselors. (“is it just me, sister, or did you notice the face of brother Jones’ wife when she realized he had recommended two of the prettiest women in the ward as his counselors?”)

    If you don’t think mixing genders in the intimate responsibilities of the priesthood would cause spouses to second-guess motives, or could possibly throw a wrench into the clarity of inspiration that should prevail when deciding who to call and what to do, then you’re made of different stuff than I am. Our church isn’t structured like other churches, and it’s not the same as an office job. Maybe I’m oversensitive to this because my boss is having an affair with a co-worker and inflicting great harm on a wonderful woman. But it doesn’t take a lot of non-sexual intimacy for a lot of folks to get off course at work, and my relationships with my fellow priesthood holders are MUCH more intimate than those with any co-worker.

    I’ve had a very bad experience already with simply being friendly with a female co-worker, who blindsided me with a proposition I never saw coming. (I guess there was something I was giving her she wasn’t getting at home. And I’ve had far more emotionally intimate associations with my fellow priesthood holders than I ever had with her.) I, for one, am very happy that I never have to worry about the intimate associations with my fellow priesthood holders producing unwelcome feelings or generating jealousy in my wife — I’ve never had to worry about an assistant developing a crush on me, or having feelings turn into

    Why don’t women have the priesthood? My guess is because men (and some women) are pigs. The level of trust and emotional intimacy required to be effective among fellow priesthood holders is too powerful for too many people to handle. So it had to be one gender or another, and the women were already prone to guilt trips for not being perfect enough when they were already doing plenty, so it had to be the men.

    Just a hunch.

  44. “Why don’t women have the priesthood? My guess is because men (and some women) are pigs. The level of trust and emotional intimacy required to be effective among fellow priesthood holders is too powerful for too many people to handle. So it had to be one gender or another, and the women were already prone to guilt trips for not being perfect enough when they were already doing plenty, so it had to be the men.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought misandry to be a poor excuse for misogyny.

  45. “Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought misandry to be a poor excuse for misogyny.”

  46. 44.

    Fair enough criticism of my last paragraph. (However, I do know far too many men who have acted like pigs and harmed women in my life, and far too many women who have misplaced and/or undeserved guilt, for me to feel very guilty about wrapping my comment with blantant hyperbole.)

  47. 44, 45.

    Or did I misunderstand your comment? Because if you define any defense of restricting the priesthood to one gender as “misogyny,” then I either misunderstood your response or I didn’t make myself clear.

    I’m serious when I ask for this clarification: I understand the misandry reference, but am I personally being accused of misogyny based on my post. On what grounds?

    I may have intentionally thrown in some hyperbole in the last paragraph, but as for the rest of it, I think I’ve presented a valid theory that may or may not explain reasons for restricting the priesthood to one gender.

  48. No, I wasn’t accusing you of any misogyny. I just find it counter productive to explain the existence of misogyny through the use of misandry.

    Personally, I would find it more probable that men hold the priesthood and women don’t because of gender issues that have roots from before mankind walked upright. It’s just taken us a few thousand years to recognize that maybe we should deal with the inequality instead of trying to justify it.

  49. Lorin, your theory may not be based in misogyny, but the net effect of believing that women and men cannot be together without regarding each other as sex objects (and whatever other poorly-conceived theories we might adduce to explain current practice, instead of giving the actual answer, which is “we don’t know”) has been to deprive women of a voice in the leadership of the church and chances to participate in vast swaths of our liturgy. You don’t have to personally be a misogynist to perpetuate sexism.

  50. Also, your theory won’t hold up to historical scrutiny–women and men have participated jointly in deeply intimate ordinances like baptism for healing. If that’s not more potentially bonding than your average PEC meeting, we are in bigger trouble than I thought…

  51. Motherhood is priesthood on a microscale and priesthood is motherhood on a macroscale.

  52. One of the things I seriously cannot stand in this Church is this errant, rampant belief that men and women can not be near each other without it breaking out into an all-out orgy. My parents do not want random Mormons in their house, so the only place I can have my home teachers visit me is (guess where?) in my room. My room has plenty of space, my door is almost always open even when I do not have guests, but yet somehow it is assumed that a 31 yr old single woman somehow wants to bed two elderly married men even with her parents downstairs. I am starting to think that perhaps as a Church we might benefit from a little bit of Catholic guilt. I never saw a people who constantly have sex on the brain all the time outside of adolescent boys. If a man can’t handle being alone with a woman (or vice versa) the problem lies with them, not that men and women inherently should not/cannot be friends.

  53. I have no doubt that my relief society president and my bishop work very closely, very frequently. Just as most any of us with careers work frequently with people of the other gender. If something like priesthood equality, which has caused so much confusion and even pain to many sisters in the church, is based on the assumption that men and women can’t work together because of base temptations…. ugh. Don’t even want to think it.

  54. “the net effect of believing that women and men cannot be together without regarding each other as sex objects (and whatever other poorly-conceived theories we might adduce to explain current practice, instead of giving the actual answer, which is “we don’t know”)

    “If something like priesthood equality, which has caused so much confusion and even pain to many sisters in the church, is based on the assumption that men and women can’t work together because of base temptations…. ugh. Don’t even want to think it.”

    I anticipated objections like these and empathize with them, so I tried to choose my words more carefully than that. But just because you believe the logic behind this theory leads to a negative end doesn’t mean the logic isn’t nevertheless true.

    In the church examples, I didn’t offer example that had to do with having an affair. I share the belief that some people in the church carry that fear to unreasonable ends. But the way men and women work together in the modern office is not directly analogous, and based on the sexual misbehavior I’ve personally observed in the office versus the church, I don’t think the church is so wrong for doing things differently.

    I’ve personally observed the close working together of a bishop and RS President, from both sides. Yes, the PPIs are longer, the phone calls and emails are more frequent. But they rarely work side by side in any way close to the way a bishop and his counselors can or should do.

    I didn’t choose examples of affairs, because behaviors and thoughts wouldn’t even need to approach that level to interfere with things. (Do you want your husband going out at night with the same woman week after week FOR YEARS, even if it’s for a stated good cause?) It doesn’t have to result in affair to cause legitimate feelings of jealousy in a spouse, or cause someone to have an unhealthy enjoyment of the companionship of someone because of something he/she has that the spouse lacks.

    I’m telling you, the idea of priesthood equality seems to look good on paper to a lot of folks, but I don’t see how it pans out profitably among the actual people I’ve known. If you think there aren’t inappropriate relationships rampant among men and women in offices, you either have far different co-workers than I’ve ever had or you haven’t had to deal with the aftermath.

    I realize I’m directly challenging what I consider to be the dogmatic notion that men and women can rise above that kind of thing if we give them the chance. MANY can, but too many can’t for me to view the notion of two-gendered priesthood in mortality as a realistic goal. It very well may be that priesthood inequality hurts women now, but it could also be that priesthood equality at this point would do even more harm.

  55. If a spouse cannot tolerate the thought of their spouse working with someone of the opposite sex for the good of a ward, or even a single member, that spouse seriously needs to evaluate their issues. What you are describing is horrifying to me. If my spouse were working with a woman for the betterment of others I would be disgusted with myself if I were jealous of it.

  56. Now envision those two callings where I’m going out every week making visits with my female assistant or sitting in the driveway for a long time after a meeting having an intense conversation with my female bishop.

    Yet another reason this theory fails: precisely because bishops and priesthood may not be women, women who need to engage in extended repentance or receive pastoral counseling have to spend a lot of intimate, one-on-one time with a man. The fact that I’ve never heard any objections to this practice or concerns about where it may lead suggests that these rationalizations of the dangers of male-only priesthood are precisely that: rationalizations. When our current ecclesiastical practices bring men and women together in intimate settings, we fail to perceive exactly the sorts of problems Lorin postulates in imagined ecclesiastical practices that bring men and women together in intimate settings. We’re not at all consistent in our perception of the dangers of emotional intimacy.

  57. ZD Eve (56) Excellent point. Repentance is extremely intimate!

  58. Oh, Eve. You and your silly facts and logic.

  59. Lorin, would your concerns be mitigated if we just had half of wards with an all-female bishopric, and half with an all-male bishopric?

  60. Kristine says:

    “It very well may be that priesthood inequality hurts women now, but it could also be that priesthood equality at this point would do even more harm.”
    Definitely best to guard against the potential harm we can sort of imagine than mitigate the actual harm we see here and now… Apply this logic to any other situation and explain how it makes sense.

  61. Kristine says:

    Also, what Eve said. Times a million. We’re totally fine with middle-aged men asking 14-year-old girls about their sex lives, for hell’s sake–this can’t be about protecting us from inappropriate intimacy (!)

  62. Benjamin says:

    #58, Mind you, the facts and logic are only silly because they come from a woman. If they came from a man, they’d be profound. (cackling as I run away to avoid the beating I’m about to take)

  63. 56, 57, 58
    I’m personally familiar with two bishops who were excommunicated after having an affair with someone they were counseling. That’s part of what colors my opinions about how this works on paper vs. how it works with real people.

    Interesting that we are all using the same intimacy issue regarding bishops as evidence for completely different conclusions.

  64. Kristine says:

    But Lorin, you’re not suggesting that we should do away with the repentance process as currently defined, right? Only that a woman should not work intimately in a position of equal power with a man. Intimacy is fine as long as the woman is in the position of supplicant? Do you see any problems with that logic?

  65. 59. Trying to decide whether you offered that as a serious question or as rhetorical question to point out that I should not be taken seriously. You seriously don’t anybody would give such a proposal more than two seconds of thought, do you?

    Yes, technically that would mitigate the concerns in the theory I elaborated, while introducing an enormous new kettle of concerns.

  66. No, Lorin, we’re not. If you want to get serious about preventing inappropriate intimacy, then you need to consider how do avoid the unfortunate situation your two excommunicated bishops found themselves in. And perhaps the only solution to that one is female ordination. Instead, you’re worrying about preventing much less intimate and much more businesslike interactions between men and women that don’t even exist.

  67. Seriously, there are some female issues that can really only be discussed with another woman. I would like to have a female bishop for that reason alone.

  68. Cynthia, we women are never more beautiful than when we’re angry, and never sillier than when we’re appealing to reason. Or so I’ve been told.

  69. annegb5298 says:

    I never liked it either, Rebecca. I think men should have the priesthood and the babies.

  70. Might be a tangent, but how does the increased visibility/possiblity of same-sex attraction effect the rationale of “people might have sex”? Does it reinforce or reduce the rationale?

  71. That’s not my logic. Women giving men counsel in an intimate setting is no less problematic than the situation we have now. Giving women the priesthood wouldn’t solve that particular problem at all.

    I realize this leads to the discussion of :why can’t women be counseled by women?” I empathize with that sentiment. If I were ever called to be bishop, I would carry that same concern. As it is, I think people rely far too much on bishops for counseling that HT/VT and Relief Society presidents already have the spiritual capacity and spirtual charge to give.

    Like I said, I realize that the current inequality can do harm in certain circumstances. I’m only saying that having men and women in the priesthood doesn’t nessesarily alleviate many of those problems, and it can bring a whole new set of challenges of its own.

    Remember, I’m presenting a theory here and I’m not married to any of these points. Its a guess based on my unfortunate familiarity with just how fallen we are in this world.

    I’m an enormous optimist when it comes to the atonement. But that’s because Jesus is powerful and infallible. The rest of us are anything but.

    I don’t question anybody’s motive here who thinks women should have the priesthood. I simply question the general faith in humanity embedded in that desire. Maybe we as a church are ready for it right now. Who knows? I don’t. But I’m interested to see anybody’s evidence that the potential problems I’ve outlined are unjustified.

    How many talks do we hear about porn, unrigheous dominion, taking spiritual leadership in the home, etc. Too many men in the church apparently can’t even manage healthy intimacy with their own wives. Where are we getting the idea that they’re ready to have a healthy intimacy with somebody else’s wife?

  72. Lorin, personally, I don’t think your concerns are unjustified. Rather, I think your inclination to defend the status quo is blinding you to even more pressing concerns. Whatever temptations it offers, coordinating welfare needs and ward activities and meetings and service to church members–often in groups–is simply a less intimate situation than a man and a woman discussing the woman’s sexual problems behind closed doors.

    Women giving men counsel in an intimate setting is no less problematic than the situation we have now. Giving women the priesthood wouldn’t solve that particular problem at all.

    Yes, it would. You go see your male ecclesiastical leader about your sins, and I’ll go see my female ecclesiastical leader about mine.

  73. Naismith says:

    I appreciate the original post, and the brave attempt to address the subtlety of these issues, which defy easy answers.

    Thus I feel great despair at the “matched pairing” of motherhood and fatherhood. The OP doesn’t go there (thanks a lot for that!), but has been thrown out by others as if it is true.

    So let me just say, to be polite, that I don’t like it. In what way is it a “matched pair”? Certainly not in the effort that is required, and as the OP pointed out, moms and dads do things differently. Perhaps when uterine replicators are developed and in common use, and when there is a substitute for breast milk, it will be. But as it is, women are asked to turn their bodies over to a parasite for almost a year, that may cause them to be so ill that they cannot continue with work or schooling, and may leave them with permanent physical damage. Then mothers go through hours or days of profound physical work and maybe pain and perhaps an other-worldly spiritual experience. And then they get to breastfeed, perhaps for the recommended year, which may mean never leaving the baby for more than a few hours, developing an infection, having sharp swings in blood sugar, etc.

    And we are supposed to pretend that fathers experience the same thing? No, it is not a matched pair, and we demean mothers to suggest so.

  74. Kristine says:

    Lorin, I don’t think anyone has even said women should have the priesthood. The post was speaking about one flawed rationale for excluding women from leadership and priesthood authority. You have offered another flawed rationale, and we are pointing out those flaws. The fact is, we have no scriptural explanation for the current state of affairs, and it’s generally a bad idea to go around freelancing explanations where God has not offered any. (cf Randy Bott)

  75. Mommie Dearest says:

    Oh for heavens sake. Not this, not on a busy monday.

    FWIW the OP is stellar, and brings up some angles I haven’t considered that well before. Thanks Rebecca. (again) On the other hand, the comments. I guess it’s not my assignment to correct the ones [I’ve actually read] that are so very wrong, or to repost the best (most succinct) lines with which I agree. Y’all carry on.

    By the way, this is going to be an ongoing series, isn’t it?

  76. Has anyone ever studied the origins of this priesthood = motherhood nonsense? I’d like to know if it has ever been perpetuated at the Apostle / First Presidency level and in what context that occurred. My assumption has always been that the myths were perpetuated at the levels of well meaning members trying to explain something for which no real explanation was ever given other than this is the written order of things.

  77. #73 Naismith, since I’m the one who introduced the term “matched pair” as it relates to motherhood and fatherhood, I’ll respond to your comment.

    Just because motherhood and fatherhood are linked does not mean they are the same, nor did I ever suggest they are. I simply suggested that fatherhood is the proper male analog to motherhood, not priesthood. Both the role of father and mother can and should be intensely intimate, loving and caring. Fathers in the church have been (correctly, I believe) taught that fatherhood is the “calling” from which they cannot be released.

    We would do well to teach more of that. And to teach fathers how to be fathers — how to be intimately involved in the lives of their wife and children (and perhaps less so in the administrative affairs of the church).

    Of course the biological burden placed on mothers is not comparable to anything in the father’s experience. But a father might through service learn to love and sustain his wife, the mother of his children. If we talk about the sacred role of mothers, we should also teach the sacred role of fathers, and not lead them to believe that while mom is birthing and nursing that dad ought to be at some leadership meeting doing his duty.

    That’s all I meant to say, nothing more.

    And Lorin, your heart may be in the right place, and your experiences are as real as the next person’s, but I just don’t see how your argument resolves the issues of the OP.

  78. “Whatever temptations it offers, coordinating welfare needs and ward activities and meetings and service to church members–often in groups–is simply a less intimate situation than a man and a woman discussing the woman’s sexual problems behind closed doors.”

    I agree with every part of this except the “Whatever temptations it offers” qualifier. I work quite closely with women all the time in ward council and other aspects of my callings, and have never experienced temptation or observed any indicator of such among others in such settings. If anything, more rather than less coordination among the genders is needed. The brethren are teaching such. Mixing the genders more often, of itself, doesn’t seem problematic to me. The issue is that there is a certain healthy intimacy and espirit de corps that develops in all-male and all-female presidencies that wouldn’t there if genders were mixed. The closeness is both satisfying and critical to success in such callings. I’m yet to see either a work or church intergender relationship in which that level of intimacy was also healthy. I would be very uncomfortable if my wife had the deep, abiding relationship with another man that she’s had with other women in her various callings. I’m sure she would feel the same in my case.

    “I think your inclination to defend the status quo is blinding you to even more pressing concerns.”
    Yes, I’m defending the status quo, but not because I’m blind or unsympathetic to the other concerns. I totally understand how awkward, or worse, it’s got to be for a woman of any age to discuss things like that with a man. I’m defending the status quo because, on the balance, the proposed cures strike me as ultimately more problematic than the disease. Obviously, others disagree.

  79. Amen Paul!!!

  80. “The fact is, we have no scriptural explanation for the current state of affairs, and it’s generally a bad idea to go around freelancing explanations where God has not offered any. (cf Randy Bott)”

    Agreed. Strongly agreed. In fact, you’ve essentially paraphrased the first thing I said (see 37). These are personal theories that I generated on the fly only after I made comment 37. If I weren’t sick at home with nothing to do, I wouldn’t have even articulated these ideas in my mind. Totally brand new thoughts, and I might never give them a second thought.

    Nobody at church or at church was ever going to hear a word of this out of my lips. I was thinking out loud here because I view the bloggernacle as one of the few appropriate places to throw out opinions that have no place in church, and see how well someone can shoot it down. I like being challenged in my ideas, so I appreciate the feedback.from all. Sorry if it turned into a threadjack, but now you see what happens when people who never have free time on their hands get an afternoon in bed with a laptop.

  81. >>I’m sure I’d continue to shirk them with the same grace and gentle humor that He’s come to expect from me

    I ♥ Rebecca J, and not just metaphorically. =)

  82. rameumptom says:

    Jenn, You may want to read my paper from the Kirtland Sunstone Symposium, The Book of Mormon as an Ascension Text. I discuss the concept of mankind ascending into God’s presence in it, giving examples from scripture and ancient texts. All of this ties directly in with the endowment. Perhaps it may help you see if from a different perspective.

    Book of Mormon as Ascension Text

  83. rameumptom says:
  84. Beatrice says:

    Is your main concern with the relationships among presidency members? It seems like there would be some fairly easy fixes for that. Like alternating between male and female bishops who would during their terms call presidencies of their own gender. I have a hard time following the argument that men and women can’t work together in close relationships, so men should just be the leaders all of the time. If this is really the problem then let women lead half of the time.

  85. Naismith says:

    “I simply suggested that fatherhood is the proper male analog to motherhood, not priesthood.”

    I prefer, as the OP suggested, to view each of those on its own merits without making analogs. Just accept the contributions of each without making matched pairs at all. It is much more accurate.

    “Both the role of father and mother can and should be intensely intimate, loving and caring.”

    They can be, if the man wants to be. But the reality is that a father can leave his DNA and do none of those things. Whereas even if a biological mother gives up the baby at birth, she has a rather intense 10 months that is totally nonanalgous to the absentee father.

    “If we talk about the sacred role of mothers, we should also teach the sacred role of fathers,”

    I thought that every priesthood session of conference had a talk about the sacred role of fathers?

    “….and not lead them to believe that while mom is birthing and nursing that dad ought to be at some leadership meeting doing his duty.”

    And who says that? The times that I have seen the motherhood = priesthood argument made, it was on how a righteous dad uses the priesthood to bless his family. Mom gives birth, dad blesses the baby. Mom sews the baptismal clothes and gives a talk, dad performs the baptism. More of a priesthood + fatherhood formula, actually. Which I still don’t endorse, but makes more sense than dad off at a meeting.

  86. In a future installment are we going to discuss the priesthood=relief society concept that President Beck taught? still has the glaring lack of administrative authority and say in major church councils..but it is available to all, provides opportunity to serve and use the power of God for good.

    As for the OP… part 1 says you have to be righteous to hold and exercise the priesthood. kinda. Sure you can’t use the power of God if you aren’t righteous…but you sure can administer! You can fail miserably and hurt people abominably while exercising your priesthood in that way. So although you can’t use the power of God in the ideal way…you sure can use your priesthood. I don’t see how that is much different than motherhood. You can procreate without any righteousness…but to actually mother…that does take character..not defined by tea drinking randomly.

    As for part 2. I have never understood the equivalence argument. It’s assuming God would give men and women equivalent roles. That’s a huge assumption. Men and women are different. very different. Why would their roles be equivalent…and that is what was tested here.

    I have never liked the motherhood=priesthood thing.

    I do understand fro the temple that I have the priesthood…but it seems a very singular thing. I believe I can have whatever power God needs me to have for whatever He asks me to do. It’s just that if I identify it as the priesthood rather than as power from God or the power of God…it wouldn’t go over in church well. We just don’t talk that way.

    i detest the rationalizations for women not having the priesthood. Haven’t we learned from that whole 1978 thing that perhaps we should stick with “we don’t know”? Just as it’s impossible to give a reason for the priesthood ban without sounding racist (and being racist really)…it’s impossible to give a reason for women not having the priesthood without being sexist.

  87. 84

    Like I said, I’m making this up as I go and I haven’t rounded out my thought. But yes, one of my main issues is that the level of trust and unity required to be effective in priesthood and other church service would be diminished if that unit’s genders were mixed. Too many unnessessary dynamics that would interfere with the bond needed among presidency members.

    Yes, your suggestion would eliminate that particular issue. But it’s still only my issue. This may not be the actual reason only males are now ordained, but I believe it is an important practicality IMHO.

  88. Excellent post, Rebecca. Please don’t hestitate to post unfinished writings. They are sublime, regardless.

    Lorin, as a man whose wife is every bit as worthy as I am, I am not about to try to justify why I can administer the ordinances of the Priesthood outside the temple and hold certain callings of practical authority that she can’t. We have no scriptual justification for the current situation, so my own reasoning focuses on traditions of our Christian fathers. There are plenty of things in that realm that could explain it extremely well, but it’s harder to see the incorrect traditions of our own fathers than the incorrect traditions of someone else’s fathers – and the very fact that the term is “incorrect traditions of their fathers” says something profound, I think.

  89. This is me metaphorically clicking a like button on this post.

  90. Hmmmm. After landscaping all day I hoped there would be a thought process to follow somewhere in the comments when I got home, some crystalized gems of clarity to illuminate the different arguments. Alas. Perhaps personal revelation that is kept personal is the key until we know.

  91. The way I see the Priesthood Motherhood analogy, is a way to explain in a more simple way why men receive the Priesthood and Women do not to new converts and others not matured in the gospel. My question is, is the main argument that some people want to have authority over others and take on more responsibility than they currently have? Is it that they want to be able to perform ordinances and place hands on others heads? I guess I may not understand the arguments fully either way.

  92. Thanks, rameumptom (82-83), for the link- a very interesting read!

  93. Beatrice says:

    My question is, is the main argument that some people want to have authority over others and take on more responsibility than they currently have? Is it that they want to be able to perform ordinances and place hands on others heads?

    I think it would depend on who you ask. For me, it is troubling to see that the vast majority of people who are making decisions about how the LDS church is run, who are explaining what our doctrine is, and who are making official judgements about other people’s worthiness are men. Doctrinally, the LDS church is pretty strong supporter of the idea that there are inherent differences between men and women. Given this line of reasoning, I find it deeply problematic that women’s perspectives and insight are very limited in decision making abilities in the church as an organization.

  94. love it! Brings out a simple flaw in the comparison. The idea that women have motherhood therefor men have the priesthood or vice versa is completely bogus. however I dont see the comparison falling as flat on its face if used in the terms of men have the priesthood and women have motherhood. Both being a blessing. Not because God felt compelled to give men something because women had something, simply because God wants to bless us and will do so in the best way for us. While that same argument could be made that all men can “earn the priesthood” (this is how i took it when Rebecca talked about worthiness) no matter what, some women cannot “earn” motherhood. I find that to be a weak argument given by Rebecca based on the fact that yes their are some physical limitation that restrict a man from holding the priesthood no matter worthiness just as their are some physical limitations that restrict a women from experiencing motherhood. In most cases worthiness is the only thing that is different for being able to experience each respectively. a man must be worthy to exercise the priesthood a woman does not have to be worthy to utilize motherhood. however, as was stated, we should not look at them in the sense that one is equal to the other. Cause they are not. Which is what I got from this and why the analogy fails. Each is a blessing that the other sex is not able to (at this time) fully experience so dont make silly metaphors about how they are the same. If that was your point Rebecca then good job. I think it came across loud and clear.

    and to all the thread jackers. I see alot of the banter back and forth to be various versions of “the grass is greener on your side” type crap that really rubs me wrong. “I dont have a good reason for not having so I want” seems like a very childish way to view anything in life. I dont mean to come across so judgmental about how I am reading some of your posts but thats how I am seeing it. or maybe I do, now that i think about it. :p my point is I dont feel Rebecca is trying to argue why women should or should not have the priesthood. I felt it was how the analogy that she has seen used is bad. I am sure their will be other threads for your arguments. I hope they are written as nicely as this one was.

  95. #75 “Oh for heavens sake. Not this, not on a busy monday.”

    I know! Add evening to Monday. I can’t believe there are so many comments already! Tuesday morning now, everyone left for school…

    I do not like the motherhood=priesthood analogy either. (#76) It was first presented to me in the YW programme (back when I was a YW), I’m pretty sure, but I don’t know the origins… I came home and objected to it then. No idea if it’s still in the manuals used currently… It had better not be (muttering darkly). I would also go further than you Rebecca, in that I do not like it as a metaphor either. All that ‘beautiful exposition’, you mentioned, I find pretty toe-curling.

    Several commenters have referred to men and women being different, and doing things differently. The only difference I’ll concede is purely biological, and anyone wanting to say otherwise will have me snarling at them :). I’ve already had my rant about that on Rebecca’s “Random thoughts about…” post. I’ll only add to what I said there, that I also think it reprehensible that many of the quotes used, supposedly to build up women (pacify?), simultaneously insult men. So yes I agree with #44.

    I agree with Kristine and others that saying “I don’t know” when we don’t know is the best and least damaging option.

    Just to contribute to the ecclesiastical leader debate. The glaringly obvious solution is surely to call a husband and wife team as Bishop. That way you get both genders, they get to spend ‘intimate’ time with each other discussing the members under their care, and the husband isn’t burdened with a lot of other people’s stuff he can’t discuss with his wife. The other benefit here is that they’ll need to be mature enough that their children are all grown up – so no more taking fathers away from their families. Lorin, I’ve known three excommunicated Bishops, but not well enough to know if the other party involved was a member of their flock at the time, or a work colleague (lets face it, if you’re a working man and a Bishop you probably spend more time with the women you work with than you do your wife). Two of them were working their way back to full membership when I knew them (and succeeded), so I certainly wasn’t going to ask.

  96. clintricker says:

    Saying that women have the priesthood because their husbands have it is like saying that women in Saudia Arabia can drive because their husbands drive. Even if a man being able to have a drivers license was contingent upon being married, it wouldn’t change the fact that the women can’t drive. Even if the husbands drivers license was contingent upon him driving his wife wherever she wanted to go (in the same way you might give a drivers license to your 16 year old if they agree to ferry their little brothers and sisters around), it doesn’t change the fact that women there can’t drive.

    Is it possible that the only reasons women don’t hold the priesthood is for the same reasons blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood pre-1978? Which, arguably had nothing on eternal principles or righteousness of anyone except that existing priesthood holders, including prophets and apostles, were too racist to be ready to accept it?

  97. Re: # 24
    “That men perform the ordinances is incidental – because we can all (age-appropriately, of course) receive them.”
    Um, no. There’s an experiential component to performing ordinances that we regard as beneficial to men–that’s the “priesthood is about service” argument. It matters.
    You’ve reversed the usual point of the argument: men can’t bless themselves but can only bless others – i.e. Priesthood is about service.

    I think the argument is flawed – so I do agree with you the priesthood service is a blessing to men that serve faithfully. But that wasn’t my point. [As a matter of fact, men are required to hold the priesthood to enter the temple (and participate in ordinances) or the presence of God eternally.]

    I do not think the man who happened to perform the ordinance that united my wife and me under the priesthood was more blessed by his service than I was or than my wife was. I ‘receive’ the ordinances and the blessings that flow from them just as surely as my wife does (at least – that is my hope – she is awesome, so I’m playing catch-up) not just because I can perform them. Although the man is blessed because he faithfully performs the ordinances he isn’t any more blessed than I am. If that were the case, none of us could be as blessed as the prophet since he holds priesthood keys that none of us do!

    The priests that perform the sacrament prayer aren’t any more forgiven than I am or any more than any other person (man, women or child) that receives that ordinance with faith. That is my point. The priesthood blesses all who receive its blessings. Those called to preside or perform ordinances are blessed for faithful service but not any more that those who faithfully follow or faithfully receive. See Elder Holland’s recent conference address.

  98. rameumptom says:

    Jenn #92, you are welcome.

    One thing of note is that the new CHI has changed the purposes of Councils dramatically. Now, ward PECs can be infrequent and only 15 minutes long (to discuss PH specific issues), whereas there is more emphasis now given on Councils. For those who have watched the most recent World Wide Leadership Broadcasts, you can see how the GAs are encouraging us to use the sisters more, listen to them more, etc. While it does not give women priesthood, it does give them greater opportunities to serve and be heard in our units.

    I know my stake president gives much attention to the sister presidencies in the stake, and strongly encourages it in the wards. Our stake RS, YW, and Primary presidencies are amazing women, and we spend quite a bit of time receiving counsel from them (I’m on the high council).

    Our stake president, following council from SLC, is telling our bishops to serve in their calling – primarily as president of the Aaronic Priesthood and judge in Israel. We are trying to turn our EQ Presidents and Relief Society Presidents into “bishops” of the adults. So, in the units that are working in this direction, the EQ/HP/RS presidencies share the responsibility of welfare, counseling individuals, and a variety of other things once done exclusively by the bishop.

    Yes, it is not priesthood. But it is authority and power that is being given to worthy sisters. I think it is a very good start, hopefully leading our Church to a more powerful priesthood that includes both men and women.

  99. #85 Naismith: “I prefer, as the OP suggested, to view each of those on its own merits without making analogs.” Fair enough.

    “They can be, if the man wants to be.” Yes, you’re right. A man can donate his sperm and walk away. That’s not what I’d call a father, though. And you’re also right that a woman who gives birth but does not keep the child has still sacrificed herself more than a man ever could.

    “I thought that every priesthood session of conference had a talk about the sacred role of fathers?” Nope. It’s true, however, that in this past conference President Eyring spoke of a father’s role as it related to the sealing ordinance. But most of the talks were on priesthood duty and service outside the family.

    The question of outside service and in-the-family service weighs heavy on many faithful fathers. It is a difficult balance to strike, as someone needs to camp with the scouts, and help people move and set up chairs for ward activities and preside in meetings and split with the missionaries and so on. (Of course women face the same balancing act in church service.) And I don’t mean to suggest that the church teaches us to stay away from our families to serve others. Quite the contrary, President Hinckley spoke more than once on that topic and reminded fathers that they needed to be home more.

    But the “power” warning in D&C 121 applies here, too — it’s easy for men to be seen serving and to enjoy the praise they receive for that service, and to serve externally at the expense of their families.

  100. “The priesthood of God is incomparable and matchless. It is sullied by comparisons with earthly things.”

    jj – I think you’re making a pretty serious mistake if you suggest the concept of priesthood is dirtied by associating it with motherhood. Motherhood is not just an earthly thing.

    And this post entirely overlooks the fact that to be a mother of family sealed by the holy spirit of promise, means you are baptized, endowed, and sealed. So not just any mother can do it. There is something special to the idea that a child brought into the world by an endowed and sealed mother has a binding tie which stretches back into eternity. That is something that is taken for granted and definitely ignored in the context of this post.

  101. chris,
    Are you arguing that mothers who haven’t been to the temple aren’t actual mothers? That’s the only way I can find to relate your comment to the post, but I’ve a notoriously bad imagination. What do you mean, exactly?

  102. John C,
    I wrote “be a mother of family sealed by the holy spirit of promise”. To be a mother of an eternal family, you have to be sealed in the temple. It’s not a bad imagination but a desire to seek out the most “I’m offended because” interpretation apparently?
    I’ll wink at you now to make it ok.

  103. chris,
    I’m still baffled. What does your comment have to do with the post? I thought you were arguing that a mother sealed is analogous to a priesthood bearer or some such. Are you arguing that?

  104. Peter LLC says:

    Way back up at #17: you miss the nuance of what is done here, versus what is for the eternities. Yes, sealers are men. Again, they will all be released from their calling some day. The authority they possess does not mean they also have power, only their personal righteousness determines that. Your statement shows a slighting over who performs the ordinance, the issue is less of who does the ordinance, and more of who receives the ordinance and covenant.

    Actually, I did catch the nuance of what is done here vs what is (also done here) for the eternities and I did not slight those who perform the ordinance. It goes without saying that priesthood power is contingent upon personal righteousness, and of course righteous women can do all kinds of great things, but you seem to be eliding a distinction made as clear as it could be in just the last General Conference–God’s power and the priesthood is the same thing and it is reserved for males: “the power of the priesthood is God’s power operating through men and boys like us and requires personal righteousness, faithfulness, obedience, and diligence.” Both males and females can bend over backwards being personally righteous, but only half of them have the potential to exercise the powers of heaven in mortality. And given what the General Authorities teach about priesthood, that’s a pretty Big Deal.

  105. #96
    I think I pretty much agree with that. In the scenario I suggested (#95), I was envisaging both the husband and wife being ordained to office, just to clarify.

  106. it's a series of tubes says:

    but only half of them have the potential to exercise the powers of heaven in mortality.

    I don’t think this is accurate.

  107. I was in an institute class once where we were discussing the priesthood, and the teacher asked all the women in the room to talk about how they felt about not holding the priesthood. Every single woman said something along the lines of “I don’t even want the priesthood” or “It doesn’t matter because men can only exercise the priesthood righteously” or “My husband doesn’t use his priesthood to dominate over me” or “I don’t need to have the priesthood to feel like I’m equal”–until it came to my turn. (I believe I was, in fact, the last woman in the room.) I said, “I don’t understand why only men have the priesthood. It doesn’t make sense to me in terms of equality. But I accept that this is just one of those mysteries of life I have to live with.” I thought it was a pretty diplomatic response, all things considered, but it really bothered people that not only did I not understand, but I had given up on understanding. The teacher gave me a copy of an article or a talk about the subject (I want to say it was by Jeffrey R. Holland and Pat Holland, but I can’t swear I remember that for a fact)–he seemed confident that it would clear up the matter in my mind. I read it, and as I recall it was a nice try, but it still didn’t make any sense to me. (I can’t recall the argument. Something about keys and locks, I think, although that seems a tad Freudian in retrospect.)

    Honestly, I am agnostic on the issue of whether or not women should be ordained. I wish I weren’t, but I am. It’s not comfortable, but I prefer the discomfort to the mental gymnastics required to understand the justification for the status quo. I can accept that this is the way God wants it, but I don’t anticipate having a satisfactory explanation for it in this life.

  108. wreddyornot says:

    I don’t like the priesthood-motherhood analogy either. It’s inept in justifying the dynamic we see in church.

    Men, for the most part, rule. They like power and authority, so they try to keep women in line by encouraging “equivalency” fantasies. Despite priesthood often being “done” with grievous hidden vices that would scripturally signal amen, bishops often operate for long periods of time without discovery and accountability.

    Isn’t it time we start asking where our Mother in Heaven is? My guess is that our Father in Heaven has been waiting for us to do so. Accountability. Isn’t there something heavenly in that?

  109. Where is mother? says:

    We don’t talk about Mother in Heaven because there is more than one, of course. (grin)

  110. FWIW, I’ve recorded a few of my thoughts on this over at Wheat and Tares.

  111. wreddyornot says:

    And they all wear celestial burkas and gags? :)

  112. The way I see the issue of Priesthood is, is that it is a part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the head of the Church, and that is where I place my faith. The Church is not the Gospel, it is a part of it, and the administration and policy setting does not change The Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we want things to change we have the ability to petition these changes, all we need to do is pray in faith to Heavenly Father and if it is His will He will inspire these changes. We can not make it with out everyone, no one piece of the puzzle is more important than the others (but that is another flawed analogy,) I don’t feel anymore important because I am male than my wife, but maybe that is because I am part of the “privileged” group. I just feel that I need to live what the gospel teaches and maybe some of these tougher fairness questions may be answered before my patience wears out.

  113. Mark L. says:

    First time posting!

    I know I’m a little late to the party, but I have some thoughts I wanted to contribute. First, I want to say that I have been guilty of using this analogy as a way of allowing women to feel “compensated” for men holding the priesthood—which I admit is dumb (thank you, community of thinkers and believers at BCC)—especially the part where I equate them out of a desire to “compensate.” Moronic and (coming from someone who holds the priesthood) a little condescending. I don’t know what each part equals—or if it needs to equal anything. Anyway, all of that aside, I have the following thoughts to add to the discussion.
    1. Rebecca J mentioned in her post that “you may be an angel or a monster, but you can bring life into the world either way.” I wonder if such is the case only here and now because that contest has already been won. Women don’t have to meet a standard of worthiness on Earth because choosing to come to Earth WAS (or was at least part of) that standard of worthiness. It would seem that those that opted not to come here will not have the opportunity to become parents. The battle to obtain an immortal physical body has been fought and won—hence an unconditional resurrection. This idea lends itself to all kinds of romantic ideas of women leading the charge for motherhood in the pre-earth life, but I’ll avoid going there.

    But as is noted in comments above, not all women can have the opportunity to become mothers, even though all men have an opportunity to hold the priesthood. Now I’m going to make an “eternal perspective” observation even though I feel like it’s a bit of a catch all, but post-exaltation, all women can and will be mothers. Is the inability to have children simply a result of life in a fallen world? Isn’t Jesus’ final reconciliation going to render null the lasting negative effects of the fall—leaving only the pure expressions of our agency to determine our opportunities and fate?

    2. Another thought. Though priesthood and motherhood are never EQUATED in scripture to my knowledge, some of their functions are presented in parallel—almost as if depicting halves of a whole. An example of this is Moses 6:59. As I read it, it says that much as a person is PHYSICALLY born of water, blood, and spirit, so that person must be SPIRITUALLY born of water, blood, and spirit. On the physical side, the water and blood of childbirth seems a clear connection to a woman’s role in giving birth to a child. The spirit aspect of physical birth (perhaps referring to the spirit entering the body?) may or may not be related to when a mother physically gives birth to a baby—I’m not quite sure how to plug that in here. Help?

    On the other hand, being spiritually born of water, blood, and spirit seems to refer to the male-performed priesthood ordinances of baptism and confirmation (though blood seems a strange fit here—perhaps the taking of the sacrament? Or maybe just that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ?).

    This also seems to highlight for me the physical and spiritual “halves” of the Atonement (though I’m not sure we can restrict it to just those two categories—would how the Atonement works for a family be part of physical or spiritual salvation—or both?)—being physically born and being spiritually born. It does seem that motherhood is the primary actor in one and priesthood the primary actor in the other, though neither would be successful without the other’s essential contribution (fatherhood and priestesshood?).

    This makes sense for me, but the glaring question is: If all is in place for mothers and priests, then what of fathers and priestesses? Part of me relates with that question, but then another part of me takes issue with it. Because in the End, won’t all women be mothers and all men fathers? And is there a clear line between the Atonement and the priesthood? Post-sealing and exaltation, is there a clear line between the male and the female? After all, priesthood power is said to be what was used to create, but how does that work with a woman creating a child in her own body? If it is the power of the Atonement, isn’t it priesthood power too? And this is where my brain gets stuck. Help?

    3. Last thought on the temple and the fall. I heard Alonzo Gaskell saying something about the depiction of the fall that was fascinating. Though I am not wholly convinced of it, I’ll relate the gist of what he was saying. It goes like this:

    Perhaps the Fall as we see it in the temple (and I’ll tread lightly here) is a symbolic reconstruction where all of us (yes, all—male AND female) actually take the place of Eve, with only Jesus in the role of Adam. After all, in prophetic imagery, we—the mortals—are often the bride/woman/wife, while Christ is the bridegroom/man/husband. I must admit, it’s kind of a nice fit in my brain.

    Thanks for letting me try my hand at some sense-making—hopefully I didn’t strain any muscles.

  114. Here is where I have a huge problem with the “eternal perspective” argument that all women will “someday be mothers” so it shouldn’t bother them if they aren’t now. Honestly, and this is probably because it is an issue that is so near and dear to me, but this is a genuine kick in the mouth. It is seriously that bad. I try to really understand where people are coming from and try to have infinite grace and patience wherever I can in an attempt to improve myself, but seriously, don’t ever say this to a woman who cannot/does not have children for one reason or another. Here is a good litmus test: If you wouldn’t say it to a mother who lost all her children in some horrible accident, don’t say it to a woman who doesn’t have any children either. It is extremely hard to face the long road of life as an LDS woman knowing you will probably never have children. Insensitive or judgmental people (even if they mean well) make that journey a hell of a lot harder.

  115. Mommie Dearest says:

    Ardis explained it succinctly. (I’m paraphrasing here) Don’t console a woman who cannot have children in this life by saying that she’ll have them in the next, because what you’re actually telling her is that she’ll be better off when she’s dead.

  116. Absolutely true!

  117. “so it shouldn’t bother them if they aren’t now”

    I just re-read Mark L’s comment twice, and he didn’t say that. All he said is that, according to our theology, all righteous men and women will be mothers and fathers eventually. He didn’t even hint that those who are not shouldn’t be bothered that they aren’t. His exact words were:

    “Is the inability to have children simply a result of life in a fallen world? Isn’t Jesus’ final reconciliation going to render null the lasting negative effects of the fall?”

    I would answer those questions with, “Yes” – and, “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.” I think our 2nd Article of Faith teaches exactly that – and I would think that would be comforting to someone whose life in any way isn’t what they would like it to be. If someone never wants to be a parent, ever, throughout eternity, that is different, but it someone wants to be a parent but can’t in mortality – for whatever reason . . .

    This is a serious question, EOR:

    Do you see the idea that we all will be parents at some point in the eternities as a bad thing to teach? If so, why? If not, how would you present it so that it wouldn’t be taken as insensitive or judgmental by you – or by any other single woman or man in the Church?

    I really do want to know how you would teach it.

  118. Ray I know Mark L. didn’t say a lot of the stuff I mentioned–his comment of having an eternal perspective is what sparked my comment.

    The Church should absolutely teach about eternal child creation (for lack of a better term) what is insensitive/judgmental is to use that doctrine as some form of placating. That it is no big deal if you don’t now, because you will later. I refer to the litmus test in my comment–you wouldn’t use this doctrine to comfort a grieving mother, would you?

  119. This is my first post I’ve ever read of yours but I just love it when I get to read something intelligent and humorous that makes me smile and think “I like this person”.

  120. “That it is no big deal if you don’t now, because you will later.”

    I understand and agree totally with being concerned over that type of statement.

    “You wouldn’t use this doctrine to comfort a grieving mother, would you?”

    I can’t say I would never use it in that situation, since I don’t know whom it would comfort and whom it would hurt – and I know from experience that there are times when it comforts many people but hurts others. Joseph used just that type of situation to teach that children are redeemed automatically through the Atonement, for example – and, sometimes, experiencing deep grief opens a heart to that type of belief.

    So, I can’t rule out teaching it to a grieving mother or a disconsolate single adult – but I would never do so with the focus of the statement of which you disapproved. I would never say or imply that “it’s no big deal” to lose a child or not to have children in mortality if you want them.

  121. Iow, I hope desperately I would be inspired to know what to say to each person as an individual – or to shut up, not say anything at all and simply offer a hug and a shoulder on which to cry.

  122. Mark L. says:

    Oddly, between beginning to write this reply and finishing it, I was “kicked in the teeth” (of a sort). Karma?

    Despite the initial jest, I couldn’t agree more with EOR, Mommie Dearest, and Ardis. My intent was not to comfort women unable to have children (which would’ve been a worthwhile thing to do), but rather to suggest that all women are deserving of the title “mother.” I should have done both. I fear I may have bit off more than I could chew with the post and the broad range of experiences represented here.

    I certainly hope I would never say anything like what you suggested to a woman without children, though it’s not unimaginable that I could “kick someone in the teeth” on the way to putting my foot in my mouth.

    I think what EOR referred to as using “the eternal perspective” as “some form of placating” is what has caused others to refer to religious teaching as “the opiate of the people,” something that is an undeniably true assessment of religious perspective when it fails to account for (and immediately strive to help) what an individual is experiencing in the moment.

    Perhaps someone could’ve mentioned this to Mormon when he commented (perhaps too succinctly—or perhaps he too would argue “I wasn’t talking about that”) on the death of thousands of defenseless Anti-Nephi-Lehies. “Thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people.” Let us not forget that there are still thousands of friends and relatives who are not with us.

  123. Jacob H. says:

    Although Joseph Smith didn’t use this for the childless, didn’t he teach those who lost children and were grieving that they could raise them in the hereafter? Also about babes sitting on thrones… https://bycommonconsent.com/2010/04/13/the-resurrection-of-children/… hm, never mind.

  124. hjisha says:

    The equating Priesthood with motherhood doesn’t sit well with me. I sometimes wonder if I knew more about my Heavenly Mother if I would feel differently. Why doesn’t she communicate with her earthly children? What does my eternal future look like. I don’t have a role model like men have in a Heavenly Parent. We are taught that the priesthood is eternal. God creates worlds, he answers prayers, he loves us and cares about us. What is eternal motherhood like? I feel lost and discouraged when I think about it. If women held the priesthood and exercised it perhaps we would begin to feel a kinship with our Heavenly Mother. I may be off base and wrong. I just wonder.

  125. hjisha (no. 124) — Jesus Christ is an excellent role model for all of us, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, and so forth. None of us should look beyond Jesus Christ. See John ch.14.

  126. Ray (120, 121) if one were *truly* inspired to offer such consolation to a grieving parent then of course I would say to go for it–far be it from me to ever get in the way of revelation–said revelation would also mean that the hearer (griever) would be comforted by or drawn closer to God in some way by hearing it. Absent this type of revelation, I would hope that by and large persons would stick to the instincts mentioned in your 121 post.

    ji (125) I understand hjisha’s point. It is not something that I personally need, but I do understand the longing to connect. Solely imo it is unrealistic to say we should all look to Jesus and never look any farther when seeking out a post-mortal role model for what our lives may be like. Like it or not, a woman cannot do this; Jesus’ role will forever be a male role. Since according to teachings gender is eternal (while race is not as I understand) women would naturally want to get an idea of what women are in store for once shuffling off this mortal coil. Just sayin’…

  127. rameumptom says:

    From a man’s perspective, I would like to share my thoughts on the children in this life/next life issue. I’ve been married for 25 years to a wonderful woman with 3 kids from a previous marriage. I love those kids, but I know the experience of getting several older kids is very different than having the newborn placed in your hands. I have never had that experience. My wife and I tried for several years to have children, trying a variety of medical methods then available. None worked.

    Being one who loves children, it has often been hard for me to not have my own children to bear my name into the future. That said, I DO find solace and comfort in knowing that someday my wife and I will have children of our own. Without that knowledge, my DNA would end with me. My knowledge, understanding, triumphs and failures would all end. While I know my step-kids love me, I do not think they will be that interested in reading my journals someday in the future. But with the understanding that I will have kids of my own in the future, I can look forward with hope, knowing all my journal writing, etc., has not gone to waste.

    I think of Moroni, who having seen his people destroyed, and now is writing the history of the Jaredites who also destroyed themselves, writing about hope being an anchor to the soul (Ether 12). How can it be otherwise?

    I recognize Ardis’ point. However, I disagree with it. Motherhood/Fatherhood are only one part of why we are here. And our efforts do not end with death, but continue into the eternities. Yes, it is tough to lose a loved one, but when we really understand the atonement, it does bring solace. Otherwise, why hope for anything, when we will all become worm bait someday? This life is but one part of our whole life, which is eternal. This life is a schooling to prepare us to be like Christ. Death is not the end of things, nor the beginning of things. It is, as C.S. Lewis suggested, like walking through a door.

    Perhaps the concept that Rebecca J has written about in the OP should teach us two things:
    1. Do not equate motherhood and priesthood
    2. Learn to have hope. Hope that all will be mothers and fathers someday. Hope that women will receive the blessings of the priesthood, whether via ordination or by receiving the ordinances. Hope that regardless of how God situates it, we may come to a greater understanding and have peace and joy in that understanding. Hope that we can lose the bitterness that this life brings us (whether on this issue, or thousands of other issues), and learn to have charity, faith and hope in Christ and the resurrection.

  128. rameumpton (127) I definitely appreciate your position, and I am not in any way discounting what a man feels when he is childless, but reason tells me it is impossible for him to have empty womb syndrome so I must object that they are near the same feelings a woman has. Add to that the constant hawkish cry from Relief Society sisters of “When are you going to have children?” despite KNOWING that my husband cannot and I simply must state that while eternal perspective may bring comfort and/or relief it will not do so until an actual eternal perspective is achieved (i.e. after death) Since it is pretty whack to essentially wish death on a person I would merely prefer people keep to their own hopes/fears/loves/losses/ideas/experiences/triumphs/failures/etc…

    I reckon I am having a great deal of trouble articulating this issue. I realize it is a me problem. I am too close to it, and I value my privacy too greatly to express myself more explicitly.

  129. rameumptom says:

    hjisha #124

    Yes, you DO have an eternal model: Jesus Christ. The gospel teaches us that God breaks down barriers of bond and free, rich and poor, male and female. To think you cannot have Christ as your model is sad. You are limiting what God can do for you. The Father is revealed to us through the Son. Perhaps Heavenly Mother is also revealed to us in the same fashion. But if we cannot embrace Christ as our role model and exemplar, then we cannot learn anything about Heavenly Mother.

    We know almost nothing about what will happen to any of us, male or female, in the next life. What we do know is that all that our Heavenly Parents have can be given to us. Why feel lost, when we have the example of Christ? Are you going to allow sexist attitudes to separate you from the joy of the gospel? Or are you going to accept the idea, as I do, that when we speak of Heavenly Father, we are speaking about Heavenly Parents. Why? Because Father and Mother are sealed in the Patriarchal Order, meaning they do all things together in Creation, etc.

    Do not limit yourself by placing artificial barriers between you and God. There is a role model. Jesus Christ gave respect and power to man and woman. He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, showing the importance of women to him in his rebirth/resurrection.

    I personally do not understand why humans limit themselves by insisting they have a certain set of things given them, before they can be happy. Americans are the richest people on earth, but have more depression than most third world nations where the people eke out a living. Why? Because Americans insist on others giving them happiness. The poor find their own happiness. Whites blame other races for their failures, while people of color blame whites. Men and women blame each other for the sex wars.

    Jesus was sent to lift us all above this garbage. HE is the example for all of us.

  130. #127 Rameumptom – I really appreciated reading that. Too seldom do we “let go and let God.” I genuinely believe that motherhood and fatherhood are the ultimate end, the raison d’etre for eternal existence, because it is the most efficient way to invite new life and intelligence to nurture other life and intelligence to its ultimate destiny. That said, we have many opportunities here to learn by our own experience, whether or not those include participating in creating life here. If we can release our expectations of mortality, God is free to teach us of eternity, and all are equal in the end.

  131. rameumptom says:

    Thank you, Bonnie. You said in one paragraph what it took me several to say.

  132. Mommie Dearest says:

    I agree that it is valuable to have the doctrinal knowledge concerning the afterlife that we do, and that it can be a great comfort to people who are unable to be parents in this life, and it should be taught. But wielding it as a placebo or offering it as a quick emotional band-aid in order to avoid the actual work that it takes to mourn with someone who is in very real pain, mourning their loss or lack, is no comfort. Many comments have pointed this out better than I could, particularly Ray’s 117 and 120. This is just another of the many times when we need to toss the checklist of easy answers and hone our sensitivity to another person’s experience.

  133. No arguments there, Mommie Dearest. Hm. That was almost Freudian.

  134. Anonym says:

    If Jesus is my role model, my ability to become like Him in this life is more limited than my husband’s because I don’t hold the administrative priesthood, and then there’s the paucity of testosterone, among a plethora of other reasons. Also, I believe that our ultimate raisons d’etre, in mortality at least, are to learn to love God, others, and ourselves; to gain “intelligence;” and to find out who we are. Having children may help us do that, and it also allows others to experience mortality. It’s certainly an important means to an important end. I’ve never particularly wanted to have children, so I don’t find the thought of being a mother eternally any too compelling. The prospect of creating worlds, though…

  135. hjisha says:

    I am not unhappy, nor do I dimish the gift of the atonement through Christ. I am well aware of the scriptures about women and Christ’s revolutionary kindness and understanding of them displayed in the New Testament. I am a devout Christian first and a Mormon second. But as the Proclaimation says gender is eternal. I do wonder what my eternal life will be like. General Authorities have never taught that when we pray we pray to Heavenly Parents. In fact addressing Heavenly Mother in any way is institutionally discouraged. I do love that idea of praying to both Heavenly Parents, but that idea if spoken in a formal church setting would be frowned upon and in some areas disciplined. I love being a mother and a grandmother. I feel a closeness with my children I cannot assign words to. I imagine that my Heavenly Mother feels love and a motherly closeness to me. My longing for her does not dimish my worship of Jesus as my Savior and example, nor does it dimish my love for my Heavenly Father. Longing for more light and knowledge does not make one unhappy, but when there are no resources to find answers I do sometimes feel lost.

  136. Thank you for this post, Rebecca.

    I agree with posts 33 and 40, and I agree with hjisha. In a culture where its assumed that the male ‘he’ can represent both genders, a man cannot understand a lifetime of having to translate every bit of scripture and most words from the pulpit to make it apply personally. If women are ‘God’s greatest creation’, why are we left behind and left out so often?

    I suggested to my seminary students recently that they can change the pronouns, in their heads, in the scriptures and even insert their own names to understand a passage more personally, you know, Likening. They were fine with the name switch but were shocked at changing pronouns. Perhaps it is a hindrance of an imperfect language. I have found that men have difficulty changing ‘she’ and ‘her’ to the masculine form because they rarely have to do so and often think if it is addressed to women, and especially if it is by women, it doesn’t apply to them.

    I, too, feel lost for examples of righteous women, something that I can see myself in and relate to intimately, and not ‘once removed’.

  137. I thought I had expressed all of my thoughts on this subject on Rebecca’s original post about RS but how can I refrain from joining in? You’re welcome…

    You can’t be mother without a father–in some form. You can’t be a priesthood holder without…..what?? Motherhood is not the right answer here…unless you’re talking about how your mother/birthmother gave birth to you. But she couldn’t have done that without your father/birthfather. Hence, FH & MH are equated and PH IS A SEPARATE THING GIVEN ONLY TO MALES! No matter how you spin it…

  138. You can’t be a priesthood holder without … a mate, who is mothering, eternally. If we insist on seeing the whole eternal picture here when mortality is a slice of something much, much larger, how can we really get a handle on our growing stewardships? Adam and Eve are exemplars for all of us, in all things, eternally. Some of us don’t get the whole experience here. I’m not hung up on whether we see the partnership as priesthood-relief society or priesthood-motherhood or fatherhood-motherhood, because the eternal principle is that priesthood power derives to both men and women and the ultimate relationship is parenthood. I think offices in the priesthood and relief society are mortal training grounds for eternal parenthood. This just doesn’t seem that hard.

  139. Kristine says:

    Presumably, everything we do on earth is, rightly understood, “preparation for eternal parenthood,” but that still does nothing to explain why we take a symbiotic biological relationship between men and women and extrapolate from that relationship a sexist power structure that disenfranchises one half of its members. It’s logically untenable, and therefore the arguments adduced to make it seem ethical are unsatisfying.

  140. Now we get to the crux of the real matter. Is the power structure sexist? Not everyone finds that tenable. Is power solely in the power structure? I do not find that tenable. Is one-half of the church’s membership disenfranchised, sort of a modern example of “taxation without representation”? I don’t find that logically tenable either. Therefore, the arguments adduced for that position are equally unsatisfying to me.

    I’m willing to let the relief society grow and to see the modern corporate church as a phase in the kingdom’s development, not as its ultimate destiny. I expect to see power increase in the lives of individuals and to me, that is the rock cut without hands, that rock of revelation grown so large by reproduction in the lives of masses of people that as one it will fill the earth.

    I’m not powerful because of an office I hold. My cultural authority derives from personal priesthood power, which is conditioned on covenant-keeping and the endowment. If you give me a priesthood office, how do I get any more powerful, according to the conditions of D&C 121? Because I can bless my children with a name? That’s already my cultural authority. Because I can bless my children to be healed? That is a gift of the spirit already within my purview. Because I am able to be called as a leader in the church? There’s already a job for that and I’m just as unlikely to be called to that as my next-door neighbor is to be called as an apostle.

    I’m not disenfranchised. But I do have to go back out and cook my brains some more in a landscaping job. Equality and all that.

  141. Mommie Dearest says:

    Excellent point Kristine. (#139) No matter how many work-arounds we can come up with or how much we pretend it doesn’t matter, in the absence of a logical compelling reason, the priesthood given only to men is sexist. I’m not really hung up on it or anticipating it being changed; it’s all I’ve ever known and it’s very familiar, but I do chafe at pretending it’s something that it truly isn’t. (That it’s not sexist.) And many other men and women, particularly younger ones who were born after the mid-century, find it uncomfortable and troubling to participate such a system.

  142. Kristine says:

    Bonnie–“sexist” is descriptive in this case; the structure is built around gender difference. I’m not using “sexist” as a synonym for “misogynist.” Likewise, “disenfranchised” is meant to describe the condition in which women’s decisions can always be overruled by men–it is simply the case that women do not have access to institutional power in the church.

    But, as you note in your elegant 2nd paragraph, institutional power is not the most important thing.

  143. Yes, but it is all well and good to say the priesthood blesses both men and women, but what about women who have no priesthood holder in their lives? A lot of women do whether it be in the form of a relative or a spouse or a trusted close friend, but enough women do not for the answer to not be as simple as men and women being blesses through the power of the Priesthood. The human race is blessed that the Priesthood has been restored, some are more blessed than others however.

  144. Vagabond says:

    This is simple. Women are born with the power of the priesthood already and men must be worthy of it once they come of age. Women don’t have the authority of the priesthood, but do have the power of the priesthood. Just one of the differences between our gender roles. Joseph Smith once ordained Emma Smith to the priesthood authority, but learned afterwards that it was not what God intended (to have the priesthood authority that is).

    You guys have all said some great things and to be honest, this little mystery of our church is similar to others like polygamy and blacks. The bottom line is NO BODY KNOWS WHY. However, we can extrapolate that it mirrors what life may be like in the eternities. It is rational to assume that things like polygamy, priesthood authority, etc are what I call echos of divine culture. Our American culture is unique, Saudi culture is unique. It is through these prisms we “judge” our world and by extension, our Mormon beliefs. To a Saudi, polygamy does not sound crazy like it does to Americans in general. We must remember that in the next life, there is a culture there. I’m sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but our American culture does not equate to Heaven’s culture. We may assume American culture to be the pinnacle of civilization here on Earth, but culture actually will be different in the next life. The idea of feminism might be considered ridiculous in that culture. Polygamy is a great example. If it really is a true principle, then it really is part of the eternities and therefore also Heaven/God’s culture. Heaven’s culture will not be exactly what we think it will be like and may certainly surprise us (unless we regain our memories of the pre-existence before that moment and then our American culture may seem pretty funny to us). So many forget about this little fact that we are approaching all of this through our own cultural paradigm (I love that word).

  145. “Polygamy is a great example. If it really is a true principle, then it really is part of the eternities and therefore also Heaven/God’s culture.”

    You might want to pick a different example her at BCC. I don’t have enough popcorn tonight to suffice.

  146. Kristine, sexist is a loaded word and in this environment, it means what its loaded meaning connotes: misogynist. If we could unload that word, we could also say that biology is sexist because it involves differentiation by gender, which makes God sexist, which is ludicrous. And how exactly does “institutional power” look when women have it? Do I assume that the prophet cannot and will not speak for women merely because he is male? I reject this outright. In Zion there are no -ites, because we stand up for each other. Much of the work of the kingdom has little to do with protecting rights and a lot to do with rolling up shirtsleeves.

    To be honest, this whole debate is starting to sound like it’s founded on elitism. It sounds like a rejection of small and simple, hidden acts (the manual labor of the kingdom) in favor of prestige and position and ceremonial visibility. Relatively few men or women stand in positions of ceremonial authority. Most of the real work is done by the rank and file – always has been, always will be. When I think of eternal reward as opposed to earthly station, I’m reminded of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus – you notice who even has a name?

    Bah. Ceremonial authority. I’d rather have power. It lasts longer.

  147. And thank you for the compliment, Kristine. I’ve always thought elegant is very nice word.

  148. Polygamy is nothing. Arguing that Saudi culture treats women in a morally equivalent way to American culture is truly bizarre. It is disappointing that anyone would consider it a potentially valid comparison. Overall, I think it makes more sense to assume God isn’t a misogynist and that people are the ones screwing it up, but clearly your mileage varies.

  149. Bonnie,
    I hesitate to speak for Kristine, but I don’t think she is arguing that men can’t minister to women or even that they shouldn’t. Ceremonial power doesn’t determine how the money gets allocated, actual power does. Ceremonial power doesn’t control access to temple rites, actual power does. While it is true that men and women other exercise power in faith and action within the church, it is equally true that men potentially have access to more power than women in the church for apparently arbitrary reasons. That is indeed sexist, though, as Kristine noted, not necessarily misogynistic. It’s the culture of justification that we’ve built up around it that tends to be misogynistic.

  150. Kristine says:


    It is true that being excluded from formal, institutional power does not necessarily preclude anyone from exercising spiritual power. But that’s not really the point–the point is that we worship a god of justice, and that working to create a just organizational structure would help us to understand and emulate our heavenly parents.

  151. I think I see where you’re coming from. Let me do the refer-back thing. Do you mean that if positions of authority were filled with women that women worldwide would be treated more justly? Or do you mean that if our pink/blue ratios were even then that would signify that God thinks of men and women evenly? Or possibly that the image of equality is enough – enough women in suits to balance the blue and black? (I’m not being facetious, image does matter and I get that.)

    Perhaps I’m just too stupid to know, but I don’t feel unjustly treated. Until this last April, I can’t remember a time when Priesthood session didn’t have a talk about pornography and its horrible destruction. As a divorcee whose marriage was destroyed by it, that has validated my feeling that the leadership understands me, my issues, and has my back. My bishop refuses, even when the stake requests during ward conference, to schedule interviews during SS, which validates me as a female teacher (though I have no illusions that it’s because I’m all that grand.) I don’t feel that I would be any better represented by female institutional leaders, beyond the ones who are there. I wouldn’t be offended if more were called, but frankly, it’s a nightmare trying to do things when the committee gets too big. If I remember correctly, Elder Haight once walked out of a quorum meeting in utter exasperation and ranted that “you would think 15 intelligent men could agree on SOMETHING!” Can you imagine making that 30 people? Ugh.

    I’ve been in a lot of negotiations with men and with women. Most business people are pragmatists. There are a few egos out there, but they’re not usually gender-specific. I didn’t notice any differences in perspective between men and women when there was a job to be done. I just don’t see the point of adding more women just to say we have equal ratios. I don’t think women are denied institutional power as long as women’s issues are presented and protected.

    Now, outside the quorum and general presidencies, speaking of the church as a corporate … well, that’s a whole different animal altogether. Sigh.

  152. Bonnie #146, 151
    “sexist is a loaded word”
    Would you care to suggest what word we could use in that case? This argument is beginning to remind me of the discussion on the meaning of the word racist. In Confronting Racism with the Church-Part 1 , quoting Marguerite Driessen “They think it’s not racism or discrimination unless it comes from a position of race hatred.” Insert sexist as opposed to racist, and the same applies.

    “Can you imagine making that 30 people?”
    I don’t think anyone is advocating doubling the size of the quorums or committees. Boardrooms haven’t increasing the number of posts to include women so far as I’m aware….

    “I don’t think women are denied institutional power as long as women’s issues are presented and protected.”
    The problem is, there are so few women in positions of authority where they may have the ear of our general leaders, that it is hard to believe the full spectrum of female issues, feelings and views is getting through….

    Vagabond #144
    Words fail me! I’ve been looked at askance before for wondering if all the hard work in this life is worth it, because will I actually like Heaven if I make it there? The picture very often painted at church isn’t one I like. Your comments don’t make me any too hopeful!

    Kristine #150
    “working to create a just organizational structure would help us to understand and emulate our heavenly parents.”
    Exactly. Because I would hope things aren’t actually arranged as they are now…

  153. A sister called me the other day. She dreamt she was sitting on a panel of women and men discussing feminism in the Mormon Church. Specifically she was asked why understanding and knowing Heavenly Mother, and exercising the priesthood on earth in the day to day struggles we face matter to her. In her dream she answered that without a Heavenly Mother to turn to she felt marginalized and unloved. Although I don’t feel exactly the same way, I understand her need for a Heavenly Mother. Life circumstances have challenged her as she was abused by men in her family and in the church. She has also been loved by men in her family and in the church. All along , every day she longs for a Heavenly Mother to inspire her, lead her, and bless her with a role model. She feels the arms of her Christ around her. I told her to imagine her heavenly mother cradeling her head and whispering maternal kindness that will not end. Some women and men may not seek the embrace of a Mother Godess, but some of us so need her wisdom and confidence. My friend is not weak, or selfish. But she is hurting and longing for something holy. She believes many great and important things will be revealed pertaining to the kingdom of God. My friend and I are not alone in wanting more. All revelation comes from asking questions. We are asking and refusing to fear the answers, but rather have faith in Christ that the answers will bring us peace. In the mean time, we hold on worshipping Christ and feeding his lambs so when our Mother in Heaven comes, she will find us about doing her work.

  154. Kristine says:

    Bonnie–I feel fine about my activity in the church, too. I have leaders who are wonderful men and who show deep love and concern for me. This is not about whether men and women are nice to each other, or understand each other’s needs, or about whether women would exercise kinder, gentler unrighteous dominion, or anything else affective or personal. It’s about whether a structure that systematically limits one sex’s contributions and opportunities is a fit framework for the Kingdom of God. What I understand of God’s justice from the scriptures suggests to me that it is not.

  155. sex·ism
    attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
    discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially, such discrimination directed against women.

    I’m pretty sure this isn’t the word that is best. This definition would say that God is old fashioned and cares not for us all, this I know to be false.
    The Priesthood is not given just to men, it is for all of God’s Children. As a man I have the opportunity in this life to receive the priesthood, but at 12 I was not ordained to be an Apostle, or was I ordained a Deacon just because I was male, I was interviewed by someone called of God, By those in Authority.
    If we do not like how the church is run we can join some other organization that has a head that is not “sexist” to fulfill our desire to be of service in a position that is “important” but I would rather try to do what God has asked me to do in faith that all will be sorted out.

  156. Kai – the word I would suggest is “gendered” because it feels most accurate. Birth is gendered. Life, as much as we might want to make it all egalitarian, is gendered. I am a single mother. I have 3 boys and 3 girls, not including my in-law son and granddaughters. Are my boys’ needs unfairly represented because they don’t have a father (and they don’t, he’s not a part of their lives)? Ludicrous. Leadership is almost completely a function of individual commitment and effort and it varies widely. Structure can’t force equality, something that affirmative action has taught well.

    Kristine – I don’t see how women’s contributions and opportunities are limited. There is no dearth of need in the world and the church, and nobody has ever told me to go back home and knit when I’ve appeared to help. Our ward council, where most of the real work gets done, has 3 women and 5 men, and it’s a pretty egalitarian bunch, much more concerned with taking care of needs that assessing which gender they arise from. Again, that’s area-specific, and leadership quality varies. I just don’t see how issues of injustice are playing out here. Sis. Beck is saying that the brethren insisted that she be a better, more vocal advocate for women. What changes do you see occurring that would make God appear more just?

    hjisha – I think A LOT of us would appreciate hearing more about heavenly mother. The yearning to know more is perhaps the best insurance that we will search and receive personal revelation (on any subject), and perhaps the church as a whole will grow to yearn after her as well.

  157. Mommie Dearest says:

    When you’re female, you have a lot different (perhaps more) vested interest in how it all will be sorted out. When you’re female and 12, and baptized and worthy, you still cannot be ordained a deacon. Why? because you’re female. If you’re thoughtful about such things, is it “not doing what God has asked of you” to ask why being female alone is a disqualifier for being ordained? Does gender matter to God, and if so, how? As a female who ponders these things, I can only wonder about them from my point of view (female) and this is not the first time I have been invited to leave if I don’t get my thinking in line with the dominant (male) point of view. When invited to leave, I usually examine the person’s authority to ask such a thing of me.

    I’m sorry if people have understood my use of the word sexist to mean something malicious. In this forum, I used it only as a descriptor of the structural gender differences, and I was blind to the loaded nature of the word outside that context, and for that I apologize and offer this explanation which may help lessen that confusion.

  158. Kristine says:

    Bonnie–it’s not God I think is unjust.

    I think it’s generally unproductive to talk about specific policy changes that we’d like to see–tinkering around the edges of the status quo. If we could settle the larger theological and ecclesiological questions about women’s status, the practical changes required would sort themselves out quite readily.

  159. “(n)or was I ordained a Deacon just because I was male”

    Sure, Rick, but you had to be male to be ordained a deacon, so, in a very real sense, you actually were ordained because you were male. Surely, you understand that. (I’m not making any statement about that except to say your reasoning is flawed in that statement.)

    “If we do not like how the church is run we can join some other organization”

    Fwiw, Rick, even as a fully active, faithful, dedicated male Mormon, I really hate that statement – and I really hate very few things. It’s so dismissive and judgmental in nature – and it is so different than the attitude Pres. Uchtdorf expressed this last General Conference when he said not to judge others because they sin differently than you do. It’s saying, “If you don’t see things exactly like I do, just leave” – and, as I said, I really hate anything that implies that message, even if you don’t mean it that broadly.

    Furthermore, many of the changes in “how the church is run” were initiated by apostles and Presidents who didn’t like how the church was run at the time – and I’m sure you wouldn’t brush them off by saying, “If (you) do not like how the church is run (you) can join some other organization.” Pres. McKay’s struggle with the Priesthood ban perhaps is the best example of this, and I’m glad he didn’t feel like he had to leave the Church because of his strong disagreement over that “policy” (as he called it) and the way it affected how the Church was run.

  160. Kristine (158) this! Best comment of the year, forget the week.

  161. As a woman in the Church since 1976, I have wrestled with the “men get the Priesthood, women get motherhood” dichotomy on a daily basis. At this time in my life, I no longer see this as a dichotomy, but as a web. The Priesthood (the power to act in God’s name, using His power) and motherhood (the power to participate in God’s creation and nurture of physical bodies for our spirit brothers and sisters) are not separate powers, at odds with one another and exclusive to themselves. They are complementary and inclusive of one another. The fact that every species higher than bacteria uses motherhood to create, and only male members of the Church are officially vested with the Priesthood, does nothing in my mind to minimize the connection between them. When I have a child, I am not making a puppy or a fish, I am creating a body for a member of my family, that he/she needs in order to complete the journey from where we all come to where we all are going.
    The formal structure of the Church is separate from the structure of the family. but it appears many people have trouble separating the two. I did for a very long time, and it hampered my growth and testimony of a loving Father. Our family is a companionship, not a hierarchy. My husband and I shared responsibility to our children and to our God. Hubby is now frail and his mental powers are gradually being stolen by dementia, but we are still a partnership, companions in every sense of the word. The priesthood authority that he holds is mine as well; we are joint bearers of the authority from God that we have over our family. His ordination gave us both access to the power of God, to be learned about and used under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. I have welcomed that guidance as I worked to raise our children, and have worked with my husband in forming a family that, hopefully, will continue throughout eternity.
    The structured nature of the Church is a convenience in the world, God’s way of making a scaffolding for the world to be able to adhere to His laws. Without it, I think it would be impossible for His fallen children to learn how to return to Him. It has been said that this life is a school, where we learn how much we are capable of and the consequences of our choices. Schools are, by necessity, hierarchical entities; the students need to learn what the teachers already know. A structure is necessary for that to happen in an efficient and useful way. But when we have graduated from school, we move out into a larger world where, ideally, we are all equal and have the knowledge and power we have worked for. I don’t think Heaven is like here. If it was, it wouldn’t be Heaven.
    The Lord knows what He is doing, and He loves us as individuals. We will receive all we are willing to receive at His hands, based on how we have followed Him here (even if we didn’t know we were following Him).

  162. Kristine – I think there are genuine ecclesiological questions to sort out, in many areas, which is as you point out, the lovely nature of a lay church – that we be about the business of sorting them out. And I also agree that steadying the ark is not generally useful. However my practical experience validates that constructive criticism in which an alternative is suggested is most useful and most invested. Indeed, our very revelation on revelation (D&C 9) invites us to do that with God: study it out and suggest and way and be willing to hear yea or nay.

    I honestly think that the quorum and presidency did handle the theological/soteriological questions by publishing the PotF, which spells them out quite succinctly. It’s just that it offended some. I don’t think it would have been so offensive if there weren’t the problems in the lay church that tweaked people’s nerves, so that’s why I think the changes in ecclesiology and theology grow best when they grow together, and why I asked.

    And I still don’t understand which women are being unjustly treated, beyond the image of a lot of white guys in suits. I’m still not convinced that that image is affecting a skewed reality. If we have to have someone of each gender in every situation to protect the gendered experience of every individual, one would think that worldwide children are being woosified by growing up in homes where women’s influence dominates. My kids will tell you, when I go get them up in a bit to spend the day shoveling topsoil and compost, that there’s no woosification happening here.

  163. Kristine says:

    How does the Proclamation on the Family have any bearing on Church governance??

    If there were some useful mechanism for making “suggestions,” your point would be an excellent one. But there isn’t, so it’s hard to see why we shouldn’t speculate about the bigger questions on a blog–precisely the same real-world impact as if I described specific changes I can envision (and trust me, there are plenty).

  164. Also, fwiw, I believe if the Relief Society truly functioned for women as the Priesthood quorums function for men – if they truly were “twin organizations” in a very real way, I think much of the concern would vanish (although not all). I’m not advocating massive change in theology or even “programming” in any way, but I would love to see the Relief Society be what I believe it was meant and is supposed to be – and I see President Beck’s efforts in that light.

    Just as a simple example, I loved her encouragement in the world-wide training session in (maybe) November of 2010 for Relief Society Presidents to act and then report rather than wait and seek permission. She said very clearly that there is power and authority in Relief Society and that the women who “run” it have the right to use that power and authority without permission from men in the Priesthood.

    I see the organizations of Priesthood and Relief Society as analogous, not Priesthood and Motherhood – but I also don’t see Priesthood and Relief Society as equal yet. I see councils as the binding link for Priesthood and Relief Society – and I like the movement toward more equal councils. .

  165. EXACTLY Rita! “The structured nature of the Church is a convenience in the world, God’s way of making a scaffolding for the world to be able to adhere to His laws.” (And what else you said too.) I don’t think heaven is much of anything like what is here. Joseph said in vision to Wilford Woodruff that the human family is all in disorder, and it was the sealing that would reorder it, not the structure of the church. For ages the church has been working to empower the family as the unit of most consequence, because it’s the one that most closely mimics the structure of heaven.

  166. Kristine says:

    Also, the scriptural reference you want is not D&C 9, which has to do with going to God. A better warrant is probably Numbers 26, the episode with the daughters of Zelophehad petitioning Moses.

  167. Ray (164) I agree that RS and PH are a much closer link (though not equal either) than Motherhood and PH

  168. Kristine – the family is the ultimate unit of governance and the networked structure of priesthood governance is an earthly construct to strengthen families. We don’t have to build new networks of towers for every new cell provider; they use each other’s. We only need one structure for linking families, and priesthood works. That is its role.

    Since you see no reason why we shouldn’t speculate on a blog, please, share some of your ideas. Perhaps it will stimulate a more useful mechanism for making suggestions.

    Ray – agree wholeheartedly.

  169. And what of those that have no family? Should we just go sod off somewhere?

  170. No, actually Kristine, I wanted D&C 9. All of our mortal communication should be patterned after our communication with God. Zelophehad’s daughters is a nice reference about mortals handling things among themselves. If the Church is not God’s construct, I say that’s the better plan; but if it is God’s construct, I say we use his plan.

  171. EOR – who says you don’t have a family? Spontaneously born? My best friend is a single-never-married 51-year-old. She is ALWAYS busy helping her family. Perhaps you were placed just where you are to help those within your circle. But that’s not for me to know. The key is, everyone has a family. Cool plan.

  172. Ray, I misstated what I meant, I didn’t mean to leave the church but that is all of our rights if we feel that the church no longer fits our needs and desires, I really meant that we can find somewhere else that will fit our needs. I don’t mean to propose that the “whiners” go somewhere else, an open discussion is needed to figure out the needs of those involved. I apologize for sounding dismissive and not being a very good writer. I would like to blame it on being up early after a short night dealing with kids, but I hate using excuses.
    As of being ordained a Deacon just because I was male, I would like to think that I was prepared, living in an area of the world with a low LDS population I was around many 12 year old males that were not ordained Deacons, I may not have been as prepared at 12 as I could have been, later ordinations I know I was.
    There are many times that I feel it would be nice to have a larger body of Priesthood to assist in my duties, and if I were a better Home Teacher maybe there would be, but I try to rely on Heavenly Father, and what He has revealed to the world. And so if some day in the future it were revealed that the Priesthood were to be given to all worthy members of the church I would have to pray and receive revelation for myself if this were true, just as I have prayed and accepted the current policies and practices of the church.
    I know there are things unfair in the world today, and “accepted” behaviors are not right, but if we all strive to improve our own sphere things can change.
    (thanks for letting me voice some thoughts in this forum, even if they don’t all make sense. I have been a lurker for awhile and this topic touched me somehow.)

  173. Bonnie (171) I have to say that smacks of a “let-them-eat-cake” attitude. Some families are so horrendous, that yes, it is precisely akin to having no family. Of course I didn’t mean that I spontaneously appeared, and I would assume that goes without saying, but I guess not. In the zeal to over-prove one’s point I suppose decorum be damned.

  174. I’m sorry if your family is horrendous. The Church exists as a support in those cases (I’m particularly fond of the discussion in Titus), and often the horrendousness is temporary (as it was in my case, and I’m glad I didn’t write them all off.) I don’t think individual aberrations contort the theological model. Heck, I’m quite the aberration. Nobody suggested throwing out decorum.

  175. Bonnie–I hope you’re not feeling too beat up on but you seem to be able to handle it so I wanted to have you clarify something.

    When I posed a question (#137) “You can’t be a priesthood holder without … ”

    You answered (#138) “a mate, who is mothering, eternally.” with the last word emphasized.

    I’m sure you know that you can be a priesthood holder at the age of 12, right? No mate required for priesthood holding. Do you still stand by that statement? It seems faulty…

  176. #172 – Thanks, Rick, for the clarification. I certainly have written things that implied meanings I didn’t intend.

  177. Bonnie (no. 168) — You wrote,

    “the family is the ultimate unit of governance and the networked structure of priesthood governance is an earthly construct to strengthen families”

    That’s a beautiful thought! I might have to use it sometime.

  178. Kristine says:

    It’s doctrinally innovative, at least…

  179. #151—

    I think I see where you’re coming from. Let me do the refer-back thing. Do you mean that if positions of authority were filled with women that women worldwide would be treated more justly? Or do you mean that if our pink/blue ratios were even then that would signify that God thinks of men and women evenly? Or possibly that the image of equality is enough – enough women in suits to balance the blue and black? (I’m not being facetious, image does matter and I get that.)… just don’t see the point of adding more women just to say we have equal ratios. I don’t think women are denied institutional power as long as women’s issues are presented and protected.

    Bonnie, I don’t believe that left handed people have any significant difference in voting patterns from right handed people. But I wouldn’t feel good about a democracy where only right handed people can vote, would you? Or would that be just hunky dory with you, as long as left handed people’s “issues are presented and protected”?

  180. ShelliG says:

    Since I’m speaking in sac mtg on Mother’s Day, I read this post and all 178 comments with great interest. It is a topic that used to bother me very much…the pairing of motherhood with the priesthood. I’ve been planning to describe the ideas Valerie Hudson Cassler presented in the article Cassandra in post #28 mentioned and asked for comments on. Has anyone else read that link? No one on this thread commented on what I find to be the best explanation of the roles of motherhood and the priesthood I’ve ever heard. I presented these ideas in a RS lesson recently, too, and the overall response among the sisters was gratitude for finally being able to see just how crucial their role as a daughter of Eve is to the Plan of Salvation. Frankly, I found Cassler’s thoughts illuminating. I would really love to hear some comments about her ideas here.

    Having said that, I don’t intend this to be an explanation for the discussion expressing difficulties regarding the administrative inequalities sometimes experienced in the church.

  181. ShelliG says:

    To make it easier, here’s the link for Valerie Hudson Cassler’s essay:

  182. Kristine says:

    We’ve discussed it in a couple of other threads, Shelli. The best arguments against it, I think, are here: http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2011/11/01/the-two-trees/

  183. Let me elaborate on my point in #179:

    My point is that equal representation is not a concept that is defined only in terms of outcomes of the decision-making body in question. Left handed people should vote because barring them from doing so is wrong. Full stop. Not because Congress would be kinder, gentler, and more likely to balance budgets because of it (even if we had reason to believe that were true), which is why I made a hypothetical that posits absolutely no difference in voting outcomes.

    Further, barring left handed people from voting is wrong whether or not there are ways for them to soothe themselves over the loss, and go on to live lives of full of joy, and accumulating plenty of influence despite not voting. I’m sure they could and would do so. I’m sure many left handed people would end up MORE influential than the average voter in the US (not a high bar, frankly). I’m sure you could find left handed people willing to go on TV (and on blog threads) saying, “I don’t feel oppressed! Voting is just a hassle anyway! Heck, my right-handed sister hates voting! In fact, half of Americans skip it, so what’s the big deal if a few left handed people don’t vote either?” Or “Our corporation, where most of the real work in this country gets done, has a 3 left-handed people working for it it to 5 right handed people.” Or “To be honest, this whole debate about left handed people voting is starting to sound like it’s founded on the wrong thinking that government and voting controls everything. It sounds like a rejection of private business and families–the real institutions that matter in this country–in favor of prestige and position and ceremonial visibility.” None of this would make it right.

    Whether presence of women would make church administration better is not a necessary argument to have–and proving that is true is most definitely not an evidentiary bar that must be cleared, in the analysis of whether excluding women is right or wrong.

  184. ShelliG says:

    Thanks, Kristine. I missed that one while in my grief fog. :)

  185. Kristine says:

    You’re definitely excused…

    It’s such an interesting piece. I think it’s persuasive in part because we all want so damn badly for there to be some convincing explanation.

  186. Kate M. says:

    “It’s about whether a structure that systematically limits one sex’s contributions and opportunities is a fit framework for the Kingdom of God. What I understand of God’s justice from the scriptures suggests to me that it is not.”

    What I have found in the scriptures is that God’s idea of justice is much different than ours and frequently mysterious and it may be hard to know exactly what kind of framework He would choose for the kingdom of God. We deserve stone and he gives us bread. He gives the same reward to those who have been laboring all day as to those who have been laboring only an hour. We deserve eternal damnation but He pays a debt we could never ourselves. One man’s sacrifice can somehow cover the sins of billions of people. He chooses all male apostles on both continents–no women. He brings the gospel to one people first before extending it to another. He allows only one person to receive revelation for the whole church…

    All of which is to say, that I think the best answer to why women don’t have the priesthood is “We don’t know.” And that is also the best answer as to whether God considers the current arrangement unjust or not as well.

  187. What a beautiful day! There is almost nothing better than accomplishing something meaningful.

    KC – No, I guarantee you nothing here makes me feel beat up. 5 yds of topsoil, 1 yd of compost, 3 hours of busting sod by hand, and planting 30 bushes, yeah, at 45 I’m a little beat up by a day of that. Talk? That’s easy, and cheap. Yes, I do realize that boys receive the priesthood without mates. But this earthly priesthood is a preparatory thing, and he can’t enjoy it in eternal felicity without a mate.

    Kristine – there is nothing doctrinally innovative about the family being the basic unit of governance. I’ve commented on this several times already, and I’ve seen nothing to refute what I’ve said.

    Cynthia – I’m aware that I am a pragmatist and that you are discussing this as an issue of “right and wrong.” I don’t think being a pragmatist makes me a simple-minded ingenue. I’m perfectly capable of engaging in philosophical debate. The key is that nobody wins. We are talking about a construct that we can only sense the edges of, and the only thing that God has told us about his work is that it’s about bringing to pass immortality and eternal life for us and that it’s supposed to be about joy. So, yeah, this is fun, but it doesn’t make anyone any more comfortable in the kingdom we have and it makes a lot of people less comfortable. Since nobody has pointed out any real harm being inflicted on women, outside of the principle of the thing, I have to fall back to we’d be better to turn the other cheek and risk a sore cheek than get our panties in a twist. But that’s just me.

    I’m trying to make the connection between voting and ecclesiastical representation, and I’ll admit that I’m tired and I don’t get it. But to play out your political metaphor, representative democracy (as in the US) provides for election of one individual to make decisions that the rest do not get a chance to vote on, or often even see. The trust is that those individuals will represent us well. It doesn’t play out that way so very well when we vote, but the assumption is that one chosen by God would do a better job, and the promise is that if one so chosen led astray, he would be removed, by God. Yes, I’m “hunky dory” with that.

    Kate – Yup.

  188. Cynthia, I’m left-handed, and I approve this analogy.

  189. Bonnie, so that’s what the gospel’s all about–giving up on ethics (your “right and wrong”) in the name of something you call pragmatism–because ethical considerations might make some people uncomfortable?

  190. ZD Eve – yeah, that’s what I said. Whatever.

  191. Bonnie, some people are made uncomfortable by the fact of the thing, not just “philosophical debate” of it. Why do you feel it is more important to attend to and bend to the prevention of the latter’s discomfort than the former’s?

  192. Bonnie,

    You’re sure taking some heat here. I appreciate your postings here. May God bless you.

    I liked your thought,

    “I am a pragmatist and that you are discussing this as an issue of ‘right and wrong.’ I don’t think being a pragmatist makes me a simple-minded ingenue. I’m perfectly capable of engaging in philosophical debate. The key is that nobody wins. We are talking about a construct that we can only sense the edges of, and the only thing that God has told us about his work is that it’s about bringing to pass immortality and eternal life for us and that it’s supposed to be about joy. So, yeah, this is fun, but it doesn’t make anyone any more comfortable in the kingdom we have and it makes a lot of people less comfortable. Since nobody has pointed out any real harm being inflicted on women, outside of the principle of the thing, I have to fall back to we’d be better to turn the other cheek and risk a sore cheek than get our panties in a twist. But that’s just me.”

    My wife would agree with your thought.

  193. Mommie Dearest says:

    I got the left-handed analogy and I liked it. I thought it was an effective way of removing the culture-filter in order to look at female exclusion policy with fresh eyes. Like all analogies, it breaks down at some point when you try to make it fit irrelevant details; then it becomes non-functional. I think whether or not you see it depends a lot on your attitude. Who woulda thunk?

    I see rather a lot of harm inflicted on women by having a dominant male culture in the church. It varies in degree from woman to woman. Just because no one has trotted out their painful experiences for group deconstruction doesn’t mean that there is no harm that’s been done.

    If the (male) powers that be are interested in assessing what the church experience is like for women, I think it would be helpful to examine the whole range women’s experiences from those who are satisfied to those who are so far beyond uncomfortable that they are in pain. I know that this is not pragmatic, so I’m not anticipating it happening in the near future.

    In the meantime, may God bless all those women and men who suffer ill effects from the failures of policy, pretty much unacknowledged by the people around them.

  194. As I kind of hinted at earlier, if Relief Society (with the YW as subsidiary, like the YM / AP is for the MP) functioned for women more like Priesthood Quorums function for men (and I believe that is supposed to be the case), and if everything that is not tied directly to the performance of Piresthood ordinances outside the temple was open to both men and women (and I believe a strict parsing of our Fifth Article of Faith supports this), and if the Priesthood and Relief Society functioned as true equals in the Ward and Stake Councils, albeit within the current structure led by a male Bishop, Branch President or Stake President (and this is being taught now, since PEC is supposed to be much more like an auxiliary presidency meeting now), I believe most of this type of discussion would disappear. If women had the representation, organizational power and independent authority I believe they are supposed to have even within the current Priesthood ordinances performance and overall ecclesiastical structure . . .

    Iow, right now, as a first priority, I would much rather restore the Relief Society to what I believe it was intended to be and continue to stress councils with equal authority and participation (regardless of the specific numbers in each), than to continue to try to justify the status quo by equating Priesthood and motherhood – especially since I believe women who have gone through the temple already have been endowed with Priesthood power, and the analogy in question obscures or even hides that fact. It’s not just a bad analogy for lots of intellectual / theoretical reasons; it’s a bad analogy because it distorts and obfuscates the power women should and do have already. It doesn’t add anything; it literally subtracts something important.

  195. Kristine says:

    “if the Priesthood and Relief Society functioned as true equals in the Ward and Stake Councils, albeit within the current structure led by a male Bishop, Branch President or Stake President”

    This is a logical contradiction. One group can never be equal to another if that group is definitionally subordinate.

  196. Mark Brown says:


    “yeah, that’s what I said. Whatever.”

    With respect, Bonnie, that is precisely what you have argued. To paraphrase, I think you are saying that since we can’t know God’s mind completely, we should accept whatever the status quo is, because otherwise somebody might get uncomfortable.

    That is certainly a valid approach, but I don’t think it is any more valid than an approach which says that God placed us in a fallen world, but he gave us a moral compass and He expects us to use it, even if it does make people uncomfortable.

  197. Before I answer individual comments directed at me, I would like to step back and apologize if I have offended anyone who genuinely feels hurt by the “status quo” as it has been described by others (I don’t define anything as status quo because I think the church is in a constant state of evolution, but I will accept others’ wording and move forward.) It was never my intention in the dialogue to marginalize anyone. I thought we were all speaking from positions of strength and could therefore push and push back to discover the issues. I am searching for understanding. Perhaps that has not been clear as I have presented ideas and waited to hear how people respond. I really do want to understand why people feel as they do. The reason I am searching for understanding is that I feel a profound desire to understand all the sides of the issue – it’s the drawback to being a mediator – because I feel that one of the key limiting factors to women’s ascendancy is the disagreement between women about their “roles,” the priesthood, and their place in the plan. I’ve written about feminism to those who are offended by it. I’m not as big an enemy as I must seem. I’m searching for a path of peace that would allow us to trust one another and work well together. If this searching is causing more damage, I wish to backtrack (I also become impatient after a hard day’s work – sorry ZD Eve).

    Cynthia – I hope the above explains the pushback. In no way should our church experience be uncomfortable for anyone. Please, help me understand what you envision as equal representation. Paint a picture that helps me see what you’re truly asking for, and I will listen.

    ji – thanks, but I’m not bothered, except by the idea that I misunderstood the effect the debate was having on people. I would never want to be unkind. Here’s how I approach people, which I hope is much more kind than the unemotional way I approach issues. It’s obviously a failing of mine that I forget about the people behind the issues in a forum where I can’t see your face while we speak.

    Mommie Dearest – It IS pragmatic to explore the range of experiences, and in my clumsy way I was attempting to do so. Instead of getting specifics, however, I got generalities and I’m no closer to a true understanding of the way this is affecting others or what situation would be preferable. How are you experiencing a dominant male culture, and how is it affecting you? Help me out. Because all of us have experienced isolated experiences with individuals – I’ve written about this recently myself – please focus on structural examples so I can see the widespread affect of a policy instead of the clumsy implementation of an individual.

    Ray – If I understand you correctly, I think we’re saying the same thing.

    Kristine – I get what you’re saying, that all positions of leadership should be available for any gender, and until that point we do not have true equality in terms of gender. Your suggestion, then, is that the Church will be truly gender-equal when women can serve as bishops, high councilors, stake presidents, area authorities, seventies, apostles, and prophets, and that if the church looked like that, it would look like heaven, because God is just. Do I understand clearly?

    Mark and ZD Eve – I saved yours for last because it actually hit a nerve. I am an ethicist, and that is what I do in business – help those whom I consult find ethical, mediated solutions. I constantly work to balance “right and wrong” with outcomes to make the most ethical choices also the most palatable. As a values-driven professional, I take a lot of heat for suggesting that people make significant and sometimes strident sacrifices to do “what’s right.” So, I will step back to listening mode. Help me understand the philosophical imperative in eliminating roles division in a way that doesn’t use our present cultural understanding of equality, so that it is a truth instead of a cultural interpretation of a truth. In other words, help me see heaven the way you see it.

  198. #195 – I know, in theory, Kristine (and theory is important in discussions like this) – but I added the second part for a reason (two reasons, really).

    1) If every Bishop, Branch President and Stake President currently acted as the leader of a council of equals, I’m positive much of the current discussion and angst would disappear – and we could focus on a much more narrow discussion for the future.

    Rhetorical question, I think:

    Would you rather have that situation or a continuation of what we have currently while attempting to change everything to be exactly how you want it to be ultimately?

    2) I have expereinced practical eqaulity in multiple councils where the leader was male or female by default, so I know it can happen. I also have experienced practical equality in multiple organzations where the leader was female or male not by default, so I know it can happen. Leaders can make sex-blind decisions and value input from men and women equally – no matter how they reached their position of leadership. (How they did so is important, as I’ve said, but it isn’t a determining factor in sex-based practical equality on its own.)

    Also, importantly, there is no “male” or “female” action with regard to anything, since men and women differ so radically from other men and women. If anyone looks at any decision ever made (that isn’t historically obvious) and tells me she knows what the person’s sex was who made the decision based solely on the decision itself, I have no problem describing that belief as based on sexism. To say a decision was entirely or even predominantly a result of the decision maker’s biological sex goes against pretty much everything I’ve read of your own writings.

    Systematically, organization-wide, I know such equality can’t happen as constituted currently, but it can happen at the local level. I’d like to see that happen as a first step toward the utlimate objective of truly shared, equal leadership.

  199. Sometimes it can be helpful to look at an old and annoying and vexing matter with a new perspective.

    Perhaps we err when we think of some group in the Church being subordinate to another group. Perhaps we should see thinks as the Savior does. Whoever is called to minister or to lead is really called to serve. So my bishop is my servant — he serves me by accepting my donations and providing an activity program for my children and organizing a worship service for me and my family every Sunday. I’m not subordinate to him; he isn’t subordinate to me. He is my brother with a calling to serve. My Sunday School teacher serves me by preparing a lesson and leading a discussion every week. I serve both of them by magnifying my calling. We all serve our Lord Jesus Christ by magnifying our callings. None of us looks for domination over another, and none of us feels subordinate to another.

    I recommend this perspective as another way to look at things — not the only valid way, but perhaps still a helpful way.

  200. Cute, ji, but it doesn’t solve the problem of things not being equal, does it? It just flips the inequality. And what makes you think that women who wonder why they don’t have more leadership roles in church aren’t using that perspective? That what they are longing for is more opportunity to serve more people outside other women and children and their families? (as opposed to longing to lord over people with an iron fist, honestly, I hope that’s not what you’re thinking–how inaccurate and rude)

  201. It if doesn’t work for you, that’s okay — it was just a suggestion of a more charitable way to look at things.

  202. Kristine says:

    “Would you rather have that situation or a continuation of what we have currently while attempting to change everything to be exactly how you want it to be ultimately? ”

    As if it matters how _I_ want things to be–good grief!!! I have no idea what I want it to be ultimately–I want to know how God wants it to be.

  203. Honestly, Kristine, as much as I value and respect you and your insights (and I value and respect them HIGHLY) and want to engage you on this to learn from you (sincerely), I have no idea how to respond to #201 – so I will bow out at this point.

  204. Kristine says:

    “So my bishop is my servant — he serves me by accepting my donations and providing an activity program for my children and organizing a worship service for me and my family every Sunday. I’m not subordinate to him; he isn’t subordinate to me.”

    Try starting a new activity as an alternative to Scouts, or teaching Old Testament instead of Book of Mormon in Sunday School and you’ll discover very quickly that you are, in fact subordinate.

    Look, hierarchy isn’t evil per se, and it is possible that right now God does want women to be subordinate to men. Most Mormon feminists are devoted to the Church despite their subordinate status, and willing to wait for further revelation. But, as Rebecca’s original post points out, the rationalizations we build up for that hierarchy are more grating than the hierarchy itself. Similarly, the mental gymnastics required to deny the fact of inequality are tedious and insulting. Let’s acknowledge reality and go from there. (The new focus on councils Ray points is a hopeful place to start).

  205. Kristine says:

    Ray–sorry. I didn’t mean to sound however I sounded to make you feel the discussion was over. I just really don’t like framing the discussion in terms of what _I_ want, because what I want is utterly unimportant. This isn’t about appeasing me, or feminists, or women who are “struggling” with the inequality, it’s about asking what is right. I sincerely believe that the current situation is not right, and I can try to articulate the reasons why I believe that, but it’s not my place to receive revelation about how things should be. So I was disconcerted and alarmed by your question, because I don’t want anyone who’s reading to think that there’s some particular goal I have in mind or any sense that I’m hoping the Church will change in response to some personal agenda of mine. I think that’s also why I get squirmy when Bonnie asks for specific policy prescriptions.

  206. Got it, Kristine. Thanks for the clarification. It helps a lot.

  207. Can someone rescue my comment from moderation?

  208. Jacob H. says:

    So… if we want to move the discussion along the direction of women holding authority in the Church, does anyone have any comments on women in the New Testament? They supported the Lord and the Apostles in their travels, and not only that, but there were female apostles as well (of course, the NT uses the term differently than we do..): consider Romans 16, where Paul salutes a lot of important members of the early church (Peter is oddly missing from the bunch. I guess they didn’t get along). Many were women. In fact, verse seven has Junia, a female apostle. If we claim the same church organization Christ had upon the earth (or shortly after He rose again), and if the early church had female apostles, I don’t see much of a roadblock for future changes.. eventually.

    Don’t many New Testament scholars believe that the ideas lowering the status of women were late additions to the NT canon (men who thought women had too much authority making the changes)? Also, weren’t upper class women one of the reasons why Christianity itself was eventually accepted in Roman society? Does anyone have a link to more info? Eventually someone will respond to one of my comments, right? Right? =)

  209. Kristine says:

    Jacob, that would be a good post on its own–it’s probably too hard to direct the discussion without reframing and starting over. Thanks for the suggestion.

    And you’re right that there’s very little scriptural warrant for the current setup.

  210. Kristine says:

    Bonnie, you’ve extrapolated from what I’ve said to the point of gross misunderstanding. I’ve said nothing about what offices women should be allowed to hold, or what heaven looks like. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

    I did say, and continue to believe, that God is just.

  211. Kristine (no 204)

    Your examples don’t prove subordination — rather, they show insubordination — whoever did these things, male or female, would be equally insubordinate.

    Bonnie (no 207)

    It sound like you’re out of this discussion.

    If I’m still in, I’ll end my participation by saying that to me, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its wards and branches is the most egalitarian, the most democratic, the most praise-worthy institution among all the institutions of mankind.

  212. Kristine says:

    ji–I don’t think Bonnie’s out of the discussion–her previous comment (197) got trapped in the spam filter because it had too many links in it.

  213. Kristine – I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth; I’m just referring back as a listening technique. If one can diagnose inequality, it’s usually because one has a vision of equality (dark is only the absence of light, etc). I’m asking questions because you aren’t offering your vision other than the general, “God is just and the Church as currently structured isn’t.” Since you’ve offered that the inequality you see stems from authority positions being only available to men, I thought I made a logical leap to what equality looks like in your vision and proffered it for your review. I’m not leading, nor am I going to pounce on your answer and turn it on you. I am just trying to understand.

    Jacob – see, your comment is engaged! You make a good point about the NT Church, but it was a specific incarnation of the kingdom for a specific time and the modern church isn’t held to it in its details (though it is fascinating.) The difference between a minority movement with a mandate to spread and a corporate movement with a mandate to bring temple blessings may require a different structure, and God is free to choose that structure. The PotF seems to point toward what the apostles have been saying for years: that the family is the core and focus, not the church, that gospel leadership and devotion should be practiced at home and supported at church, that fathers and mothers lead in equality. As Ray has said, councils are supposed to function in equality to mimic families. As Kristine notes, however, it’s an interesting new twist that warrants a new thread.

    ji – I have to agree.

  214. “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its wards and branches is the most egalitarian, the most democratic, the most praise-worthy institution among all the institutions of mankind.”

    ji, that’s true where it’s true, but it’s not true where it’s not true – and it’s not true in far too many locations, ime. It certainly hasn’t been true in very many locations until maybe the last 10-15 years and in the very beginning decade-ish of the Restoration – and during the lifetime of many of us here it was far, far from true in general.

    I’m all in favor of doing what we can to make it true in all units, short of sacrificing core theology and principles. It’s deciding what are core theology and principles that is the rub, methinks.

  215. (I also become impatient after a hard day’s work – sorry ZD Eve)

    Thank you for your kind apology, Bonnie, and no worries. We’ve all been there.

  216. “If one can diagnose inequality, it’s usually because one has a vision of equality (dark is only the absence of light, etc). I’m asking questions because you aren’t offering your vision other than the general, “God is just and the Church as currently structured isn’t.””

    Interesting, Bonnie, because I was hand to heart spending the day pondering just the reverse about you—thinking that your comments leave me rather baffled as to what would cause you to diagnose inequality. If you can diagnose the current situation is equal, is there anything you would call unequal? It seems your definition of equality is something like, “Facts of the current structure don’t matter to this definition because God is mysterious but we can be assured *good*, and all will be equal in the eternities which is what really matters.” I’m trying to imagine any situation that you would not declare equal then. Left handers structurally disadvantaged–hunky dory. What if boys whose birthdays fall on an even day of the month were barred from temple baptisms as youth–that’s it–they still get ordained on schedule, they can still go on missions, they can still enjoy the full blessings of endowment and sealing. They just can’t do temple baptisms as youth. One of your sons was born on the 23rd of a month, and one on the 16th of a month. The 16th one is deeply sad to see his brother and friends go do baptisms. Of course you can console him saying, it’s just a few years–but a tiny spec in your lifetime, let alone in the eternities–and the greatest blessings of the temple will still be yours in just a few years. But would you diagnose that situation as equal? Would you feel to ask your bishop, not in a complaining way but in a truly pained way–why this inexplicable policy is in place?

  217. Wow, I’m flattered that anyone but my mother would spend a day hand to heart about something I said. ;) If you could only pass this reaction on to my children …

    As I’ve iterated, my experience (lately) is one of respect and opportunity, so I have to search and listen in order to find unjust treatment in the church that is structural rather than individual (although I have some individual stories to tell that would curl your toenails – a pass made by a branch president when I went to him for counsel because my husband was abusive being just the tip of the iceberg).

    I’m also a believer that equity and equality are not the same thing, and I prefer equity. If one of my children has special needs, s/he has a right to special treatments, so what is equal between them is not equitable. In the case of men and women, I don’t want to base my womanhood on a reflection of manhood, because it is then derivative of manhood. I believe it is a whole different animal, an equal one, and it needs to make its own way and discover its own divinity. It would be a heck of a lot easier if we had a clear vision of Heavenly Mother, but we’re making progress. Still, to me it has nothing to do with the earthly priesthood. I think women’s true power and best training ground is yet to be revealed, and I’m not waiting around for someone to reveal it to me – I’m searching and trying different things out.

    The equality that I care about, I have. My ideas are given as much respect as anyone’s, my help is as valued. I’m willing to admit that I’m probably luckier than most. That’s why I’m asking specific questions, and having a devil of a time getting answers. I’m hearing about widespread wounding and being told that not having the priesthood damages (or insults?) all women, but I don’t feel wounded and nobody will tell me how they are so I’m in the dark. It’s not like I was invited to a birthday party and they made a point of saying only the boys got cupcakes. I’m eating a hamburger with the other girls and we’re talking about landscaping. I just don’t feel left out because there’s enough work and service and love in the kingdom and I’m on a quest to find my Heavenly Mother anyway. I have a profound sense that my work is other work because the prophets that I trust are saying that gender is eternal and for them to make that pronouncement means that gender is also important. I’m old enough to enjoy the quest as much as the answers.

  218. “I’m flattered that anyone but my mother would spend a day hand to heart about something I said. ;) If you could only pass this reaction on to my children …”

    Well played. :) I’m kind of exhausted for the night but I find a lot to agree with in your comment, even if I think ultimately we’re pretty irreconcilable on other aspects of the issue.

  219. Bonnie,
    It’s never happened to me, but I’ve heard stories of long-planned YW and RS activities altered at the last minute due to the seeming whim of some priesthood leader. I admit that the seeming there is an important word; inspiration may have been a bigger factor than whim; how is one to know? It is also possible that God is repeatedly inspiring certain priesthood leaders to act like a big shot around women; stranger things have happened. But it seems simpler to simply call such people jerks and be done with it.

    I personally believe that to the priesthood leadership go those with a tendency to organizational leadership, in addition to their gift for inspiration. We don’t normally throw boys fresh from the plow up onto the stand (though it does occasionally happen). So I don’t personally feel less inspired nor less connected to God by the fact that I’ve no calling at present (another obstacle to calling: I don’t speak the local language). Nor do I have a notion of God loving President Monson more than me (we’re both sinners, after all). That said, the fact that you and I haven’t had the experience of having our well-laid and seemingly inspired plans pulled out from under us by priesthood leaders who don’t seem (or attempt to seem) to understand does not mean that it is outside the pale that such could happen. Unrighteous dominion is not unheard of within the church, nor is sexism per se. So, while we may have lived a blessed life in relation to the institutional priesthood, our first instinct shouldn’t be to consider contrary experiences false or misunderstood. There, but for the grace of God, go we.

    I don’t think that the purpose of the posts or the comments is to stir dissatisfaction within your heart; they are to explain the good hearts (or, failing that, relatively honest hearts) of the dissatisfied. Your mileage clearly varies as does your understanding. And, of course, your understanding is as valid as anyone else’s. Ya’ll may just need to agree to disagree.

    In the meantime, let’s all stop trying to convince each other that we don’t know the meaning of our own experiences. For, while that is often very likely true, none of us have demonstrating sufficient holiness to start diagnosing the motes in one another’s eyes.

  220. Kristine says:

    John–that’s why we need to have the discussion at a level above trading anecdotes. It’s not about anyone’s experience or feelings; it’s about (relatively abstract) principles of righteous governance. Right now, we have a system where people’s experience varies widely based on the luck of the geographic draw, and women’s experience varies especially widely because they are _always_ subject to the inspiration or whim of male leaders. The question is whether we ought to have a system that tends to reinforce the tendency to unrighteous dominion among men while encouraging passivity and dependence in women, even if individuals are able to transcend the limitations of the system. We need to approach it first as a theological question and second as an organizational behavior problem, rather than a psychology case study or comparison of personal narratives.

  221. I think we would be well served to broaden the discussion to include the topic as a theological question, as an organizational behavior problem, along with psychology case studies and comparison of personal narratives. Without the last two, what is the reason for the first two?

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