Setting Apart Our Daughters to Prepare and Pass the Sacrament

M. David Huston lives and works in the Washington DC metro area. He is a husband and father of four who has previously written for poetry, international affairs, and LDS-related publications.

“Dad, can I ask you a question about the priesthood?” my daughter inquired on a recent Saturday afternoon. 

“Sure… let’s hear it,” I encouraged.

“In our church we believe that when women are set apart to do a calling, they fulfil that calling using the priesthood.  Is that right?”

I affirmed that she was correct. “Yes, that is what Elder Oaks explained back in 2014. He said that when women act in any calling they exercise priesthood authority in performing duties associated with that calling.”

My daughter nodded at my reply (I guess she knew she was right), and continued along these lines: “Then why can’t the Bishop just call the young women to be ‘sacrament passers’ or ‘sacrament preparers’ and then set them apart to do the calling? I mean, if the church is going to keep saying that the priesthood is needed to do those things, and if women have access to the priesthood through callings, then by calling the young women to these responsibilities and setting them apart they should have all the priesthood they need… right?” She made eye-contact with me and waited patiently for a reply.

I took a few beats to think about her suggestion (honestly something I’d never considered before, at least not in the way she presented it).  “You know what?” I said, “that makes sense to me; I don’t know why we couldn’t do that.”  And with that, my daughter gave a little shrug and walked out of the room.

In the long-run, I think Sam Brunson is spot on when he noted, “the Doctrine and Covenants expressly prohibits deacons and teachers from administering the sacrament, which means passing and preparing it are not administering it. Thus, the only grounding for requiring priesthood to do those things is tradition.”  That tradition needs to change.  But if we’re not ready to change that tradition today, then my daughter’s suggested approach—setting apart young women to perform sacrament preparation and passing—would be an alternate way to accomplish the same end. 

From my (admitted cheap) seat, there is no downside to changing the policy surrounding which genders help with the sacrament ordinance.  In addition to providing more young people a meaningful way to serve their wards, having young women prepare and pass the sacrament would be positive for both the young women performing this duty and for the younger girls who look up to them (studies show that girls and young women benefit greatly from having spiritual leadership modeled by other women in church settings).  My daughter is a thinker and a courageous communicator of her own ideas.  I’m very proud of her. 

But it is not just my daughter’s specific idea that I find interesting.  My interaction with her gave me another peak into the things that were on her mind and revealed some foundational thoughts and ideas that are likely generalizable and which feel vitally important:

  • FirstIssues of equity are on the minds of our young women.  Our young women are smart, thoughtful, and striving for more.  When it comes to responsibilities and opportunities in church service and leadership, they see and understand that they have fewer of each.  We need to change this inequity not only to bless the lives of women, but also because such changes will make our church community stronger and more vibrant.
  • SecondYoung women are willing to work within the system.  In many cases, and recognizing the limitations of their influence, young women are not asking for a radical reconsideration of the church’s entire approach to priesthood leadership; rather they are making humble and thoughtful recommendations that take into account past and current practices.  Setting apart young women to prepare or pass the sacrament would be a solution that operates completely within existing priesthood practices (and is a model that could be applied in number of other contexts).  If we are not willing/able to fully revamp our priesthood system, we should be willing to make the existing system better and more equitable. 
  • ThirdYoung women are longing for more meaningful responsibility and opportunities across the spectrum of church functions.  Sure, the young women are happy doing service projects during the week, but they also want to be involved in those aspects of our church that are most central to our worship and ritual practices. By excluding young women from serving in and leading parts of our worship and ritual practices we restrict their ability to have experiences that could bless their lives and limit their ability to bless the lives of those around them. 
  • FourthSpecific to the Sacrament, young women recognize its importance and want to be more involved. Young women understand what Elder Oaks taught: “the ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church.”  Currently, on Sundays they are required to sit quietly while the sacrament is prepared and passed by males.  But it is precisely because they see the value of the sacrament as a cornerstone of our religious practice that they want to work alongside their male counterparts to deliver the sacrament to their ward families. 
  • FifthWe are better as a church when females (young and old) are involved in developing and implementing church policy.  Male priesthood leadership have not cornered the market on good ideas, thoughtful approaches, and spiritual inspiration.  We need to take President Nelson’s counsel to heart and fully incorporate female voices in decision all levels of making.

The lack of female participation in the sacrament ordinance means women have only a passive role to play when it comes to what really matters at our weekly services.  As a father of daughters and a member of a faith community filled with powerful, inspired, and thoughtful women, I struggle with that. And I don’t think I’m alone.  My daughter is ready for a change.  And so am I.  It’s time.

Comments

  1. Not a Cougar says:

    Ah, the (likely) unintended (but very welcomed by me and others) consequences of President Oaks’ public attempts to wrestle with the concepts of priesthood authority. I love your daughter’s logical conclusion, support such service happening right now, and yet I don’t expect it to happen until I’m 20 years older and grayer. Ugh, we’ll probably have a pretty cool and much smaller church by the time I’m dead.

  2. I agree with the general thrust, although I think you are over-generalizing. I think there’s a lot more variety among young women (and young men), on both sides of longing for responsibility and willingness to work within the system.

    Where there’s a sharp disagreement it’s with your closing words, “It’s time.”
    It is so far past time that I can’t leave that rest. My daughter had most of the same experiences and many of the same questions, and left for full activity in another church more than 20 years ago. Now we’re into a second generation, with her four daughters.

    As my daughter writes:

    “I think I felt somewhat guilty about “leaving” before I had children. It is wonderfully freeing to be in a church that aligns with my values, and shedding that struggle makes life just feel easier. But now, thinking of my daughters, it is so clear to me that they deserve to be in a church that cherishes them as young women (assuming they continue to identify that way), children of God, with all the same privileges, options, and responsibilities as people of any gender in our faith community and in the wider world.”

  3. Thank you! I know I was not alone as a YW 30 years ago asking questions about my interactions with priesthood authority who was shushed and told not to question authority. Now I have a 12 yo daughter who came home from church Sunday mad that “God doesn’t care about (her) only about men so she won’t care about Him!” I refuse to shush her but honestly I don’t have the answers she (and I still) seeks.

  4. it's a series of tubes says:

    Your daughter is a very astute thinker. Well done, very well done.

  5. Allen Jensen says:

    I completely agree that this needs to change, and I find myself baffled by the nonsensical place we find ourselves in, with spiritually valiant women being clothes-lined by a tradition that is unwilling to make even the smallest changes to elevate their service. I have a sister in her twenties who is starting to ask these same questions, and I imagine my mother was asking them thirty years ago when she was a young woman in her ward. Our worship is all the more impoverished by their absence in these kinds of meaningful ways.

    Something that I think doesn’t get much attention when we discuss this topic is how this tradition has not only spiritually deprived our young women, but our young men, too. Not that this should be the main focus, but it bears mentioning the way bad systems hurt us all.

    In Sam Brunson’s article you cited, he mentioned and you cited him saying that, “the Doctrine and Covenants expressly prohibits deacons and teachers from administering the sacrament, which means passing and preparing it are not administering it. Thus, the only grounding for requiring priesthood to do those things is tradition.” True enough, but traditions have power, and the power of this tradition is strong enough that it has apparently hollowed out the value and meaning of the two most important Aaronic Priesthood offices. If you were pressed to describe what the scriptural responsibility of the offices of deacon and teacher are, what would you say? How are they different from each other? When I was a deacon and teacher, and we had a Sunday school lesson on our priesthood office, the instructor would have us read D&C 20 to review our office responsibilities, and I would be so confused. Where was preparing and passing the Sacrament, our main responsibilities, as attested by Church culture? Why wasn’t it in there? If it wasn’t scriptural, then what did the scriptures have to say about deacons and teachers specifically, particularly? I came up blank.

    When I went on my mission, I used to boast about how in OUR church, our deacons were 12 years old, as opposed to other Christian churches where the deacons were middle aged men, and somehow that meant we were better, more enlightened, the true Church of Christ. In retrospect, I feel foolish in my pride, and I think the elderly deacons I met who were Baptist or Lutheran or Catholic had a better idea what the office meant than I did. I wonder if these offices were not better defined in D&C 20 because the early Saints just assumed the responsibilities were in the names themselves. Deacon, from “diakonos,” Greek for minister, supposedly the pastoral backbone of the Church, next in service only to the Bishop (1 Timothy 3). Not anymore. Teacher, meaning exactly that, the teachers, the instructors of the Saints, those best schooled in providing knowledge of the kingdom of God. Now we have an auxiliary organization for that.

    So here we are, in a place where women are marginalized out of an activity that they are eager and able to do at least partially because we have coddled and infantilized young men by giving them sacred, priesthood ordinations before they are interested or mature enough to bear them. In the process, we have stripped two sacred priesthood offices that were outlined in the original Church constitution of all their value and meaning to the point where they have little to no special significance at all without this cultural tradition. And to bring this back to the original post, women have suffered, suffer, and will continue to suffer most in this kind of system, but we all suffer when antiquated, sexist traditions such as this are maintained with weak pastoral or doctrinal foundations. Our insistence in maintaining stupid traditions and tired gender assumptions is literally hollowing out the priesthood, and we’re all the worse for it.

  6. But I am pretty sure that if you ask President Oaks, he would say that isn’t what he meant. What he meant was that women should be happy with what they already have.

  7. Not mentioned here is the scriptural basis for having YW prepare the sacrament: Women are involved at every point of Christ’s death and resurrection. Studying the accounts of women ministering to him while his broken body was on the cross, anointing his body at the tomb, and of course the crowning event of the atonement (resurrection) was first witnessed by women. There is so much in scripture that would make girls preparing and passing the sacrament so meaningful.

  8. With all the descent going on in the church this kind of thinking is just another blow that weakens all of us.

    We should be seeking after the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit that open the door to receiving the higher manifestation of the Spirit (2 Nephi 31: 13 on).

  9. Allen, you might enjoy reading this article, which explains how we got from D&C 20, which inculcated a practice much more like the Protestant churches you mention, to our current practice of ordaining (very) young men to be deacons: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23287418

  10. Raymond Winn says:

    I totally agree with the OP. One comment above laments all the descent going on in the church – probably more truth to that apparent mis-type (did he mean “dissent”?) than the commenter intended. We are indeed descending, probably into zero growth, possibly into negative growth, as we continue to resist the for-now-outside pressures toward more egalitarianism.

  11. Yep, according to Oaks’ logic, it appears that YW can get all the authority they need to prepare and pass the sacrament by simply being set apart. A+ for your astute daughter!

    What’s more, the idea that explicit authority is required for this is also based on tradition. YW don’t need to be set apart to act as baptismal witnesses or to hand out towels in the temple. I don’t see how helping with the sacrament is any different.

  12. JFK – what do you even mean by “We should be seeking after the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit that open the door to receiving the higher manifestation of the Spirit (2 Nephi 31: 13)”. Do you mean speaking in tongues (2 Nephi 31: 13)? What does this have to do with the OP?

  13. Thanks for this, David. Clearly, I don’t think it’s necessary to go this direction for women and girls to pass the sacrament, but your daughter is tremendously astute. This may, as a practical matter, be an easier way to make the move, even if it’s unnecessary, and I applaud her careful and faithful thinking!

  14. And JFK, David and his daughter (and commenters here) are clearly seeking after the companionship of the Spirit, trying to faithfully bless the lives of their family, friends, and congregants.

  15. DeAnn and Sam-
    If Heavenly Father wants his daughters to pass the sacrament it will be made known to those he has called as prophets. That is basic doctrine. We should be doing those things the prophets are teaching in GC.

    2 Nephi 31 teaches the doctrine of Christ. It says nothing about about speaking in tongues.

  16. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    The OP makes a pretty convincing argument. It’s not even a difficult argument. A young woman gets it. An adult leader can easily wrap their head around it. And everything is there to make it right, if you want it. They don’t want it. They simply don’t want women to hold and exercise priesthood in any visible or meaningful way. They don’t want it. I remember the joy, the relief, when the priesthood and temple ban for black members was lifted. First Presidency and Q12, etc. rejoiced that the long-awaited day had come (well, most of them). I have never gotten that impression from senior church leaders about women and the priesthood. There’s no sorrow, or confusion, or angst. Only justification and hollow platitudes. They’re happy with the way things are. They’re not praying for change. They’re not looking toward the long-awaited day. They give the impression that if revelation came tomorrow instructing that women be ordained just like men, they would be frustrated and disappointed. They simply don’t want it.

  17. JFK – 2 Nephi 31:13, 14 ….”and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels.” So yeah – speaking in tongues.

  18. @JFK: “If Heavenly Father wants his daughters to pass the sacrament it will be made known to those he has called as prophets.”

    Or, per D&C 58:26-29, maybe we should let them pass the sacrament until God tells them to stop.

    @Turtle: Good point. OD2 didn’t come out of the blue; it was preceded by decades of increasing criticism and finally a temple surrounded by a significant number of church members with African ancestry. I suspect that even more pressure will be needed to motivate us to overcome our sexism, which seems to be even more entrenched than our racism.

  19. I have thought about this in regards to the temple. If women can perform an ordinance in the temple under the keys of the temple president, why then couldn’t perform any ordinance outside of the temple under the keys of the bishop?

  20. Why not give a priesthood assignment to women and girls to prepare the symbols of Christ’s body, the bread and water/grape juice/wine, the day before each Sunday, in a holy, reverent setting and ritual. The handling of the ingredients, the mixing with their hands, the oil, the leaven, all deeply symbolic and significant. It would serve to enhance their understanding of Christ’s atonement and their commitment to following him. It would be a mystical, personal, physical experience, and would deepen the meaning of the sacrament for the whole congregation. Just fleshing this out in my head, as the idea just popped in while reading the OP.

  21. JFK, that’s a nice theory. But it has never happened in the modern church that I can think of off the top of my head. Every big revelatory change has come in response to somebody asking something. And sure, maybe this time will be different. But there’s nothing to suggest that it will.

    And to be clear, 2 Ne. 31 doesn’t talk about the gift of tongues. Or about women passing the sacrament. But it also doesn’t talk about men passing the sacrament. Or priesthood. Or a Quorum of the 12. Or, for that matter, prophets. Sunday sabbath. There is a ton of stuff not mentioned in 2 Ne. 31. So I’m going to respectfully suggest that invoking it isn’t a trump card in this discussion and, in fact, is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether women and girls are already authorized to pass the sacrament.

  22. Aussie Mormon says:

    Annie:
    Given that at the moment the bread often comes in a plastic bag from the shop, and the water comes from the tap, there’s really no reason that women and girls couldn’t make the bread. Though I’m not sure how they would prepare tap water.

    Mack: “The OP makes a pretty convincing argument.”
    I’m not sure I agree. If it’s only tradition rather than priesthood authority related, then the fact that anyone being set apart in a calling holding priesthood authority for that calling is irrelevant.

    We already have the sacrament instructions saying “After a priesthood holder hands a sacrament tray to a member, others may pass the tray from one to another for convenience.”, and this is amplified by news article from 2018 https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2018/10/03/whats-this-mormon-girls/ about Hyde Park,

    “Shurtliff instructed the young deacons (12- and 13-year-old boys) to take their trays to the women’s room, where girls were stationed to carry the consecrated elements inside and pass them to the mothers there.

    “It was, he said this week, no different than deacons handing trays to members in the pews, who then hand them from person to person, regardless of gender.

    “There have been reports of a similar practice in Mormon wards in various locales, including Utah County.

    “Indeed, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said the Utah-based faith has no problem with these efforts.

    ““It is appropriate for a sister to assist by carrying the sacrament tray into the mother’s lounge,” Hawkins said in a statement, “just as it is common for members to pass the sacrament tray to one another in the chapel.” ”

    A better focussed discussion would be why carrying the trays around the chapel, is different to passing it along the row, or carrying it through a mothers room.

  23. Allen Jensen what an insightful comment and I agree.

  24. Women have been bothered by their exclusion from so many Church responsibilities for … well, forever. It was certainly something I felt keenly growing up.

    I think the difference with women and girls in more recent years is that they are not afraid to say that out loud. Equality is the water we swim in today, they notice the differences from an extremely young age, and they feel comfortable asking questions and expressing opinions about it in a way I never did as a kid.

    I think the Church HQ has no idea how many women are leaving or disengaging right now. It’s very attitude towards women prevents it from seeing this. It’s there.

  25. Someday it may change. We have seen so many changes over the years, and every change has been for the better. I think there is a difference between being ordained to the priesthood and working under the direction of the priesthood.

  26. Reprimanded says:

    I have long thought that passing the sacrament is very low-hanging fruit for expanding women’s and girls’ ministerial participation in the Church. As many have noted, there is no scriptural prohibition against it, plus females already “pass” the tray to the person next to them in the pew. But consider all of the other myriad responsibilities that are deemed too important, too hard, or too priestly for teenage girls to do. In my own ward, this includes holding a microphone during a baby blessing, sitting on the stand to run “errands” for the bishop, passing out the programs on Sunday, and even taking out the garbage after meetings. None of these are remotely doctrinal, and barely traditional. Any time I’ve suggested that girls be “permitted” to do any of this, I’m rebuffed, ignored, or dismissed. And even severely reprimanded by a manager at my place of employment.

    Some of the pedestalizing Latter-day Saints might say that it’s nice that we don’t make girls do hard and dirty work. Others would say that all of these jobs teach boys to better priesthood holders and missionaries. Considering all future church service and possible missionary service for women, not to mention motherhood, all of those reasons are ridiculous, and don’t stand up to the realities of life. But the real message might be that the Church doesn’t consider teenage girls capable enough to do the most menial labor in a church context. Or that there has to be distinct separation in adolescent church participation so that we don’t blur natural gender roles. But what my 12-year-old has internalized is that girls aren’t as important as boys. Of course, I’m willing to concede some changes. She did get to witness a baptism recently. But the larger, weekly message is of her irrelevance in our congregational participation. Heck, we’ve even watered down teenage girls’ identities in the Church by taking away their class names and calling them nebulous classes like “the twelve and thirteen-year-olds.”

    So, even before we “let” girls pass the sacrament, we’ll first need to change the notion that they’re not capable enough to do even the most menial tasks.

    So, Turtle, yes, I’m inclined to agree with you that there is little interest in changing the status quo for girls in the Church. “They don’t want it. They simply don’t want women to hold and exercise priesthood in any visible or meaningful way. . . . They’re happy with the way things are. They’re not praying for change. They’re not looking toward the long-awaited day.” Sadly, I think they aren’t.

  27. I know an old woman who prepared the sacrament when she was a young woman. It’s been done in the past, and we didn’t need a new section in the D&C to make that change before.

    I appreciate OP’s daughter’s thinking, though I think the better course would be to recognize that the only requirement for blessing and preparing the sacrament is that it be done reverently and without spilling!

    Allen Jensen’s comment about the disconnect between the way D&C 20 speaks about Aaronic Priesthood offices and the way they function today is apt. 11-year-olds whose only real task is to pass the sacrament doesn’t seem to be what Joseph was imagining. And to quote Brigham: “It is not the business of an ignorant young man, of no experience in family matters, to inquire into the circumstances of families, and know the wants of every person. Some may want medicine and nourishment, and to be looked after, and it is not the business of boys to do this; but select a man who has got a family to be a Deacon, whose wife can go with him, and assist him in administering to the needy in the ward.”

    It is interesting to think about what our church would look like with only a portion of adults (married or not) of any gender holding the priesthood.

  28. The sacrament is a symbol representing Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. The sacrament itself represents his body and blood. The sacrament cloth represents the cloth or shroud that covered his body. Who prepared his sacramental body for the tomb? Women. It was women who washed and anointed the sacramental body. Who covered the “sacrament” with a cloth? Women. Who was there at the resurrection of the “sacrament “? A woman. Who announced the resurrection of the sacrament to others (symbolized in the passing of the sacrament)? A woman.

    It seems to me that if women prepared the first sacrament, they should be preparing the present-day symbol of that sacrament. And if a woman announced the resurrection of that first sacrament, women should be passing (announcing) the sacrament today.

  29. DeAnn and Sam,
    I wish you the best. I believe sustaining the apostles and prophets in word and deed makes us true followers of Christ.

  30. I recently attended an temple initiatory session and came away with the realization that in the Church’s eyes, women will always be nothing but an appendage to the male priesthood holder. I feel in my heart that God does not see us that way. I love my daughter for herself without any relationship to her brothers. Why wouldn’t our Heavenly Father feel the same about his daughters?

  31. Following the words of Christ makes us true followers of Christ.

  32. I too know a woman who is fairly high profile in the church, who, along with her sister, set up the sacrament table before church weekly when she was younger. And everybody survived. So there’s precedent even within a long-standing tradition.

  33. Lily-good point. Where do you learn about Christ so you can be a true follower? All that we know about Christ comes through prophets.

  34. Every single conversation where a significant change is proposed to address a glaring problem in the church, every single one, comes down to someone like JFK attempting to shut down the dialogue with an appeal to authority.

    It seems to me that rather than ignoring him, or attempting to sway him with arguments, we should really understand that he represents a significant majority of those members who sit in the pews each Sunday..

    For the record I think he is wrong, but until we understand them we cannot persuade those people who believe as he does. And any attempt to change the church in any meaningful way will end up in disarray at best and schism at worst.

    It seems to me the question that needs to answered, and the accord that needs to be arrived at is:

    How does God work with his children?

    Is it through a strict hierarchy of Prophets and Apostles who are the exclusive oracles through whom God interacts and we as common members are here to carry out their directions with exact obedience and deference?

    Or does revelation permeate to all who are striving to be disciples of Christ, and the ideas and inspiration of the whole body gets worked out in communion until we all arrive at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ?

  35. Boomer in the Cheap Seats says:

    “The lack of female participation in the sacrament ordinance means women have only a passive role to play when it comes to what really matters…” like, renewing covenants with the Father in the sacred name of Jesus Christ? I mean, it’s not PASSING, but… it’s a consolation, right? “My daughter is ready for a change. And so am I. It’s time.” What is this, the Babysitters Alta Club? A sister without a patriarch is like a fish without a bicycle? The growing discontent among Church members feels like a carryover of what’s going on in the world. Too much heed given to podcasters and secular weathervanes.

    Just consider the words of Gordon B. Hinckley: “The Church is true. Those who lead it have only one desire, and that is to do the will of the Lord. They seek his direction in all things. There is not a decision of significance affecting the Church and its people that is made without prayerful consideration, going to the fount of all wisdom for direction. Follow the leadership of the Church. God will not let his work be led astray.” That’s good enough for me.

  36. Roger Hansen says:

    Call me uninformed, but it’s not clear to me why you need the priesthood to prepare and pass the sacrament? Why do we need Deacons and Teachers for that matter. Set apart boys and girls to prep and pass. But have it voluntary.

  37. Boomer, your comment assumes that the status quo is God’s will, and seems to assume a strong state of revelatory leadership (like, all policies—or at least those related to the sacrament—are in place because God wants it that way). Given the history of the church and the AoF and all sorts of other things, that seems like a poor assumption.

    And to the extent the current policies impede people’s ability or desire to renew covenants, which women’s limited participation in church administration does, it seems like a small ask to have those policies changed. Especially where (a) they’re not based in scripture, (b) there’s no claim of revelation underlying them, and (c) General Authorities have provided a clear and reasonable justification allowing for the policy change.

  38. Really great post! Thank you!
    And such an insightful, helpful comment, Allen Jensen — thank you as well!
    Finally, such sad but true observations from Chris K., Elisa, and especially A Turtle Named Mack. Such an immense and completely avoidable loss.

  39. Honest and sincere suggestions for improving church administration are not, by default, dissent or an expression of discontent. To the contrary, many times, suggestions are informed by lived experience and come from a place of humbly trying to be better than we are are now. Perhaps it is presumptuous to believe that “common” members (by that I mean those who aren’t GAs) can be part of that revelatory process…. but that is one of the threads of hope that is part of my personal tapestry of faith.

    Thus, from my perspective, when individuals have the courage to express their concerns and share their ideas for possible solutions I see that as a part of (not contrary to) the way in which God’s will is made clear. As a church, we don’t always get it right the first time and sometimes we have to make adjustments. And there is nothing wrong with that. And sometimes prophetic revelation is spurred by one of the common folk asking the right question (Section 89!).

    There is real heartache around this issue. I don’t believe those who feel that pain and want change are unfaithful (as is evident by the fact I wrote this essay). In fact, I think a good open discussion is exactly what is needed. So thanks to all who have helped push this discussion along.

  40. I have nothing against the notion of women acting under priesthood authority. I sympathize with young women wondering what their relationship to priesthood is. I have no answers.

    However, I feel uncomfortable when someone “demands” priesthood ordination or authority. The attempt to purchase the priesthood by Simon in Acts was frowned upon by Peter. To demand priesthood or to obtain it by unauthorized means seems to misunderstand the very nature of the priesthood itself. Priesthood is not for personal aggrandizement. It should be a selfless thing.

    On the other hand Abraham is commended for seeking his ordination to the priesthood. Abraham took initiative to obtain the priesthood and was greatly blessed for it. D&C 84 suggests that [men] should seek to obtain the two priesthoods.

    Hebrews says, And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. Heb. 5:4

    Priesthood should flow through divinely appointed channels. If priesthood does not come through divinely appointed channels then it is more closely resembles priestcraft or some other counterfeit.

    Is the priesthood a right or a gift? At one time the priesthood was conferred through heredity. It no longer is conferred this way. Being ordained to priesthood office also does not mean that one has any priesthood authority. If they abuse the priesthood authority they have then amen to that priesthood. (D&C 121).

    Do women receive the priesthood when they are endowed? Why is it that men are required to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood in order to receive their endowment but women are not required to do so?

    Do men even hold the priesthood? Not really. It isn’t something that they actually own. They are not the priesthood. It is a stewardship or a trust or something like that.

    Perhaps Elder Oaks has begun to give us some vocabulary to talk about woman and the priesthood. We will see where that conversation takes us.

    Still seeking further light and knowledge…

  41. Boomer, so then passing the sacrament isn’t really that big a deal for for those who currently do it. Got it. Thanks. You realize, though, that such a claim goes against . . . wait for it . . . what modern Church leaders have said about doing it. It seems like perhaps you are listening to too much over-simplified media that is so endemic today’s culture instead of wrestling for truth like Jacob. How have we come to such laziness in our modern world? I mean the OP is quoting living oracles instead of dead ones like you. That’s good enough for me. (And it sure is easy to write such dismissive and hollow comments; buy hey, just following your tone and style; see how ridiculous it is?)

  42. Sorry Aussie Mormon…. “The girls could bake bread….not!
    In my world it would be donut holes and Diet Coke from the corner market on the way to church.

  43. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Fantastic and well articulated OP and many comments. Bravo. It’s fascinating to me how one can see things a certain way (because, tradition) until someone insightful, like the OP author’s daughter, asks an insightful question. Well put and well articulated and as many here have observed: no real convincing case for the status quo, once it’s put this way. Total agreement.

    But i wanted to shift away from the specifics for a minute and comment on some of the ‘meta’ observations here. Some of the comments (as is often the case) surface a larger issue: that of the role of dissent, or ideas, or non-correlation, or innovation, in the modern church’s practices. True blues resist and default to “follow the prophet” rhetoric, and we see some of that illustrated perfectly in a few comments here; the corollary is that dissenters are viewed as fringe progmos who chirp from the sidelines. Around and around we go. But all this is just so much venting, one way or the other.

    Which points to something structural, and obvious: one real problem here is that there’s no feedback mechanism for the SLC church leaders. There’s literally not one. No forum whatsoever. No possible way to convey any innovative, constructive, dissenting opinions – whether on the topic of this post, or any other for that matter. And as a result, the Q15 are structurally insulated from even a basic awareness of issues like this, despite how obvious the observations are to many of us. Rising up the ranks tends to weed out noncompliance and promote cheerful orthodoxy – – creating a system in which the leaders’ natural social circles are unlikely to yield insights like these in any natural or organic way to begin with; those close to the leaders will self censor. In that context, the lack of any “tip line” or metaphorical “we want your ideas” box means that any feedback or ideas like this simply don’t get transmitted or received at all. In other words, Elder Holland might really truly actually believe that the big ‘problem’ at BYU is increasing liberalness, since the donors who socially have his ear apparently possess that opinion. But he’s less likely to hear how much the student body LIKED it when the Y was lit up in a rainbow, because that felt inclusive. So the bias is structurally reinforced since there’s literally no way to “get a message” to the brethren from down here in the trenches. At all. (Which is why the only way to get their attention is to take a “whistle blower” role and go to the wider press. And this doesn’t have to just tackle big existential issues; I’m reminded of the LDS mom in Idaho a few years ago who went public in the NY Times about poor temple undergarment design, in which she explicitly said that she hoped this would get leaders’ attention, since there was no other way to convey the ideas through inner channels. And it did!)

    This state of affairs is bonkers in the modern world. I get that the church isn’t a democracy – – we don’t all get to vote on policies etc, nor would the brethren be required to listen to any feedback, and could simply choose to ignore it – – but it seems incredibly shortsighted that there doesn’t exist mechanisms for the brethren to even get information from the ranks at all.

  44. OW OW OW OW!!! OH WHAT HAPPENED, KK (not 3 . . . 2)???

  45. Aussie Mormon says:

    BlueRidge:

    The church hq address isn’t exactly a secret. The art of letter writing may have been lost, but there’s nothing stopping someone from going old school and writing a letter to their GA of choice. We hear conference talks from them often enough about letters they’ve received.

  46. I haven’t been here for probably a year or more. Now I remember why.

  47. Aussie Mormon, from the Handbook:

    38.8.25

    Members’ Communication with Church Headquarters
    Church members are discouraged from calling, emailing, or writing letters to General Authorities about doctrinal questions, personal challenges, or requests. Responding personally would make it difficult for General Authorities to fulfill their duties. Members are encouraged to reach out to their local leaders, including their Relief Society or elders quorum president, when seeking spiritual guidance (see 31.3).

    In most cases, correspondence from members to General Authorities will be referred back to local leaders. A stake president who needs clarification about doctrinal or other Church matters may write in behalf of members to the First Presidency.

  48. Great article which is substance and foundational as it base.

    Keep generating the energy for change.

    In my experience in previous and current calling I note the largest blockage in the church for fluid two way communication, honest assessment and common thought is the A70. I’ve found in my regular dealings with them they’re too busy to not raise their head above the parapet and paving the corridors with petals for the Quorum of the Twelve.

  49. a nonny mouse says:

    In my experience in previous and current calling I note the largest blockage in the church for fluid two way communication, honest assessment and common thought is the A70.

    Spot on my experience. I know our A70 and spouse well and like and respect them, but the amount of fawning FB reposts from them for everything coming from one of the FP or Q12 is off the charts.

  50. Aussie Mormon says:

    Kristine:

    I’m not sure I’d classify “feedback” into the groupings of “doctrinal questions, personal challenges, or requests”.

  51. I strongly support including women and young women in officiating all church ordinances. I applaud the OP, and would support the proposal in my ward, but I sincerely think the only viable long term solution is full ordination.

    The reality is we cannot extend rights to women without also extending the responsibility that comes through ordination. Imagine a scenario where YW could pass and administer the sacrament, give blessings, baptize and confer the HG, and so forth – all simply by exercising the authority of a local church leader – but where women do not carry any obligations or expectations to do those things because they are not ordained. In such a world, why couldn’t men and young men request the same? Why couldn’t an 18 year old YM say “I want the option of serving a mission and baptizing coverts, I just do t want to be ordained an elder or expected to serve”?

    I propose that is precisely what would happen, and thus a significant reason why the church is reluctant to allow women to perform ordinances without ordination. If we want women to have these rights, we must expect them to have the same responsibilities. We’ve been trying to hold differing standards for missionary service and it just doesn’t hold. Because missionary service is merely an option for for YW, it has become the same for YM, despite the church’s continued attempt to make it a duty.

  52. I have a story on the side topic of the women baking the sacrament bread. In my BYU ward some decades ago, the bishop decided this was the perfect way to help the sisters make a meaningful contribution to the sacrament. As the only woman in the ward who could bake bread from scratch (thanks mom!), I taught the Enrichment meeting about baking bread. The assignments went around to the new breadmakers and … what came down the aisles for the next semester was pretty interesting. One class was not enough to teach the art and skill of bread-baking. Most weeks the bread was doughy, sometimes it was as dense as plutonium, one memorable week we got burned crust with doughy wads attached (I imagine the baker ran short of time and turned the oven way up to try and bake it faster), and then there was the week of banana bread.

    The next semester, the bishop quietly dropped the idea of homemade sacrament bread.

  53. I absolutely can sympathize with those who still struggle with not having the priesthood. However, I am a strong capable woman and I do not want the priesthood, I do not need the priesthood to feel valued or important. I love that I serve not out of priesthood obligation, but purely out of a love for my fellow man and love for God. As a woman and with my personality, I have so many expectations for myself and do so much already, I have no desire to be Bishop or have those “priesthood obligations”.

    I’m sorry, I am going to be in the minority here. But I am sick of hearing we as women need to be given the priesthood – let’s focus on the REAL actual inequalities in the church. I also grew up in the church and questioned and was confused when my brother passed the sacrament and I didn’t… but do you know what bugged me more? That the young men got 3x the budget and got to do way cooler stuff than the young women did. Do you know what still bugs me? I am called to young Womens and I’m told my young family of course comes first so I don’t have to go to any of the camps or anything because my family needs me…. However now my husband is in young mens and somehow because he’s a man his family doesn’t need him? And he’s expected to go on all these camp outs and such while I stay home and be everything for our family. Let’s focus on those inequities! Let’s make real change happen that values women and men and stop focusing on this one thing.

  54. Grateful reader says:

    The Church maintains this idea: boys do certain things; girls do certain things.

    More and more people, both in and out of the Church, avoid this type of narrow thinking, recognizing that it can unfairly limit children and stymie development of talents.

    (I’m amazed at the negative reactions I get at church just for wearing pants. In the nation outside the US where I was raised, which was very patriarchal, women wearing pants to church was not seen as threatening to patriarchy, just practical in cold weather and messy urban public transportation, which we had to brave to get to church. If people in the US can’t handle pants on a female, heaven forbid that female carry an emblem of Christ.)

    Removing a clear difference between what boys what girls do—the Church can’t do that without admitting there are less differences than previously taught. That goes against church rhetoric that permeates everything.

  55. “However now my husband is in young mens and somehow because he’s a man his family doesn’t need him? And he’s expected to go on all these camp outs and such while I stay home and be everything for our family. Let’s focus on those inequities! ”

    The social roots of that division are similar to priesthood in the first place. Someone needs to be at home raising a family. This is not sexist, per se, in the negative sense. Go back 1000 years (or less). The men are digging ditches, building rods, walls, in mines, fighting wars, and the women are also doing much, but more of it centered around the home.

    Civilization wouldn’t be built without that dual specialization – men serving in diverse functions outside the home, women tending to be more at home.

    In that world, of blacksmith class and soldier class it makes sense we have also have a priesthood class. And yes there were exceptions, women in war camps and women in Jesus’s camp. But by and large every Civilization had children, and every one of them benefitted when differing gender specialization UNTIL various technologies and social structures progressed to the point where it was not devastating to the health of a civilization to have more women playing more roles away from the home. There just were not the same options until modernity that freed more women to act. Consider: birth control, menstrual products, washing machines, super markets, day care, nurses/doctors, schools, to say nothing about suddenly and ahistorically being free from threat of invasion and death or forced into slavery, and how the life of a woman would suddenly change if you not only took away one of them, but all of them. Yikes.

    So innovation and protection (largely driven by men incidentally, as a function of this specialization that was only possible with women in their role), has increased opportunities. It was not sudden awareness about sexism being bad.

    All of this is an argument that the church *could* see the opportunity for women to serve in priestly roles, because they are arguably, not as crucial as they once were in their historical roles.

    It’s not that the church was wrong and now gets it right (if a change came), but society has progressed to empower more people to possibly share in the burden of priesthood service.

    This is an argument I can find much in agreement with. I find no agreement with the men are sexist and don’t value women so they exclude them. That’s insane. I’ve never met a man that wouldn’t prefer his wife did the work. Ask a lion in the savanna…

    All that being said, the church service my wife has done in the past has without a doubt affected our children and her own feelings of inadequacy as a mother, despite having my full support to do her calling while I’ve watched kids and cooked etc. We’ve both increasingly felt that most of the current female callings should ideally go to women with grown children (or none) who can make it a real full time focus and not just barely hold it together. Rarely is that the case. This does not mean her place is solely in the home and kitchen, but when my wife is not reading a story or bandaging a bruised knee, she’d prefer to be hiking in nature with another female friend or at the moms aerobic class, not planning a primary program or organizing minstering assignments. Sure, wouldn’t the bishop feel the same about his calling? Yes, but if someone is going to be given exclusive time to seek a break away from the home and church duties to reconnect with herself, I want it to be a mother who has sacrificed her body and soul in ways a man never will. Not tell her to use or free time bearing the burden of church and now priesthood service.

    Is there room for both? Not calling those mothers to be both Bishops and Relief Society Presidents if that day comes? Maybe… but seeing has how women aren’t called to priesthood roles now, and they often carry too much of a burden between family, work, and church, I’m not sure how it gets better if we add priesthood to that list.

    In many respects, what our mothers need, those with children in the home and without, is less church, not more. Or rather, the church they need is one that supports them as individuals who need time for themselves, not more responsibility over others.

    But it’s a real thorny issue as obviously there are women who have time, capability and would be amazing in various priestly callings.

    But I don’t think the solution is more burdens for women. I also think that’s a crappy answer for a teenage daughter with no real conceptualization of womanhood and the life that it will bring who is just wondering why they can’t pass the sacrament.

    I can say this on that topic. Those boys will grow up to be Bishops, eq presidents, etc. That duty is definitely magnified when the young man has a history of service from an early age. So there’s a direct training that’s happening that’s needed for a future role the young man will play. We are doing a crappy job of training young women (ym too increasingly) because it’s a cultural landmine to place any expectations on young women with regard to family, even though it’s literally the most vital thing women on average can do for the future of a civilization.

    You tell me… aside from the modernist anti-family attitudes, what’s wrong with boys serving in the first hour through the ordinances and teenage girls serving in the second hour as teachers and teachers assistants, song assistants, etc. I do think we waste an opportunity with our young women by not giving them more responsibility. It probably shouldn’t be the same responsibility the boys are already trying to learn.

  56. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I get tired of hearing men talk about the burdens of the priesthood. Holding the priesthood doesn’t mean your callings are harder, or take more time, or that the responsibility is more onerous. Women in the church are plenty busy, with church things. But their work is under-acknowlegded and undervalued. Giving women the priesthood wouldn’t suddenly make their lives more difficult. Not as women, not as parents, not as spouses. It would give them authority. It would allow them leadership opportunities and greater participation in decision-making. When men talk to women about the priesthood they say it’s a burden. But when we talk about the priesthood in EQ we say it’s a privilege. That’s duplicitous. Whatever the burden (and it’s not greater than the burdens of church service experienced by women), there is also privilege, and prestige, and deference, and influence. Women are cut off from those. A burden to hold the priesthood? Cry me a river!

  57. Sute, that’s a really odd reaction, partly for the reasons A Turtle Named Mack laid out. But at an even more basic level, the OP isn’t advocating giving women priesthood beyond what Pres. Oaks has already said they have access to. (And as I’ve pointed out earlier, priesthood isn’t even necessary to passing and preparing the sacrament.)

    And on top of that: even if we’re concerned that women are overburdened by the church and somehow don’t face and can’t handle the same administrative burdens as men: passing the sacrament is almost literally the least burdensome responsibility in church. If a teenager isn’t passing the sacrament, they’re sitting, pondering, in their seats. So even if priesthood represents a burden (but see Turtle’s excellent comment), the additional burden advocated in the OP is so disappearingly small that it’s not even worth thinking of as a burden.

  58. Sam and Turtle, your ideological possession has precluded you from engaging with my point. First, if anyone doesn’t think real priesthood service is a burden, they don’t understand priesthood. Literally. Literally. Christ took our burdens upon himself. Start there with considering that and what it means to act as he would act and do what he would do. It’s far far deeper than passing the sacrament — that is a role, and indeed a preparatory one that has seemingly insignificant elements (moving a tray around the room, etc). But the shoes those YM will step into are real burdens. For every imagined bishop that delights in the prestige of their calling, there are 10,000 bishops that are seriously weighed down with not just the burdens of administration, but the weight of dealing with serious and seemingly intractable sin and suffering of their fellow man. If you don’t think that’s a burden, you haven’t lived. I don’t think there is a single bishop who wouldn’t be happy to set that burden down IF the Lord said “well done thou faithful servant, enter into thy rest” so to speak (ie not shirking, but seriously being told that their work will be covered by someone else).

    I actually flat out made a better (latter-day saint) argument than anyone in this thread with why it makes sense in terms of the the timing in this dispensation vs others why girls could not only pass the sacrament based on the timing of things but could actually be given the priesthood. You can’t see that point because you are ideologically opposed to anything that contradicts your idea of fairness. I flat out said we are doing a crappy job with not only YW, but YM, and Mothers too.

    But then I considered the overall impact of that with regard to the social structures in place, which many here reject, but are still present nevertheless still in place. It’s either hubris or ignorance to assume changes happen in a vacuum.

    Women will still be mothers and boys will still be bishops, sps, eqps, etc. We can make women bishops and eqps, etc. if we carry the logical extreme here, but I’ve already pointed out women are ALREADY stretched thin, in general. How can anyone not see that?

    There are very important reforms that would be better to make for the YW then passing the sacrament or even blessing it. I suggested some. It’s telling we don’t want to engage in that because we’d rather argue about a small, but meaningful act of service the boys are doing some want the girls to do too. Maybe anyone hasn’t noticed, but pass the sacrament is getting done and getting done pretty well. What’s not getting done is getting YW to take an interest in teaching other children, take an interest in teaching and leading them in their own sphere, and the learning experiences that would come from that.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that if YW took on more of a role in being leaders in various capacities via the primary they’d learn more and the kids would learn more. To suggest that’s what is really needed is passing the sacrament instead of that lays bare the motivations — visual prestige that’s falsely associated with priesthood functions. Which is ironic, because the impact of YW taking on a greater role in other functions (teaching is one I suggested) would have a much greater effect across generations. No one remembers who passed them the sacrament from week to week unless someone spilled the tray in their lap. Primary teacher impact lasts forever.

  59. Shorter version — if anyone thinks an issue of any degree of significance we have in the church is we need more diversity in passing the sacrament you’ve missed the boat.

    There are very real things our girls could be doing now — indeed, if they were doing so, they’d be teaching a generation of boys to look at the girls sitting next to them in sharing time as future teachers and leaders of youth for an hour each week. That’s a far more significant visual than obsessing now whether our girls should wear white dresses or hold their left hand behind their back when they carry a tray around the room.

  60. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Love so many of the comments. Turtle: nailed it. And yet so much of all this back and forth is chirping into the void. Is Brunson going to convince Sute of anything? or Vice versa? We’re all here because we find some utility in expressing our thoughts on matters like this, great.

    But I’ll go back to something I said earlier: the real tragedy here, in a way, is the structural way that SLC is insulated from even having basic awareness of some of these types of observations or conversations or insights. some of this is official (there’s no easy way to access – – and sorry Aussie, the snail mail address of 50 S. Temple isn’t actually that helpful as a practical matter, in this modern age, and particularly when correspondence just gets sent back to local leaders), and some of it is informal (like the comment that points out the fawning FB behavior of the A70 and spouse… it’s just ‘baked in’ that those close to the brethren are going to be less likely to raise awareness of stuff like this.

    So we chirp in the wind.

  61. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Sute-
    I’m well aware of the types of burdens you’re referring to. I didn’t downplay those because of an “ideological possessions”. I acknowledge them. They’re real. I do think, however, that you’re overplaying how priesthood holders take upon them the burdens of others, similar to Christ. That’s not a role of priesthood holders, so settle down. Still, you continually underestimate the burdens many women experience in normal, non-priesthood, church responsibilities.

    And there is privilege and prestige in holding the priesthood – and it’s not imagined. “No one remembers who passed them the sacrament from week to week .” I remember it was a male. And my wife and daughter remember it wasn’t them. That you dismiss this as insignificant is the very definition of privilege. The impact of being excluded from even the small, menial, insignificant details of church membership lasts forever.

  62. Aside from the specific discussion about young women passing the sacrament above (which has been primarily carried out by adults, at least that’s what it appears if sentence structure and word choice is any indication of age), I think it is important to slow down and look at this issue from a YW’s perspective. As an adult male, that is hard for me… which is why my conversation with my daughter was so enlightening/helpful. The issue here is not only (or really primarily) whether YW can/should help pass the sacrament but how YW understand/internalize the reality that the YM have the authority to do this (based primarily on the fact that they are male) and the YW do not (based primarily on the fact that they are female). It was clear in my conversation with my daughter, that was the core issue with which she is grappling. I don’t think she is the only one.

    So, even setting aside the specific conversation here about female ordination (or calling and setting apart as a substitute), I think there is also an important discussion to be had about the ways in which our administrative structure “values” different people differently–and, then, how that difference plays out in the real world for the individuals who are impacted by these discrepancies (and before folks say it, I know we’re all children of God and of infinite value…. I’m talking about the right-here-and-now impact on people’s psyches of the way in which administrative power is currently distributed). Some comments have touched on this point. In my mind, this is really the heart of the issue.

  63. Historically, women did not stay home while men worked outside because of some harmless, practical division of labor. Women were property with no legal rights and no other options.

  64. Wondering Why Not says:

    Sute–to take on your ideas more directly (and I am taking them in the productive spirit in which you say you are suggesting them); I agree that there are already ways (like teaching) where YW and women have an impact. I agree that they should be able to do more of it–so…

    How about, in addition to the ideas you suggest, we also allow women to be Sunday School Presidents (and thus oversee teaching for the whole Ward)?

    Or how about 50% of all General Conference talks being delivered by women (so that we can hear from more of the female general leadership)?

    Or how about we have female stake leaders replace the high council speakers for “high council Sunday” each month?

    Conversely, given your absolutely correct comments about the importance of impacting the rising generation, maybe men and boys should have more opportunities to engage with primary aged kids?

    So maybe men should be allowed to be Primary Presidents?

    Or maybe, the Deacons, Teachers, and Priests in a ward could fill all the teaching responsibilities in the Primary (in preparation for teaching on a mission, perhaps) and Young Women could pick up sacrament preparation/passing responsibilities so the young men aren’t overloaded? This might also free up the women and mothers to perform other/different kinds of service in a Ward.

    My point in the above is actually to agree in part with what you are saying and to extend your suggestions.

    I worry, however, about suggesting that the best options for YW growth is to keep everything the same with the YM and then to put the YW with the young children…. that just seems to be doubling down on the status quo, not actually offering something new (and Lily is 100% right that historical division of labor was not nearly innocuous as you made it sound… but perhaps that framing of yours was unintentional). Further, I think you discount too much how powerful the visual of having women (young and old) lead worship and ritual practices would be…. perhaps not for you, but for the other around you. For my part, having a YW passing the bread around a chapel, as small as that seems, would be a marvelous visual (not sure a white dress would be required though).

    But, alas, more chirping…

  65. Very interesting to hear the perspective of your daughter and her well reasoned solution. Our youth are so sharp and ahead of their time! Regarding the point raised in the comments about there being no mechanism in the Church for the foot solders’ input to get up to senior leadership, that may be true. But I think the Brethren do hear members’ concerns. Consider the change to the 2-hour block. There were “test” wards in Colorado that tried it out, similar to focus groups before actually implementing it. And the reversal in the November 5th policy, you have to believe the brethren heard significant pushback on that. Would the PR department have put out two statements in close succession reacting to the Arizona child sex abuse issue if not for the strong reactions of the membership when they heard about it? IMO, if changes don’t take place that have very vocal or consensus support of the membership, it’s for other reasons besides the brethren not hearing.

  66. Aussie Mormon says:

    Wondering: “Or how about we have female stake leaders replace the high council speakers for “high council Sunday” each month?”

    If your stake only has the high council do these stake speaking assignments, that’s a your stake problem. The handbook is pretty explicit that it can be stake organisational presidencies too (29.2.1.4).

  67. When my daughter, 8, noticed that her brother was able to pass the sacrament as a deacon, she asked me if girls could, too. It was heart-wrenching for me to have to answer her in the negative. Pres Oakes wanted to open a door without opening it–he wanted to say women had access to the priesthood, but only as long as they did not want to have access to the priesthood in any formal way. That is why this policy will not change because it is too close being seen as a stepping stone to giving women the priesthood, which is a shame.
    I personally cannot answer whether women can be priesthood holders. But I know that the current situation seems untenable. I, as a father, felt unhappy and uncomfortable being the one to tell my daughter something that implied that she was different in a way that meant she was less. In every way that I can get away with, I have no intention of closing any other doors for her, but rather I have every intention of opening any one that she may be interested in walking through.

  68. The comment about calling men to be Primary Presidents calls out the balance the church has to take between an egalitarian utopia and reality. Yes, men should be plenty capable of serving in this calling – but the hesitation is not that they might struggle with nurturing (though many men might), it is the practical reality of men’s hearts and a sordid history – in application of our doctrine and aspirations, perhaps we also hedge for practical reasons. There should be some leniency we can give to leadership in the kingdom if they haven’t implemented our expectations of equality. Young mothers being called as bishops, mixed gender/non-spousal presidencies, same-sex attracted (and commandment keeping) individuals being called to work closely with our youth and others – all of these on paper could work, but in practice might be problematic. I would imagine in spite of all of the counsel we give them that church leadership will proceed with great pragmatic caution.

    This comment is not to say that ordaining YW to an existing or new office in the priesthood to administer the sacrament will directly lead to having to tackle the challenges above – it only speaks to the need to look several steps down a path before taking the first step.

  69. pconnornc, I think many of your concerns would be very hard pressed for actual evidence to support them, but that’s the problem: many of the leaders grew up in the age of people promoting ideas that gay=child molestation, and gay=can’t control themselves, and men=can’t control themselves, and women=temptation, and men=can’t nurture, etc. Which leads to other problems: mistrust and mistreatment of others, and creation of false societal expectations, to name a couple. As long these stigmas remain, we have a problem. In this case ‘pragmatic caution’ is hardly anything more than ‘perpetuation of false stereotypes and bigotry’.

    Changing times (more people allowed to express intimacy with those they love) and research (out with those old biased research examples funded by ‘traditional’ family groups) would suggest that such biased attitudes are quite wrong.

    The ‘points’ that you are making have been considered many times in many of the bloggernacle venues. I assure you that those advocating for change have considered these ‘several steps down [the] path.

  70. “….all of these on paper could work, but in practice might be problematic.”

    Huh? I’m not saying that snidely, but straightforward. Huh?

    I’m heavily involved in a national youth development program of about the same size as the church. From the highest level, to subcommittees at the local level, and the youngest children’s activities, there are no separation between the genders. There are rules (and training) for youth protection that we follow but even those are non-gendered and as much common sense as anything else. There is just no issue with having men/women, girls/boys working and playing and interacting with each other.

    What do you see as the problems that would happen within the church?

  71. I don’t think that it requires too much creativity to think of scenarios that might be problematic. I’ll posit just one….

    Sister Smith is 1st counselor & Bro Young is 2nd counselor. They twice a month go out together for the evening to minister. The natural man overtakes their charitable intentions and they are unfaithful. Their spouses while distraught over the betrayals, are frustrated that their church (which prioritizes family) created the scenario for their temptations.

    My point is that leadership will probably proceed very cautiously – and I agree with that. If you don’t, that’s your prerogative, but I would hope you could acknowledge a cautious approach as being a valid approach even if you disagree.

    Lastly, for YW/YM groups – kudos for your involvement in national development programs. When I look at the breadth of the church’s mission, I often find that national organizations I admire often do better on aspects that are important in the kingdom, but have yet to find one that covers the breadth of development and ministering we aspire to.

    Side note, but having worked youth & children for 25 of the past 30 years across both coasts, my experience has been the interests and areas of focus for the YM/YW just have not been 100% aligned – and allowing for youth led planning seems to show that even more clearly.

  72. @pconnornc it is exhausting to constantly battle attitudes such as yours. Swap out counselor #1 and counselor #2 for co-worker #1 and co-worker #2 and this is now an excuse that has been used to limit women’s professional opportunities. This excuse that if men and women work together in any capacity then they will have affairs is outdated, sexist, and needs to stop.

  73. If someone, say a male, suggests that a male and a female working together might result in an affair, I often wonder how much of it is wrote repetition and much of it is projection. In either case, the burden is upon said person to either stop the repetition, or to learn to control themselves so that such behavior doesn’t happen. One of the strongest things I’ve ever read on the issue was from a male who wrote that men can indeed control themselves and he knows because . . . he is gay and has spent his whole life in situations where he was working with and even undressed with, at times, other men, and guess what . . . he didn’t rape them or have affairs with them! Darn though pesky stereotypes about gay people and men.

    @pconnornc, Look, I’m not advocating for people being naive. I’m advocating for a little introspect into how much the idea of privileged males (the patriarchy) has influenced, allowed, propagated, the problems you suggest and that honestly, the problems you suggest are insulting and demeaning to both men and women. You can appeal to the ‘natural man’ idea all you want, but, in the end, if you never ask the men to grow up, be responsible, and respect women, they won’t. It’s time to demand it. And if someone steps out of line, they need to be shut down. And there’s the rub: the church believes and teaches that men have dominance over women, and so when men step out of line, the Church doesn’t shut them down. The church favors men to the belittling of suffering of women. So you’re right, we need to think several steps down the line: the result is equality of women, which, quite frankly, the Church doesn’t believe in yet. But we should.

  74. It seems like your argument is that men and women working together will lead to rampant adultery. I don’t buy it. Adultery is not caused by male/female working relationships. Adultery, when it happens, is caused by individuals lacking integrity, faithfulness, etc.

    That all women should be kept in background roles because a few people lack integrity makes no sense to me. But then again I can honestly see the elderly, having lived their life in a culture where women were not part of most professions and thus they have little lived experience in mixed gender working environments, might think this way. Which is sad for them.

  75. Geoff - Aus says:

    The first female office workers were on a different floor of the building so they would not distract the male workers. Now they can all work together without problems.
    Perhaps young women could pass the sacrament, and maintain their chastity. It is not a very provocative activity after all.

  76. Tina – I’m 100% in agreement that I want affairs to stop (I think the Lord is too)!

    Brian – you’re not getting any disagreement from me re: the need to have more righteous men. I sense the prophet agrees with both of us when he makes his pleas (or demands).

    lehcarjt – I wasn’t prophesying “rampant” adultery, but it might help leaders if somebody could run the calculations re: different gender/spouse presidencies working closely together and how much adultery might happen. My guess is that until leadership has confidence in the results of these decisions, they will proceed with caution.

    It does seem that when people can be against bishops meeting w/ youth privately and pro cutting windows into every classroom, and on the other hand be pro mixed spouse/gender presidencies, it shows the deep complexities of these decisions as leaders make decisions balancing the natural man vs their divine potential.

    I perceive that people might ascribe to the misogyny of leaders that the kingdom hasn’t reached its potential yet. I’m just trying to be charitable (I think that’s something we think is virtuous) that perhaps there are reasonable alternates to why the kingdom moves at the pace it does.

  77. pconnornc, there aren’t actually any “deep complexities.” The measures you mention are about protecting children, not preventing adults from working together as peers and colleagues.

  78. Kristine – I think you missed my point… The fact that a person can want windows in classrooms & prohibit bishops interviewing youth (which both reflect concerns about “natural men” failing) AND also have few (seems like some have no) reservations about different gendered/spouses working together in close contact/long hours/often times alone because worrying about the “natural man” failing in this case does not apply – to me suggests that it is deeply complex. What leaders are trying to balance (I can only assume) is how much structure/controls/etc do we put in place to help protect against the natural man vs how much do we open doors as we strive for a more egalitarian kingdom.

    This used to be a forum where vibrant and progressive ideas could be discussed, balanced by faith and appreciation for what some describe as a “marvelous work and a wonder.”

    Increasingly it seems like the resounding voices are “I am right and leaders are wrong”, leaders are motivated by racism, misogyny and power, and there is little divine. That is a shame – because here in the trenches I see bad men (and women) striving to be good, good men striving to be better, increasing faith and testimony of the Savior, and so many acts of Christ motivated service day in and out that I don’t think I could count them (even if I could inventory all that happens within our ward).

    For those (believe it or not, I’m in this category) who have aspirations for a more egalitarian application of the gospel in the kingdom, please don’t lose sight of the progress that is happening – increased discussion and reference to female deity (Heavenly Mother), gradually leveling the male/female leadership counts/structures at a local level, increased focus by wards for equal prioritization, budgeting and recognitions for all youth, huge progress made in articulating roles within the church for singles, divorced, same sex attracted and others who can struggle to find fellowship, as well as numerous other areas of progress.

  79. Just for fun says:

    Maybe we should have the women sit on the left in sacrament meeting and the men on the right in their respective classes and quorums. The YM can pass to the Men’s side and YW to the Women’s side. We could do it at the end of the meeting when everyone moves around after sitting with family and before settling in with a sacrament hymn.

  80. When natural men fail and a child is abused that is a crime against an innocent, a victim.

    When 2 consenting natural adults fail and have an affair, neither one of them are victims. They are making a (admittedly horrible) choice.

    Huge, huge, huge incomparable difference.

    Affairs do have victims of course, but it’s not criminal. The person responsible for protecting the inner dynamics of a marriage/family should not be the government, police, employer, church, etc (barring actual abuse of course). Relationship have to be built by the people in them. That’s who is responsible.

    Pcor- there really do seem to be a ton of things that you and agree on. In person we could likely have some great conversation about those. The challenge with this disagreement is that it fundamentally defines how I can interact with society. Because I’m many, many years into a successful career, successfully volunteer in a variety of non-gendered organizations, I know first hand that there is no need to place societal limits on women because of a fear of affairs. Those that I’ve known who have had affairs didn’t do it because of proximity, they did it because they were lousy people.

  81. Antonio Parr says:

    I am at an age when I am unlikely to ever bless or pass the Sacrament again. But, respectfully, there is absolutely nothing “passive” about my weekly participation in the administration of the Sacrament. It is an intensely spiritual, focused remembrance of Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing more, nothing less. This is what Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary asked of us when he administered the Last Supper: “Remember me.” If Latter-Day Saints would embrace this concept with all of their might, hearts, mind and strength, our contributions to the cause of Christ would be limitless.

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