Saturday, April 05, 2014

My thoughts on Ordain Women

Today, a group of women from my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) will gather on Temple Square in Salt Lake City to request access to the male-only Priesthood session of the church-wide, semi-annual General Conference session. They tried this at the last Conference in October and were denied admission. They are trying it again today, despite having been asked by Church Public Affairs to refrain from doing so.

I want to share with you my feelings about Ordain Women and the larger issues of gender (in)equality in the church. I've thought about doing so for some time. I don't spend time on OW's website or fb page, but from time to time I happen to see truly awful attacks on OW supporters (or even non-OW people who are nonetheless in favor of greater gender equality in the church). I think many members of the church misunderstand "those people" - people who think small changes could be made in church cultural practices that would allow greater participation and autonomy by women, that would in turn benefit men and women in the church. I want to come out to you as one of "those people." In making you familiar with The Other, I hope to show you that the woman faithfully hoping for greater gender equality at church - whether she's actively agitating or not - might not be some hard-core, raging feminist you don't know but have made a lot of assumptions about. She might be someone you've known all your life who sits next to you in Relief Society every week. Like me!

I consider myself a faithful, orthodox Mormon. I have served in leadership callings in the church. I attend church every week and I treasure my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ. Here is what I believe.

This church operates on the principle of continuing revelation.

The question is not, "should LDS women hold the priesthood," but "if Thomas S. Monson were to receive revelation that LDS women should hold the priesthood, would you accept it?" My answer to that last question is yes.

There is precedent for female ordination, in Joseph Smith's day, in our own modern-day temples, and in the ancient church.

(That said, I believe there is something inherently male about the existing priesthood; I think if females were to be ordained, it would not be to the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthoods.)

I appreciate even small gestures like having a woman pray in General Conference, or hanging pictures of the female auxiliary presidencies in the Conference Center. They may not mean much on their own, but they are indicative of a greater awareness of gender inequality and a greater willingness to address it.

I wear pants to church sometimes and it is officially Not a Big Deal in my ward. In fact, more often than not, I am told that I "look really nice today, sister!" Last time I did it, the Bishop who had just been released told me he liked my pants.

Speaking of, I have an awesome ward. As president of the children's Primary organization, I had complete autonomy over my duties. I could do what I wanted, I had the budget I wanted, I had the support and personnel I wanted, I ran the show like I wanted, I had a voice in ward-level meetings, and my local leadership buffered me against the rare attempt to meddle by our regional leaders (Stake; and honestly I felt loved and supported by them, too). In fact, it's only in reading of other women's experiences leading church organizations that I've realized it could be any other way.

Regarding OW's attempt to get into the Priesthood session specifically, the meeting itself is not the point (at least not in my opinion). I think it was a fantastic symbolic gesture six months ago. This time around, I'm not so sure, especially since they've been asked not to (by church PR, not by the First Presidency directly, I might add).

There are lots of callings women could serve well in that we are currently excluded from for what I believe to be cultural, not doctrinal, reasons. There are various clerkships and roles in auxiliary presidencies that are traditionally (or even by the handbook) not open to women. I think that could change. The reverse is true, too. I can think of a few men in my ward who would have done a better job of running the Primary than I did, for example.

I personally do not feel the need to agitate for greater gender equality in the church. I leave that mantle to others, including the faithful members of Ordain Women. Even though I am not on board with every aspect of their platform, I do not feel they are hogging the limelight, silencing others' voices, or speaking for me without my consent.

I don't know what will happen today at Temple Square, but I want to say, in closing, that I am excited to be a member of the church at this time of small changes, and potential for greater changes. I love how the conversation around women and ordination has enriched my study of the Gospel and deepened my understanding of my own life roles.

I hope this post is not divisive. I admit that I am out of touch with so-called "mainstream" cultural Mormonism, or at least the version of cultural Mormonism that exists in North America. I am blessed to speak from the position of love and inclusion that exists in my current ward. I tend to think we Mormons can reason together about these things in a spirit of kindness. I hope I'm not wrong.

12 comments:

Glenda The Good said...

Amen Sister!

Alanna said...

I really like this, probably because I have similar feelings. I'm very uncomfortable with this whole idea of "protesting" our church leaders. I don't think that's how the church works. But I do see things that could probably be changed for the better. I would love it if the YW were encouraged to do more of the outdoorsy scouting type stuff that the YM do (and if they had the budget to do it, too!). And I agree with most of the changes you suggested (I think all of them, actually, but I'm too lazy to re-read what you wrote just now).

I get the feeling that a lot of the things women are upset about come more from men exercising unrighteous dominion and calling it the priesthood. And it makes me very thankful that the men in my life, while certainly not perfect, have never used the priesthood as a power play. But I feel for these women. And I want them to know that they are loved, even if I don't necessarily agree with everything they're doing or how they're doing it.

Jessie said...

Preach!

I won't say "I could have written this" because it bugs me when people say that (plus, I could never come across as reasoned as you), so instead I will say "Your ideas on female ordination and Ordain Women are identical to mine." Though I'm sure that came as no surprise to you ;-)

Thanks for writing this.

Amanda Ball said...

Amen sister! I have often thought about women and I have an inkling that women in the ancient church had their own version of the priesthood. There are several women in the Old and New Testaments that are called "prophetess": Miriam, Deborah, Anna, Huldah. I'd really like to know more about this. What is a "priestess"? Are there rituals associated with these roles? I just want someone to answer these questions.

Señora H-B said...

Thank you for saying what I think about this. I haven't been able to articulate it very well.

Jen said...

{applause!}

I'm so happy to be your friend.

Jeremy Palmer said...

Guess it's time to retire my "Make me a sandwich t-shirt"

Liz Johnson said...

I completely agree with everything you said.

I admit that I might be a little more "on the fringe" (this is probably a surprise to NOONE) on this issue - I had my name carried by proxy at the movement on Saturday. I honestly don't even know how I feel about women being ordained (although I'd certainly happily accept it if it happened), but I absolutely support people asking the prophet to take the matter to God. I also have some friends who are deeply involved and feel called to the OW movement, and I wanted to support them and their earnest, faithful desires, too.

I have less of a problem with male-exclusive priesthood as I do with the patriarchal structure of the church in general (did you read the Mormon Priestess post over at fMh? that sums up my concerns pretty perfectly). I just don't believe that God views me and my sisters as anything other than fully equal partners, full people as ourselves, and in no way an appendage to a male. I hope to covenant directly with God and see more reciprocity in the temple someday. Until then, I'm simply pretending that's what is already happening, because I feel that's how God truly feels about us all.

If this doesn't make sense, it's because I'm running a high fever and am generally delirious. Yay strep throat!

Liz Johnson said...

You could just add "and I'll make you one, too!" at the bottom. :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Amending dated cultural practices is healthy, and it is happening. Slowly. The focus on the "women holding priesthood issue" is helping in that regard. It's also true that the issue of priesthood boils down to the revelation received by our modern prophet. I have witnessed dramatic changes in the Church brought about by modern revelation.

Kathy Haynie said...

Amen, amen, amen. Thank you, Bridget. This was lovely and refreshing to read! I spoke up in Ward Council on the last Sunday in March and reminded the bishop that General Conference had already started the night before with the General Women's Conference! He thanked me, agreed, and even mentioned that to the ward over the pulpit during Sacrament Meeting. (Not my name, just that conference had already started.) I wish I could be brave enough to wear pants to church sometimes. I actually am brave enough, I just don't want it to become something that draws attention to me.

Jen said...

I like Delirious Liz.

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