Wednesday, March 19, 2014

To the Misguided Leaders of the Ordain Women Movement

As I've stated openly on this blog (and in my life), I am a single LDS woman.  As such, the news story I read today about the group of women demanding to be allowed into the Priesthood Session of General Conference and demanding to be ordained to the priesthood gave me pause.

The gist of the story is this.  A small group of LDS women (about 2,000) have decided that they want to hold the priesthood, and are staging public protest at the Priesthood Sessions of General Conference and by wearing pants to church, and I would assume by contacting news agencies around the country to cover these stories.  (Why else would the New York Times suddenly care what LDS women were wearing on a given Sunday unless the women had contacted them to point out that this was a protest?)

Attention Seeking

I disagree with the stance of Ordain Women for many reasons which I will explain, but first and foremost, their protests are temper tantrums, plain and simple.  They asked for something, they didn't get their way, and so they are trying to attract all the attention they can by throwing a very public temper tantrum under the guise of "a demonstration of our eagerness for the blessings and responsibilities of the priesthood...[to] reverently seek admission to the priesthood session."  This is not reverent.  They are going to openly protest at a church meeting and gather as much media attention as possible.  When the Church responded that they were free to demonstrate their differing opinions in the free speech zones adjacent to Temple Square, the group said they would not stay in those designated areas because they are "faithful, active members of the Church...far from fighting against the Church, we are the Church."

So many things are wrong with that statement.  They are not the Church.  They are a tiny faction of women who in NO way represent me or my beliefs.  (In fact, a survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 90% of LDS women believe that women should not be ordained to the priesthood.)  Also, let's think about this logically.  The leaders of the Church ask you to do something and you answer with, "no, I won't do what you've asked because I'm a faithful member."  This, my friends, is a contradiction.  Also, your very actions constitute fighting against the Church, whether or not you are currently members.  Another contradiction.  I recall stories of early members of the Church who claimed to be faithful members, but were some of the very people whose sworn (albeit false) statements against Joseph Smith led to his multiple imprisonments and torture.

I should not be surprised that these people would contradict themselves.  They obviously have trouble communicating or understanding the things which are communicated to them since they stated on their website that "the fundamental tenets of Mormonism support gender equality: God is male and female, father and mother, and all of us can progress to be like them someday."  The first part of that statement is true, Mormonism does support gender equality, but not gender sameness. The rest of their statement is a complete falsehood!  Nowhere in our doctrine is it stated that God is both male and female.  Just the opposite, in fact.  We believe that we have both a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and that we are children of Heavenly Parents.  And we are taught how to progress to be like them someday.

My Personal Feelings

But let's get to the meat of the matter.  What this all comes down to is the priesthood and the scarcity mentality of a few misguided feminists.  I would like to state first and foremost that I am a single woman, without a priesthood holder in my home.  But I have never felt repressed, or that I was in some way a lesser person or lacking because I do not hold the priesthood.  Perhaps I don't feel repressed because as a young teenager, I received a patriarchal blessing which talked about my school and my career as equally as it talked about my future roles as wife and mother.  Perhaps I don't feel repressed because I've always been encouraged by my father to go to college and pursue higher education and a career while he was also supporting my mother in her decision to be a stay at home mom.  Perhaps seeing my mother and other women in prominent leadership roles in the Church taught me that women were just as valued as men in our religion.  I do not now, nor have I ever believed that the Church or the leaders of the Church were trying to keep me under their thumb or hold me back.  Just the opposite, in fact.  I have held leadership and teaching callings.  I've been encouraged to participate and be vocal in my callings and organizations.  I've never felt like a second-class citizen within the Church because of my gender.

Priesthood: Equality vs. Roles

In many places in the scriptures, and in many conference talks from current and past prophets, we are taught that the Lord whom we worship is a God of order.  Examples of scriptures: "See that all these things are done in wisdom and order..." (Mosiah 4:27); "Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God..." (D&C 88:119); "Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion." (D&C 132:8).  In fact, the priesthood was originally called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.

Because He is a God of order, our loving Heavenly Father has set up the exact organization of His Church, functioning under the power of His priesthood, the keys of which, He has given as a gift.  (Discussion of gifts to follow.)  There is no question how things are to be run in His Church.  The Doctrine and Covenants, along with modern day revelation to the prophets have kept this Church afloat, "tight like a dish", and functioning well.  Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that if you aren't happy with the way things are done, you can stage a protest and have your wishes granted.  That's just not the way things are done in the Lord's organization.  What kind of chaos would ensue if every single desire of our hearts was granted immediately just because we asked?

Also part of His order is the doctrine of opposites and balance.  The Lord created two separate genders.  He did this in His wisdom for more reasons than just the propagation of the species.  Each gender has strengths and weaknesses, differences that make us unique. Personally, I'm pretty happy with the differences.  I have no desire to be a man on any level.

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, we are taught,  "All human beings--male and female--are created in the image of God.  Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.  Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."

Roles

According to the Church priesthood manual, "The priesthood is God's eternal power and authority.  God accomplishes His work by the priesthood.  He created all things by this power, and He governs the earth and heaven by it.  We read in the Pearl of Great Price that the priesthood, 'which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also' (Moses 6:7)."  Adam was the first man given the priesthood.  He was instructed on how to use that power as a prophet, as a patriarch, and as a father.  I would think that if the priesthood was meant to be held by women, it would have been instituted that way from our first parents.  But, you see, it wasn't necessary.  Women can share in the priesthood with their husbands.  We learn in the temple the importance of both men and women in the eternal plan of our Heavenly Father.  "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.  Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.  In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners." (Proclamation on the Family)  Those who are not yet married, or no longer married in this life because of death or divorce, will not be kept from the joint blessings of marriage and the priesthood if they are righteous.  The Lord provides for all His children.

This is the plan which we all agreed to in the premortal world.  It's too late to take back your vote now.  As Neal A. Maxwell has said (paraphrased here), once you've agreed to anesthesia and surgery, the surgeon will not wake you up from the anesthesia to ask you if it's still ok for him/her to continue with the surgery.  We ratified the Father's plan, then our minds were veiled so we could be free to choose again with these mortal bodies.

Now, within the Church itself, the priesthood holders are given administrative duties under the direction of the prophet and apostles.  "Although the authority of the priesthood is bestowed only on worthy male members of the Church, the blessings of the priesthood are available to all--men, women, and children.  We all benefit from the influence of righteous priesthood leadership, and we all have the privilege of receiving the saving ordinances of the priesthood."  (True to the Faith)

In the early restoration of the Church, Joseph Smith set up the Relief Society specifically to build up women and to give them leadership, teaching, and serving opportunities.  He recognized that women had special talents and gifts, and wanted to help them develop those.

There is a beautiful section in the Doctrine and Covenants (section 25), which is a revelation for Emma Smith.  It shows so clearly how much women are valued by the Lord, and even says in verse 7 that she would "be ordained under [Joseph's] hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given [her] by [the Lord's] Spirit."  These are not the doctrines of a church that would withhold any blessings or responsibilities from women.  As President Hinckley said, "Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so...who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth."

Women are given myriad opportunities to serve, teach, give instruction, expound the scriptures, pray, etc. within the Church organizations.  Relief Society presidencies and teachers, Primary presidencies and teachers, Young Women presidencies and teachers (all on the local, stake, and worldwide levels) just to name a few.  Wives are called to serve right along with their husbands as mission presidents as well.  Not to mention public talks, prayers, ward councils, and general boards.  What some people fail to understand is that even on the general church level (not just local) there is the Relief Society board and Young Women and Primary boards, and the prophet and apostles counsel with them all the time and listen to their suggestions and advice.  I should also point out that growing up in the Church, it was the women leaders I was around who had the most profound influence on me.

Another issue about this push for women to have the priesthood or more leadership, etc. is that no one (male or female) should be campaigning for callings.  As one woman commented,  "These are not jobs to just add to our resumes; they are divine callings."

The Meetings

A word about the General Conference meetings, since this is part of the protest that Ordain Women is staging.  The men of the Church have their General Priesthood Meeting where they receive instruction about their roles as men and some of the individual concerns of men.  Just as women have the General Women's Meeting where we receive similar instruction suited to our needs as women.  These meetings are not secret.  Both are televised and printed in the conference edition of the Ensign every year.  Also, you'll notice there is a pattern in all things.  On the local level, we also have separate Priesthood and Relief Society meetings.

There is a great deal to be gained from bonding and learning together with sisters, or brothers bonding with brothers.  There is a special something in those gatherings which cannot be gained in mixed company.  Sisterhood, brotherhood.  How wonderful that we have the chance to counsel together as separate genders about woman things or man things, respectively, but also as one large family in the general sessions of conference.

Women and men are different. I'm not sure how else to say this.  We learned it at very young ages.  Equality should not detract from uniqueness.  We are not all the same, and that is a wonderful thing.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive: Gifts vs. Demands

The leaders of the Ordain Women movement have declared their position as non-negotiable, and said that even if the answer was no, they would not stop campaigning for the ordination of women in the LDS Church.  My question to them is: who do you think you're making these "non-negotiable" demands to?  This is not a political forum.  This is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, led by His ordained prophet.  You are making these demands, in essence, to God, the Creator of the universe, because as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38)

The priesthood is a gift, granted by a loving Heavenly Father.  It is not a right.  Even for men in the Church it is not a right.  The scriptures teach us that not all spiritual gifts are granted to every man or woman.  (D&C 46:10-11)  And we must give thanks for the gifts we already have.  (D&C 46:31-32) We aren't all the same.  Not everyone has the same talents or appearance or opportunities.  Would we approach the Lord and demand that all people be granted the same musical talents or scientific talents or writing talents or whatever?  No, that would be silly.  And even if we did, the Lord would not be bound to answer these demands.

The founders of Ordain Women have cited the "ask and ye shall receive" scriptures.  However, what they fail to recognize is that 1) they must be righteous desires, 2) they must not be contrary to the will of the Lord or His plan, 3) the word is ASK, not demand.

I'm reminded of Martin Harris in the early church who agitated Joseph to ask the Lord on multiple occasions about showing the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon to his wife.  The Lord said no twice.  When on the third try, Joseph received the absence of a no (because the Lord had already given His answer), the 116 pages were lost and Martin and Joseph were severely chastised.  When the Lord gives an answer, He will not be pushed into changing His mind.

In the Bible Dictionary, there is a very good lesson about prayer and how it works when we're entreating the Lord.  "Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.  The object of prayer is not to change the will of God..."

The Ordain Women founders said on their website, rather condescendingly, that they hoped the leaders would approach the Lord in prayer on this matter.  Do they really think the prophet hasn't already prayed about this?  Do they believe in the cultural climate we live in with "gender equality" (read "gender sameness") being preached from the rooftops that the prophet hasn't asked the Lord about this?  Of course our leaders pray to ask how to best serve ALL the Lord's people.

In this society we live in where we're teaching young boys that to be "real men" they can't cry or show emotion, what a beautiful blessing the priesthood is to them to teach them the strength of tenderness through serving and nurturing the Lord's people.  How can we cheapen that in some petty power struggle?  The Lord's power on earth (AKA priesthood power) cannot be demanded, usurped, stolen, or controlled for our own purposes.  It flows by the Lord's will.  Period.

 

12 comments:

  1. You're so cool. And I'm serious. Also, I share your views on this. But a part of your post answered a prayer for me that was not even related to this topic! Thanks! :)

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I especially loved this paragraph:

    The leaders of the Ordain Women movement have declared their position as non-negotiable, and said that even if the answer was no, they would not stop campaigning for the ordination of women in the LDS Church. My question to them is: who do you think you're making these "non-negotiable" demands to? This is not a political forum. This is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, led by His ordained prophet. You are making these demands, in essence, to God, the Creator of the universe, because as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38)

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  3. Hello there, I love this post more than I can say. I'm so glad you mentioned the concept of balance. That has been swirling in my head in regard to gender roles a lot lately. Balance is not "sameness", but it is a way to define -- I think more fairly, the word equal. You are a smart and engaging writer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world! :) Keep it up!

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  4. D&C 121: 36 "...the powers of heaven cannot be controlled..."
    D&C 121: 37 "...when we undertake...to gratify our pride, our vain ambition...amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man."

    While these scriptures are directed towards men using their priesthood unrighteously, the lesson holds for this discussion.

    I think the whole post was great, but you could have stopped when you pointed out that this is Christ's Church.

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  5. Well written Rachel. Thanks so much for standing strong and showing us all how to stand up for what we believe. We will all need to follow your example as the sophistry of the world will continue to oppose the church and the truth and we must be ready to confront it.

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  6. I haven't been able to make it thru the whole thing, but I love this so far! I gotta go to bed!

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  7. Imagine this scenario: there is a husband and a wife. One day, the wife asks the husband for a car. The husband lovingly says no. So the wife decides to record her disagreeing response to her husband's decision and post it on Facebook, put it on a website, rally others whose husbands haven't let them get a car, and make her feelings about her husband's decision so public that it will draw the attention of even the media in an effort to change his mind. This scenario sounds so wrong, because when you have a covenant relationship with someone, a disagreement should be handled much differently. But it's what the Ordain Women movement--made up of women who have made covenants of loyalty--are doing.

    One of the main reasons why what these women are doing is inappropriate is also because of HOW they are trying to accomplish change. If you want to discuss changing something in the Church, you go to whomever's stewardship you are under in private. They should have gone to their bishop, to their stake president, or to their area authority in private. But to make such a ruckus and go outside of their stewardship is to break covenants we've made with God about sustaining Church leaders.

    Let us lovingly try to reach out to those who may have been drawn into their movement and help them with their concerns. Because that's what we have covenanted to do.

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  8. I get it. I get it. A couple of years ago this would have been the most odd thing for me to contemplate. I respect the women of the church. And I don't mean to insult the sacred nature of those beliefs.

    But I honestly don't see how this is out of the realm of possibilities. God is infinite and can go whatever He wants. If women had the priesthood (which they in fact did in the early days of the church) I don't think it would be weird. I don't think it would make men lazy or less valued. I think it would make our church even stronger.

    I get that it makes people uncomfortable. I understand that it's confusing. But I'm a member of Ordain Women and the women involved are the most humble, kind, church respecting people I've ever encountered in my entire life. They aren't doing this in any way to garner attention. They aren't doing this because they want to cause contention.

    I wish I could explain it to you. I wish so much that you could read my heart and the hearts of these women. I know that your heart would be softened to them.

    But alas . . . sigh. I truly wish I could articulate how selfless and kind these women are. If you ever want to talk to me about it please feel free to message me.

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    1. Chelsi, my friend. Thank you for your input on this. Of course I can't see into the future, and won't say that the Lord could not give further revelation about this issue. But I don't believe it will come because of public protests. I have to disagree with you about women holding the priesthood in the early days of the church in the sense of ordination. I've recently been doing a lot of research on that very topic in the past few months. It is a common misconception because of several oft-repeated and misquoted stories, and because women were partaking of the priesthood power and offering blessings by virtue of sharing in the priesthood their husbands were ordained with. That is not the same thing as women being ordained with priesthood keys. The priesthood keys have only ever been given to men.

      Sadly, I believe a lot of women don't understand the true nature of the priesthood power and how it functions in tandem with women. There is so much that can be learned in the temple. I don't pretend to know everything. What I do know is that for right now, the Lord has spoken on this issue through His servants. If the time comes that we're given new revelation about it through the prophet, then of course, I will follow that.

      I'd love to talk more about this with you, Chelsi. I've always had a great respect for you, and still do. I agree with you that the majority of the women in the Ordain Women movement most like are just wanting to serve, and thinking that this is the only way they can do it. It just bothers me that we try to put eternal principles into earthly boxes.

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  9. I just found this article. It is so beautifully written and articulate. In reading it I felt like you took all of my own thoughts and put them all in order and said them so much better than I possibly could. Thank you so much for this.

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