After being inspired by a TED talk and a mock film festival at my ad agency, I decided to record a second a day out of my life for a limited time. I began on March 20th, 2013, and decided to end after recording sixty days, or sixty seconds worth of film. These are mostly just random moments, but I believe personal history is valid, and this became a kind of video journal project. So much had happened in the previous year: a new job for my husband, followed by a new job for me, a new house for our family, our son starting therapeutic school, and the passing of my father. I began to realize that our lives are made up of these big milestones that sometimes sneak up on us without our realizing how one thing leads to another and suddenly you’re dealing with nearly a whole new life for your family. But that life is also made up of tiny moments of simple beauty and the mundane.
It may or may not be apparent, but this project includes film some milestone events, including:
A clean MRI for my son with epilepsy, followed by a clean EEG, allowing us to begin to taper medication he’s had since infancy
A sisterhood ceremony after the unexpected death of a friend I knew through Mormon feminist circles
Meeting my newborn niece for the first time
The last days of my time at my ad agency job, as I begin a new job next week with more work-from-home flexibility
Sexual separation is often a characteristic of dominant societies. The military, administrative and travelling imperatives of imperialism dictated it and, no less than Sparta or among the Zulu, the training and socialization of the young became increasingly directed towards this end. Public schools, youth organisations, juvenile literature, the club and the army mess were all expressions of it, as were strictly segregated working men’s clubs and school staff rooms. In the extending and building of country houses and public buildings of this period, the provision of the male sanctum became an architectural necessity.
-John M. Mackenzie, Manliness and Morality, Middle-class Masculinity in Britain and America 1800-1940, Manchester University Press, 1987, p 180-181.
Men and women are segregated in the church organizations, and are so from a young age. The Young Men and Young Women’s programs are evidence of this, but historically, even 10 and 11 year olds were segregated until the advent of the (sometimes) co-mingled Valiant class (I was a Merrie Miss.) Youth organizations, literature, church meetings and MIA activities all segregate young females from males as the males developed authority levels within priesthood ranks. As such, the above statement, whilst written in regard to the social Darwinist aspects of Victorian and Edwardian exclusion of women from big game (authoritative and elite-class) hunting , I think can easily be applied to the segregation still present within Mormon Society.
After much thought and prayer and many discussions with friends and family, I posted my profile on Ordain Women.org. I believe that now is the time to be thoughtful and prayerful about Priesthood and ask God what He desires for His daughters in our modern-day church. I think we should seek understanding about a dual Priesthood: just as men and women are both involved with procreation – they are both involved with priesthood.
When others learn that I have posted this profile, many questions and comments follow. The majority of these comments seem to fall in three areas, which I will address below in my own little “frequently asked questions” blog post and poll today.
1. Women’s ordination leading to LDS men’s inactivity.
My simple response to this concern is “I don’t think we will lose our men” – at least not the good men I know. Some of the best men I know are Mormon men – and I don’t envision my brother-in-laws or my current ward brothers walking away from the church. I think they will attend their children’s baptisms even if their wives are preforming the ordinance. Ordaining women does not mean un-ordaining men. We are adding sisterhood to the strong brotherhood that already exists.
My second, somewhat more complex response is: “Maybe we’ll lose some of our men. And maybe we’ll lose our women too.” We are currently losing both men and women to inactivity. Many of those individuals will continue to struggle if women are ordained, but I’m not convinced the numbers will be higher than what we face currently. Concern over men’s activity rates, while important, is not a reason to withhold ordination to all worthy members of the church. I see dual ordination as a way to work together for the benefit of all. And when we no longer have to use all our “talk about Priesthood time” splitting roles and justifying women’s peripheral involvement, then we can really explore Priesthood and learn more fully about its immense power.
2. Women’s ordination leading to more work for LDS women.
Many LDS women (that I talk to) feel overworked in the church already – and worry that ordination will only add to the load. And for some women – maybe it will, but I think for most – probably not. Ordination brings more hands to the table, not fewer. There is lot of work to be done in the Kingdom of God – some of it is logistical, some of it is administrative, some of it involves spiritual revelation, and some of it is around blessings and ordinations. Work rotates within these areas and among people. Callings rotate. It seems to me that families will spend more time together if the work is spread among more people – including single women. Perhaps in some homes a mother will spend extra time at church meetings for a few years while the father watches over children on Sunday morning. And perhaps in other homes, the dinner hour will be less interrupted because Brother Smith can call me (a single sister) to give a blessing rather than the father of a family.
3. Am I questioning church leadership by supporting women’s ordination?
For me, this answer is a firm “no”. I love the church; I trust and sustain its leaders. I am not questioning either, I am simply giving voice to something I also believe: women’s ordination. My friend, Carri, who is an inspiration to me on the subject of LDS women writes, “for many years I tried to make the status of women in the Church make sense. I tried to find ways to justify it – which is where I believe the vast majority of the Church is now, believing it’s right because it is … but it isn’t necessary right, it just is.”
Nephi also has some interesting thoughts on the matter: 1 Nephi Chapter 25. I quote from Carri again, “One of the things I find most intriguing about Nephi is how often he feels constrained by the smallness of his world. He is so aware of how much power and knowledge there is to be had, but in his day-to-day life, he is pestered constantly by simple-mindedness and weakness. I imagine him feeling tethered to earth when his vision is so much greater.
“And notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled. For this end was the law given; wherefore, the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.”
They keep the “dead law” because that is the commandment they have. They speak of the higher law as they live the lesser one. Nephi was ready to be Christian 600 years before Christ came. He knew the law of Moses was not complete and that he and generations of his posterity would be subject to living it. But he spoke of the higher law, which he knew someday would come. And he rejoiced in it.”
I feel like Nephi: I am living the law and commandments we have. I am serving in ways that are given me. And I’m waiting for what I believe is the birthright of all the worthy sons and daughters of God – to act in His name with Priesthood power. I claim that birthright, even as I wait for the actual ordination … in the Lord’s time. “I believe all that God has revealed, all the He does now reveal, and … that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” (Ninth Article of Faith)
There are several schools of thought on the issue of woman’s ordination – or Goalposts as John-Charles Duffy calls them. Where do you fall?
Since Pants, Prayers, Priesthood (Oh My!), more church members than ever before are talking about and considering the potential for changing women’s responsibilities and opportunities in the church. All Enlisted kicked off what at least one Exponent II blogger has called the Mormon Spring. It even seems that Elder Holland was speaking directly to feminist’s concerns when he said at conference this month, “Time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will.”
He then asked for church members to be kind regarding human frailty, including the imperfection of church leaders. He implores church members to be kind and patient with them by remembering this: “when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.” (Citation)
Elder Holland was also the apostle who said in reference to women’s issues in the church: “This church probably needs to do better…We need to ask ourselves how to make our actions follow our sermons. I think that is a task that is still ahead of all of us.” (Citation)
While my husband was off at Priesthood Session this evening, I attended the Ordain Women Launch Event, which another attendee charmingly dubbed “Priestesshood Session.” The crowd was sparse when I arrived yet entering was difficult because of the large number of TV cameras to dodge. I am excited to think that someday there will be archived footage of the back of my sweater blocking a camera or two as I zigzagged through the room to attend this historic event. By the end of the speech, however, the room had filled up–with a surprisingly close ratio of male and female attendees.