In Primary, I learned the story of the Whitmer’s fields being plowed mysteriously by strangers.
“When he went out to start plowing the soil in the morning, David discovered that someone had plowed part of the fields already….The next day David went to the place he had left the plaster, near his sister’s house, but the plaster was gone. His sister told him that the day before, she and her children had seen three strangers spreading the plaster with great speed and skill. She had assumed they were men David had hired, but David knew they were helpers provided by the Lord.” Primary 5, Lesson 9 “Witness to See the Gold Plates”
This story captured my imagination. Who were these helpers? Angels? The Three Nephites? It was a great miracle and it followed me for years.
My great-grandparents holding my grandfather on his blessing day
About a month ago, my father decided to clear out his collection of family memorabilia and give it to me, the de facto family historian. I was thrilled. In my free time I have been perusing the journals, albums and family records. I came across my Grandpa’s baby book, a more thorough record than most of its kind. It goes all the way through his high school graduation and includes a map of the Pacific Ocean with the route his ship took during World War II carefully inked in. Evidently my great-grandmother was a diligent scrapbooker.
The book contains a page for “baby’s first prayer” in which my great-grandma transcribed the words of my grandpa’s baby blessing. They were not Mormons. My great-grandfather was a minister of a protestant denomination, and my grandfather later followed in his footsteps. The fact that this was a father’s blessing therefore had more to do with the family profession than the biological relationship.
July 5, 1917
Our Father in heaven – thou who has given us this child to make glad our home – we give him back to Thee today. Use him we pray in Thy great purpose for the world, and through him bring in some small way the Kingdom of God. Teach him that the only failure is selfishness and the only success service; and when his life is ended, grant that the world will be more Christ-like for his years in it.
We pray too for ourselves. Help us to live such lives that this boy will find it easy to believe in God, and help us to build such a home that in it he will naturally discover Jesus Christ. As he works with us, may he see in our lives the spirit of Thy Son; and as we play together may we never do anything that will drive God from his life. Take us and take him, we pray, and use us in Thy work on Earth. Through Jesus Christ, Amen.
I really love this prayer. Every time I read it I get goosebumps and I think “that is what I want for my family. That is the blessing I would want said for my children.” I also feel that it was a blessing that was fulfilled. My grandpa did devote his life to service. He eventually left the ministry in order to work full time in fundraising and philanthropy. Even in retirement he constantly volunteered. I do think the world was more Christ-like for his years in it.
In our church we would teach that my great grandfather had no priesthood authority, though I am certain as a graduate of Harvard Divinity he would have disagreed. Yet when I read this blessing I can’t help but think that this is the baby blessing par excellence. I wonder what difference having the priesthood could possibly make in blessing a baby. It isn’t a covenant, it isn’t necessary for salvation by our doctrine. Why then do we need a priesthood holder to perform this blessing? I myself was blessed by our home teacher as a baby because my father is not a member and probably wouldn’t have been interested anyway.
What role do you think the priesthood plays in offering a baby blessing? Is it different from a father who does not hold the priesthood offering a prayer on behalf of his baby? What about a mother blessing her baby?
Morning prayers never made sense to me. Evening prayers, I get: reflect on your day, be grateful for the goodness it brought, repent for the things you did wrong, and bless the people who crossed your path. But morning prayers? Doesn’t the prayer from the evening carry over? It’s not like your life has changed much between going to bed and waking up. In general, your life is still the same and it’s unlikely you committed grievous sins in your sleep. What is there to pray about in the morning? “Please bless this day,” feels empty and passive.
So I stopped worrying about morning prayers. I did evening prayers, and they’re pretty much the same. “Dear Heavenly Father, Ditto to what I said last night.”
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?
Prayer. It’s the earliest lesson in primary (“Fold your arms and close your eyes”) and yet as we grow older, the conversation grows richer, deeper — or perhaps more painful and confusing. How do we speak to God? How does God speak to us?
Spencer W. Kimball said, “The Lord answers our prayers, but it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” That someone can be a Relief Society teacher. I am a teacher by trade, and if I have ever felt God’s guidance in my life, it has been in finding ways to reach my students. “Help me be sensitive to the unspoken needs of my students . . . help me say or do something that will reach someone who is seeking today . . . ” These are prayers I believe in.
When I was a little girl I once declared that green was my favorite color. My older sister replied, “No it’s not.” Instead of contradicting her I was filled with doubt and wondered what my favorite color was, since it obviously wasn’t green.
An unfortunate confluence of my own proclivities, my family dynamics, and the way the gospel was presented to me turned me into a person who was quite literally selfless. When I say ‘selfless’ I don’t mean generous, or kindly, I mean an empty shell who was what everyone had instructed me to be.