As I’ve thought about the issues of asking questions, faithful agitation, and looking for a much-needed change regarding gender inequality in the Church, I have come to the conclusion that we as a church don’t know all there is to know about God. None of that has to take away from the truthfulness of the Gospel, but the suggestion that the Church is perfect makes the declaration of having a living prophet seem a bit confusing. If there are not things that we are waiting to open our eyes to (which means God is waiting on us to ask him) then the foundation of the Church’s Restoration falls apart and the heavens are closed.
It offends me that we are given guidelines (albeit elusive) for just how much we can agitate, which questions we can ask, and just exactly to whom we can turn for support. The Church is not a country club that one can “just leave” if we “don’t like the rules.” Our good standing in the Church determines our salvation unto God—at least, so says the Church..
Understanding Does Not Require Agreement
The faithful men and women who align themselves with Ordain Women have each individually asked God and felt for themselves that the answer to gaining gender equality is female ordination of some kind. But wanting to hold true to the order and structure of the Church, knowing that a revelation for all must come through the prophet, they are asking him to ask God.
Any suggestion that their intention is otherwise leads me to think people haven’t paid any attention to what they are actually advocating for. If you have not done so, I suggest that you read through some of the FAQs and profiles on the Ordain Women website. I suggest this not as a way of proselyting, but as a means to an honest understanding of their actual position. No agreement is required, but integrity is—I can guarantee you that you’d be pretty upset if someone asked Pastor Robert Jeffress what Mormons believed and only took his opinion to heart.
According to the Ordain Women home page, ordination will allow all members, men and women alike, “to share equally in the full blessings and burdens of Church service and spiritual authority.” The Church teaches that the Priesthood is necessary for the salvation of mankind, to govern the kingdom of God on the earth, to administer ordinances, and to bless others. The conditional logic inferred in this point is that ordination is the only way to fulfill the functions of the Priesthood; anything less is separate but equal.
The Internal Conflict of the Excommunication
As someone who does not even support Ordain Women’s clarion call, and speaking to those who do not support Ordain Women, I can see problems with the way Kate’s excommunication was handled.
First, a man who did not have current ecclesiastical stewardship conducted her court and excommunicated her. There is an order to the Church and it was violated. Her lack of presence at the court is irrelevant when the entire premise of its orchestration is not even valid, according the Church’s own handbook.
We can talk about the timeline and who said what when at this point, but that is really tangential to the issue of what she was actually doing and the legitimacy of her Church disciplinary court in the first place.
Second, she was not excommunicated for teaching something false. Since women are already utilizing priesthood authority, this is not an apostate teaching—Elder Oaks asked, “What other authority can it be?” in the last General Conference. The only thing that would really make women spiritually and authoritatively equal to men in the context of the LDS Church is for women to be ordained. That is the just the nature of having the Priesthood Keys, which women do not have.
The recent Church statement says, “Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy.” Ordain Women’s objective was simply for the prophet to ask the question. If the answer is that “only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices,” then at least we are admitting that there is no such thing as gender equality in the structure of the Church. Saying that the problem was the “use of grammatical imperative” and not “just asking questions” is saying that publicly stating the fact of unequal priesthood access and asking the prophet to pray about something are grounds for excommunication.
On Gender Roles and Moving Forward
Priesthood as the authority of God does not have an equal in the home or the Church. Though men and women do have complementary contributions to make in the Church and in the home that pertain to their inherent gender qualities, these contributions are not related to Priesthood office or ordination, but to gender. This means that Priesthood, to which only males can be ordained, is not a gender role; Elder Oaks’ recent talk makes this obvious.
Though I am not a part of OW, I still think we need to be addressing gender inequality in the Church. There is a definite lack of female presence in our church hierarchy. Where women’s ordination or its discussion fits into the Church in the future I do not know, but I hold the opinion that more women could serve in many positions without ordination—thus mistakes and errors that marginalize women could be reduced by women merely being present. Note I said reduced, since perfection and infallibility are not possible in mortality. Ordination does not appear to be a requirement for many positions that are traditionally held by men.
On some level I agree that God’s law never changes. But to say things have never changed in the Church is simply not true; things HAVE changed. Repeatedly. God did not change, but the understanding of his prophets did and does, therefore so do the implementations and interpretations of that unchanging doctrine. The answer now is not ordaining women, but one day, perhaps, there will be a way to address the gender inequality in the Lord’s Church.
LoriAnn loves reading with her husband, chasing her toddler through puddles, cooking in her cast iron pan, community shared gardening, and serving in her community. She finds her center through daily ritual of family yoga, the Gospel, and is pursuing a minimalist lifestyle by biking and living without a car in sunny Portland.