Guest Post: Priesthood and Gender — Working Toward a More Godlike Understanding
by Annie B.
In conversations about gender inequality in the LDS church, the biggest point I’ve seen made from those who are comfortable with the status quo and against the LDS feminist movement is that the status quo is the way God wants things. I’ve seen and heard this point claimed both in online forums and in person, concerning everything from the figurative burqa surrounding Heavenly Mother to male-only Priesthood.
My question is this: Why do you assume that a male-only priesthood (insert other gender unequal policy here) is a principle that comes from God and not from mankind’s limited understanding?
Priesthood was first given to men in a time period when women were basically seen as the possessions of men. Considering the cultural norms of Bible times, it’s not surprising that throughout the Bible women are almost invisible as spiritual leaders, and all our scriptural texts are written by men (as far as I know). Even in Joseph Smith’s time, the choices of women were seen as secondary in importance to the choices of their husbands, and this cultural idea bled into the doctrine (see D&C 132). Today, in some countries women are still seen as possessions. Women in the U.S. have only had the right to vote for 92 years and bastions of old thinking remain.
It’s clear to me that past cultural ideas about women bled into past religious practices, and still color LDS doctrine today. God does not teach principles to mankind that they have not the ability to comprehend. He teaches line upon line. I believe in Bible times the cultural ideas about women were so rudimentary that many men could not even comprehend Heavenly Father having a truly equal female companion, our Heavenly Mother, and could not comprehend women as spiritual equals, let alone authorities. I believe that is still the reason why women are not given the authority to use their priestesshood in a routine capacity in the LDS church today. I believe that is the reason why the LDS church still cannot tell us more about our Heavenly Mother other than that she exists, and still forbids us from praying to her. We now know that we have a Heavenly Mother, and we know from temple ordinances that women are to become priestesses. I don’t believe it is God that is holding back revelation, I believe mankind’s limited understanding is. I believe the only figurative burqa surrounding Heavenly Mother is the one mankind has place on her because much of mankind still cannot comprehend her active role and leadership in our spiritual progression. I believe the idea of gender equality brings us closer to a more Godlike understanding, and I don’t believe there is anything wrong with working toward a more Godlike understanding.
My faith in God and my testimony have been questioned directly and indirectly because of my beliefs. I believe (hope) that God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God. I believe that the key to gaining a greater understanding of God is to apply what Christ taught was most important to our salvation, to love God and each other, and to sympathize with those that are in pain (bear one another’s burdens, even if they are women). I have faith in a God and Goddess who are equals in the eternities. I have faith (hope) that one day this principle will be understood on earth and that the LDS church will one day recognize women as spiritual equals to men and no longer forbid us from praying to and having a personal relationship with our Heavenly Mother. I very much hope that someday these principles will be reflected through a change in policies in the LDS church organization. My question to those who believe that these are not Godly principles, that we should not try to work towards these goals is…what is it that you hope for? What does this say about what you choose to believe about women and Heavenly Mother? And do you believe that God has revealed all that he will reveal?
Annie B. is a wife, and mother of two girls. She serves as nursery leader in her ward. In addition to caring for her husband and girls, her endeavors include marathon running, hula-hoop dancing, and teaching group fitness classes.