Guest Post: The Priesthood and Me

by SilverRain

I’ve not often had much better than an uneasy truce with local Church leadership. Young Women’s and I were not friends, probably because I had the Laurel marriage/dating/chastity lessons for all six years. A tomboy who blossomed into a rather unattractive (and somewhat androphobic) young lady, I didn’t have much use for learning how to bake scripture cookies or sew temple packets for my hope chest. I was wildly jealous of the boys who got to tie knots and play with fire, and the highlight of my Young Women years was camp, wherein I got to play pranks and shoot arrows.

Due to some unfortunate experiences and personality clashes growing up, I developed contempt for The Way Things Are Done in the Church, and the People Who Do Them. I am, however, a rather stubborn person and realized that not all Mormons had to be the way I knew them. I figured my best chance to get over my prejudice was to go to BYU. I’ve been more or less stuck in Utah and its culture since then.

But despite this, and despite the fact that I am often unhappy with the way things happen at Church, I’ve come to realize several things. First, total immersion in Utah culture after growing up in the military has taught me that people are pretty much people, wherever you find them, and that cultural practices that are not comfortable or agreeable should usually still be respected. I have found that when you respect someone’s background, you both benefit.

This is a lot of preamble for what I promised to discuss, but I thought I needed to give a little bit of background. Despite my various personal issues with operations in the Church, I do support the Priesthood. I believe that it is of God, and while individuals may not wield the Priesthood righteously, I feel that the Priesthood is for men. I have faith that women are heirs to all that the Father has alongside men, but that the Priesthood as we consider it in the day-to-day operations of the Church is not part of that. Perhaps I will be proven wrong in time, but that is how I feel now.

I don’t have hugely dramatic horror stories involving the Priesthood, though what I have lived through has been plenty hard for me. One of my most difficult examples was on my mission. A new mission president was brought into the mission four months before I was to go home. For some reason, he and his wife liked me, but many missionaries expressed strong discontent with the changes he was making in our mission. When I tried to tell him this, he brought me on a three-hour train ride to mission headquarters to tell me that he was sending me home honorably, but early. For many reasons that I will not elaborate on, this was utterly devastating to me. I spent several hours convincing him otherwise, and I was sent back to my area on probation. It was the first time that conflict with a Priesthood leader put my life and plans into jeopardy. I served the rest of my mission, but I was broken somewhere deep inside, feeling utterly powerless and inconsequential in my life and in the Church. That affected me for years afterwards, and had its part in contributing to my marriage to a man who was emotionally abusive and my subsequent divorce from him.

Now, for the first time, I live in a home alone with two small children. The daily influence of the priesthood is not present, and has not really been there for the duration of my marriage. (My husband would not give blessings or utilize the priesthood righteously in our home.) I feel it like an empty ache where that influence ought to be. Perhaps that is why I have begun to truly understand the priesthood for the first time in my life.

I used to think that the Priesthood was about power, about making decisions that others had to follow. But I have come to see that the priesthood power is not found in decision-making, but that it is the same kind of power that the Atonement created. I have realized that power in the world is about making others do what you want them to do. In heaven, power is about being the kind of person that causes others to want to do what you want them to do because you love them, and want glory for them. There is no coercion, only encouragement. In order for the Priesthood to exist, it has to be wielded in an environment of sacrifice and service. If a man does not make decisions by putting others before himself, he is performing priestcraft, not wielding the priesthood.

Painting with a broad brushstroke, I think that culturally and physiologically speaking, women are encouraged already to sacrifice themselves for the good of others. In our culture, and in most cultures of the world, men are taught to do for themselves. There are not many male social structures in the world that cause men to sacrifice themselves to serve the whole. That is why Christ is so amazing. Here is a man who, with access to traditional worldly power, voluntarily gave up that power and allowed Himself to be ridiculed, humiliated, and painfully murdered, all so that a few of His brothers and sisters could understand what true, eternal Power means.

The Priesthood of the Son of God accesses this true Power. It is the authority to act in His name, the same type of authority that He gained by putting Himself below all of us. It uplifts men by encouraging them to lay down their lives in service for their families and friends. Without that understanding, the Priesthood cannot exist.

This is why I believe in the Priesthood. This is why, despite my bad experiences with the ways in which that priesthood is sometimes wielded, I still uphold and sustain the admittedly imperfect men who have been granted it. This is why I do not envy it, nor feel that I “deserve” the power of the Priesthood. The Priesthood of my Savior lifts and enlightens men. The entire Gospel is about lifting others up, and if the men around me are lifted and exalted and encouraged in righteousness by the Priesthood, I can only be lifted and exalted as I choose to sustain them, just as they are lifted and exalted as they honor the women in their lives. And I have had my share of examples of men who humbly and selflessly serve because they have been taught to do so by wielding the Priesthood. I really have no argument against that.

Mraynes

Mraynes lives in downtown Denver with her husband and four children. She spends her time lobbying at the Colorado Legislature, managing all the things and preparing Gospel Doctrine lessons.

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55 Responses

  1. Mraynes says:

    The mission of Exponent II has always been to provide a safe forum for the voices of women regardless of what that voice is saying. We take this mission very seriously. Although there is disagreement on whether women should have greater access to the priesthood, SilverRain’s voice is important and understanding her experience is vital for productive dialogue.

    I am grateful, SilverRain, that you trusted us enough to share your personal experience. I hope that this will lead to increased understanding and charity between those who disagree. Thank you for being willing to contribute to the dialogue.

  2. EM says:

    I loved your article; couldn’t have said it better myself. I wish more men would read this.

  3. jks says:

    As I raise my kids, I do have to make choices. I love each of my children individually but also have to take into account the good of the family collectively. Sometimes we provide something for one child that another child doesn’t receive (do to limited time, limited resources, perceived benefit vs. cost, perceived individual need).
    I truly believe that God’s work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all people. I surmise that the benefit to everyone (and God’s work) of having a male only priesthood outweighs the benefit of having a female/male priesthood.

  4. Jana says:

    I do not agree with you at all, Silver Rain, but I respect your willingness to articulate your beliefs on this subject and I appreciate your sharing of your thoughts via a guest post.

  5. Barbara says:

    I believe that I have to weigh in on the side of the dissenters as well. I do not believe in a god that discriminates and therefore can’t believe it is his intention to withhold the Priesthood from his daughters.

  6. Marie T says:

    I have often dispaired of an open conversation on this topic within Exponent boundaries. I so much appreciate and am encouraged by your writing. Your experiences in life have not shaped your final values as much as your actually thinking things out and recognizing what is best for all. Men need the encouragement and boundaries offered by the formal, temporal application and exercise of the Priesthood, whereas women have so many inherent ways to develop the values the Priesthood develops in men. If women assume the formal structure of the temporal Priesthood, again men will be shunted aside by women’t inherent strengths and powers. In the post-Earth life, the eternal sense, every indication is that women share in the effects of Priesthood righteously exercised. Your r=writing touches all. Thank you.

  7. Craig says:

    “Men need the encouragement and boundaries offered by the formal, temporal application and exercise of the Priesthood, whereas women have so many inherent ways to develop the values the Priesthood develops in men. If women assume the formal structure of the temporal Priesthood, again men will be shunted aside by women’t [sic] inherent strengths and powers.”

    I find this idea very, very disturbing and offensive.

    It basically says to me that women are naturally superior to men who need the priesthood in order to “catch-up” to women, and yet at the same time, demeans women by suggesting that they don’t inherently deserve the same treatment men get.

    Sexism, whether directed against women (as is most common) or whether directed against men, is equally destructive, dehumanising, and wrong.

    Clearly many people in the church think this way, as is their right, but I fail to see how such rigid gender roles and such inequality is supposed to be a good thing. When you have to demean an entire gender just to make yourself feel better about not having the same authority and say in your church as men do, it seems to me there is a fundamental problem with your reasoning.

  8. EmilyCC says:

    SilverRain, I SO appreciate you sharing your background to show how you’ve arrived at your thoughts on the PH. I enjoyed seeing how we have had similar experiences yet arrive at different conclusions.

    This part of your piece particularly struck me:
    “In order for the Priesthood to exist, it has to be wielded in an environment of sacrifice and service. If a man does not make decisions by putting others before himself, he is performing priestcraft, not wielding the priesthood.”

    I think most of our woundings in the Church are at the hands of those practicing priestcrafts and not the real priesthood. This is an important distinction, indeed, and one I often think about when I think how I would act if I held an office of the priesthood. (I’ve already been accused of priestcrafts, though, so perhaps I have a propensity towards that end 🙂 )

    Truly, though, thank you for taking the time and effort to continue to an important dialogue.

  9. z says:

    I appreciate you putting yourself out there, SilverRain, but I don’t really buy the argument. If the priesthood is supposed to be eternal, why is the current culture of women being more encouraged to sacrifice a relevant justification? It’s just a cultural norm that could change. And do you really think that _all_ women and _all_ men fit into the archetypes you describe? In some religions, people are called to responsibilities based on their individual characteristics and needs, rather than because of gender. Why is a male-only priesthood more appropriate than a priesthood only of people who are deemed most likely to benefit from the experience? You acknowledge that you are painting with a broad brush, so I’m asking why a more individualized system wouldn’t be better.

  10. Janna says:

    This post has got me thinking. I’ve always thought that if women were given roles such as bishop that they would by no means abuse their positions. We would just be perfect angels. Using the “power of the priesthood” in righteous dominion, listening to everyone’s complaints with gentle diplomacy, always erring on the side of kindness and compassion, etc. – In short, act in the way we want all our priesthood “holders” to act.

    But…

    Women are just as likely as men to mistake priesthood for something else (e.g., abuse the power, lord it over others, force people to do stuff, etc.). Right? I really appreciate this post for getting my head out of the space that women would use it better. We could, but it doesn’t automatically follow.

    So…

    That’s the reason that this issue is not about men “needing” priesthood or women “not needing” it, but rather an issue of human rights.

    It’s seems to me that if priesthood is the power to act for God, does it not make sense that each of us should have that right, no matter our gender? And, that each of us, no matter our gender, is responsible for what we do with that power? And, what we make our ourselves and others as we exercise it?

  11. Craig says:

    Excellent points Janna – it is fundamentally about human rights.

    Overall, I do think there would be fewer problems in the church if women were equally allowed to hold priesthood positions, up to and including prophet – not because women are inherently better at it, but because an inequitable situation inherently breeds abuses of power. Equality on the other hand breeds mutual respect and balance. Yes, there would still be problems, but it is my belief that most of the current problems in Mormonism stem from the fundamental inequalities which the church promotes so strongly : men vs. women, straights vs. gays, whites vs. blacks (yeah, it’s still there), Mormons vs. outsiders, etc.

    And I don’t think there’s any such thing as “righteous” dominion. It’s all unrighteous as far as I’m concerned.

  12. Alisa says:

    SilverRain,

    I love the strength and power of your experience. Thank you for sharing that here.

    I suppose I disagree because I have experience with adult men outside of the LDS framework, men who do not hold the Priesthood, and find them just as apt at giving service and caring for others as men inside the LDS structure who have Priesthood. At the local UCC, men organize a lot of charitable events for families, the homeless, the environment, etc.

    Also, my experience watching my husband with my newborn son has shown me that Fatherhood is a natural, even biological, frame of reference for many men, one which, I believe, stands apart from Priesthood as excercised currently in the LDS Church.

    That said, I really appreciate you sharing your experiences, and I am glad you are a strong survivor and sister.

  13. SilverRain says:

    Thank you, those of you with kind words. I appreciate courteous dissension.

    Craig—While you have a point that arguing one gender or the other’s inherent goodness is faulty, I think you’ll find that by using words such as “offend” and “disturb”, it will be difficult to convince others who do believe the argument of its faults.

    Emily, thank you for that comment. It’s a similar conclusion to one I came to. 😀

    z—You misunderstand me. I’m not arguing anything. I’m just sharing what I feel and have found. Your point is partially why I brought up my cultural background. Current culture does not serve as a justification, (not the least because God does not need to be justified, and I do believe that at the very least, He is allowing the current structure for now,) but it does serve as a framework. I have found as I move from culture to culture that, agreeable or not, it is important to work in the framework that exists. You can’t convince people to change until you’ve understood (and accepted) where they are.

    And you’ll note that I spoke in terms of tendencies, not absolutes. One limitation of society is that rules and laws have to be set with general principles in mind. Ordinance to the priesthood is already a theoretically individualized system. The difference is that it is currently for men, only. You’ll find that in D&C 20:38, being a member is also a priesthood office, of a sort, which brings me to Janna’s point about us all having a responsibility to act for God within a certain sphere (which we are reminded of weekly when taking the sacrament). Just as a deacon is not authorized to do all that a priest can do, a member is not authorized to do all that an elder can do.

    One last thing I’d like to toss out there for you to think over is the thought that the gospel is not about human rights.

    And before you dismiss that thought out of hand, please think about it for a moment as an exercise in logic, if nothing else. Assuming that it is true: that the gospel is not about human rights, why would that be? Most importantly: what is the gospel about, if not about human rights?

  14. SilverRain says:

    And I apologize if my comment was garbled. I was trying to touch on all the points as briefly as possible, and I think I missed some.

  15. Paul says:

    SilverRain,

    Thanks for your straightforward account, and your clarifying comment (#13) which reaffirmed my impresson. I agree that if we accept the premise that the priesthood is God’s to give, the God gets to choose how to share it.

    I’m intrigued, therefore by your suggestion that the gospel is not about human rights. For me, the gospel, the Good News, is the way in which we can return to our loving father in heaven. As such, it is written by Him, determined by Him, enacted by Him, and it is up to us humans to discover what He would have us do.

    As only a very occassional visitor to The Exponent, I am really impressed by the quality of the commentary, and the civility in which it proceeds. Thanks for that, too.

  16. Stella says:

    As someone who spent my active years in the church with a home and family without an active priesthood holder, I have had a hard time coming to terms with a God who delegated his power to only a select few.

    Then I realized I didn’t have to come to terms with it–that when I really opened my mind, felt what I truly believed about God in my core, felt solid in the power of faith (in lieu of a particular priesthood) –my life became much happier.

  17. Caroline says:

    A couple of thoughts.

    First, thank you SilverRain for sending this guest post to Exponent. I appreciate the background you shared and the way you personally spoke of your own journey and thought processes regarding priesthood.

    Like several others that commented here, I lean towards the idea that the vast, visionary, and inspiring message of Christ’s mission and life is that humans need to open their arms to include a wider and wider circle of people. In Paul’s time, the question was including the gentiles, 40 years ago it was the blacks. I do have a soul deep conviction that the next step would be to welcome women into full fellowship in the gospel, and for me, that would be an invitation to women to fully partake of Christ’s table, to serve and bless in his name, under his recognized authority, alongside their brothers.

    On another note, I found the way you talked about priesthood here very interesting:

    “Now, for the first time, I live in a home alone with two small children. The daily influence of the priesthood is not present … I feel it like an empty ache where that influence ought to be.”

    I suppose that struck me because I’ve never felt that lack. I grew up in a home with a widowed mother. Now I have a devout priesthood holding husband, and I personally don’t feel a difference between the two. To me, it’s all about love and respect, and where those are present, I feel that God dwells. I would love for you to elaborate on what influence you believe a priesthood holder’s presence would have that would be different from your own kindness, love and compassion that you undoubtedly model for your children. I hope I’m not sounding like I’m attacking you. I’m honestly curious.

  18. belle says:

    Within the context of the other teachings of the LDS church, giving the priesthood only to men makes some sense. The true order of heaven is man and woman teamed together. Man cannot get to heaven without marriage to a woman and vice versa. If that is the case and if each team needs the Priesthood, then does it matter who has it? Right now, it is given to men. But the women are supposed to have the same right of access. Then there is perhaps a teaching and learning of how the team should work together to implement that power as one. I can agree that it seems unfair or unequal to have the men be the only ones who are ordained with that power. But if it is truly about the team having that, then in a perfect world, it shouldn’t matter. Of course this world is not perfect and there are lots of scenarios where the team ideal doesn’t work out like it should.

    I also like the analogy of having children with different needs. I would not dare to say what different needs Heavenly Father is supplying by giving the Priesthood only to men, I do not know. But things cannot and should not always be perfectly fair and equal. On the other hand, I don’t think God discriminates in the sense of treating one gender more poorly than another. Either He has reasons or it’s the culture of the Cchurch which for some reason God allows to continue for now. God has allowed a lot of things since the beginning of time that are not always fair or right, both in the world and in the church. Clearly God is working with imperfect individuals and agency.

  19. m&m says:

    Hats off to Exponent for posting this, and hats off to SilverRain for her courage in sharing her point of view.

    My thoughts come in a couple of points.

    1. the next step would be to welcome women into full fellowship in the gospel,

    One reason why I don’t feel priesthood is necessary for women in order for God to be “equal” is because I believe He already is. Women can already receive ALL the ordinances that are necessary for salvation, right up to and including the sealing ordinance. All of God’s children can. THAT to me is true equality. Who does what in the Church to me is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself, for holding priesthood office is not necessary to come unto Christ or to receive all that God has.

    2. I agree with where Belle is going — that the concept of partnership and cooperation between men and women is an important part of what I believe God’s plan is all about. Having different roles makes sense in that concept, imo. I don’t believe it should be seen as a competition where women are losing because they don’t hold priesthood office. Again, I see equality in the end of all that we, something that already exists — found in the reality that the pinnacle of God’s blessings come to a man and a woman kneeling across an altar, together.

    I often paraphrase Elder Maxwell who reminded us that God has promised all that He has to the faithful in the gospel. And then he says something like, “Brothers and sisters, there isn’t any more!”

    I just think that equality is a broader, more eternal concept that we already have central to our doctrine and ordinances, not something that is ‘out there’ still needing to somehow be brought to pass. All else that we do is a means to an end in my mind, and is sufficient for all to come to Christ and be perfected in Him and eventually receive all that God has. In that sense, I agree with SilverRain that certain definitions of ‘equal rights’ are not the purpose of the gospel (equal rights in terms of who does what). But at the core, I do believe that the gospel by definition is about equal opportunities for all to receive all that is necessary to return to God– and that that is right here, right now.

  20. z says:

    Thanks for the response, SilverRain. But it doesn’t really answer my question. Perhaps it will help if I rephrase it. If the idea is that God knows everyone as an individual, and gives out certain callings and life experiences based on individual characteristics and needs, why is that not true of the priesthood? Why is a blanket gender rule necessary, especially when the cultural context makes it so problematic?

    I find your statement that “the gospel is not about human rights” a little glib. I never argued that it is about human rights, and to answer your question, I don’t believe in God, so I think religion is a system that people set up for one another and is therefore undoubtedly about human rights, and often a method of violating human rights. Anyway, rather than making arguments about human rights, I am pointing out that a male-only priesthood based on broad stereotypes rather than individual characteristics is not necessarily consistent with other existing practices for assigning callings, and asking why you think it is necessary to resort to stereotype in this case. Is God not capable of letting people know who specifically should have the priesthood? You seem to be saying that the male-only rule is close enough, but how do we know it is close enough?

  21. amelia says:

    I agree with Z (#20) on this one. If the argument is that God gives only some people the priesthood because that group of people needs the extra incentive to learn how to sacrifice of themselves due to the way they have been nurtured by our culture, then why does not God make that determination on a case-by-case basis? we all just *love* to argue that God knows us as individuals and arranges everything from major life decisions and situations (marriage, job, where to live) to little tiny everyday things (where our car’s battery dies, finding lost keys, etc.) in order to help us, as individuals, overcome what we’re facing. If we indeed have that kind of God, then it only makes sense that he would use the same parameters for restricting who holds the priesthood based on their individual circumstances and needs.

    I personally think the argument is a load of hogwash. I think it’s a very human justification for a very human (and therefore very flawed) policy of restricting the priesthood, which should be rightfully available to all of god’s worthy children, to those in charge. Now that doesn’t mean that I think the argument can’t help make sense of the flawed human situation. I think it does. I understand the culture/nurture argument about men being somehow less sensitive. I get the notion of “teamwork” that belle and others mention. But by the same token we could argue that God would have women in the home and never the workplace because, according to our culture, men are better suited in terms of their stereotypical tendency towards aggressiveness to succeed in the workplace while women are suited in terms of their stereotypical tendency towards nurturing to succeed in the home. In fact, the church has made this (heinous) argument for a very long time now. Fortunately the leadership is starting to acknowledge that: 1. there’s nothing inherently wrong with women being in the workplace; 2. there are reasons for a wife to be working; and 3. there should not be prejudice in terms of hiring practices and pay based on sex. Someday I think they’ll acknowledge that in some circumstances the wife working is not just necessary in addition to the husband working, but can also be a better alternative to the husband working.

    all of which is a very long way of saying that teamwork has nothing to do with it. it assumes that the members of the team bring discrete strengths to the team, rather than complementary strengths. it assumes that it’s not right for both members of the team to have access to the same set of resources. How on earth could both the man and the woman having the priesthood *prevent* teamwork? unless, of course, we see priesthood as a tool by which one “presides” or rules. then I suppose we could have a problem. Which just reveals some of my disgust about how we think about the priesthood. no matter how much lip service we give to the priesthood being about serving and about facilitating ordinances and the sacrament, etc., the fact remains that it also is about ruling. about decision making. about power. so long as only one group of people has it, based on something as arbitrary as their sex, that will be how it stays.

    and then there is the fact that Belle is absolutely right about one thing: if the point is that somehow the priesthood is represented within a family “team,” then it truly shouldn’t matter who holds it. So why restrict it to the man? Why not make it an option for the woman to hold it? Why not have both hold it? Why not bestow the priesthood to whichever partner the team chooses to hold it (whether one or both) at the marriage? why scream and fuss about the fact that it’s only supposed to be for man? why make up mental gymnastics to justify something that is so patently unequal? the only way to make it not unequal is to rob the priesthood of all of its actual power. so long as we want to argue that there is a unique power to act in the name of god that comes with the priesthood, one that cannot be accessed any other way (which mormons do argue), then it will be unequal to give the right to exercise that power only to men. let’s be honest enough to acknowledge that.

    sorry if i’ve been blunt. that’s just sort of how i am. my bluntness is in no way meant to belittle SilverRain’s personal experience. I recognize her right to explain the realities of the church in whatever way makes the most sense to her. And I respect her for sharing that experience. I just happen to disagree with her explanation. It doesn’t work for me.

  22. m&m says:

    the fact remains that it also is about ruling. about decision making. about power. so long as only one group of people has it, based on something as arbitrary as their sex, that will be how it stays.

    I think SilverRain’s point is that she feels priesthood is more about service than anything. Once it’s something seen as a selfishly gratifying ‘power’ there is no power for that person.

    I can understand why some would want to see priesthood office given to women, too, but I think the assumptions underlying such desires about what power means are different than what SilverRain is describing here.

    In my view, there is a whole lot more to power in God’s plan than just who holds priesthood office. e.g.,

    then it will be unequal to give the right to exercise that power only to men.

    My response to this would be that I think there is more to that power means in God’s plan than just what you have described above, as important as priesthood authority is.

  23. Erin says:

    As I read all the comments, one scripture keeps coming to my mind…
    Isaiah 55: 8-9 ” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    We cannot know the mind of our all-knowing and loving God. Why does he bestow the priesthood upon only men?…I do not know. I could make an “educated” guess, but I know that we cannot even begin to understand the mind of God. What I DO know is that I have a testimony of our living prophet, and I believe that he is called and directed by God, daily, to lead the church. I know this not because someone told me, but because the Holy Ghost testifies it to my mind and my heart. Yes, the men in this church are not perfect…but neither am I. I have no doubt that I have not, am not, and will not be denied any eternal experiences and blessings because I do not hold the priesthood. Not everything in this life is equal, or fair…far from it. But God gives us these burdens and trials to see how we will deal with them. Will they strengthen or weaken our faith? If not holding the priesthood is a trial for you, perhaps God is testing how you react and deal with that trial, and to see if your faith is strong enough to not hold the priesthood in this mortal life, and yet remain steadfast to the gospel that you know is true.

  24. amelia says:

    erin, the problem with that line of reasoning (god’s ways and thoughts not being our ways and thoughts) is that anything, no matter how blatantly racist or sexist or bigoted or irrational or just flat out wrong, could be justified. like denying blacks the priesthood for a century (in spite of the fact that joseph smith actually ordained some black men; in spite of the fact that brigham young declared that no prophet would ever ordain a black man while speaking not as prophet but as territorial governor at a moment in time when he was attempting to get the state of deseret admitted to the union as a slave state). or teaching that interracial marriage is wrong (the vestiges of which teaching remain in church manuals). or, as an extreme but still viable example, murdering someone because god told you to (and you know–god’s ways and all).

    in other words, i don’t buy it as a justification for something that is clearly inequitable or contrary to christ’s teachings (that whole no respecter of persons neither male nor female etc. thing). are god’s ways different than ours? indubitably. but i do not think they are different from ours in that they somehow justify and make sense of inequity and oppression and suppression and silencing and coercion and manipulation (and if you want examples of how the priesthood leaders of the mormon church have coerced and oppressed and manipulated, i’d be happy to provide some). i think they are different from ours in that they make zion possible. and zion is a place of radical equality, not a place of segregation and hierarchy.

    M&M I understand SilverRain’s point. And, in a perfect world–in Zion–, I would not dispute it. In a perfect realization of Christ’s gospel, priesthood would absolutely be about service and not power. But we don’t live in that world. We live in a fallen one. And, as a very wise woman once said, it would be surprising if even a minority of the decisions made in the church were made in perfect accord with god’s will. the rest? those are made based on what we think god’s will is–what we think it is as it gets filtered through our culture, our personal experience, our language, our biases and prejudices, etc. (and yes–this applies to prophets, too). and I have no problem declaring that some percentage of them (we can debate the size of that percentage; I would place it at a fairly large percentage of them) are made as a means of wielding power in a very human, very fallen sense of that word.

    so yeah–there’s a hell of a lot more to the notion of power in God’s plan. and priesthood is certainly about service, not power, in Zion. but we don’t live in Zion. And our version of God’s plan is just that–a version, and far from a perfect one. So I stand by my point. No matter how hard we try to realize the perfection of God’s plan, we won’t. We should, of course, still try. But the very best tools we have to guide our efforts should not be segregation and prejudice and sexism and racism and bias and control and coercion; they should instead be love and openness and acceptance. I for one believe God would much rather have us err on the side of opening opportunities to more of his children than foreclosing them.

  25. Janna says:

    To a few of Erin’s points:

    “Yes, the men in this church are not perfect…but neither am I.”

    Those who think women should have the priesthood are not saying that women should get it because men are doing a bad job, which is the idea that I think underlines Erin’s comment.

    “I have no doubt that I have not, am not, and will not be denied any eternal experiences and blessings because I do not hold the priesthood.”

    I believe that this life is not about doing stuff so that I can get stuff in the afterlife. For me, it’s about experiencing this life to the fullest measure of my creation. For many women, having the opportunity to receive revelation to guide a congregation for the better, bless their own baby, give their son the priesthood would greatly enhance their earthly experience because these are opportunities to serve and bless.

  26. Craig says:

    @SilverRain

    Well, I am disturbed and offended by such blatant examples of sexism. If I had seriously said something about how women don’t get the priesthood because they’re inherently less qualified than men or because men are superior to women I would definitely expect people here to be disturbed and offended.

    I fail to see why I shouldn’t use words such as those to describe my feelings in being told that women are naturally better than men as some sort of justification for the sexist practises of the LdS church withholding priesthood authority from women. Turning the sexism and discrimination around on men doesn’t make the situation any better. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Sexism is evil and disgusting, and shouldn’t be tolerated, ever.

  27. Erin says:

    Equality in the eyes of God doesn’t mean that we are all the same. I won’t go into an anatomy lesson, but there are distinct differences between men and women.

    Janna, but what about the greatest of all human experiences (in my opinion), which is to give life to a child? Men have a (very) small role in this process, and can be left out all together. My husband and I are not equal in the sense that he will never get to experience life growing within him. He is denied the 9 months where I get to feel the absolute closest to my child that two human beings can be to eachother, and he will never experience giving birth and life to our children. He can’t even create life-sustaining milk to give our children. This isn’t “fair” or “equal”, but it is God’s way. It would be wonderful if he could have that chance, but for some reason (which we do not understand), it is His way.

    ” For many women, having the opportunity to receive revelation to guide a congregation for the better, bless their own baby, give their son the priesthood would greatly enhance their earthly experience because these are opportunities to serve and bless.”

    I have 3 boys. I gave life to them, I nursed them, I feed them, I love them, I teach them, I wipe their tears, I kiss their hurts, I instill in them a love for the Gospel, I guide them, I hear their hopes and dreams and fears…everyday. It doesn’t matter to me if my husband is the one to give my boys the priesthood, or the man down the street, or some stranger that I don’t even know. Why can’t it be me? I don’t know, but I will tell you that I have honestly never thought twice about this. It will not in any way lessen my bond with my son, or my spiritual experience in being there when he recieves this gift.

    I guess I’m just confused about this website. I’m not trying to say this in a snarky or condescending way… I found this website when I was researching my Relief Socity lesson, but all I have found is people questioning and, in many cases, saying things that go directly against some of the teachings of the church. I see people tearing down conference talks (by men and women), apostolic quotes, and their local leadership (male and female). Is this some kind of board for people who kind of believe in the gospel, but not really? Is everyone here a feminist? Because, clearly, if you believe that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, and his mouth-piece here on the earth, then many of these things that are stated here would be troubling at best. I say this in all seriousness, because I really don’t get it.

  28. Deborah says:

    Erin: There is a wide diversity of women’s voices on this site. If you look at recent posts, you’ll discover a meditation on healing and the initiatory, thoughts on body image, lessons on prayer and the holy ghost, questions about mother’s day gifts, and spiritual reflections — from women on a variety of places on their spiritual journey. And yes, lots of focus on feminism, in all its forms. Maintaining a safe and open forum for women of a range of life experiences and beliefs isn’t easy, but we do our best 🙂 Some will consider the site too edgy, some not edgy enough. I love the friendships I have found here and the (generally) respectful tone of the conversations. I don’t always agree with the writers — on both ends of the “spectrum,” but I learn something from engaging in the dialogue, and that’s good for my empathy and my soul.

    Silverrain: Thanks for contributing this post. I love having a window into how others have made peace with this question. I appreciate you candor — both with your history with the priesthood question and your current beliefs.

    Caroline once wrote a post about idealism vs. pragmatism, in wanting change. The gender divide in formal priesthood office is what it is right now. We have a rich history of prophetesses in scriptures and even in the modern church (the title often given to Eliza Snow), but in terms of administration of ordinances and presiding authority, the divide is there. So what do I do? As a pragmatist, instinct is similar to yours, in many ways; I want to promote and encourage the perspective on power that you describe. The washing of each other’s feet . . .

  29. Deborah says:

    For another take, Angela at Segullah has an intriguing post up right now about “natural” womanhood, mortality, and power dynamics.

    http://segullah.org/daily-special/a-natural-woman/

  30. Janna says:

    Erin – It’s totally great that you’ve experienced “the greatest of all human experiences…which is to give life to a child.” I can tell you relish the opportunity you’ve had to birth and mother. I love that you’ve had that experience – and gives me joy that you know and feel its power and importance. However, many women will never have this experience. So, should they be given the priesthood as a consolation prize :)?

    Just teasing! But, seriously, think about it. We cannot equate mothering with the priesthood. Fathering is the only equivalent, and correlating motherhood with priesthood is one of those “mental gymnastics” that we are required to do in order to be okay with all of this.

  31. Erin says:

    Janna, But again, I’m not trying to “equate” anything because things will never be equal between any of us. It is not equal that I’ve been able to bear 4 children, and my cousin is infertile and won’t ever bear children. It is not equal that I live in a nice home and have plenty of food, and there are starving children in much of the world. Some of us find love and some do not, some of us are healthy and some are not, some of us are blessed with worldly wealth and some are not. I’m now 32, but at 25 my body started to give out. I was diagnosed with a rare disease which gives me great pain every day, and could very well shorten my life. But, I cannot spend my life fruitlessly doing “mental gymnastics” over the supposed incongruity of my situation in comparison to others. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Why do I not get a strong healthy body like most other women my age? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. But I know that the Lord knows all, and He loves me more than I can possibly imagine. So, I spend my life being greatful for that which I have been blessed with, and spend less time thinking about things which are both out of my control, and beyond my mortal understanding. I know the Lord will make all things “right” at some point in time. I will someday have a strong healthy body. My cousin will have the children she longs to have. The starving children will no longer suffer. And, perhaps we will be endowed with the priesthood, perhaps not. But I know that in the end “all things shall work together for our good”.

  32. Janna says:

    Oh, I see – sorry, I completely misread your comment. I thought you were making that comparison. Anyway, I really hope that all things will work together for our good as well!

  33. m&m says:

    because they’re inherently less qualified

    Go back and read her post, Craig, because I don’t think SilverRain said this.

  34. Craig says:

    I never said she did. My original comment was referring to comment #6 by Marie T.

  35. amelia says:

    erin,

    you’re misreading the feminist call for equality in precisely the way that most people do. you assume that when i, as a feminist, criticize something for not being equal i mean that i think it should be the same for both men and women. i do not. my call for equality as a feminist is about a few things. first and foremost it is an ideal, one that i think we should strive for. i think it is wrong–even Wrong–to not strive for correct ideals. and the ideal of equality should not be set aside simple because people’s circumstances cannot and should not be the same (you are speaking about circumstances in your last comment; not about equality or fairness).

    equality is about recognizing all individuals as possessing an essential humanness. or, if you want to use mormon speak, as being god’s children. and as a result having the right to access opportunities and resources that will allow them to cope with those different circumstances they find themselves in. there are some things that we can never change. or that we can’t change simply by willing it or by changing our access to opportunities and resources. i, for instance, can’t just wake up one morning and decide that it’s time to marry and get married and therefore having the kind of relationship i hope to someday have. however, that problem of circumstance should not justify the fact that in the mormon church i am a second class citizen because i am unmarried (no matter how much sugar-coated pleasant-speak the leaders of the church engage in, the mormon church is not designed for single adults older than about 30). you cannot wake up one day and make your body whole. but that should not justify you being pitied or scorned or anything else because of that circumstance.

    equality is not about the circumstance; it is about treatment. about access. about recognizing that our different circumstances should not, in an ideal sense, limit our being recognized for who we are or our being able to access every resource possible. the priesthood is a resource. and it is one that could very, very easily be made available to people regardless of race (fortunately already done), class (also already done), nationality (already done), or gender (someday will happen; it’s really only a matter of time).

    the point is that when the ideal can be realized, it should be. it can’t always be. i can’t wave my magic wand and make education available to all the children of the world. we of course work towards making it available. and we don’t sit back and lament the fact that present circumstances are such that education is not possible. who would argue that because the circumstances of girls in Iran and Afghanistan and other places are such that they could get killed for going to school we therefore should just accept that inequality and not try to change it? that would be ridiculous. yet you’re making the same argument about the priesthood. this is the danger of the “god’s ways” argument. it lets us sit back and accept things that we simply Should Not Accept. all in the name of preserving the status quo (that argument is nothing more than an excuse for doing so) and the power structure with which we are familiar.

    i don’t think everyone should be the same. i don’t want everyone to be the same. that is not what i mean by equality. i *do* want everyone to be able to access resources that will help them realize their potential as children of god. i know that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. it is absolutely an ideal, and, because of disparity of circumstance, one that will be very difficult (and sometimes impossible in my lifetime) to realize. but that doesn’t mean we don’t try. and it certainly doesn’t mean that we allow the disparity of circumstance to be a lousy excuse for not trying.

  36. Erin says:

    amelia,

    I appreciate your comments :-). I think I understand you. I agree that we should always be striving and working for an ideal, and you made some excellent points. Here’s my question specifically regarging women and the priesthood. How do you want this “change” to happen? Is it that you are wanting Pres. Monson to change his mind, or that you want Heavenly Father to change his mind? Whose choice are you assuming that this is? Do you believe that Pres Monson is doing things contrary to God’s will?

  37. amelia says:

    erin,

    I don’t think it’s as black and white as “doing things contrary to God’s will.” My belief is that God’s will is for there to be radical equality–everyone has access to every resource or tool that could help her achieve her divine potential. I think that’s what Zion will be like. Not that everyone uses every single resource; not everyone will need every single resource. But everyone has access if they want/need to use something.

    The problem is that we live in a very fallen world. And one of the primary characteristics (in my opinion) of fallenness is sexism. God makes it pretty clear immediately after the fall from Eden that there will be disparities between the sexes (and I don’t think that’s God ordaining what should be; I think it’s him defining what will be; big difference there). As a result, we subscribe to many beliefs about sex/gender that are harmful, both to women and to men. Many of those beliefs have been inscribed into church teaching, scripture, revelation, etc. I don’t think they’re there as a revelation of God’s will or ways; I think they’re there because we (including prophets) filter God’s revelations through our own experience and ideas and as a result what comes out as revelation is usually tainted in some respect. So I don’t think the prophets (Monson or any other) have willfully disregarded God’s will regarding priesthood ordination. I think they’ve simply placed too much trust in past scripture/revelation that has been colored by our fallen state and have, accordingly, not really sought clarification on the question. I think the history of ordaining black men to the priesthood (and allowing black people generally access to the ordinances of the temple) is a pretty good example of that theory.

    Most revelations in the Mormon church are given as a result of asking questions. And I don’t think it even occurs to our leadership to ask some questions unless there are people pushing them to. Unless social evolution and individual questioning make the questions urgent. And even when our leaders start asking the questions, I don’t think they’re always open to God’s will. I think David O. McKay’s experience asking about blacks and the priesthood is one example of that. I don’t for a minute believe it was *ever* God’s will to deny people of African descent access to the priesthood or (and especially) the ordinances of the temple. I do believe that most of the leaders of the church were creatures of their society and time–enough so that they could not understand God’s will on the matter.

    My personal belief (and I think the temple ceremony backs me up on this; as does my father, who happens to be a counselor in our temple presidency) is that women will be ordained to the priesthood. I have absolutely no doubt of that. I think it’s simply a matter of time. And I don’t think it will happen without people like me and other women who write here on this blog (even those like SilverRain who have come to terms with the current modus operandi and accept it as God’s will; SilverRain’s experiences clearly illustrate that there are problems with how the priesthood is exercised, even if she doesn’t think that it should be extended to women)–I don’t think it will happen unless people like us are willing to speak up and ask the hard questions and make it known that we want more clarity about this.

    Don’t know if that fully answers your question, but that’s how I think about the issue.

  38. Erin says:

    amelia,

    But perhaps you are assuming that Pres. Monson and his predessors have never asked God about women and the priesthood. I’m willing to venture that given the political/cultural climate of the past 100 years, that the thought has more than crossed their minds, but been a great question to them. I think maybe many feminists assume that the hierarchy of the church have never asked Heavenly Father if women should have the priesthood…and that they somehow don’t want women to hold the priesthood. I think this does a great disservice to our male leaders. Just because they haven’t told us that they’ve asked doesn’t mean that they haven’t. Perhaps they have asked, and the answer has been “no” or “not now”. I have no doubt that we are not privvy to most of the sacred communication between the Father and the prophet.

    I also hate to see reverse sexism placed upon the males of our church (I’m not accusing you, but I have definately seen other women doing so). I’m sure you know, because of your father’s calling, that the men of the church have huge spiritual as well as temporal burdens placed on them because they hold the priesthood. Think how much easier it would be on them if women could share that burden. I’m sure most men would welcome it. I think to imply that most of the men want to keep us women underneath them is unfair. I know there have been women with bad experiences with unrighteous priesthood holders, and I truly feel for them, but I think this is definately the exception and not the rule.

  39. amelia says:

    well, I would be quite surprised if they were asking with any regularity. but I’m not assuming that the question has never been asked. I *am* assuming that patriarchy is so deeply ingrained in Mormon conceptions of truth and God’s ways that it’s unlikely that any of the leaders in the past and those in office today would be very open to actually getting an affirmative answer regarding women’s ordination. not that they would consciously ignore an affirmative answer; i just would be very, very surprised if they would recognize it.

    I agree with you that it’s unlikely that the men of the church want to keep women beneath them, at least in any conscious proactive way. But subconscious ideas and beliefs are incredibly powerful things and I very much believe that most Mormons, no matter how good they are, subscribe on a subconscious level to very, very sexist ideas about what women’s place is (and what men’s place is; the church is as sexist towards men as it is towards women, just in different ways). I do. And I’m a feminist who makes every possible conscious effort to defeat sexism. And yet still the sexism of the church is there in my subconscious mind. And it wrecks havoc on my peace of mind on a very regular basis. I wish it weren’t so. I so very much wish it weren’t so.

  40. Erin says:

    amelia,
    Is there any room in your mind/heart for the possibility that Heavenly Father does not (for whatever reason) want the women of the church to be ordained at this point in time, or is it just that the prophet doesn’t “get it”?

  41. Janna says:

    I think Erin makes a very strong point about many men possibly wanting to share the burden of the priesthood with women. Also, Erin states that men abusing their position in the priesthood is the exception not the rule – I agree. Generally, I have had absolutely incredible priesthood leaders who respect and love me. I’ve always chalked it up to the idea that Heavenly Father has protected me, but perhaps it’s just a trend (emphasis on trend, outliers definitely exist).

    The problem with giving women the priesthood is that the church would have to do one astronomical back pedal when it comes to the messages that women have motherhood and men have priesthood; therefore, we all have equal power and opportunity to serve in ways that have eternal impact. I do not see this change coming any time soon, but I can hope.

  42. SilverRain says:

    Sorry for the lack of quick response. I don’t have computer access over the weekends, so I’ll try to combine all my responses into a few comments. It will be long, so proceed with caution. If I missed something, it was not intentional. Bring my attention to it, and I’ll try to address it.

    Paul—I don’t know if I can really elaborate in a written forum very well. I’m one of those people who really need to discuss something in order to formulate what I feel into words, but I’ll try. I don’t think God is concerned with human rights. I think He is concerned with human exaltation and salvation. I think that sometimes human rights issues may interfere with the “immortality and eternal life of man” and in those cases, He will allow things that we see as bad happen in order to further “weightier matters” (Matt 23:23) It’s not to say that human rights (or other laws) are not good, just that they are not as good or important as other things.

    Stella—Thank you, I’ve felt that same thing. Faith is about God and His nature. If you feel that, other things become less important.

    Caroline—I think you’re right, that the gospel is for all. I just don’t think that the Priesthood absolutely needs to be part of that. I have come to feel that people who have not been ordained to the Priesthood the way we are used to thinking about it are still in “full fellowship”. As I tried to point out, being a member is also a type of office in the priesthood, with certain responsibilities. The most poignant aspect of the Priesthood that I have missed in the last several years is the freedom to ask for blessings whenever I want them. Even when I was single and unmarried, there was usually an elder not too far distant who I felt I could ask. Now the only people I would feel comfortable asking live too far away. Granted, I can pray in faith, so I’m not cut off from the Lord in any way, but there is something different about a blessing, about hearing another person’s voice speak the words of God to me, specifically, rather than His voice coming into my own mind. I find myself unsure of the voice of God in my mind at times. Of course, that may be why I don’t currently have that daily Priesthood influence. I have a great deal of confidence I need to build.

    belle—Thank you, particularly for your second paragraph. I think that sums up what I feel very well. I know that God does not esteem me as less than anyone else. Because I know this, it is a given that He would not discriminate against me. Therefore, I know that He has reasons for the way the Church is run, now. Although I’d like very much to know those reasons, I am willing to wait until He tells me, and to work within the current framework until and unless it changes.

    M&M—I think you are right, but I’d like to go one step further in clarifying. I think that, in God’s eyes, we already are of infinite worth. We don’t have anything to prove to Him. In a way it reminds me of one of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories I’ve read to my daughter. In “The Fighter-Quarrelers Cure” the two girls stop worrying about who got the biggest ice cream scoop, or the most orange juice. They stop worrying about who gets what, and simply enjoy what they have. That is how I feel, now.

    z (and amelia)—I’m sorry, but I don’t have an answer for you. What I was trying to say before is that your question would be better put to God, Himself. I’m not trying to explain why God does what He does, only share my reasons for being at peace with it. Since you don’t believe in God, it makes sense that you would have trouble asking Him. However, I can’t give you your answer for that question, I can only give you mine, which is not sufficient for you. Only He can give you the answers you are looking for, whether or not you want to ask Him is another question entirely. I hope you don’t think I’m brushing you off. I’m not trying to. I’m just giving you the best answer I have.

    amelia—I don’t believe in a God who micro-manages in the way you mean. I think He works with principles, and lets us utilize our agency within those principles. I believe it has to be that way in order to teach us to be like He is. This life is a time for the training wheels to come off, and He’s not holding onto our back seat any more. We will fall and hurt ourselves (and if you’re like I was with my dad, we’ll probably be furious at Him for letting go, from time to time) but there is a reason for it that I don’t think we’ll understand completely in this life. I don’t know that reason completely, but I’m willing to trust Him when He says there is a reason. All those other “arguments” I mentioned are peripheral to that core belief, and are not meant to convince anyone else, only to enlighten others as to some of the reasons I feel the way I do. And I will reiterate that you are wrong. The priesthood is not about ruling in the sense you mean. Until we understand and truly believe that, we will never understand the priesthood. And if we (both men and women) do not understand the priesthood, we are not really wielding it.

    Erin—Thank you, that scripture you shared has shaped my entire spirituality. I can’t tell you how many times the Spirit has pwned me with that one. 😉

    amelia (again)—I don’t think that line of reasoning is meant as justification, merely a different perspective. And a little off-topic, but interesting: you will remember that Zion was built in a fallen world. If we do not learn to live Zion while in this fallen state, Zion will not come again. Zion is not something that happens to people. It comes from the hearts of the people. The thing about the priesthood is that it does not exist unless it is understood and wielded righteously. If it is treated the way you speak of: as a decision-making, mortal sort of power, it vanishes, and all that is left is human hierarchy.

    I think there is some trouble understanding across the divide of differing opinions. Although you say that the cry for women to hold the priesthood as a matter of equality does not demand that men and women are the same, it seems that it is exactly that. I, and others, believe that women don’t need to hold the priesthood to be equal, to be part in decision-making in the church, and even part of the day-to-day administration. It’s not the same part, but it is an equal one. When a person claims that male-only priesthood must be abolished in order to create equality, it feels like that person is saying that in order to be equal, a woman must be the same as a man, and hold the same priesthood. I suppose I don’t think of the Priesthood as a resource that I am cut off from. Even though I feel a lack, it is not because I don’t have access, but because I’m unwilling to use the access I have. If I did hold the Priesthood, it would make little difference in the access I have to it, since I can’t bless myself. And because the Priesthood is on the earth (no matter how or who) I can “realize [my] potential as [a child] of God” even without holding it myself, or having a Priesthood member in my home.

    But to clarify: it is not that I don’t think women should have the Priesthood, it is that I don’t think they necessarily should have the Priesthood. It seems like the same thing, but it’s really not. I’d leap for joy and do a happy dance, if the leadership announced that women could be ordained to the Priesthood. I just don’t need that in order to be at peace with the Church.

    Janna—The leaders of the church “backpedaled” in 1978. I doubt that that is truly a deterrent to them following the will of the Lord.

  43. amelia says:

    erin, my belief is that God’s will is always that his people live in a zion state. and, since it is my belief that universal ordination is part of that, i suppose my answer to your question is no. i don’t think the idea is that god doesn’t actually want women to be ordained at this point in time. just as i don’t actually think god didn’t want black men to be ordained for a century plus. and i certainly don’t think it was god’s will that all of his children of african descent be denied the ordinances and blessings of the temple for more than a century (think about what that means and how truly awful it is). i think any and all discrepancies between what it means to live in a zion state and our current state of affairs are manifestations of humankind’s fallenness and never of god’s will.

    i agree fully with SilverRain when she says that zion is not something that happens to us; it’s something that we should be proactively developing. while i agree that it’s something that develops in our hearts, i also insist that it’s something that we realize in our world, too. what good is having a pure heart if we don’t let that purity inspire our actions and help push for change?

    and a few points of clarification in response to SilverRain’s last comment (42) (for the record):

    i don’t believe in a god who micromanages either. i do believe that people must be consistent in their professed beliefs. and most mormons i know do believe in a micromanaging god, even when they say they don’t. for instance, i think my parents would deny believing in a micro-managing god but they say that it was a blessing from god that their battery died at costco so they could just run in and buy a new one, borrow a few tools, and replace it. most of us would say we don’t believe in a micro-managing god but we do say that god specifically inspires callings of particular people to particular positions. etc. that’s micro-management. when we literally believe that god puts the name of someone who should be [enter calling here] in the bishop’s head, that’s micro-management. mormons believe in a micro-managing god. at least when it’s convenient to them. and i think it’s ridiculously inconsistent to argue that god cares who gets called to create the program for sacrament meeting but that he would rely on a gross over-generalization like “men need the priesthood so they learn to sacrifice due to their cultural training not to be self-sacrificing” for something as important as priesthood ordination. so yeah. i don’t personally believe in a micro-managing god. i’m much closer to deist on the issue (not totally deist, but that captures how far from the god the micro-manager my belief is).

    and please note that i agreed with SilverRain that the priesthood, as an ideal, is not about ruling or power in a fallen sense. however, i maintain that since we live in a fallen state the priesthood is often (in my opinion very often) wielded in a fallen fashion in order to exercise fallen power. that doesn’t mean i think it’s done maliciously; i don’t think that’s the case. but i do think that priesthood office is regularly used as a mechanism for exerting power, even if those doing it aren’t fully conscious of what they’re doing. and i agree–when it’s treated that way, it becomes robbed of its actual power to act in the name of god. and it becomes little more than hierarchy. and, quite frankly, i see that happening in the church. which makes me really sad. i don’t think it’s either or in the church right now, but i do think that much of the priesthood structure is little more than hierarchy. and i personally think that extending the priesthood to everyone would make that less of a problem. not because women are somehow better than men (not at all; i hate that argument). just because with true universality it’s more possible to get the kind of selfless service that should characterize the priesthood because there isn’t built into the priesthood a subconscious notion that it is a distinction (and trust me it’s there; just take a look at starfoxy’s post from february 26 (sorry i’ve forgotten the code to insert a link). that’s one anecdote but i don’t think it’s all that uncommon as a representation of what happens below the surface of members’ (both male and female) thoughts about priesthood.

    as to your refusal to believe me when i say equality is not about being the same, i don’t really know what to say to that. i never said anything about a woman having to actually hold the priesthood to be equal; my argument was entirely about access and opportunity. quite frankly i don’t think all men should automatically be ordained to the priesthood either. i think priesthood ordination should be an actual choice that someone makes, whether male or female. just as i think being endowed in the temple should be an actual choice; or baptism should be an actual choice. in the current mormon practice none of those things are actual choices, not in any real sense of that word. which i think very blatantly runs against the very principles the mormon church teaches. but now i’m getting off track. the point is that i think ordination should be a choice available to anyone who wants to make it. and i don’t think there’s equality until that choice is made available to everyone. again, the equality is *not* dependent upon everyone actually holding the priesthood (or being the same); it’s dependent on access and options. i’m perfectly happy to have other women think differently about the question; i’m not so happy to have them refuse to hear what i’m saying and to put words in my mouth, regardless of what it feels like to them.

  44. Janna says:

    SilverRain – Good point about the backpedaling! Well, hopefully, that bodes well for women receiving the priesthood at some point.

  45. SilverRain says:

    amelia—I don’t think that considering things like the battery story you used as blessings from God means that He micro-manages. I think many blessings come as natural outgrowths of God’s principles. I think many things we see as blessings are just things that happen, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t thank God for them when they do happen and consider them blessings. Inspiration is certainly not micro-managing, assuming the bishop asked for that information either formally in prayer or informally through his way of life. Again, there are certain principles He sets forth which govern such things.

    And I wouldn’t say I refuse to believe you. Nor am I trying to put words in your mouth. I’m trying to communicate by giving you feedback as to what I hear when you say certain things, to give you the opportunity to clarify, rather than just assuming I understand what you mean. I’m pointing out that it is difficult to understand because what I hear you say sums up to an insistence that woman have to have the same things to be equal to men, yet that women do not have to have the same as men to be equal, only the opportunity to have the same. That confuses me.

    Your sentences about choice with such things also confuse me. Correct me if I’m misunderstanding, but it seems that you are inferring that in order to have choice, that choice must be a) completely free of restriction and b) without undesirable consequence.

    I also see partly where we disagree. I don’t feel that ordination to the Priesthood should be a choice to anyone but the person granting that authority. I don’t believe that anyone has a “right” to the Priesthood. I believe it is a gift from God. With that in mind, I’m not going to tell God how He should grant it, nor complain because it isn’t exactly the gift I was wanting.

  46. amelia says:

    I suppose I just don’t understand how this:

    “you assume that when i, as a feminist, criticize something for not being equal i mean that i think it should be the same for both men and women. i do not”

    is unclear. How much more clear can I get than to state the assumption and then disavow my belief in it with the words “i do not”? and yet, even having read that, you suggested that my argument amounted to calling for men and women to be the same.
    The fact that you could read those words (which are very, very simple and straightforward; very black and white about my position; and let me reiterate: men and women being equal does *not* mean men and women being the same) and still think that my call for equality is a call for men and women being the same–well it’s hard to see that interpretation of what I said as anything other than either refusing to hear or putting words in my mouth. And frankly, as a feminist, I’m sick of other people telling me what I think. especially when I’ve said so clearly what I think.

    what I am saying is the following:

    1. for there to be the *ideal* of equality (which is what we should be striving for), everyone has to have the opportunity to access resources.

    2. not everyone has to actually use the same resources; they just have to have the choice of whether they want to use those resources.

    I’m just not sure how that is confusing. Use education as an example. For there to be equality between two people, each must have the opportunity to gain an education. That does not mean that they have to avail themselves of that opportunity. There is no difference in terms of equality between my brothers who have not gone to college and I who have spent the best part of the last 18 years pursuing multiple degrees. The point is that we all had the option to choose and we chose as we felt was appropriate for ourselves. I’m calling for the same approach to ordination and ordinances within the church. I think that approach is the one that God would sanction. My opinion; no one has to agree with it. But I just don’t get what’s so confusing about that.

    In talking about choice I said nothing about either restriction or consequences. I’m not sure where you got the conclusions you reached about what I had to say about choice. I have no problem with there being “restrictions” on how one accesses resources. For instance, I don’t think I should just be able to walk into a bank and withdraw anyone else’s funds; I have to put in the work to earn those funds. It’s not a problem for me if the church has restrictions like worthiness or age on who can be ordained. Anyone, with effort, can meet the worthiness requirement. If ordination is worth it to an individual, she can make that effort. And, barring unforeseen and unfortunate early demise, we all will accomplish the age requirement. But to restrict it along lines (like sex or, previously, race) that make it impossible for entire categories of people to ever access a resource–that is discriminatory by definition. The church and its members should have enough honesty to at least admit that, instead of making stupid, convoluted arguments about motherhood being the equivalent of priesthood (not saying that you, SilverRain made that argument; just pointing out a very common attempt at justifying an obvious inequity–and one that frankly doesn’t work since not all women are mothers. of course the church/members make equally if not more stupid arguments about all women being mothers, too; but i digress).

    As for consequences: of course every choice has consequences, and some of those consequences could be “undesirable.” And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But those consequences should be made as clear as possible in advance (something the church is really very bad at in many ways). Obviously not every consequence can be anticipated and I don’t think such natural uncertainty should be a deterrence to making a choice, but those consequences (both good and bad) that can should be clearly identified to the person considering the choice.

    As far as whose choice it should be whether an individual is ordained, I agree that God clearly has a role to play in that choice. I did not mean to imply that I thought people had the right to simply demand to hold the priesthood regardless of God’s willingness for or restrictions on how that happens. However, I do think there are differences between who God would grant access to and who the church grants access to. Mormons are far too eager to assume that church practices are sanctioned by God just because they are church practices. As I said above, I think that it is God’s will that all of his children have the opportunity to be ordained to the priesthood. I think the temple makes that very, very clear (though there are certainly other things the temple leaves a bit confusing).

    so yeah. God is clearly one party to the choice of the priesthood. I would agree with you about spiritual gifts from God. When God bestows a spiritual gift, he is the only one making the choice (although we are encouraged in scripture to seek after spiritual gifts, so it’s entirely possible for me, as an individual, to choose a spiritual gift and attempt to cultivate it and to ask God for it). But priesthood is a very different beast than a spiritual gift. God does confer it, so he has a part to play in the choosing. But I don’t think it works the same way as say the gift of tongues. I don’t think God just willy nilly confers the priesthood on people without their input. Implicit in the worthiness restriction is that an individual has to make some effort to choose ordination. And, beyond that, I think they should carefully consider what it means to hold the priesthood before choosing whether or not to accept an ordination. Priesthood ordination comes with obligations and commitments and an increased level of responsibility. The person ordained should have the right to choose whether they want to accept that (and just turning 12 is not making a choice; nor is the simple fact that someone has maintained their worthiness. For instance, I know many women who are worthy to receive their endowments but who have not chosen to do so and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t know why priesthood ordination is any different [except for practical and somewhat manipulative reasons like keeping wards staffed]). That’s what I meant when I said the church doesn’t allow for choice when it comes to ordination. Every twelve year old boy is ordained (i’m sure the choice not to be ordained could be and sometimes is made; but cultural pressure being what it is, I’m likewise sure it is made infrequently and that that choice comes with unnecessary and very destructive negative consequences). I don’t think that’s right. Just as I don’t personally think any culturally enforced child baptism is right. And I don’t think the way we approach the endowment is right. There is no real, informed choice involved in either of those ordinances as they are currently performed in the Mormon church. That, in my mind, is a clear violation of the central tenet of agency.

    so yeah. I’m not saying that I, as a child of God, have the right to inform God what he has to offer me by way of spiritual gifts. I’m simply saying that when it’s something like an ordinance or an ordination, which are two-way choices involving obligations and commitments from both parties for them to even happen, there should be choice. Real, informed choice where the parties making the commitments are as fully aware of consequences and the details of the commitment as possible before they are asked or, as is the present case in the church, culturally compelled into making those choices.

    as far as micro-managing goes, I completely agree that we should thank God for all the good things in our lives. And that the simple act of thanking God for a blessing does not imply that he micro-managed. However, i should have been more clear that the car battery occurrence was interpreted as God arranging for the battery to die when it did where it did, rather than it happening elsewhere. which seems a very clear case of micro-management interpretation. and when it comes to calling people, i do think that we usually interpret such inspiration as a form of micro-management, as God putting a very, very specific answer in someone’s head. That’s micro-management, not just inspiration. i concur that when we live in keeping with God’s will, the spirit will guide us in our decision making. And I concur that when we ask God for guidance, we are often offered spiritual guidance. I do not think that such guidance comes in the form of specifics that are transferred directly from God’s will to my brain. To argue that it does is, in my opinion, to argue for a micro-managing God. In other words, if I pray asking God for guidance about where I should move and I conclude that I should move to Boston, I don’t think that that specific answer came from God as an explicit manifestation of his precise will. I do think that God would point me in a general direction through his spirit and leave the specifics up to me.

  47. Caroline says:

    I just wanted to say, Amelia, Janna, Erin, and SilverRain, that your conversation here has been enlightening for me. It’s helped me articulate my own thoughts on this topic, and to have a better understanding of where both sides are coming from.

    It’s refreshing to read a prolonged conversation on a topic like this that so often just devolves into one side saying, “You’re an apostate for not having faith in our current leaders” and the other side saying, “You’re a blind sheep who is willfully ignoring the sexism that permeates church structure.”

    Thanks!

  48. Craig says:

    A god who doesn’t completely support human rights and equality for all people is one which scares and disturbs me, and am very glad not to believe in. A god which is ok with the subjugation of women and subhuman treatment of gays for some nebulous “eternal principle” is one which is petty and capricious and ego-maniacal. I don’t know a single human parent who would treat their children in the way that any monotheistic religion purports god treats us. And if a human parent did, they’d be put in prison so fast.

    No, a loving god wouldn’t care what kind of genitalia you have or whom you fall in love with or whether you believe in her/him/it or not. He/she/it/they would not be helping you find your lost keys or helping you get that promotion while children are being sold into slavery and raped and murdered daily. Nothing could excuse a god who would let that happen, but still interferes in our lives where it matters least.

  49. z says:

    SilverRain, I appreciate your cordiality throughout this post, but I don’t really understand what you’re saying. I understand that you’ve reached a place of peace and I don’t anticipate being able to talk you out of it, even if I wanted it. As I read your original post, I think you’re saying the gender-exclusive priesthood makes sense to you because most men have certain experiences and characteristics. I’m pointing out that God is thought to approach people as individuals quite frequently, and asking why a blanket gender rule is good enough for something as important as the priesthood supposedly is. Do you still think that your initial statement about gender-based generalizations as a reason for feeling at peace with a gender-exclusive priesthood makes sense, in light of the question I have raised? Or would you rather support your feeling of peace with other reasons instead?

  50. SilverRain says:

    amelia—It is clear that you are frustrated. I’m sorry for my contributions to that.

    Craig—There have been many times I’ve been furious with my mortal parents, and believed that they couldn’t possibly love me when they did ________ to me. Now that I’m a parent, I see that I often do things my children neither like nor understand because I love them, and I want better things for them. I don’t think that God ignores human suffering. I do think that He is working for much greater things than mere “equality”. How else could He watch us kill His Son and stand by and do nothing to stop it?

    z—Neither one. 😀 It’s hard to communicate this, but I’ll try again. I’m not putting forth anything as “the reason” for gender-exclusive priesthood. What I’m trying to do is give a series of thoughts and understandings that I came to in my journey to reach peace. Any one of those things would not really be enough to “excuse” something that has caused me extensive and ongoing emotional pain. (And don’t mistake the peace I have found with painlessness.) The real, core, reason that I’m at peace is because the Lord has shown me who He is, that He is aware of me more deeply than I am of myself, that the LDS church has His authority to act in His name, and that He wants nothing less for me than exaltation. Knowing that He is working for that goal, and feeling with all my heart that He is powerful enough to bring me back to my Father again is enough for me. I trust Him. I know that He is “mighty to save”. With that knowledge, I am willing to wait until He can teach me what He means by some of the things He does, or allows His servants to do (it is the same). I don’t have any answers, I don’t have any reasons why things are the way they are. I have several things that make sense to me as why they might be that way, and I have some things that don’t make sense to me. Without Him teaching me why He does what He does, I don’t know.

    This post is not intended to be an argument; to say “this is the evidence/reasons why the Priesthood should be the way it is”. It is intended to be a “I support this Priesthood structure, despite the inequality and the pain it has brought me. These are a few of the things that the Lord has taught me as I’ve struggled over this matter with Him. Take it or leave it, as you wish.” That is why I titled it “The Priesthood and Me”, not “The Priesthood and Everyone”.

  51. z says:

    So you’re saying your argument about stereotypical male experiences and characteristics makes sense to you as a reason why the gender-exclusive priesthood might make sense? That’s the best I can do at understanding what you are saying. I don’t know why you have this take-it-or-leave-it attitude, though.

  52. Deborah says:

    Silverrain wrote: “I don’t have any reasons why things are the way they are. I have several things that make sense to me as why they might be that way, and I have some things that don’t make sense to me.”

    I really really appreciate the humility and honest of this statement. I compare your responses in this post and thread to the experience Eve describes in her post:

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2010/04/18/truth-claims-pluralism-and-people-of-concern/

    . . . . and I see such an opportunity for empathy and bridge-building in your approach. Your sense of absolute is a trust in a loving God . . . followed by “maybes,” “perhapses,” “here’s my experience,” and “could bes.” That resonates with me, though some of our “wonderings” might be different.

    A new convert shared with me an experience that helped keep her in the church. She had gone, in rage and tears, to her RS president. She had found out something about church history that disturbed her. Rather than make her feel bad for asking or giving her platitudes, this wise sister said, “Yeah, I don’t know. Here are some possibilities, some musings, how I have made peace. But I don’t know. Here’s is what keeps *me* in the church even when I don’t . . . Your path may be different, but I promise to be a listening ear whenever you need it.”

    Anyway, thanks for this.

  53. SilverRain says:

    z—It’s not an argument, only a possibility that makes sense to me. And the take-it-or-leave-it is because I’m not going to try to prove it to anyone. Much like Deborah above discussed, I can’t work out a reason (or argument) that makes sense to someone else, or that someone else can find peace with. I can only share what has helped me.

    Deborah—Thank you. It’s good to know I’m not completely miscommunicating. 😀

  54. z says:

    I guess I’m just surprised that your argument makes sense to you, given the objections I have raised.

  55. Elise Weston says:

    Dear Silver Rain,
    You are so articulate, and you expressed so well how I feel about the church, the priesthood, and the Savior. The structure of the church is okay with me, because the purpose of the priesthood is to serve. It’s all about service. My life as a mother of 6 taught me complete unselfishness, and the priesthood offers the same kind of refining. Thank you so much for your willingness to share your heart and for the time you took to express your thoughts so well.

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