I Want…(Can’t Say It)


Back in 1996, I watched an episode about Mormonism on 60 Minutes, including an interview with then current LDS church president, Gordon B. Hinckley.  The part of the program that most impacted me was when the report stated that Mormon women did not want the priesthood.

I had wondered if Mormon women wanted the priesthood. Now national television was announcing that we didn’t. But how did they know?  Did they ask Mormon women?  Which ones? No one had ever asked me.  I had never even asked myself.  Why would anyone bother to inquire?  Everyone knew that Mormon women wouldn’t admit that they wanted the priesthood, so why ask them?

But now that I was thinking of it, how had I learned the taboo against expressing interest in the priesthood?  There was no commandment along the lines of, “Thou shalt not say out loud that thou desirest the priesthood if thou art a woman.”

Fast forward about ten years, to the first time anyone ever asked me if I wanted the priesthood. I was having a casual conversation with other Mormon women. I said some things that seemed harmless to me but gave away my feminist leanings.

My comments shocked someone who blurted out, “Do you want the priesthood?”

The way she said it, it sounded like, “Do you want to bomb an orphanage?”

I reflexively answered, “No,” because I had nothing against orphans.

To be honest, I hadn’t actually considered whether I wanted to have the priesthood. But now that I was thinking about it again, it didn’t seem at all unnatural to me that anyone—male or female—might wish they could receive the priesthood; based on all that I had learned about it at church, the priesthood was supposed to be a very good thing.

Fast forward again to the present.  I am finally becoming brave enough to think about whether I would like to have the priesthood—but not to talk about it. If I brought up the subject among a group of traditional Mormons, I imagine that the crowd would run and duck for cover to avoid the lightening they would expect to strike me.  Even my most optimistic forecasts involve a certain degree of social censure from my Mormon community.

TabooIf we could fast forward a few more years into the future, I hope we would find that the taboo has been broken. What if Mormon women felt like they could openly discuss whether they wanted the priesthood extended to all worthy members without regard for gender?

At the least, reporters and LDS church presidents would have more information to work with when they discussed what Mormon women want.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is an advocate, mother, professional, lover of the arts, hater (but doer) of housework and seeker of truth. Twitter: @aprilyoungb

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96 Responses

  1. EmiG says:

    Just yesterday for the first time I dared to put my thoughts on this down on paper – well, computer screen. Not particularly coherently, but I actually typed them out and saved them. This was a big step for me…

    “If the priesthood is truly the power of God and about serving others, why would it be an unrighteous desire for a woman to want the priesthood? Aren’t we supposed to become more like Christ and like our Heavenly Parents? Shouldn’t we desire to serve others and have the ability to serve them? Not having the priesthood limits my ability to serve others within the framework of the church. I can’t serve in certain callings for which I’m otherwise qualified. I can’t give a blessing to my children, those I visit teach or others. I can’t serve as an official “the mouthpiece of God” in providing comfort or counsel to those in need. I can’t participate in the preparation of “most sacred ordinance,” the sacrament, stand in the circle to ordain my son a deacon, or even hold the microphone for my children’s baby blessings. Not because of any worthiness issues, but solely because of my sex.

    “I don’t desire the “power” or “authority” or “dominion” that comes with the patriarchal priesthood. But I do desire the greater ability to serve, to know that my voice is heard and taken seriously, and to function as His hands in a wider capacity. How could that be unrighteous?”

    • Caroline says:

      I think you are right on, EmiG. If priesthood is a unique ability to serve and bless the lives of others, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any human saying that they would like to hold it.

    • Steve Lowther says:

      Women used to lay their hands on the heads of both men and women and gave blessings. It was not until the 1920s that this was officially forbidden. From the journal of Joseph Grafton Hovey:

      July 4, 1847. When I arrived at Winter Quarters, Mother Kimball had called a Female meeting. Brother Joseph Young was to preside….Sister Laura Pitkin spoke a few words and said she had a blessing for me. Mother Kimball called me to the chair and Sister Laura asked me if I would receive a blessing under her hand. I said I would so she laid her hands on my head and spoke in tongues….

      So over the years, Church culture has become narrower and narrower as to religious practices, including women giving blessings and even members practicing glossolalia, “speaking in tongues”.

      • Steve Lowther says:

        This is as it was in the time of Joseph and Brigham.

        Why did the Brethren change the policy on this? Why did the Lord see it necessary to disenfranchise the sisters? Or was this another matter of just policy but not scripture as President Hinckley pointed out about the blacks in his interview with Mike Wallace.

        It seems the blacks holding the priesthood followed the same pattern. Elijah Abel was a black man ordained by Joseph Smith. This was supposed to be the precedent. Brigham Young knew this but permitted Bro. Abel and his descendents to be the only ones ordained.

        President Hinckley said all that was “behind us now”. I am wondering if a future prophet will give this answer to a reporter about women and the priesthood?

        The underlying question when a reporter asks that preceding question is “If you are the True Church, how can you so mislead your people?” It is a tough question. And the answer will be “This Church was restored by God. It is led by men. Men make mistakes.” I thought that was why it was necessary to have God’s authority in the first place: so serious mistakes that impact their charges well-being are not made. To me that is the value of listening to your critiques rather than make it a sin to criticize the leaders of the Church.

        They should not have it both ways. Either they need to listen to their critiques or they need to lead flawlessly, never stumbling in the slightest. Loyal opposition, a Divine benefit in my opinion, should not be suppressed.

    • Ziff says:

      Love your comment, EmiG! Great points!

    • April says:

      EmiG, thank you so much for your comment. I admire you for writing out your feelings about female ordination–something I myself haven’t done yet. It is people like you who will help us break this silly taboo against talking about such an important subject.

    • Peter says:

      This, even skipping through some posts strained my short attention span! This has been a great discussion with some brilliant points made. I would love to have a few minutes in a room listening to all of you say your piece and also feel the emotion behind the words!

      I have such a differenet perspective. I have struggled for over 30 years in the Church feeling it favours women so much and feeling the rhetoric so demeaning to men. Both men and women demean men in Church. I wonder if this is because men feel guilty they have the priesthood and want to compensate women by saying nice (usually sickly) things about them while degrading themselves? Is the reason so many women are obsessed with their imaginary superiority likewise related to making up for the priesthood? Maybe in some cases. My feelings were summed up by a sister who told the ward about her son who said he was sick of all the men bashing at Church. He said “I thought we were all supposed to be on the same side?” Great insight, as it seems so often there is a competition rather than a co operation! To me there is no place for this in the true gospel, but of course thats just my opinion and it seems a minority view!

      As I read through these comments, I find myself more than a little impressed with the depth of thought and balanced consideration so many of you have. We all have different views and in large measure this is because we all have different perspectives. Perspectives are not divisible on the grounds of gender alone. If men and women swapped roles in Church on a permanent basis men would be feeling many of the variety of feelings women have expressed and vice versa.

      It is my personal opinion that we only see what we want to see. Or what we will allow ourselves to see. I am tempted to believe that all men and women feel there is something amiss about the priesthood only being for men whether they admit it to themselves or not! I believe the idea that the priesthood compensates for motherhood is demeaning to men and is just an imaginative excuse. I believe it has nothing to do with it.

      Some women will feel more agrieved than others that there is no female voice in the upper hierachy of the Church because such things matter more to them than it does to others. There is no one order of importance these feelings ought to take! We are all different and need these differing views to obtain a balanced one.

      We all defend ourselves with denial when our values are challenged. A men only priesthood has been around a long time and the thought it could be extended to women challenged my preconceptions. At first I would definitely have said a simple “NO” and found any logical reason not to accept it. However the more I have learned and looked at all aspects of history I can no longer do that. I believe women are right to feel the priesthood should also be theirs also. I now see it as both desirable and ultimately inevitable if we are to be truly “ALL on one side”!

      The priesthood should never be an article of superiority. I am a human being first, priesthood holder second. It is a dangerous dogma to believe someone is superior than someone else because of it!

      • amelia says:

        Peter, for what it’s worth, I’m completely with you in feeling like the church too often denigrates men. I simply do not believe half of what is said–for instance the notion that men are inherently spiritually retarded in their development or less than women. And I also get very frustrated by the fact that the church chides men regularly for problems which it actually directly contributes to (I see pornography consumption as one of these; if we had a more healthy attitude towards sexuality and could address it without the extremes we currently use, I think we could deal with pornography much more productively without resorting to the constant assault that’s currently used).

        I’m sorry you’ve felt demeaned as a man by the rhetoric of church leaders and members. It’s not right. That reality is an important aspect of my own (and I think most others’) Mormon feminism. Feminism is not just about women’s issues; it’s about gender equality. And it’s no more right for men to feel demeaned than for women to feel that way.

        Thanks for speaking up about your experience here.

      • EmiG says:

        Yes – what amelia said! 🙂 I have three boys (ages 9, 6, and 3) and that is a major concern of mine as they grow up. I don’t want them to absorb the idea that they are either inherently better than girls (because they “get” to hold the priesthood) or inherently worse than girls (because they “need” to hold the priesthood). Feminism for me is about gender equality and being judged on one’s own merits rather than one’s gender.

  2. Boston H. Manwaring says:

    Two questions for you. What makes you think men want the priesthood? Many would, I’m sure, rather not have to worry about the responsibilities associated with it. Also, what power, authority and dominion do you think really comes with the priesthood? Sure, a bishop can hold a court, and sure an idiot husband can “pull rank” but these are extremes. Most priesthood holders of my acquaintance really have only power to serve, to bless, and the responsibility to run meetings. You ladies are, as far as I am concerned, welcome to all of that.

    • Casey says:

      @Boston: It seems you’re reducing the role of priesthood to relatively mundane temporal tasks of blessings and administration. I’d argue that those are by no means trivial – women absolutely should have a voice in church leadership and be able to call on the power of God to bless others as men can, and in spite of your personal broadmindedness, they are not “welcome to all that” in the church today.

      However, the real problem is theological: listen to the expansive rhetoric used to describe priesthood in our sermons and our publications. It is the power that sustains and upholds the universe, of God himself! Given that LDS doctrine holds the promise of deification, it’s a little problematic that, by the way, that awesome power is for dudes only. Sure, there’s an eternal role for women – there’s a Heavenly Mother (who we aren’t going to talk about) and you can sort-of infer the promise of universal priesthood from some Temple ordinances, but for the rest you’re going to have to trust the (entirely male) leadership…meanwhile, we tout the blessings and benefits of priesthood constantly. So whatever the solution, issue like this matter a great deal.

      • Boston H. Manwaring says:

        I agree. Women should have all that and more if they want it. Let them. What harm will it do? Open up the gates and let them have at it. The big secret is that there really is not much advantage to having the priesthood. Sure, you can bless your family when they’re sick or nervous about a test. You can baptize people and sit up front during meetings. Other than that, it’s just meeting after meeting and, really, who needs that? Let the ladies have it if they want it. I’m willing to share. In my experience the real, tangible, meaningful spiritual blessings of living the gospel have nothing to do with authority and everything to do with personal righteousness.

    • Jenn says:

      I don’t know that the women of the church feel any less responsibility or obligation. “To whom much is given, much is required”… or how about “your job is to raise righteous, well-adjusted children”. Want to feel pressure and responsibility? Read Sister Beck’s “Mothers who know” talk. I disagree with the idea that the priesthood inherently carries more responsibility than the woman’s typical role (which is supposedly our consolation prize for not having the priesthood): child-bearing and motherhood. At least for men, their priesthood is entirely in their control. Child-bearing and motherhood is variable dependent on the woman’s health and the child’s free agency. Talk about pressure.
      I’m not arguing women have it harder than men- actually, my husband is both the priesthood holder in our family AND the main child-rearer while I work, and I think he undeniably has it harder and bears more responsibility than I do. The point is, everyone could have access to the same responsibilities and choices so they could do with them what they could.
      As for the second question, women leaders not only hold meetings and make important decisions- they are having hold that responsibility while simultaneously showing deference to priesthood authority and waiting on decisions for a priesthood stamp of approval.

    • amelia says:

      two replies:

      1. What makes you think that the OP concludes that men *do* want the priesthood? I didn’t see that assertion in the OP. The closest thing to such an assertion is this: “it didn’t seem at all unnatural to me that anyone—male or female—might wish they could receive the priesthood; based on all that I had learned about it at church, the priesthood was supposed to be a very good thing.” Which is not an assertion that men do want the priesthood but rather a statement of belief that it’s not unnatural for anyone (male or female) to want something good.

      2. Your assertion that there is no real authority or power associated with being ordained to the priesthood is simply ill-founded. All of the organizational power in the church is channeled through the priesthood. All of it. And that shapes and influences how people behave and to whom they listen. Certainly there are those who are open and generous enough of heart and mind to consider the input of anyone, regardless of whether they are ordained and whether they are male or female. But just as often, there is an implicit and systematic prejudice in our system that those in priesthood office know better than those who are not. Given these facts, I find it rather disingenuous to make the claim that priesthood doesn’t authorize anyone to do anything except conduct a meeting or two, with some service and blessings on the side. If that was all it was, priesthood wouldn’t be necessary and instead we’d simply ask the best people for the job to do those things.

      • Boston H. Manwaring says:

        Granted, I read a bit between the lines, conflating the opening post with other things I’ve read: mea culpa.

        But as for your second reply, you sort of restated my point. Meeting after meeting after meeting. That is how the church is run, and frankly, you ladies can have it if you want it. Nothing special or magical or unique or sacred, just people sitting around making smart and/or stupid decisions to the best of their ability. I saw no evidence of any sort of revelation that depended specifically on priesthood power to receive. Inspiration common to the human animal, yes. Where “priesthood power” means running things, it’s no different than any other organizational authority. Where “priesthood power” means service, it is unique in the world, but women are better at service than men many times, so why not let them have it too?

        The real question is whether the women of this church have the chutzpah to petition the Lord en masse through his prophets to let them have the priesthood. You should try it and see what happens.

      • amelia says:

        I don’t think you see the gist of my second point, Boston. It’s not about just running meetings, whether smartly or stupidly. It’s about systematic, institutional inequality. And as long as “priesthood” is used as a justification for excluding women from positions of operational power, then there’s a real problem here. One that is a hell of a lot bigger than just running the meetings. The systematic, institutional sexism of a male-only priesthood has real-life ramifications for all of the members of the church, both male and female. I’m with you on opening up the priesthood to women. And I think it should be voluntary, not essentially mandatory (I know that many apologists would argue that it already is voluntary, but it’s not. Not really. Not when acceptance in the most important communities that matter to someone means you have to “volunteer” to be ordained).

        Also, I simply disagree with you that women are better at service. I know men who are every bit as good, if not better, than women at service. I suppose we can’t answer the nurture/nature question definitively, since it’s a rather chicken-and-egg kind of question, but I do think we can refrain from making definitive statements that feed into existing prejudices and stereotypes, many of which are harmful (and yes, I do think this is one of the harmful ones).

        I also don’t think that’s the real question. The women of the church have essentially what amounts to a form of Stockholm syndrome insofar as they have been indoctrinated into not only not speaking up about this basic inequality, but also into not even seeing it. Yes, I realize invoking something like Stockholm syndrome is a little extreme, but it conveys the basic point: that women have been trained by the church–its leaders, its members, its culture–to not even see the inequality, let alone complain about it. So no. I don’t think the basic question is whether women have the chutzpah to speak up and petition church leaders to seek further revelation. Before we hit that question, I think we first have to hit the question of how we get people to open their eyes and see what’s right in front of them.

      • Justin says:

        “It’s about systematic, institutional inequality…”

        What if the answer is that things are not the same because there is no equality. There are more women in the world. Women in this generation are better educated than the men. Why haven’t women just taken over? They have the numbers. Why not just do it. You all know that in a reverse scenario, the men sure would.

      • April says:

        Boston–I agree with you in many ways. From my observations, priesthood holders are frequently running meetings, either smartly or stupidly, depending on their personal talents and effort, and the priesthood does not magically make them any better at it. People with or without the priesthood could probably do the same job equally well. When I think of it that way, I wonder why it is so important that someone have the priesthood to do administrative tasks. However, in our church, administration over mixed male/female adult congregations is a privilege (or burden, depending on your perspective) only offered to people with the priesthood. If these leaders/administrators are simply using their human abilities, without any extra insight coming magically from priesthood power, it is all the more important that they have all the tools they need to accomplish these tasks successfully. I see the exclusion of half of the congregation from the pool of qualified people available to fill leadership roles, as well as the lack of female perspective in leadership, as important barriers to wise administrative decisions.

        Like you, I am curious about what would happen if the women of the church petitioned the Lord and/or the male leadership of the church for female ordination. (I am not sure about which of these two parties is responsible for the current priesthood exclusion for women.) And I, personally, am trying to get up the “chutzpah” to be more open about my feelings on this matter. But as I described in my post, there are enormous cultural barriers to speaking freely about this topic that must be overcome. If you would like to learn more about such barriers, let me refer you to these posts:

        http://www.the-exponent.com/2009/06/18/good-mormon-feminists-vs-bad-mormon-feminists-the-dividing-line/

        http://mormonchildbride.blogspot.com/2012/04/it-feels-right.html

        Justin–Taking over would be interesting. Any ideas about how we could do that? Even where the institutional barriers have been largely removed, men still get to be in charge most of the time. As an example, see this infographic:

        http://www.the-exponent.com/2012/04/12/guest-post-miss-representation/

  3. Abigail says:

    Sometimes, in my head, I have sang the song “If I were a rich man” but just changing the lyrics “If I were a bishop”.
    Wouldn’t it be just great to talk to youth and sheperd them with the authority and power of God?
    Wouln’t it be just awsome to have compasion for the needy and be an instrument in the hands of the Lord for providing them?
    How would it feel to neel down and feel the promptings of the Spirit for having this brother or this sister for this or that calling? How about placing hands on their heads to appoint them for furthering the Lord’s kingdom?
    How would it be like to use my mother inners to show God’s unconditional love and acceptance to someone confessing gravous sins?
    How would it be like to bless my kids and husband in their challenges, being an instrument of the Lord, but using my unique female voice?
    Oh, and the amazing joy of, maybe when elderly and wise, be able to give people, men and women, a Matriarcal Blessing, a blessing of joy and aw just like unto Ann and Mary and many others.
    Lord who made the lion and the lamb, you decreed I should be what I am, will it spoil some vast, eternal plan if the priesthood could I have?

    • April says:

      I think it is unfortunate that, like Mhana, I frequently hear people making very un-mormony statements in church about how great it is that we ladies get out of responsibility and service, but I never hear comments like Abigail’s at church, although her comment seems much more consistent with the gospel principles we believe in as part of our faith.

  4. Mhana says:

    It is strange to me when women vehemently say they DON’T want the priesthood. As you say, it is a power to bless others. Furthermore, since when to Mormons gleefully shy away from responsibility and opportunities to serve? Yet over and over women say they’re grateful they don’t have to deal with it. But they’d never say they’re grateful they got out of taking meals to the needy etc. I think very few women truly engage with the question (myself included) because it is so taboo. Saying you want the priesthood is implicitly questioning whether the current order of things is of God, which sounds like questioning or even speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed. Saying you don’t want the priesthood is a way of affirming that you honor the prophet. But the question really should be separate from that — if it were announced that women COULD have the priesthood with the blessing of the prophet and the apostles, I’d bet a lot fewer of us would be announcing we don’t want to serve, or bless, or be blessed in our turn.

  5. Nate Curtis says:

    In my experience, most Mormon men tell me that women already have the priesthood. The interesting thing I see is that they will tell me this one-on-one, but then in a larger EQ meeting they will not say the same thing.

    Even some of the most orthodox men I know believe women have the priesthood, are given all the same rights and privileges associated with the priesthood in the temple, and even perform priesthood ordinances (washing and anointings).

    I am especially surprised at how many men admit that their wives have given their children or their husbands “blessings” by the laying on of hands (which is, in and of itself a priesthood ordinance).

    I am currently reading “In Sacred Loneliness” which is an excellent historical account of all of JS wives. The book is so well done, that even FARMS (or whatever they call FARMS now) gave the book their stamp of approval. As I read, I am bookmarking each historical account of women using the priesthood.

    I am 100 pages in (only 3 of the 33 wives) and I already have 10 bookmarks on the topic. The most surprising to me was an account of one of JS wives who was asked by brigham young (in SLC, well after the exodus) to take Young’s personal carriage and go “lay hands” on a sister who was ill. They took young’s carriage across the town of SLC, passing dozens of worthy priesthood holders who all could have performed the ordinance, and these three women, “anointed and blessed” their ailing sister.

    If ever there was an account that debunks the “emergency blessing” folklore, this is it.

    Obviously, I regularly ask people at church whether or not they think women have the priesthood. I think I will start asking whether or not women want the priesthood as well. It is a fair question.

  6. Erin says:

    I really can’t decide if I would want to hold the priesthood since I’m not very active within the church anyways. But this reminds me when my daughter (10) asked me why girls can’t administer the sacrament. I don’t know enough about church history to answer the question properly. This has given me something to really think about.

  7. mari says:

    The comments in this thread lead me to believe that most of the commenters don’t understand the most basic doctrines of the church. I don’t mean to sound judgmental, but this is basic 101 stuff, and I don’t understand the mind set. I am looking to understand this mind set, because I have friends who have gone on this wacky feminist mormon trip, and I just don’t get it!

    EmiG said, “Not having the priesthood limits my ability to serve others within the framework of the church. I can’t serve in certain callings for which I’m otherwise qualified. I can’t give a blessing to my children, those I visit teach or others. I can’t serve as an official “the mouthpiece of God” in providing comfort or counsel to those in need.”

    – In my mind, EmiG, it seems like you don’t understand your full potential. You already have the potential to be so much, why do you limit yourself? No, you can’t be an Elder’s Quorum president or a High Priest group leader, or a Young Men’s leader, or a Bishop or whatever. But you CAN serve in countless numbers of other callings, some specific to women, that men can not serve in. You can give blessings of healing, based on your faith, you just can’t do it in the name of the priesthood. If you truly have faith, and if God is willing, that person will be healed. It’s really no different than administering a priesthood blessing. You can not “officially” speak for God, to other people, that is true. You can provide comfort and counsel to those in need, though. You don’t need the priesthood to do that!

    Casey said, “women absolutely should have a voice in church leadership and be able to call on the power of God to bless others as men can, and in spite of your personal broadmindedness, they are not “welcome to all that” in the church today.”

    – Casey, as far as I have seen, women do have a voice in church leadership. Most bishops I know make sure they clear things with their wife, the Relief Society, Young Women’s, and Primary presidents before they act on things that could affect the entire ward. Our current stake president looks to his wife constantly for advice about callings and how to run meetings and such. It depends a lot on who is in leadership, and what the women in the ward are like.

    Jenn said, “women leaders not only hold meetings and make important decisions- they are having hold that responsibility while simultaneously showing deference to priesthood authority and waiting on decisions for a priesthood stamp of approval.”

    – Jenn, where this is technically true, I haven’t yet met a RS president who has ever had a bishop/priesthood authority tell her no. The whole chain of command thing is in place for a reason, though, and that is to keep the whole church running smoothly. The thing you have to keep in mind, though, is that all positions of leadership in the church have to show deference to priesthood authority and wait for the priesthood stamp of approval.

    Abigail said, “Wouln’t it be just awsome to have compasion for the needy and be an instrument in the hands of the Lord for providing them?
    How would it feel to neel down and feel the promptings of the Spirit for having this brother or this sister for this or that calling? … How would it be like to bless my kids and husband in their challenges, being an instrument of the Lord, but using my unique female voice?”

    – Abigail, I answered most of this already, but I’ll point out that if you’re ever in a presidency, you do have the right and privilege of kneeling down and feeling the promptings of the spirit for having this brother or sister for this or that calling. As a mother, you do have that right and privilege to bless your family in their challenges (and receive promptings for them as well).

    Mhana said, “…over and over women say they’re grateful they don’t have to deal with it. But they’d never say they’re grateful they got out of taking meals to the needy etc… if it were announced that women COULD have the priesthood with the blessing of the prophet and the apostles, I’d bet a lot fewer of us would be announcing we don’t want to serve, or bless, or be blessed in our turn.”

    – Mhana, I am often grateful when I get out of taking meals to the needy. I will happily say that, because I am not crazy. I love helping people, don’t get me wrong, but I have a lot going on in my own life, and there are times, when if I don’t have to bring a meal to Sister So-n-So, you better believe I’m grateful! If hell freezes over and the priesthood does suddenly become available to women, I’d be ticked. I don’t want it. I have enough to do. I’ll desire the priesthood as soon as my husband can get pregnant with, and then nurse our babies.

    Nate said, “I am especially surprised at how many men admit that their wives have given their children or their husbands “blessings” by the laying on of hands (which is, in and of itself a priesthood ordinance).”

    – Nate, the laying on of hands isn’t specifically a priesthood ordinance. To be able to lay hands on a person and annoint and bless them with healing was privilege given to all worthy church members back in the day, and it continues to be a privilege to all worthy members today, but most members don’t understand or realize that. What was forbidden was women calling on the priesthood power in order to annoint and heal. It’s not necessary, but in order to lay hands and annoint and heal without the priesthood, one must have a tremendous amount of faith in the blessing they are giving. That’s why it doesn’t happen much anymore.

    I think why the comments on this thread baffle me so much, is that I was always under the impression that feminists were a strong, confident bunch of women who felt like they could do anything. Why, then, do you limit yourselves so much? So what if you don’t have the priesthood? Why do you let that make you less of a person than a man who holds the priesthood? You don’t have to have a dangly part to write your name in the snow! You just have to do it differently than a man would do it.

    I hope nobody takes my comments as offensive or as an attack. I’m only telling how I see things and I look forward to an open discussion on the subjects. If I’m wrong (and I often am!), please don’t hesitate to tell me. I’m here to learn! 🙂

    • amelia says:

      Mari, again you say you want to understand the feminist Mormon perspective. And you say you don’t mean to be judgmental. But you then go on at length (far too great a length for a comment on a blog post) about how those participating in this conversation are lacking and weak and fail to understand, etc., etc., etc. I’ll say it more directly this time: saying you’re not judging doesn’t mean you’re not. You are judging, and you are doing so very clearly and in a way that borders on a violation of our comment policy which asks those who participate here not to insult or personally attack others, particularly based on their worthiness or their personal beliefs.

      If you genuinely want to understand what and how Mormon feminists think, you will need to sit back and read and listen with charity, rather than with an eye for what Mormon feminists think that is Wrong (at least wrong based on the Gospel according to Mari). If you really do want understanding, then you’ll have to be willing to grant that what we’re saying comes from a place of honesty and strength, not a place of sinful weakness. If you genuinely want to understand, try asking other women whose perspective you don’t agree with why they feel that way, rather than telling them how they should feel. When all you do is tell us all how wrong we are, I can’t help but find your claim to want to understand Mormon feminists rather disingenuous.

      • mari says:

        No, Amelia, that’s not at all what I was saying. My replies to specific people were simply to share what I have seen in the church and why I don’t understand the feminist mindset. I always come off sounding like a know-it-all when I type. Sorry about that! And yes, I write too much, but I’m just trying to explain where I am coming from, and I’m not great with talking to people, especially ones I don’t know, so I tend to over do it at times. I’m just hoping to share more so you can know me, and maybe that would help us know each other and understand each other.

        NO NO NO!!! No, I truly don’t think your thoughts come from sinful weakness!

        I’m sorry if that is how I made you feel. It wasn’t my intent at all.

    • DefyGravity says:

      Claiming you aren’t judgmental doesn’t mean you aren’t. If you were truly interested in understanding, you would be asking questions to clarify things you don’t understand, and/or expressing your personal experience. But instead you are telling everyone why they are wrong. Your understanding or experience with doctrine is yours and does not speak for everyone. So disagreeing with you does not mean that people don’t understand doctrine, because you are the end all-be all of doctrinal definitions. It just means they disagree with you. If you really want to understand, listen and ask questions.

      • mari says:

        It wasn’t my intent to tell people they are wrong, but to tell MY own experience and why I don’t understand. I was just sharing my own perspective and what I have seen. You’re right. My experience is not everyone else’s experience, and that’s why I was sharing. Going back and reading it, though, it does sound like I was just telling everyone they’re wrong. For that, I apologize.

    • Ru says:

      Mari, for a second I thought about replying to some of your concerns and criticisms thoughtfully, with an effort to maintain a dialogue, despite your tone which I find extremely judgmental and combative. Then I got to to

      “Why do you let that make you less of a person than a man who holds the priesthood? You don’t have to have a dangly part to write your name in the snow!”

      Someone who has to accuse other people of penis envy is not someone I want to bother with. If you really want to talk to people on here, you should really consider your delivery. It’s clear you don’t really respect the people you’re talking to if you can boil down all their opinions to that and I don’t have the energy to try to talk to someone who doesn’t respect me.

    • EmiG says:

      Mari, it would perhaps be more helpful next time to reply to each person’s comment individually instead of putting them all in one reeeeeeally long comment.

      As for what you mentioned in regards to my comment, I have been a member of this church for all of my 34 years, graduated from 4 years of seminary, attended (and graduated from) BYU on a presidential scholarship, and I’ve served in many callings – both visible or “prestigious” (YW President, Gospel Doctrine teacher, etc.) and behind-the-scenes with little fanfare (nursery music leader, choir pianist, etc.). I’m very well aware of my “full potential,” as you put it, within the framework of the church and to be blunt, your insinuation that I don’t understand “basic 101 stuff” is offensive. If you truly desire to understand the mind set of us “wacky feminist” types – and I hope you do – it helps to not approach us with the mind set that we are “wacky” or ill-informed on the “basic 101 stuff.”

      Yes, there are “countless” callings I can hold as a woman, but there are also “countless” callings I cannot hold as a woman. By definition, that is a limit – and not one I’m putting on myself.

      I’m glad if you feel comfortable giving “blessings of healing” by the laying on of hands, but most orthodox members I know would be at the least weirded out by that, if not think it worthy of disciplinary action, and assume that is a priesthood privilege only. I agree that God will certainly answer the faithful prayer of a woman just as readily as the faithful priesthood blessing of a man, but why then is there such a distinction in the church today?

      As a visiting teacher, friend, parent or in a calling, yes I can give comfort and counsel and I do. But it lacks the “authority” that comes from being an official mouthpiece during a blessing of comfort.

      The influence you described women having comes almost exclusively through their husbands (i.e., your stake president listens to his wife) or by the good graces of the men in priesthood leadership (and, unfortunately, not all of those in leadership positions are willing to listen). That is hardly equitable.

      • mari says:

        EmiG, you are right. I really need to work on my commenting skills. It’s not something I do on a regular basis, but I REALLY am interested and want to learn about this whole feminist mormon mind set. “Wacky feminist mormon trip,” is how one of my mormon friends who turned feminist, described the process she was going through. It stuck. I thought it was funny. I’m sorry (looks like I’ll be saying that a lot today!). I didn’t realize it would come off so offensively.

      • DefyGravity says:

        It might have helped for us to know the source of that phrase, because we don’t know your friend and that phrase is not one we generally use as a group. And considering the tone of your comment, how were we to know that you were joking? There is no indication whatsoever that anything you said was meant as a joke, so you can see how people would be offended at being called whacky and having a difficult process called a “trip.”

      • EmiG says:

        Hmmm…I can’t respond directly to you, Mari, so I hope you see this anyway.

        Thank you for the apology. I recognize that commenting online can be tricky and it’s difficult to strike the right tone and word choice to convey what you mean. And I can certainly be a bit defensive when I feel people are questioning my level of gospel knowledge and commitment. So I’d be glad to start the conversation over with an acknowledgement of good will and intentions on both sides.

    • alex w. says:

      You lost me at “wacky feminist mormon trip.”

    • Spunky says:

      Mari,

      You asked, so I am answering: You are wrong. I won’t count the numerous ways, because that would be so off-topic and lost on you. But suffice to say, your judgement of “wacky feminist Mormon trip” was the first un-Christlike judgement, and leads me to conclude that you haven’t a heart that is converted to Christ.

      • mari says:

        Ummmmm, sorry? I won’t say wacky feminist mormon trip anymore, hadn’t realized how offensive it was, and man, I’m feeling the love right now. It was meant as a joke, not a judgment.

    • April says:

      Mari–I appreciate your apologies for how rude you have been to the people who have commented on my post. I am glad you are interested in participating in a more constructive way in the future.

      With regards to your comments, it appears that you have been very fortunate to have had a lot of male church leaders who are sensitive to women. I think that is great and agree that there are many men like that in the church. However, male priesthood leaders are not required to accommodate the views of female subordinates and have the explicit authority to veto any of their decisions, while women do not have such authority over men. I see this as inherently unequal, and unlike your exemplary leaders, there are many men who choose to utilize this authority over women by not listening to them and by vetoing their decisions, and they have a right to do that.

      • mari says:

        April, are your feelings/opinions based on experiences you have had or witnessed with authoritarian priesthood leaders (is authoritarian the right word)? Or have you had experiences like mine in the church? Or both?

        I’m just trying to get a sense of where you’re coming from. If this is the wrong place for that discussion, point me in the right direction and I’ll go there. 🙂

      • April says:

        Mari, I have had experiences with both kinds of leadership. However, my opinions are not solely based on personal experience.

  8. Stella says:

    Mari, you said:

    “The comments in this thread lead me to believe that most of the commenters don’t understand the most basic doctrines of the church. I don’t mean to sound judgmental, but this is basic 101 stuff, and I don’t understand the mind set.”

    I hate to inform you of this since you “hate to be judgmental” but that’s *exactly* what you are being. To assume that those of us who have been born and raised in the church do not understand the most basic doctrine is not only wrong, but it is offensive. Just because you “don’t understand” it, doesn’t mean that the ideas presented are not valid, hopefully you are open minded enough to understand that.

    • mari says:

      You’re right, Stella, it does sound offensive. I hadn’t meant to offend anyone. I was attempting to share how things, “sounded,” but at the same time, I know that’s not how things are. I don’t know if that makes any clearer sense. Obviously, from the number of unhappy comments to me here, I don’t explain myself very well. Sorry for offending you.

  9. Lala says:

    Mari,

    I can understand the points you’re making. I appreciate that you see the laying on of hands as available to all of us. And I thought it was funny when you said you’d like to have the priesthood only after your husband can nurse and have babies.

    I understand you, but I also share April’s feelings. No matter how much I attempt to wrap my mind around it, the whole thing still just feels terribly unfair to me. We can give our own kind of blessing-ish things and we can “influence” our bishop and stake president husbands, but it’s just not the same. It’s just not taken as seriously and it’s just not fair. God’s church should be fair. If this is truly God’s true church, and if God is truly perfect, then his church should be fair. Not in the “maybe someday we’ll understand” way, but in the “I have the light of Christ and this feels wrong to me” way.

    I, like everyone else on this blog, just want to do and belong the right things. And this gap between men and women in the church just stinks of inequality and as much as I wish I could see it another way, I just can’t.

    • mari says:

      Thank you, Lala, for actually seeing past my judgmental sounding remarks to understand my perspective. And thank you for sharing your feelings. (and if I did say anything you found offensive, I’m sincerely sorry for it!)

      I see what you are saying, but I haven’t experienced anything like what you are describing.

      I often wonder if it has anything to do with where individual women have lived and experienced “mormon life,” and what the mormon women were like in each place? Did that make any sense?

      NOT discounting your feelings at all! Your feelings are yours, and are based on your experiences, and though I don’t agree with them, that doesn’t make them any less real. Maybe I’m the wacky one! 🙂

  10. DefyGravity says:

    http://agitatingfaithfully.org/home

    Are you familiar with this site. I’ve been having trouble getting it to load, but it’s a list of people who believe women should have the priesthood, pulling from Hinkley’s idea that there is not agitation for the priesthood.

    I could rant about this for a long time, but suffice it to say, lack of priesthood is painful for me, because it means that male leaders can ignore me and reject me if they they choose to. I will never have decision-making power, I must confess to a man, every ordinance is through men. They can do what they wish, and there is little I can do if I disagree. It’s one of the reasons I don’t go to church very often; I feel useless and pointless there.

  11. Cowgirl says:

    I don’t really get the Priesthood thing. Of course, if I say that at church I hear the same things I’ve heard for decades now so I don’t bother. Here’s my problem. I believe that I have seen people call on the power of Heaven to do certain things. But I don’t believe that a good, loving, Protestant or Catholic or Muslim or Jewish man is less able to call on the powers of Heaven in curing somebody or receiving revelation than a Mormon man. And I don’t believe a woman is either. I’ve never understood the teaching that ordained men have the power to heal or whatever and by implication everyone else doesn’t. When I was a child my mom always taught me that women held the Priesthood and could perform blessings and I always believed her. But sometimes this isn’t what people mean by Priesthood. They mean being a man in the church who was ordained and hence is eligible for the administrative hierarchy. I can completely understand why women would want to be part of this Priesthood. But I’m conflicted. I’d like for other women to participate in our church hierarchy because I think women’s perspectives would benefit the church (and me, by extension). But I know that once women can have leadership positions there will be lots of pressure to accept them, whether a woman wants them or not. And I personally don’t want them. So I see two different version of Priesthood and I feel differently about them and then I wind up confused.

    • mari says:

      I sort of get this comment. I often wonder what the difference is between a “priesthood” blessing of healing, and one given by a non-priesthood holder. They both depend on the faith of the person giving the blessing, the faith of the person receiving the blessing, and the will of God, so what’s the difference? I was never told we had the priesthood as women, but I was always told we had access to whatever specific blessings we needed through prayer.

      MY experience with the hierarchy of the church, has always been that the Bishop and his counselors, plus all the auxiliary presidents (including primary, young womens and relief society) , would counsel together and decide things for the ward. I’ve never known any of my own bishops to decide anything without first consulting with the auxilaries. I’ve seen the same thing on stake levels, but I haven’t had close up experiences with every stake I’ve been in, so I couldn’t swear they’ve all been that way (they, being the one’s I’ve been in). So I have always believed that women’s perspectives are taken into account with church leadership.

      But that is just MY OWN experience.

      Having been in the RS presidency, and dealing with everything that entails, I wouldn’t ever want a priesthood leadership position either!

      • DefyGravity says:

        I’m glad you have had positive experiences with priesthood leaders. Up until recently, so have I. But even before I had a negative experience with a bishop making threats, I struggled with men holding the priesthood, because even if some men choose to get women’s opinions before making decisions, they don’t have to. As a priesthood holder, they can not get women’s opinions, or they can ignore them. They can make decisions without women’s input for women in their stewardship, whereas women have no men over 11 in their stewardship, and cannot make decisions about the women or children in their stewardship without male approval. They don’t just get male advice, men need to approve their decisions, and have the power to disapprove what they believe to be right for the people around them. I’ve seen that with callings in Primary and RS; women who are intelligent and capable won’t or can’t make a decision without talking to the bishop. It hurts me to see these women unable to make a decision, to move forward, to do the calling they were set apart for because they can’t do anything without male permission.

        So for me it isn’t just about my experience. It’s about the system itself allowing men to ignore women and forcing women to seek male approval and permission. That just isn’t okay to me, although it doesn’t bother many women in the church.

  12. Mhana says:

    Mari said “No, you can’t be an Elder’s Quorum president or a High Priest group leader, or a Young Men’s leader, or a Bishop or whatever.”

    I think this comment underlines a fundamental misunderstanding of the feminist critique of male leadership, at least as I think of it. There is a big difference between the first category, which has EQP, HPGL and YMP in it, and “Bishop or whatever.” The difference is that the first category ministers to men and boys, and has a female equivalent in the Relief Society President and Young Women’s Leaders. There is a sound argument to be made that separate is inherently unequal, but the fact that there are gendered equivalent programs also can serve a purpose. “Bishop or whatever” — whatever meaning presumably Stake Leaders, High Council Members, Area Authorities, Seventies, Apostles, General Bishopric, First Presidency etc. are entirely closed to women and have no female equivalent. That does matter. It means women’s voices and perspectives are not heard in the meetings where crucial decisions about budget, policy and doctrine are made. The exclusion implies a spiritual inferiority that no amount of conciliatory talks can really palliate. It means that on a disciplinary council, a woman never sees her peers in judgement. It means a woman confesses her sins to men who have never been in her shoes and cannot imagine her options or experience. The priesthood isn’t just about blessing your children — I believe women already have that. The priesthood is also about administrative authority and you can’t begin to pretend that women have that. The Relief Society President is completely subordinate to male leadership in terms of her budget, focus, lesson content etc. She is in no way equivalent to the Bishop — she doesn’t even sit in Priesthood Executive Council where ward decisions are made. Priesthood and mother are not complements. Your husband will never carry or bear your child, but you will never be a father. I think we can all agree that being a mother goes far beyond pregnancy and that women who have never been pregnant can still be mothers. Mother and father are divinely appointed complements to each other — both are necessary to bring children to this earth. It is a false comparison that obscures true inequality to pretend that priesthood power is the complement to motherhood. Mother and Father. Priest and Priestess. Queen and King.

    • EmiG says:

      Excellent, Mhana.

    • Kmillecam says:

      What made me giggle was the whole “why are you limiting yourself?” followed by “sure you can’t be x, y, and z…” Ooookay. Sounds like the patriarchy has the limiting under control!

      • DefyGravity says:

        I had the same response; who is limiting who here?

      • mari says:

        Yeah, yeah, yeah…. go ahead, make fun of the rookie! 🙂

      • DefyGravity says:

        I believe we are expressing confusion; it’s the patriarchal system that says women can’t hold certain callings, and women asking to hold those calling is saying we do not wish to be limited. So how are we limiting ourselves by wanting more opportunities that are denied to us by the patriarchal system.

    • Stephanie says:

      Mhana,

      I totally agree with your excellent points about how we need more women’s voices/advocates/perspectives in the Church leadership, and I often think that “priesthood” can unfortunately be used as an excuse to exclude women from traditional male areas (especially in employment areas that have nothing to do with church callings).

      But I’m not sure I totally agree with the idea that priesthood is not a compliment to motherhood. I agree that numerically they are not equal – a man is both a priesthood holder and a father (2 roles), whereas a woman is just a mother (1 role). But is it possible that those two male roles are still equivalent in importance to motherhood/mothering? For instance, just because one child had two nickles and another child had one dime doesn’t mean that the child with the dime is less equal or less valuable.

      I am not sure if this is correct or not, but I do often feel like the influence a mother has in her home and in her children’s life is just as powerful and important as a man’s combined fatherhood/priesthood role. In fact, I have wondered if the main purpose of priesthood is to help men be better fathers, and that all the administrative malarkey about who gets to be in charge of which groups and responsibilities in church is mostly just tradition and sometimes chauvinism.

      • Ru says:

        I would disagree with your assessment in a few ways. One, I don’t consider fatherhood to be a nickle to motherhood’s dime — I think that really devalues the contributions fathers make to their children, esp when you consider part-member families where the father is not LDS. So what, his parenting skills are still only worth half of what his wife’s are, since he doesn’t have the priesthood to “make up” for it? Or the priesthood holder with no kids — he’s forever “less” than the mother down the street?

        Second, I will never stop being frustrated with the motherhood = priesthood explanation because it’s ALWAYS followed up with, “Oh yeah, for all you women who don’t get married or can’t have kids, you will in the next life. So sorry.” (Once you’ve been the footnote to nearly three decades of talks, you’ll know what I mean.) So I don’t have a dime at all? And why is every nominally worthy male given the priesthood at age 12? Why is there no “Oh, so sorry you didn’t get the priesthood this go around, Bobby, you’ll have it in the next life”? Because priesthood is given based on gender, no questions asked. It cannot be the equivalent of motherhood, they are totally different concepts.

      • mari says:

        “But I’m not sure I totally agree with the idea that priesthood is not a compliment to motherhood. I agree that numerically they are not equal – a man is both a priesthood holder and a father (2 roles), whereas a woman is just a mother (1 role). But is it possible that those two male roles are still equivalent in importance to motherhood/mothering? For instance, just because one child had two nickles and another child had one dime doesn’t mean that the child with the dime is less equal or less valuable.”

        I love this explanation. This is more where my line of thinking falls about the priesthood, except I would say womanhood, and not limit it to just those who are mothers.

        I know plenty of incredible faithful women who aren’t mothers, who have contributed as much or more to this world than some of the most faithful priesthood leaders I know.

    • mari says:

      “There is a big difference between the first category, which has EQP, HPGL and YMP in it, and “Bishop or whatever.” The difference is that the first category ministers to men and boys, and has a female equivalent in the Relief Society President and Young Women’s Leaders…. “Bishop or whatever” — whatever meaning presumably Stake Leaders, High Council Members, Area Authorities, Seventies, Apostles, General Bishopric, First Presidency etc. are entirely closed to women and have no female equivalent.”

      Aaaahhhh, your thought process makes better sense to me now. I don’t agree with you, but I do understand a bit more of what you’re saying.

      I guess I’ve always seen the RS presidency and the bishopbric as equals. I know, technically it should be RS presidency and EQ presidency, but I’ve always lumped the EQ in with the bishopbric (maybe because the EQ usually takes on a lot of the bishop’s responsibilities when the bishop isn’t around). I’ve never been in any RS presidency where we were ever made to feel subordinate to the bishopbric. Most often, if it’s something the bishop has to, “approve,” we’ve always just told him this is what we’re doing. I can’t think of a time we’ve ever had to ask permission for anything. This is just MY experience, though. I’m in no way saying you’re wrong.

      So far, in all of the RS presidencies I’ve served in, the RS president has always attended PEC. I don’t assume it’s like that in all wards, but that’s how it’s always been in the RS presidencies I’ve been involved with.

      I’m not saying you are wrong, because I can’t. I haven’t experienced what you have experienced. Maybe my experiences are unusual, I have no idea.

      • Mhana says:

        What you’re talking about is based on benevolence. That women always attend PEC in your experience is not because women are entitled to — they are not priesthood, or executive. It is because the Bishop sees it as practical, or right, not because women have any right to be in that meeting. A Bishop would be entirely justified in excluding women, and many do.

        Also, the point is that the Bishop “approves” what you do. Your Bishops may be benevolent and always approve what you do. But if they chose not to approve your budget, programs, lessons etc. there is not one thing you could do about it. Your autonomy is not real autonomy. It is predicated on the benevolence of the Bishop, and that is a pretty chancy proposition. If he really hates what you’re doing, he just has to release everyone. You might not feel subordinate or powerless, but in a real sense, you are.

    • Annie says:

      Your last sentence says it all.

  13. alex w. says:

    I wish I had a good answer to “do I want the priesthood?” because I feel like I ought to, but I also feel like my answer wouldn’t be valid because I’m thoroughly inactive.
    Hmm. I’ll say that women having the priesthood is on the list of things that I’d need before I could give myself wholeheartedly to the LDS church again. For now, I’d prefer to attend church somewhere where men and women are on equal footing and get equal respect and responsibility.

    • Boston H. Manwaring says:

      @Alex w.: I am active, and I can say with assurance that I would have preferred not to receive the priesthood, if only to avoid the numerous hours spent in meetings. If the priesthood meant strictly: bless the lives of others through ordinances and blessings, etc., then fine, I can accept it wholeheartedly. But leadership? Not for me. I spent many years in bishoprics and high councils and I am to the point where I will refuse the next such calling just out of bored frustration or frustrated boredom. I just don’t care anymore what a bunch of stuffed white shirts have to say on any topic.

      • alex w. says:

        It’s entirely possible for a man to hold the priesthood and to take for granted his representation and whine about all those hard responsibilities, and it’s possible to be grateful for the opportunity instead, and it’s possible to say “No more” when they have enough on their plates.

        But women? We don’t have any of those options. We CANNOT say “yes, I’ll accept this priesthood leadership calling” and we cannot say “no, I can’t accept this calling right now because of x, y or z.” We cannot look at top leaders and see someone who is like us. We aren’t represented.


        My dad & I don’t understand each other much on the topic of religion, but I’ll always admire & respect his choice to ask to be released from a leadership calling when it took him away from his family too much.

  14. Stephanie says:

    I absolutely do want the priesthood. In fact, I agree with Nate that both righteous men and women “have” the priesthood, and I really think that someday I will have the full authority to “exercise” it (probably the next life), whereas now I just have limited authority. Also, because I was aware of those historical accounts of women giving priesthood blessings in the early church history period, when my daughter was born, I would often lay my hand on her soft head and say a little mothers blessing on her before bed (without invoking any formal wording). Is it the same thing my husband could do under church authority? No. Does that bother me a little? Yes. But I am working on being patient. I know the church isn’t perfect. I know God has often wanted to give the church/Christians truths they weren’t ready for or willing to understand (think of Moses and the children of Israel), and so in the mean time I’m trying to trust in the Lord’s timing. But one reason I like doing initiatory work at the temple is because that’s one area where I think we see women coming closer to exercising the type of “God’s power on earth” that I hope will continue. Thanks for the enlightening post and discussion!

  15. Creatrix says:

    In an effort to understand my obsession with Mormon feminism and some of my feelings, my husband actually asked me the other day if I wanted the Priesthood, or specifically, if I thought I should be praying as to whether I should have it. I answered that I did not feel comfortable praying about it, but mostly because I’m not worthy of it. I’m not very active right now. However, if I were, I think it would be a different story. I admire these discussions, and totally feel the need to get this issue out there enough that it is not a taboo subject.

    I do envision a future where the women of the church are authorized the Priesthood, out of their righteous desire for it. I hope it happens.

    • Annie B. says:

      I’ve not been very active for the past few years either but just recently got called as a nursery leader, so I’ll be leading nursery, even if I won’t be going to sacrament meeting (still too much anxiety there), but even if I were not going to church at all, I’ve come to a point where I no longer equate my worthiness with how active in the LDS church I am. I now believe my personal worthiness, spirituality, and relationship with God are independent of my loyalty to the LDS church organization. Just thought I’d share that. You may be more “worthy” than you think. I also hope someday women in the LDS church are granted priesthood, but I’m not holding out for it.

      • Creatrix says:

        I guess I’m thinking worthy in the “temple worthy” “priesthood worthy” sense that does require active membership, among other things. But, thinking about it, it may be detrimental to use the term “worthy” for having met these requirements, as I feel that all children of God have equal worth. Perhaps, “temple ready” or “priesthood ready,” or simply “prepared for the temple” or “prepared for the priesthood” could be used.

        I hesitate to admit that I am inactive because I still consider myself so loyal to the church and the gospel, and want to be completely active again. Through my own life experience I am challenging my assumptions of what inactive members can be like. I do not feel faithless, bitter, angry, or lost. I feel lonely, and tired, and eager to find strength and and true friendship from church.

  16. CZ says:

    I have 3 children under 4 (the oldest is a girl) and the church works for us for the moment. I wonder though when they start to get older if the structure and the gender division will disrupt their spirits. I really worry about them. I worry about how my older daughter will reflect on herself. In fact I was trying to read a holy ghost book to her before bed and I rolled my eyes about 20 times and got pissed about the how the picture of the girls and boys were portrayed. I ended up skipping half of it. so hard…..

    • mari says:

      If you don’t mind my asking, what was it about how the kids were portrayed that you found so upsetting?

      I have 4 girls. The oldest two are very much aware of the differences between themselves and boys, and the 3rd is just beginning to catch on (#4 is still a baby). They do have inequality issues (I’m not sure if that is what you are referring to?), but it’s because I accidentally raised them to feel completely superior to all males (their father, included). It’s something I’m trying to fix now…

      Your kids will learn to respond to themselves, their gender, and gender division by watching how you respond to those things. Just be aware of the things you say in front of them, because even the smallest uttered phrase can have a big impact on their minds. I hadn’t realize how much my sarcastic MAN comments had affected my girls until the past couple of years and I’m STILL trying to fix it! It’s getting better though.

      SOOO, do your best teach them to love themselves and to love others unconditionally, regardless of whatever physical differences they might have, and they will (and I’m willing to bet you’re already doing that anyway, thus rendering this advice completely pointless and serving no one but myself, as it is helping me procrastinate feeding the monsters).
      🙂

  17. Bekah says:

    Since I have a new calling with the YW & I get to teach my second lesson on the Melchizedek priesthood this Sunday, I am curious to see what kind of questions the girls ask. When I taught primary, I frequently had 5 & 6 & 7-year old girls ask why women didn’t hold the priesthood. At what point do we as LDS women stop asking that question? Or cease to feel comfortable asking it out loud? I have tried to make sure that I respond to such questions in a validating manner (to let them know that there is nothing wrong with asking questions like that) and to make sure that part of my answer includes the phrase “we don’t know”, not “God wants it that way”. How much nuance we add to the conversation depends on the age, maturity level and curiosity of the class, but I am trying to be prepared for some questions on Sunday. In fact, I will be disappointed if they don’t ask any. Maybe I need to plan a way to talk about it in case they don’t.

  18. MB says:

    I get the same question as I teach children in Primary. My usual answer is similar to yours:
    “I don’t know, but that will change someday, so you might want to think about being ready for that.”

    If it helps, with my seminary students it was the same, combined, as needed, with an overview of changes in who officiated in priesthood ordinances in Old and New Testament times, a review of the evolution of priesthood responsibilities in 19th century church history, discussion of the 1978 revelation, my testimony of things I’ve learned from temple ordinances and my understanding of celestial life as described in the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

  19. Ru says:

    I don’t know how to explain it, but I’ve always been very ambivalent about the idea of women getting the priesthood. I’m not against it, I’m not for it. But then again, I feel that way about a few things in church. (Long story.) What does bother me is the way institutional power in the church is tied to the priesthood, but that’s also a story for another day.

    So I’ve been thinking, “Aside from the fact that I am on the fence, why do other Mormon women seem to be so emphatically AGAINST it?” This might be a crazy thought, but this is what I’ve come up with — they’re afraid of the unknown.

    What happens when women are ordained and they don’t feel any different than they did before? What if they don’t “feel” like they are exercising the power of God? Men go inactive at far greater rates than women, for a lot of reasons we can probably only speculate about. What if women fear that one of the reasons is that they’ve seen behind the curtain are are unimpressed with Oz? I think some women are secretly worried that it might be a sham, and they don’t want to find out for themselves. On the flip side, what if women get it and find out it’s just as power-trippy as man continually tell us it isn’t? Again, many women secretly probably don’t want to find that out, but won’t admit it.

    To be clear, I’m not saying that the priesthood is a sham or a source of corrupting power, but I’m saying that it’s possible women (subconsciously or consciously) fear that it might be, and are therefore happier not knowing.

    • Ru says:

      To further illustrate how I came to this conclusion — every time this topic comes up, inevitably some priesthood holder makes the statement, “I don’t know why women would want the priesthood. It’s been a giant hassle for me.” These sort of statements go to reinforce my first theory — that women fear that the priesthood really isn’t anything special. How many times do you need to hear a priesthood holder say, “Oh yeah, the priesthood isn’t even that great” before you take it seriously?

      PS, and a total side note. How many priesthood holders are REALLY called at 2AM to give someone a blessing across town? It never happened to my dad, but apparently has happened to every other man in the church …

  20. kamisaki says:

    This post touched on so many emotions I feel about this church. I still haven’t found just the right way to express my opinions about how I feel about this, and ultimately, it comes down to whether I want to be in this church or not. The essence of the gospel, I still believe at this point. I believe in the Book of Mormon, that it was translated, that J.S. had a vision. However, that’s pretty much where my allegiance ends. Everything from that point forward has been questionable to me, and seems dictated by the opinions and desires of men, rather than what God’s plan really would be. I don’t believe in an unjust and unequal god. So, I don’t believe a god would bring “the truth” back to the earth, and make it exclusive….for any period of time….against blacks, women, gays, (and, unfortunately, there is an “etc” at the end here. We’re masters of exclusion in this church). I don’t believe God would exalt one sex over another if that god created all beings to be equal. And, you can’t say “that’s all behind us now”, because the exclusion of blacks was put forth by ordained members of the church, by “prophets of god” who will “not lead the people astray”. Apparently, if “that’s how those leaders interpreted doctrine at that time”, then they weren’t actually prophets of God, because the god we tout and worship is “unchanging”. What a sad excuse for unconscionable behavior. And that’s all it is: an excuse. I try so hard to teach my kids to stop making excuses. We have it in large letters on our family room wall “No Excuses”. And yet, I am asked to take them to church each week, and be “educated” by nothing but excuses. It’s aggravating to say the least.

  21. So I must admit I’ve only skim read the comments–but I like what a lot of people have to say. Here’s my two cents:

    For me personally, I can live without the priesthood. Of course, I’m pretty much out of the door at this point. Even if women were given the Priesthood, I couldn’t hold it because I wouldn’t be worthy in the eyes of the church because I like to drink tea for its health benefits (among other reasons).

    That being said, if I were to stay, the biggest problem I have is that the Priesthood power (i.e., the ability to perform blessings and ordinances) is inextricable from authority (i.e., presiding over individuals). I’ve heard all the arguments that women actually hold the Priesthood, but I feel like they are pretty weak. If endowed and/sealed women hold the Priesthood it is in a latent or highly, highly limited state.

    Now to the point, I wonder what would happen if we separated Priesthood power from Priesthood authority. Women can go to the temple as 12-year-olds and later get their endowments and be sealed without the Priesthood more or less. Men can’t. We are told that women may receive personal revelation over who they have stewardship over. Doctrinally, couldn’t women receive callings like Bishop or Stake President without the Priesthood? It still would be a sticky situation–and I know there would be issues with this scenario with a women becoming a Prophet because it’s my understanding the the Prophet must hold all the Priesthood Keys.

    I also think the reason women don’t have the Priesthood right now because it would go against the proscribed, traditional gender roles. Women could still, of course, be wonderful mothers–but the Priesthood would take them out of their homes more often and their husband might need to pitch in a little more with the children if he isn’t already. I could go more into this theory–but I think my comment is getting to be a little too long.

    It’s a tricky situation. I hope those of you who yearn for the Priesthood will get your wish someday.

    • EmiG says:

      You hit on a couple of points I’ve pondered. Perhaps one effect of restricting the priesthood to men is to keep mothers at home with the children more. I’ve seen several family situations where both parents have “big” callings and it’s a huge stress on the family; would it be harder to balance family and church responsibilities if both parents held priest(ess)hood?

      Also the distinction between the “power” of the priesthood to serve, bless and strengthen, versus the “authority” of the priesthood to administer ordinances and preside in leadership positions. I don’t think there’s much in the “power” aspect (serving, blessing, strengthening, etc.) that women don’t have access to now in some way. But it’s the hierarchical “authority” that is completely closed to women.

  22. mari says:

    Thanks, everyone, for being able to see past my original remarks and give me a chance. My original remarks were not intended to be rude, but as it was pointed out, how could you possibly know that? I’m learning a lot from your responses. I realize more and more, that though my experiences are the norm where I’m from, they’re not the norm here. I take a lot for granted. What seems like basic 101 stuff to me, really goes a lot deeper than that, which makes it not so basic. I hope that made sense!

    I’ve always had a superiority issue with men. And now I’m fighting to change that mindset in my daughters (I mentioned it a bit in my comments to CZ, I think?). I’ve always believed that the priesthood was Heavenly Father’s way of bringing the men up to the women’s level. I always thought the whole being subject to priesthood authority was more on ceremony, than anything else.

    My thoughts have always been something along the lines of, “Sure, it’s great to have this ‘power’ to act in the name of God, but it’s all subject to God’s will, so really, what do you have that I don’t have?” Excellent points have been brought up, that it’s not just about blessings, it’s about having the keys of the priesthood, and yes, that is different. I still don’t want it. I just don’t need MORE to do. Besides, the men need SOMETHING important to do, besides hunting and gathering and housework (okay, that was said completely in jest, it’s not how I feel at all, don’t get offended!). That’s just how my thoughts have always been, so I hope you can understand where I have trouble understanding feminist mormonism. I am trying to learn though!

    Thanks for being patient with me! 🙂

    • Annie says:

      Mari, thanks for trying to learn. Please stick around.

    • EmiG says:

      I hear where you’re coming from, Mari. Frankly, it’s confusing to me in a lot of ways because I don’t for a second believe that God loves His sons more than His daughters and I don’t for a second believe that a loving God would deny His child a needed blessing or guidance, faithfully sought, in accordance with His will, because there isn’t a priesthood holder around. But if that’s the case, why the distinction between a faithful prayer and a priesthood blessing?

      I’ve many times heard the priesthood defined as “the power and authority to act in God’s name.” But we all take upon ourselves the name of Christ at baptism and are to stand as witnesses of Him “at all times and in all things and in all places.” Doesn’t that mean we’re acting in His name, doing what He would do? If you listen to or read the General Conference talks in the priesthood session, they almost always describe priesthood in terms of service, but I’m serving, too. So again, why the distinction between priesthood service and regular service?

  23. Alissa King says:

    this post has good timing since I recently returned to church (again) and hadn’t thought to prepare pat answers to some important questions I might get asked. I blogged about it in my “mouthy mormon woman” post http://www.lissaraeofsunshine.com/2012/03/reality-check.html but even though I should have known better than to blurt out that I am the one that blessed our baby daughter, I was still disappointed that the attitude about was so disrespectful. This post was exactly the conversation I needed to participate in today. The community of Exponent to the rescue again.

  24. mari says:

    Shoot. I forgot something. It’s kinda been bugging me since I first read this post.

    Our church is set up according to how Christ set up the church back in the day. As far as I know, he gave his priesthood authority to only to men. He acknowledged women and it’s obvious he had great love and respect for them, but he did not give his priesthood power to them. Why would he do it now?

    This is where the, “basic 101,” comment originated from. Having read your comments again, and your responses to mine, I don’t feel like that’s such a “basic” thing anymore. I mean, for all I know, my memory of what I think the Bible says is all wrong (and I’m out of time for research right now).

    • spunky says:

      Are you saying that you actually researched your responses? Really?

    • EmiG says:

      There are many people out there who are greater scriptorians than I, but for me this could easily come back to cultural constraints of the time or simply an incomplete scriptural record. There are women in the Old and New Testaments who were judges and prophetesses (Anna, Deborah and Huldah, for example). Why couldn’t this have been one of the “plain and precious truths” lost?

      Also, priesthood ordination has been expanding since the beginning. The priesthood was limited to the Levites during much of Jewish history. More recently, those men of African descent were unable to hold the priesthood until 1978. Being part of a living church in the dispensation of the fulness of times implies to me that not only is change possible, but it should be expected because we don’t have all revealed truth yet (see the 9th Article of Faith).

    • DefyGravity says:

      I feel like i’m talking too much, but part of understanding those different from you is examining assumptions. The belief that the modern church is based on the New Testament is based on the assumptions that the Bible is historically accurate and that Christ calling apostles and the existance of modern apostles means that Christ organized a church like the one today. I’m not saying those assumptions are wrong, but they may not be right. Some on this site may have those assumptions, some may not. But it should not be taken forgranted that everyone has the same understanding or beliefs of Mormonism.

    • April says:

      I question your assumption that the modern church is required to follow the gender roles that existed during New Testament times.

      Take this passage: 1 Corinithians 14:34-35
      Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

      Clearly, in modern times, we are no longer abiding by this New Testament guideline. This is only one example of many in which modern revelation has replaced patterns from the 0-300 AD era.

  25. Annie says:

    Im not sure I want the priesthood. I wonder if another reason alot of women may not want the priesthood is because it seems to operate in such a hierarchical way. The authority bit has always been a bit hard for me to take and would be even harder to dish. In some ways there is a freedom in the way that we operate more as sisters to eachother in the gospel. That said what I desperately desire and am starving for is a full spiritual expression and knowledge of my divine womanhood. Call it priestesshood perhaps. For too long we have had to make do with hints, partial inclusion into doctrine, and having to piece together an identity based on a male framework, and male God. This is where there is deep pain.

  26. Annie says:

    It would be a huge blessing to have ANY kind of revealed answers on this from our leaders even if the revelation did not extend priesthood ordination to sisters. It would almost be nice just to be important enough to be noticed in revealed scripture. Without clear revelation on this we are left guessing and inventing stupid reasons for the inequalities like men supposedly being more wicked than women, or it being a compensation for childbirth. Without any help at all from the church towards addressing our legitimate questions and heartaches we are left with no where to go but the internet. I have prayed alot about it too. And somehow my culture of obedience is so ingrained in me that I even feel guilty asking the questions there. In any regard, I have prayed for ten years and have only found it getting harder and harder to make sense of it all. Yet I keep going and trying to believe. Why I sometimes dont know.

    • Peter says:

      Hi Annie. I can understand how you feel through my own journey on other issues. Your journey on this one is not going to be resolved by women being ordained anytime soon. Not because they shouldn’t be but because there is an historical precident set down as revelation which the hierachy feel bound by. In fact there is a place you could come to if you seek it where you can understand this and accept it but it is a difficult road as it means questioning those things you have been conditioned not to question. Tearing down those barriers to how you think because you believe its a sin or might be offensive to God to think about what you clearly need to think about is hard. This battle within between what you feel you need answers to and yet refusing to open the realms of possible answers beyond the box which is the only way to get those answers is painful indeed!

      The first stumbling block is the assumption the Church is a perfect (ish) representation of the Will of God. That there are heavenly parallels written in stone by which the Church operates and cannot be altered. Just one thought might be, why did men hold the prieshood anyway. Taking the Levitical priesthood for example. Their job was to slaughter animals and it was hard physical work! Would it have been practical to give that responsibility to women? I think not. You mention these ridiculous reasons people give for men having the priesthood. They are all conjecture and no one knows. Yet crazy ideas can catch on and spoken by the right person become “revelation” which future generations become conditioned to NOT question! I’m afraid the answer to your dilemma lies outside the dimensions of the box within which you seek the answer. You have to step outside the box!

  27. Holly says:

    terrific discussion–brava. Just want to add a funky and depressing factoid I came across a year or so ago:

    American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (2010) reports on an extensive study conducted in 2006 by the authors, Robert Putnam and David Campbell, which found that while at at least 50% of all major Judeo-Christian groups in the United States—and 93% of both Mainline Protestants and Jews—endorse the idea of female clergy, only 30% of Mormons favor ordaining women. More striking is the breakdown of that 30% by gender: 48% of Mormon men favor giving women the priesthood, while only 10% of Mormon women want it for themselves, making them some of the staunchest defenders of the status quo.

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