Sacred Disobedience: Women’s Call to Ordination

 

Guest post by Lorie

I took my seat for one of the final panels of the day at Sunstone West in early February expecting an interesting discussion.  After all, the panel, which featured women from a number of religious traditions talking about the challenges they faced as feminists among the faithful, was planned by Exponent’s own Caroline, whom I knew to be bright, creative and thoughtful. What I didn’t expect was an epiphany of sorts.

Panelists representing the Islamic, Evangelical, Jewish, Catholic and Mormon traditions spoke about what happens when religious feminists confront those in their communities “who lack a basic understanding of feminist ideas, rely on assumptions about feminism rather than facts, or are hostile to feminist thought.” (“Challenges Feminists Face in Different Religious Traditions,” 2012 Sunstone West Symposium Program Abstract)  Many of the experiences they articulated were achingly familiar—that is, until the Catholic panelist mentioned that a series of rogue ordinations of woman had taken place in her church and that these female priests and bishops were currently celebrating mass and ministering to their congregations.  I was stunned. Who were these women?   How and by whom had they been ordained?  Was the church hierarchy aware of them, and, if so, had they been disciplined—particularly given the recent backlash against advocates for women’s equality in the Catholic church?  Or had they simply been ignored?  As a nearly life-long advocate for female ordination in the LDS Church, I wanted to know more.

With a little help from Google, I  discovered the Women’s Ordination Conference  as well as the Roman Catholic Women Priests.  Both organizations call for the ordination of women and their equitable inclusion in the administration, governance and ministry of the Roman Catholic Church. While the Women’s Ordination Conference, founded in 1975,  actively advocates and prays for female ordination, the Women Priests, weary of waiting and no longer asking for permission, spiritually prepare and ordain women who feel called by God and their communities to priestly ministry.

They claim their right through Apostolic Succession.  In 2002, seven women were ordained as priests on the Danube River by an anonymous Roman Catholic bishop.  The following year, two of the women were ordained bishops, and they continue to ordain female deacons, priests and bishops–sometimes  privately, in what are called catacomb ordinations, sometimes publicly.  That the male bishop involved in the initial ordinations remained largely unknown not only protected him from institutional reprisal,  but it also allowed the women to remain the principle actors in the struggle for their equitable inclusion in the church.

While these ordinations were soon decried by the Vatican, it took several years for the church hierarchy to respond dramatically and decisively, in part because it couldn’t deny  that the women had been ordained by men having authority. In 2008, however, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued a decree declaring that “women priests and the bishops who ordain them were excommunicated latae sententiae.”  (The very act of ordaining or receiving ordination meant automatic excommunication.)  In response, the Women Priests declared that the church would eventually “find this action shameful and unworthy,” and they reaffirmed their conviction that God had called them to ordination and ministry.

I am struck by  the spiritual power of this conviction.   It is what transforms each ordination from a political stunt into an act of sacred disobedience.

We don’t often talk about feeling a personal call to ministry in Mormonism, particularly as women. I don’t think it’s just a question of religious vocabulary or organizational structures in which ever-changing callings are determined by lay male priesthood leaders  and extended to members.  Denied ordination, which is available to all LDS men, we’ve learned to curtail our aspirations.

As I sat in that conference room last February inspired by the courage and conviction of these Catholic women, I noted that the idea of, for lack of a better term, rogue ordinations—father to daughter, husband to wife, friend to friend—had never occurred to me.

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48 Responses

  1. Genevieve says:

    I admire those women so much. Their ‘sacred disobedience’ must have required such a powerful conviction. Why can’t the world see that women have much to give in the public sphere? Why can’t the world see how much men have to give as nurturing caregivers? I recently read an in depth account of the history of Relief Society and the amazing power and authority that women had during the early years of the church. I wonder if Joseph Smith meant to slowly integrate women into the priesthood and hierarchy of the church. Sadly, his vision was never realized because his successors believed so strongly in the ridiculous and harmful “separate but equal” rhetoric.

  2. amelia says:

    Lorie, this is a revelation to me, too. Until I had read your post, I had never heard of the “rogue” ordination of Catholic women to the priesthood. I was particularly struck by this: “it took several years for the church hierarchy to respond dramatically and decisively, in part because it couldn’t deny that the women had been ordained by men having authority.” It led me to wonder if the Mormon leadership, and its membership, would respond in that same fashion. Would they be stymied by the fact that the man performing the ordination had the power to ordain, and therefore these women did, in fact, in some way hold the priesthood? Or would they use the kind of top-down hierarchical structure of the LDS church (in which even boys and men ordained to the priesthood have to first go through at least something of a worthiness interview process before being ordained) as a reason to simply dismiss it out of hand, without even stopping to think that the women ordained hold the priesthood? Or would they not even get that far, simply assuming that a woman by virtue of being a woman couldn’t possibly hold the priesthood, so the whole thing was moot anyway?

    I suspect the reaction would be more along the lines of options 2 or 3, rather than even pausing to consider whether these women now actually did hold the priesthood. I think that in the LDS church the gender divide is so very deep in terms of priesthood vs. woman- (read wife-and-mother-) hood that most leaders and members couldn’t even conceive of the idea that a woman even *can* hold the priesthood when ordained by a worthy male priesthood holder who ostensibly has the authority to ordain others. Of course, that is somewhat darkly amusing given the long history of Mormon women exercising blessing authority in the church and that there are at the very least intimations of women’s ordination in the temple (if not actual ordination of a sort).

    Reaction is not the only issue of course. I have been saying for a long time that I think the best way forward in the church would be to reform how we think about priesthood ordination, moving from a universal ordination of all members that meet certain criteria (currently male, 12 years old, and “worthy) to a voluntary ordination sought after by those members who felt called to the priesthood. Perhaps there would still be some criteria (for instance, even if the church moved beyond the limitation of sex, I doubt they would, or even should, do away with some kind of “worthiness” standard), but the motivating factor would no longer be familial, cultural and social pressure combined with hitting certain milestones. This of course poses problems for the future of an all lay ministry to which I don’t have solutions, but I feel very strongly that the priesthood should be about being personally called, not just about administrative duties.

  3. Caroline says:

    Thanks, Lorie, for this post and for your kind words about me. 🙂

    I know of no rogue ordinations that have happened within Mormonism, but I do know Mormon women who have felt called to priesthood/ministry. One or two of them have sidestepped institutional Mormonism and the priesthood exclusion problem by becoming hospital chaplains. That’s a creative and brave move, but ultimately unsatisfying, I would imagine, if a woman feels called to priesthood within the Mormon context.

    I was struck by your sentence here, Lorie. “Denied ordination, which is available to all LDS men, we’ve learned to curtail our aspirations.” I think that is very true. I didn’t realize women could be ministers/priests in any faith tradition until I was a young teen and drove by a church that advertised Pastor Martha Graham. As the movie Miss Representation points out, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” I had never until that moment seen a woman as a spiritual/priestly authority, so I had never imagined I myself could be one someday. As I’ve aged and realized how many other traditions ordain women, it’s become more and more baffling and troubling to me that women are denied this opportunity to serve and develop this way in the LDS tradition.

    • Amelia says:

      One other troubling aspects of this “you can’t be what you can’t see” issue is that there is actually a rich historical record within Mormonism that shows women functioning in a more formal ministerial fashion, but it is hidden away out of sight. I suppose it may not be hidden for nefarious reasons, but at the very least the church is willfully hiding it from its members out of some kind of allegedly benign attempt to “correlate” its history. I wonder if more mainstream Mormons, both women and men, knew about the women of the early church performing washings and anointings and blessings of the sick, there would be more willingness to entertain the idea of women’s ordination and more women feeling called to such work.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Wow, this really hit me today. Last night we had a Mormon Stories podcast group and discussed the latest series on the psychology of religion. One of the topics was Cognitive Dissonance and the example on wikipedia was Aesop’s fable where the Fox is trying to get grapes and can’t mange to get them so he decides he didn’t want them to begin with.

      I think women who “curtail” their aspirations are trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance of wanting to serve God through exercising priesthood and not being allowed to in the LDS church.

      This is a great post, Lorie. I hope the conversation continues.

  4. Tiffany says:

    For me, part of the beauty of the way priesthood is viewed in the Mormon tradition is that it is expected that all boys/men (if worthy) will be ordained. All can pass the sacrament, baptize, confirm, bless. This universal idea of access to God’s power is very appealing to me. I think it grows out of the idea that we are all equal in God’s sight and all have the seeds of divinity within us. If priesthood is indeed the power of God to act in the mortal realm, I can’t think of anything more beautiful than the idea that all have this opportunity.

    And then we slam into a brick wall, because the way priesthood is practiced in the current LDS church only extends this universality to one gender. The message I think many Mormon women subtly or overtly take away is that somehow women are inferior in the eyes of God, that women somehow lack something the men have. (And no, priesthood is not the male counterpart of motherhood, fatherhood is.) The message comes across loud and clear: the Mormon worldview has men presiding and holding the power not just on earth, but FOREVER. This message has been underscored in our most sacred edifices and at General Conference over and over and over again.

    Where does this leave the many, many Mormon women who are sincere spiritual seekers and who feel deep, deep in the soul that this rhetoric is just plain wrong? What does a Mormon woman do when she feels from personal revelation that she should be entitled to administer the sacrament as much as any twelve or thirteen year old boy? Or more intimately, to help name and bless her own children? Or to baptize those she teaches as a missionary? Or to administer to those who are ill in an official priesthood capacity with oil and by the power of the priesthood?

    These are the questions I ran up against as I began to awaken to the glaring gender inequality that exists in LDS institutional practices. As I wrestled with these questions, I also began to seriously question the source of this inequality and if it is really how God wants it or if it stems from societal norms. I think many Mormon women are going to start feeling much like our dear Catholic sisters who grew tired of waiting for the men at the top to give them permission. Eventually, fear gets overcome and boldness replaces it when one feels strongly enough about an issue.

    • Amelia says:

      I love your comment, Tiffany. Especially the second to last paragraph. I have often heard the argument that women have been given many opportunities to serve, so they should just be happy with what they have. These comments typically imply that when women desire to have the priesthood, it is somehow because they are selfish or view things myopically. Lorie has written about this elsewhere when she talks about being power hungry–that yes, as women wanting priesthood ordination, we are power hungry. Hungry for the power to bless and sanctify and be involved in these intimate, personal experiences. You capture so well that the desire is not a selfish one, nor is it about the kind of worldly power the critics of Mormon feminists assume we want. It’s about wanting an intimate connection to God and to others through the power to act in his name. I do not see what could possibly be wrong with wanting that.

      • Jessica says:

        this for me is the damaging part of ph restriction. We cut off the teachings and the instuction to women about God an the eternities and how we can access divine power to bless others and have a relationship with our heavenly parents.

      • alex w. says:

        “It’s about wanting an intimate connection to God and to others through the power to act in his name. ”

        That’s exactly how I want to say it, but it never comes out right. I need to remember this phrase for the next time the subject arises 🙂

      • Tiffany says:

        Thanks, Amelia, for so concisely saying what it took me several paragraphs to express. That is it exactly: desiring an intimate connection with God.

  5. EBrown says:

    From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”20The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly.The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood.”

  6. Holly says:

    Or to baptize those she teaches as a missionary?

    the impossibility of doing this always upset me in that vague, amorphous, pointless way you react to things that you know are wrong but have been trained all your life to accept as god’s will and that everybody else thinks is fine.

    I know of no rogue ordinations that have happened within Mormonism

    I know of several women who have received both the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood. But I don’t know of any women who have done much with the priesthood they’ve been given, because there’s no place where they can use it, except maybe to bless a close friend.

    Margaret Toscano is presenting a paper at Sunstone this July exploring the Womenpriest movement and what inspiration Mormon women can draw from it.

    • Lorie says:

      Holly, you say, “I know of several women who have received both the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood.” I assume they’re LDS women. Needless to say, I would be very interested in hearing about their experinces–who ordained them and under what circumstances; what does ordination mean to them; have they encouraged other women to follow their lead? Would they be willing to comment here, anonymously or otherwise?

      • Holly says:

        I’ll ask.

        I’ll add that in conversations about this type of thing I’ve had men offer to give me the priesthood. I have resolutely refused. I once had a chiropractor ask me, in complete horror, what had happened to my skull. “What do you mean?” I asked.

        “It feels like a bunch of people just put their hands on your head and just tried to smash your soul, or squeeze your brain, or something. It’s weird. I’ve never felt anything like it.”

        I thought of all those priesthood blessings I had throughout my life, and I said, “Actually, a bunch of people did put their hands on my head and try to smash my soul.”

        So I have decided that I will forgo any more LDS rituals that involve having a man put his hands on my head. I wouldn’t mind having someone letting his hands hover a few inches above my head while he calls some of the rituals back. But oddly enough, men seem less willing to do that.

      • Jessawhy says:

        Holly,
        That is a very interesting experience. I love the idea of women placing hands on each other to bless and uplift each other. It’s a sacred and beautiful image to me.

      • Kmillecam says:

        I can really relate to the squashing image. I believe that Holly was referring to being squashed by men when she shared her example, pointing out that even if this sacred disobedience were to come to action, it’s in a manner that is triggering for her.

        I look back on it now and the only time I felt uplifted was the first time I went through the temple and there were women placing their hands on my head.

        So I guess what I am saying is that I wouldn’t want to be one of the first women in this sacred disobedience movement. Instead of being ordained by a man, I would rather receive the priesthood from one of my fellow priesthood-holding sisters.

      • Holly says:

        p.s. Lorie, I told the two women who got the priesthood whom I have contact info for to stop by and check out this conversation. One wrote back and said she would; the other hasn’t answered. We’ll see we happens. But know at least that I asked them.

    • Holly says:

      Actually my point is that having LDS men put their hands on my head in a ritual that asserts their dominance and my subordination and tell me how to behave and what I must believe has done me genuine physical harm that another person could sense, without having any idea where it came from.

      We don’t go around letting just anybody touch our heads–for most people, only intimate friends and loved ones, doctors, and hairstylists get to do that. There are cultures that have even stronger taboos head-touching than we do.

      But Mormons have all sorts of rituals in which a man or a group of men put their hands on another person’s head.

      I remember the weight of all the hands on my head when I was set apart for my mission…. It really was heavy. It made my neck hurt. But at the time I was happy that so many men I had respected and so many of my friends were able to be a weird official part of this weird official step that had to be taken before I left for the MTC.

      It’s not that the idea of it happening again is triggering–the thought of it arouses no particular anxiety or distress. Instead, upon calm reflection, I see no reason to submit yet again to an act that has harmed in the past and may yet harm me again, even the harm is concomitant with the process of receiving some great power.

      Of course, I haven’t been active in the church for decades and I believe that receiving the LDS priesthood confers no mystical power, in part because enough men have told me that they don’t feel like they got any mystical power when they received the priesthood. I see rituals in which a subordinate sits down and someone with power or a position conferring it put his hands on the subordinate’s head as largely symbolic.

      But I do have a worldview in which symbolic actions can have real consequences, and I also believe that exchanges of energy between people can have real physical effects. Chakras, crown, root, and otherwise, are part of my vocabulary.

      I am sure that many of the men who put their hands on my head to “bless” me intended to bless me.

      But my patriarchal blessing, I have realized, is actually an extremely abusive document, and many of the statements in it (especially the ones about my role as a woman) are not just manipulative and disempowering downright cruel.

      The patriarch who gave me that blessing didn’t approve of how uppity and outspoken my mother was. He wanted to squash her, but since he couldn’t, he did his best to squash me.

      I would love to have a man I trust, like, and respect help me create a ritual that doesn’t involve touching my head and calls some of that back. But the few I’m willing to ask have said that A) they’re freaked out by the idea cuz it’s too new agey or B) they don’t especially want to use their priesthood again for any reason or C) both of the above.

      Last summer at Sunstone a woman arranged for many of her friends to bless her new son. I laid my hands on his body as gently as I could, mustered up a state of benevolence and generosity, thought good thoughts, and blessed him with the things I thought he would need. I told his mother (who is not LDS but has a strong affinity for Mormons) afterward that I hoped she didn’t think it was weird that I touched his chest and abdomen while I did the blessing instead of his head. She said that she doesn’t even let her husband touch her head, that it’s just too threatening and weird.

      So at this point, I don’t really want anybody covering my crown chakra with their hands. I’ll accept hands at the base of my head or on my or my shoulders. But ain’t nobody gonna put their hands on the crown of my head and speak to me as god’s representative with the power and authority to tell me what to do.

  7. Libby says:

    Lorie, this is a topic very dear to me. Thank you for posting.

  8. Diane says:

    This is a a very timely piece in a lot of ways. There has been a big push in By the Vatican for American Nuns to get in line with the more traditional teachings of the church. The problem with this is that Americans Nuns are no longer traditional in the true sense of the word. For instance depending on the order you could be a doctor in a public hospital. Their was a piece on the news a few nights ago, where a Doctor who was a nun was reprimanded by the Vatican because she didn’t teach abstinence and told patients about all of their options(not just ones ordained by the Catholic Church).

    In this article the Vatican has sent a letter to the nuns stating that they either need to get back in line, and teach the right doctrine or face possible ex-communication. There were protest in DC last week because of this as well with many supporters for these Nuns,

    • Diane says:

      I also wanted to add that since I live in Philadelphia, I find it ironic, especially given the fact that the Catholic Diocese has just disclosed that it has paid in excess of 10.5 million dollars to defend pedophile priest, (that they refused to do anything about) yet they want to go after Nuns who literally have done nothing wrong.

  9. alex w. says:

    I love the phrase “sacred disobedience.” Thank you for sharing this story; I think I’ve heard bits and pieces about it, but this shed a lot of light on the subject. What admirable women.

  10. SPE says:

    Beautiful! It seems like every time I try to defend myself when I say that women should participate in their hierarchy of the church and not be overseen by men just because they are men, or when I bring up female ordination, I can never get the words to fit together like this. I think I’ll just carry a copy around to give people :).

  11. EmilyCC says:

    It has been fascinating to me to watch Catholic women respond to this call. I am humbled by their courage to place such a mantle upon themselves, and it makes me proud to call them fellow sisters in Christ.

    The Church’s refusal to ordain women is probably the hardest thing for me when it comes to being a Mormon. Yet, I’m conflicted about this idea. I worry about the backlash for those women who feel called to be ordained in this way and for those women who are working for this same goal within the Church. How will both groups be affected? Is it worth the pain both must endure?

    I would be curious to know how other Catholic women (like women religious for example) feel about their sisters who have chosen to be ordained.

    I don’t know where I stand (it changes minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour), but as I’m preparing for singing time tomorrow, I couldn’t help but choose this song:
    You don’t have to push a handcart
    Leave your family dear
    Or walk a 1000 miles or more
    To be a pioneer.

    You do need to have great courage
    Faith to conquer fear,
    And work with might for a cause that’s right
    To be a pioneer.

    I think we’re all called on to be pioneers. Sometimes, it just feels hard to know what exactly that call entails.

  12. As a board member for the Women’s Ordination Conference (and a strong supporter of RCWP), I was so excited to find this article. I am indebted to Mormon feminist theology for being one of the first Christian traditions that really showed me what a feminine image of God could look like, and it seems like we have so much to learn from each other. We are truly soul sisters.

  13. TT says:

    At FPR a few years back we had a discussion about this issue and some of the implications for how it would be understood. Lots of great comments.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/2008/04/what-if/

  14. xenawarriorscientist says:

    Not ordination per se, but a friend of ours had a mission president who called female missionaries as zone leaders, district leaders, and APs. I love this because it’s a great way to recognize women’s authority that can be done immediately, today, without any policy changes. The mission is a huge step in socializing young people into how the church works, too, so this very minor change in practice (not doctrine *or* policy) could do huge things for the perspectives of future generations of orthodox, practicing Mormons.

    Mission leadership positions are so interesting because they *don’t require* priesthood ordination (witness the all-female missions with sister DLs, ZLs, and APs). But it rarely even occurs to people that you *could* have women in these posts in a mixed-sex mission. The friend reports that yes indeed, many elders felt insulted that women were being promoted “over” them. That was pretty revealing– I always wondered if deep down having the priesthood caused men to think they were somehow superior, and it appears that for many of them the answer is “Heck yes it does.”

    People always say things like “A mission is great preparation for marriage,” but if men are always giving the orders and women always taking them then I must say it is NOT very good preparation for marriage. Kudos to this guy’s mission president.

    It was Bolivia, sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

  15. xenawarriorscientist says:

    Just remembered another one.

    Our current bishop says that in a previous stint as bishop, he set his wife apart as one of his counselors.

    (I assume this was in an unofficial capacity rather than the usual public-sustaining-and-comes-to-all-the-meetings kind of counselor. That makes me wonder how it’s any different in substance from just bouncing ideas off each other privately, but it’s sweet that they took the step of making it unofficially official.)

    • Lorie says:

      I love the willingness of the mission president you mention above and the bishop here to think outside of prescribed patterns. Those of us, both women and men, who long for a more equitable, inclusive community have to think creatively and then be willing to act. Kudos to them.

  16. Gabby says:

    I am a Mormon woman who has been ordained to the priesthood. I should clarify that the circumstances in which I received the priesthood were not in an official Church-sanctioned setting. The man who was officially ordained to the priesthood ordained a few women as an act of disobedience to the segregation of women from the priesthood.

    But what have I done with the priesthood since? Pretty much nothing. It doesn’t mean anything to me and doesn’t allow me to do anything I couldn’t do before. As a woman who was ordained to the priesthood in a rogue ordination and as an act of disobedience, the PH feels useless to me if the “official” framework does not value women and if the framework is still male-centered. The fact that my ordination could only be done as a rogue ordination is a clear example to me that the PH is a way for male leaders to demonstrate and exert power. My ordination happened a few years ago, and I never really think about it. I have no significant and empowering meaning attached to it.

    Sometimes I wonder if things would be different if I had received the PH in an official church setting, with the stamp of approval of a leader. Would it make me feel more empowered? The answer is “no, it wouldn’t.” Having the priesthood as a woman is meaningless since the priesthood is an entirely male creation to support the current power structure.

    • Holly says:

      that all makes a lot of sense to me. Some of those feelings are why I am not willing to accept the several offers I’ve had from men to give me the priesthood.

    • Lorie says:

      I want to thank you for your honesty, Gabby. I, myself, am not above acts of feminist subversion done primarily to challenge the status quo and shake things up a bit. However, for an act as religiously radical as a rogue ordination to carry persuasive power, it must, as is the case with the Women Priests, have profound spiritual meaning for the participants. Otherwise, it feels like a hollow gesture.

      As Caroline indicated in her comment above, we know women in Mormonism who feel, for lack of an LDS term, called to ministry. For them, I think, ordination would be meaningful, even if unrecognized by the institution, because they still believe it is an endowment of God’s power and reaches beyond gender. I could see them using it in a sort of private ministry–giving blessings, ordaining other women, etc.–until the church officially ordains women and, haltingly though it might be given its significant male bias, integrates them into the power structure of the community.

      I know there are many women who are suspicious–even, like you and Holly, critical–of the way power is wielded by the male hierarchy in the church. As such, they would be reluctant to participate in such a hierarchical structure even if the option were available. However, as I’ve written many times before, as long as positional power in the Mormon church is tied to priesthood and as long as women remain active therein, having power within the institution, no matter how flawed, is preferable to institutional powerlessness. How else can we bring the power-tempering experience of being on the periphery to the center of our religious tradition and affect meaningful change?

    • Jon Miranda says:

      If something is not authorized, it is of no effect and not recognized. It would be like me setting up a McDonald’s restaurant without paying franchise fees and getting permission from the corporate office.

      • Holly says:

        Jon Miranda:

        If something is not authorized, it is of no effect and not recognized. It would be like me setting up a McDonald’s restaurant without paying franchise fees and getting permission from the corporate office.

        it’s good to know that you equate religion with selling crappy burgers and see getting the priesthood as akin to a financial transaction.

        Stuff can be unauthorized–arrests and executions, for instance, or biographies–and still have a lot of effect.

        Lorie:

        I’ve written many times before, as long as positional power in the Mormon church is tied to priesthood and as long as women remain active therein, having power within the institution, no matter how flawed, is preferable to institutional powerlessness.

        I agree. I just find that I have a lot more power outside the institution–personal and otherwise–than I ever did in it.

    • Michelle W. says:

      Gabby,

      I also received a “rogue ordination” two years ago – from my non-member husband! It’s been empowering in some ways, and I certainly use it wherever I can work it in, but I can’t use it the one place that matters most – Church!

      Keep the faith!
      Michelle

  17. Olive says:

    I love this article! My most touching, spiritual moment was in the temple during the initiatory part of the endowment. Having a woman place her hands on my head and bless me was incredible and life changing for me. I had never known that such an ordination existed in the temple, or at the least, never thought out how it would look and feel. In reality it was awesome- in the awe inspiring sense of the word. I remember such a strong spiritual connection between the women and I, it was indeed a burning of the bosom. Then, halfway through, she whispered asking who my dad was, and when I told her, she said she had known him. (he had passed away a few years prior). I just can’t even describe how important that experience was for me. It had more of a connection than any other blessing from any man (even from my own father). I don’t think a woman’s intuition and feminine connection can be replaced or substituted. I wish with all my heart that women were allowed to bless outside the temple. I crave that female connection all the time, now that I have tasted it. I wish we still did female healing blessings before and during labor and delivery. Reading about the blessingways they used to do in the church is so neat! How amazing to have that generational, sisterhood connection at that time!

  18. Suzette Smith says:

    I just reading all of this and all the comments. It makes my heart sing that we’re talking about this. Thank you, Lorie. There are many women (like myself – and all of you) who feel deeply spiritual about the need for LDS women to have Priesthood. But there are not enough of us. Even open minded women in our faith have a hard time swallowing this pill. I intend to keep talking about it and hoping to change minds and perceptions. My great wish is that the prophet will start praying about this issue.

  19. Margaret says:

    What an inspiring post and conversation thread! Thank you to Lorie for instigating this dialogue and to everyone else who has contributed such important insights and experiences. Like Suzette, I have had strong spiritual feelings about the need for LDS women to have priesthood.
    But I should clarify: I believe that Mormon women already have priesthood, in at least three senses:
    They have been called by God’s spirit to act in her/his name.
    They have received actual spiritual gifts and power from God, which is the essence of priesthood.
    They have received holy anointings in the temple, which confers the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood, according to Joseph Smith, that encompasses all other priesthood. I think the historical record shows that Joseph Smith did intend to bring the sisters into the priesthood order in the Church (to respond to Genevieve). He said he was going to make of the Relief Society “a kingdom of priestesses” (or he might have said “priests,” according to some records), reflecting the scriptural text quoted by EBrown above from the Catholic source.

    Now I know that many of my Mormon sisters have negative feelings about Joseph Smith and the temple. I am sympathetic and have no inclination to persuade you to accept what you feel you can’t. In the same way, Holly, I respect your unwillingness to let anyone put his/her hands on your head. But whether you think the temple bestows actual priesthood or not, Joseph Smith’s statements are very important as both a theological and historical precedence for women’s right to priesthood in the LDS Church today. They are a strong argument against the damaging idea that priesthood is eternally only for men, which I have heard from the pulpit.

    Whatever disagreements we may have about the nature, source, or even purpose of priesthood, I think that we should act from where we stand to improve both the spiritual and institutional power and authority of women in whatever way we can. I agree with Lorie that even if we personally don’t like institutional priesthood hierarchy, it affects women’s lives; so as concerned feminists we should work for change, both in current policy and in the way priesthood is viewed.

    If we are more in the mainstream, we can pray for the Church leaders to receive a revelation to ordain women to the priesthood.
    If we feel called, we can pursue “rogue ordinations” by getting men we trust to ordain us to priesthood offices. And then we can hold private sacrament meetings or do other priestly acts.
    And publicizing these anonymous acts may work for change.
    If we feel spiritually inclined, we can exercise our gifts, giving blessings, healing prayers, teaching and writing with priestly authority, expanding the scope of women’s action as much as possible in our own circles. How we think about ourselves changes the quality of our actions.
    Even if we have left the LDS Church, we may sense ways to promote spiritual healing in the world, through goddess worship, yoga, etc., which are priestly acts in the larger sense.
    If we feel we have a holy anointing from God and that we don’t need anything else from men, we can work in all the above ways too.

    No matter what approach we take, our common goal is to expand the vision of what women can be and do. I agree that one of the most negative effects of the current priesthood policy is the way it makes women curtail their aspirations, not so much their worldly aspirations but their personal and spiritual ones. And I would add, the way the whole community envisions women. Just imagine the change in the Church if there were female figures that matched the stature the Church gives to the current or past prophets!

    • Rachel says:

      Margaret, thank you for this thoughtful comment–particularly for bringing up the rich historical precedents.

      There IS compelling evidence suggesting that LDS women do have the priesthood now, not through the sealing ordinance to their husbands, but on their own, through their endowment.

      I always love reading about Eliza R. Snow and how she was called a poetess, priestess, and prophetess, and was amazed to learn that the general Relief Society Presidents were initially set up to be on par with the Prophets, and that their callings were also to be lifelong callings.

      The first RS President who was released prior to her death was so troubled that she had done something wrong, because Joseph Smith said they would only be released on death or on apostasy that she had a stroke and died within days. Truly heartbreaking.

    • Tiffany says:

      Love the last paragraph, Margaret. I agree that the current LDS approach to priesthood curtails women in their spiritual growth. It breaks my heart and feels oh so wrong.

  20. Margaret says:

    Thank you, Rachel, for adding important information that supplements my comments about the historical precedence for women having and exercising priesthood in the LDS tradition. All the women who were endowed under Joseph Smith, like Eliza R. Snow, saw themselves as priestesses (see Michael Quinn’s article “Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843” in *Women and Authority*). I’m especially glad that you clarified one crucial point: women have priesthood in their own right through the endowment (and direct from God as Alma 13 indicates). They do not merely share priesthood through their husbands, as is sometimes argued. Single women have priesthood through the endowment. I felt this myself in a spiritual epiphany I had in the temple. I was endowed as a single woman seven years before I got married.

    Like you, Rachel, I feel so sad about the authority that has been removed from the Relief Society sisters. They once had control over their own money and curriculum. Even so, women still can exercise limited “priestly” authority. Recently a woman told me how her views have changed because of her calling to be Relief Society president in her ward. She had always disagreed with the idea of priesthood ordination for women; and she thought she didn’t want leadership power. But as RS president, she has seen how much good she has been able to do for the people in her ward with the procedures, activities, speakers, and themes she has instigated. And she admitted that she enjoyed having authority (something women are often reluctant to admit). Seeing her own abilities in action and the good effect they are having has made her feel better about herself.

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