Who Thinks Women Should Hold the Priesthood? Men, Apparently

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites UsRarely do I read something in the bloggernacle that truly surprises me, and I’m curious as to whether this post surprises our readers, too.

Dr. Grant Hardy, LDS author and history professor at UNC Ashville, has a guest post up at Jana Reiss’ Flunking Sainthood: Why Do Mormon Men Want Women to Have the Priesthood More Than Women Want it for Themselves? Money quote:

Authors Robert Putnam and David Campbell asked a wide variety of Americans their opinion about women leading churches. They report that “by 2006 majorities of every religious tradition except Mormons had come to favor women clergy,” including 93% of both Mainline Protestants and Jews, and 75% percent of “Anglo” Catholics (p. 243). Even 66% of Evangelicals agreed, as compared with 30% of Latter-day Saints. In fact, only 10% of Mormon women favor female clergy in their church, which in an LDS context means giving women the priesthood. As Putnam and Campbell note, “Mormons, and especially Mormon women, appear to be the only holdouts against the growing and substantial consensus across the religious spectrum in favor of women playing a fuller role in church leadership.”

Yet the most remarkable finding is that within Mormonism itself, there is a significant split by gender on this question. The number that looks the most extraordinary to outsiders–that only 10% of Mormon women want the priesthood–seems pretty predictable to those inside the faith. But the finding  that 48% of Mormon men say they favor female LDS clergy is truly startling.

Grant offers a number of possibilities for this disparity, many that seem reasonable.  I would add this to his list: It is more “dangerous”/heretical for a Mormon women to support female ordination than it is for a Mormon man to believe the same.  Caroline’s blogpost: “Good Mormon Feminists vs. Bad Mormon Feminists: The Dividing Line” addresses this aptly. A recent Ask a Feminist post at LDSWave.org — while not specifically addressing the issue of female ordination –brilliantly describes the tightrope of working as a faithful feminist within to church to make “doable” changes that support gender equity. The feeling among many of my “faithful Mormon feminist” friends is that once you publicly state that you think  women should hold the priesthood, you’ve lost some leverage for working from within; you’ve aroused suspicion.  It’s a dividing line.

I’d love to hear your reaction to this poll.  Do you really think 48 percent of Mormon men are okay with women holding the priesthood? And only 10% of Mormon women? Do Hardy’s conjectures about the cause of this discrepancy resonate with you? Do you think it is “safer” for men to hold this opinion than women in our culture?

Deborah

Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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63 Responses

  1. Keri Brooks says:

    I think you’re spot-on that women who admit to wanting the priesthood lose political capital. I suspect that when push comes to shove, significantly more than 10% of women want the priesthood, but we’re so socialized to say that we don’t. It’s too risky to say otherwise. (Not to long ago, people were excommunicated for saying stuff like that.)

    I wonder what the percentages were, broken down by race, pre-1978 on extending the priesthood without racial restriction.

  2. Keri Brooks says:

    Oops..I should proofread before hitting ‘post’. That should say “not too long ago”.

  3. Starfoxy says:

    I agree with Keri- but would take it a step further. The way that women are socialized to say they don’t want the priesthood (lest they be branded as a heretic), men are in some ways socialized to say that they’d be happy if women could hold the Priesthood (lest they be branded as a power grubbing misogynist).
    Many men I’ve heard speak of women’s ordination phrase it in such a way as to make Priesthood authority into a burden, with no pleasure or blessings associated with it. It’s the same sort of forced humility- “Why why would I want this terrible burden?” And it is often followed by a morose “but” and then some explanation as to why women just can’t ever be ordained. Just as the women’s numbers may be artificially reduced, the men’s numbers may be artificially inflated.

  4. Aimee says:

    Fantastic post, Deborah! I found those numbers truly astonishing–I wish I could say hopeful (as far as the male point of view is concerned) but I fear that one of the main points I hear Mormon women making about why they don’t want women to have the priesthood is because “women already do too much” and that if women had the priesthood too, men would revert to their “natural” state and not feel compelled to offer significant Church service.

    While I entirely disagree with this line of thinking (I can’t stress that strongly enough), it seems in part that poll numbers like these reflect the success the Church has had in inculcating women with the sense that they’re inherently “more spiritual” and don’t need the priesthood. I think there are a significant percentage of women in the Church who really believe that men are spiritually lacking and NEED the priesthood to be more equal with women. I know many women who fear that if men and women both had priesthood authority, men would lose the incentive to participate and revert to their “natural man” tendencies. Again, I can’t stress enough how much I disagree with this point of view but I feel like it’s a very present force behind this statistic.

  5. Kate says:

    All I can say is – YIKES! If those numbers are accurate, and if only 10% of Mormon women will admit that they want the priesthood, then the mountain needed to be surmounted before we have female ordination in the LDS Church is enormous.

    As a scientist, I really would like more information about how Putnam & Campbell’s numbers were obtained. What was the sample size? What were the actual questions asked? Were the interviewers Mormon themselves? Were the interviewers male or female? What was the environment in which the instrument was administered? Etc. Surveys can be tricky beasts under the best of circumstances.

  6. Deborah says:

    Keri: I’d love to see those stats, too? Anybody know if such a study was conducted? Seems like something Dialogue might have pursued . . .

    Aimee: I think you might be right. The “women are naturally spiritual” line of thinking has the unfortunate side-effect of denigrating men’s spirituality while keeping the hierarchy static. I liked Alisa’s take on this after the birth of her son: http://www.the-exponent.com/2010/05/13/as-a-mother-i-question-male-spiritual-disadvantages/

    Kate: I’d love to know more about the methodology, too. Putnam has good creds . . . Does anyone have the book? Does the appendix provide more detail?

  7. Kate says:

    If I had a Kindle, I would buy it just to check out their statistics. I am a statistics nerd, I admit it.

    I think an LDS woman’s answer to the question “Do you want the priesthood?” would be very different from her answer to, “Do you think Mormon women should have the priesthood?” or “Do you think women should be ordained?”

    Similarly, the relationship between the interviewed LDS woman and the interviewer, and particularly whether or not said interviewer was Mormon, would also make a big difference.

    For example, say the interviewer made clear that the interview was for a book being published on what different religious adherents think of their faith. I can see many missionary-minded Mormons wanting the outcome to reflect the true devotion of Mormons towards the One True Faith. Under such circumstances, I can see someone saying, “Women shouldn’t have the priesthood” because they want to show that they are happy with the Church’s stance on the issue, they want women to seem happy in their divine roles, they want to reflect as a positive on the Church, etc.

    Still, 10% seems abysmally low to me, even considering these possibilities.

  8. Ziff says:

    I wonder if it’s a selection effect. Mormon women who want the priesthood are far more likely to leave the Church than those who would rather not. So the women remaining in the Church are largely those who would rather not be ordained.

    But I think Starfoxy makes an excellent point too.

  9. Zak says:

    If the interviews were anonymous/confidential like many surveys, then the “fear of outing oneself as a feminist” explanation does not seem to explain the discrepancy. If the interviews were not anonymous, then I think the “fear” explanation might explain *some* of the difference but the difference is so large that I think that explanation is ultimately unpersuasive as to the entire difference. It could be a sampling error, or that those who analyze these things have a hard time getting their minds around the fact that many women have a totally different views (and the 90% might now be similarly scratching their heads as to where the 10% are coming from). But then that goes beyond the fear explanation and enters the “socialization” realm and to what degree both sides of the 90/10 split have been “socialized” or if the opinions come from other factors such as innate differences (the lazy man theory) or simply *belief * (e.g. the critical thinking, liberally socialized woman who simply is fine with it because she believes its God’s will, even though if she were God she would do it differently).

    In sum, I would like to know more about the methodoligy.

  10. Zac says:

    …methodology including questions along the lines of Kate’s…

  11. that1girl says:

    The scientist in me had similar methodological questions… I’m currently looking through the end of the book on Amazon – Look Inside. They rarely hide the research notes and appendices.

  12. Jessawhy says:

    My questions are about the data as well.

    When we did studies in Poli-Sci at BYU we realized the Mormon’s have a different lingo. We didn’t ask if they were “practicing” but if they were “Active/Inactive.” It makes me wonder if the phrase, “favor women clergy” was clear enough for Mormons. The word clergy may be interpreted by some as just “leadership” or something else. Also, it’s hard to tell from the paragraph if the question indicated changing from male-only clergy to including women as well (though it probably did).
    Was the question phrased to account for a potential revelation, or just what the reader would like to see happen?

    Assuming the data means what we think it means, I think Ziff is right about the selection bias. That has to be a huge part of the results.
    Anyway, I would love to read more about this, it’s very interesting. And, like Kate said, very sad.

  13. Vada says:

    I agree with Aimee that many Mormon women have really swallowed the line that men are less likely to help or do spiritual things without the priesthood, and that if women could run everything the men would refuse to do anything. (I also agree emphatically that I don’t personally hold with that reasoning at all.) I also wonder at the wording of the question asked. I think it’s very hard for Mormons, and women especially, to say that they think women _should_ be ordained — after all, they’re supposed to trust that God is running the church in the way he wants it to be run. On the other hand, I think there’s a much higher percentage who would be happy with women being ordained if a revelation to that effect was given. Or in other words, as discouraging as the statistic is, I don’t think that it means 90% of Mormon women are opposed to female ordination, just that they’re not willing to advocate for it (and I think a lot of that goes back to Deborah’s point).

    And as a side note, I love Grant and Heather (his wife). I knew he did Mormon scholarship, but I didn’t realize he looked at Mormon feminism, so it was really fun to read this article. Thanks for the pointer.

  14. Corktree says:

    I too would like to see better info on where the numbers come from, but I agree with the points made by Starfoxy and Aimee. The first thing that came to mind was how men could be claiming favor to look enlightened and open minded, while they really believe it will never happen, so it’s safe to say that’s how they feel. If it came to a true “show of hands” I doubt those same men would be raising theirs.

    I’m also looking at the idea of women *using* the priesthood differently after reading Chapter 18 of Women and Authority (Margaret Toscano makes such a compelling argument for women already *possessing* the priesthood through the endowment). We really are so ignorant as a demographic of our specific history in the church that it doesn’t surprise me that the percentage of women in the church favoring ordination would be so low, even if the numbers are reduced due to problems with the poll. As a group, we just don’t understand what that means or could look like, so I think it’s just easier to imagine taking something away from men and adding to our own responsibilities and busy schedules. I don’t think that’s what it would look like at all, and I think if more women could conceive of this, the numbers would look very different, with accurately high favor on both sides.

    Here’s the link that Nat gave in another thread to the chapter for anyone that hasn’t read it yet. It’s great stuff.
    http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/women/chapter18.htm#Zion

  15. Grant says:

    I too wondered about survey methodology, sample size, and exact wording, but the only information in the book itself is the heading for the chart on p. 243, which indicates the percentages of those who “favor allowing female clergy in one’s own religion.” It is quite possible that some Latter-day Saints who read the question equated “clergy” not with priesthood but with leadership positions in general, including Relief Society presidents. Nevertheless, the gender disparity is still striking. If the differences are due to ambiguities in the question rather than divergent opinions about ordaining women to the priesthood, it is still interesting that LDS men and women interpreted the question so differently.

  16. spunky says:

    For some reason, this does not surprise me. As I attend a remote branch with less than 30 regular members, I view the priesthood as a necessity for women. With the all to common shift work of many of the men, there are Sundays where quite frankly, there are NO men at church, but for the missionaries, and we were just “allowed” missionaries in the last 12 months. More than once church was a room of women, primary children and my husband. So for me, women NEED the priesthood here if we are to take the sacrament every week, especially with shift work and holidays.

    Perhaps again this is my experience from living in “the mission field” (I did live in Utah for 6 years, but other than that, have not lived in an area where Mormonism is a majority in any way), but I find that unless some men have a necessary assignment, i.e. this person is the only one who can do XYZ, then some of the even devout won’t attend, won’t prepare lessons, etc. Offering the priesthood- i.e. the guilt trip “no one else can pass the sacrament”… might encourage or obligate men who would otherwise be apathetic in regular attendance.

    I think- this is just me– but I think that some men will stop attending church, because women WILL do the church jobs, so they won’t “have” to attend. Again, this is my experience both in and out of the US in the mission field, but women seem to me– by and large- to teach Primary, Sunday School (even GD), organize ward/branch activities, FHE and on the majority of Sundays in the wards and branches I have been in for the last 10 years—it is very common that ALL of the speakers are women. Men don’t seem to attend to accept responsibility as much as the women I(even when they are off shift), in my experience. Hence, there IS a need for the women to have the priesthood. BUT. I can see how many women would not want to “take away” the priesthood from men, because it could give men an additional excuse to not attend or participate in the church or in practicing the gospel- i.e. they are not needed, because again- the women do everything from soup to nuts. So… perhaps the answer in offering and accepting of the priesthood to women is in increasing the gospel culture for both men and women?

    So- I guess what I am saying is that from a practical perspective, women NEED the priesthood so in my branch at least, we can have the sacrament every Sunday. But I have concerns about it increasing the apathy of fence-sitters, both men and women. ‘Cause really- I have enough last-minute and regular jobs at church anyway, do I have to preside, bless and pass the sacrament, be the only speaker (this has happened- they watch conference talks when speakers are no shows—one Sunday, I spoke in sacrament and taught GD—I was the only “live” entertainment for the day), teach Sunday school and teach relief society. I don’t mean to sound selfish, but the sacrament is at least 5 minutes where I can have the spirit all to myself. I can see the practical necessity for it, but I am already a bit inundated with assignments, and I appreciate the psychological value in not having yet another assignment that “I” am the only one willing or able to do, so frankly may find myself unable to attend church as much if I have yet another assignment, regardless of what it is. So I am not surprised- at least in my perspective in the last 10 years- that men would be happy for women to relieve them of the religious obligation of priesthood so they can do even less. More than a few dual income families cannot afford to pay tithes on the husband’s income so they don’t– which means only the wife can attend the temple, which means the only “calling” of the men is to pass the sacrament, because the HAVE to, not necessarily because they have all of the “worthiness” (full tithe payer) boxes ticked.

    I do not mean this to be a dig at men, I am just stating my experience and observation. I also only offer this as a different perspective that should be considered in the world-wide application of church policy. It is by no means an argument one way or another.

    • Corktree says:

      I may be re-telling this wrong, and I can’t remember where I heard it, but in places like the Phillipines, where more women are converting than men, the missionaries are actually told not to baptise them because there would be no priesthood structure to support them. Seems like a good argument for ordaining women.

      It’s second hand, but doesn’t seem like that unlikely of situation in developing countries. If anyone can back it up, please do.

      • spunky says:

        I do not think your Phillipines info is correct. If it were, and there were say- only female members, I would think that similar to the case in german brancher of WW2, that women would be ordianed. This did not equate to the whole of the church, though, just to the women in German branches out of necessity.

    • Tony says:

      Very interesting discussion. I served a mission in the Philippines during the late 90s and, yes, we were told not to be too eager to baptize a family without the father. However, this was not because there was no priesthood to support them. It was strictly a “probability of staying active” question. It is more likely that an entire family will stay active than just a mother with her kids (or even less likely… the lone teenager baptism). In the end, we were simply encouraged to include the father as much as reasonably possible. But, after a reasonable attempt, we would go ahead with the baptism with/without the father.

  17. spunky says:

    Sorry that comment was kinf of off topic, and sorry to be critical, but Mormon feminism seems rooted in American culture and I don’t think that it always considers or benefits Mormon women outside of the US/Canada. Maybe the Mormon church is “The American Church”- but does Mormon feminism have to be American as well? It would be nice to have a place for non-American feminist Mormons to have a voice and consideration.

    • Caroline says:

      Spunky, I appreciate hearing your point of view as someone who is living a Mormon life outside of America. It’s really eye opening for me. Thanks for the comments!

  18. My wife, Kirsten, is an avid reader of the Exponent blog and suggested that I respond to some of the comments about the figures that Bob Putnam and I report in our recent book “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.” For what it is worth, I am LDS but my co-author is not.

    I have enjoyed reading the thoughtful comments about our data. If you have found this one little factoid interesting, I would encourage you to read the whole book. It is chock-full of information that we hope a general readership will find interesting. (But the book is not just statistics, as we have a series of “vignettes” of different congregations around the country, including an LDS ward in Sandy, but also a synagogue, mega-churches, a black church, etc).

    Some technical details: The data we report on Mormons’ attitudes toward female clergy come from a national survey of 3,100 randomly-selected Americans. There are 53 Mormons in our sample, which is the right percentage (roughly 2% of the population). More on the fact that we only have 53 Mormons below.

    The interviews were done over the phone, with interviewers employed by ICR, a highly-reputable survey research firm. The interviewers were both men and women.

    The particular datum in question comes from the following question:
    I’m going to read a list of statements that some people agree with and
    others don’t. For each, please tell me whether you basically agree or
    basically disagree. How about ______ ?

    [The survey then had a list of statements, which were presented in a random order in order to eliminate what are known as “ordering effects”]

    The statement about women-as-clergy is:
    Women should be allowed to be priests or clergy in my house of worship

    Note that since this was a national survey, we had to phrase the question so that it applies across different religions. Thus, we did not ask whether women should hold the priesthood, since that would only apply to a few religions. We also chose “in my house of worship” as a compromise between one’s religion, one’s denomination, and one’s congregation. In Mormonism all three are the same, but that is not so for many Protestant faiths. I concede that if we were focusing on Mormons’ attitudes, we would use a different phrasing. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable that most Mormons would understand this question as being about whether women should hold the priesthood.

    Now, the fact that we only have a total of 53 Mormon respondents means that while our estimates are representative, they also have a wide “margin of error.” This margin is only wider when we compare men vs. women, since each is only half of the group. In other words, while I am confident that Mormon men are more likely than Mormon women to believe that women should hold the priesthood, I am less confident in the precision of 10% (women) versus 48% (men).

    One relevant factor that has not yet come up in the discussion of our results is that women are, on average, more religiously “traditionalist” than men. (This is true across religions, including but not limited to Mormonism). In a Mormon context, religious traditionalism would presumably mean endorsing a male-only priesthood. Or perhaps this is another way of saying that many Mormon women have been socialized to say that they do not want the priesthood (as one post suggests).

    I hope this is helpful. If anyone has further questions, feel free to contact me: dave_campbell@nd.edu

    Dave Campbell

    • Deborah says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by and contributing! You got a nice shout-out from Ross Douthat in his nytimes column today.

      I would love to see this study duplicated among Mormons with a larger sampling size — because even if 48/10 isn’t perfect, it’s enough of a gap to make one sit up and ask questions (Ph.D. study, anyone?). And if the number really is close to 50% of Mormon men, consistently? That’s paradigm shifting for me . . .

    • Starfoxy says:

      Women should be allowed to be priests or clergy in my house of worship
      This is interesting, because one could argue that a RS president is just as much ‘clergy’ as, say, an EQ president. And I think that this line of thinking could handily explain the split.
      I think many women see their place in the church as distinctly not clergy because they don’t hold the priesthood. Priesthood = authority, priests and clergy have authority, therefore women aren’t priests or clergy end of story.
      However, many men who have held positions of authority in a ward would have worked with the RS president and could very easily see that position as ‘clergy.’ They see themselves as clergy, see a woman as their peer at ward council, and conclude that women are part of the clergy.
      The question then is how many people who agreed with the “should be allowed” statement above would also agree with a “currently do” statement.

    • Vada says:

      Dave, thanks so much for stopping by and clarifying the original numbers in the survey. I had one more question — were the 53% of Mormons fairly evenly split along gender lines, or were there a lot more men or women? It would affect the margin of error even more if one group was much smaller than the other.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Wow, how cool that you came by to comment!
      And that your wife reads the Exponent. Double wow!

      I do love Putnam, I still remember reading “Bowling Alone” in college.

      Congratulations on your work, I will definitely get the book and read it.

      Do you have future plans to study these findings further? I would love to hear if we could flesh out these numbers and get more data to better understand the feelings of Mormons on women and the priesthood.
      Too bad the LDS church doesn’t have a polling company on their payroll. (or do they?)

  19. Kate says:

    Dave, thanks so much for sharing with us the methodology behind how the sampling was done. That helps a lot. What was the statistical error on the Mormon sample, for the gender-related questions?

  20. Adam S. says:

    This is my new favorite factoid. I’m going to bring it up at all my church parties. To some degree it boggles the mind, especially as women in the church are de facto becoming more educated and are more likely to work outside the home. My vote for the most likely reasons for the higher male numbers are two of the points Cambell makes on the original post:

    “A few might be somewhat put off by the fact that church is virtually the only aspect of their lives that is segregated by gender (with the exception of those who are employed in the Church Office Building, most LDS male professionals work as equals with, and often for, women). All-male disciplinary councils can be particularly uncomfortable.”

    (I’ve sat in on these councils as a clerk and they are extremely uncomfortable. I find it an embarrassment that no women in leadership are involved.)

    “Many men probably find it easy to adopt a politically-correct opinion on something that is quite unlikely to change, without really thinking through the broader implications or the logistics of what would truly be a “priesthood of all believers.””

    It is very easy for me as a male in the church to vocally support women getting the priesthood. Perhaps the ERA and September Six excommunications have created a ethos of fear and have forced a conformity among women who stay in the church. Whatever the reason it is a sad state of affairs that only 10% of women in the church think this way.

  21. jks says:

    spunky, I completely agree with you. I do not want the priesthood. The women I know do not want the priesthood. We are doing just fine without it.
    We see the benefit that the priesthood has given our husbands or fathers or sons and appreciate it.
    I understand that someday the world might have changed so much that the current positives of having a male only priesthood might no longer apply, but right now and for decades the male only priesthood has had its benefits.
    I believe research has shown that in many religions the men are absent. There are downsides to opening the door to female clergy.
    Also, most Mormon women are VERY involved in their callings and their family service and do not want to be given more demanding callings. Perhaps someday, younger generations of women could take on the burden of some of the priesthood callings, but for women we know that unless your number comes up for RS President, your calling has a cap.
    Too many women my age know that their families depend on them a lot for so many little things. We are used to families being #1 and it would make us uncomfortable to suddenly have these “priesthood responsibilities” that are #1.

    • Vada says:

      “Also, most Mormon women are VERY involved in their callings and their family service and do not want to be given more demanding callings. ”

      Comments like this make me sad. Seriously, any time someone says something like this I want to point out that women are already doing more work because of the demanding callings in our church. They have to pick up all the slack in their families that their husbands suddenly can’t cover because of increased church responsibilities. Now, I understand that some women might prefer this arrangement, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t think it’s wrong to wish for the opposite, either. If either my husband or I needed to perform a demanding calling and the other needed to pick up the slack at home, I would much prefer that I got the calling and my husband did more at home. My children already see me all day every day of the week, so if I have to go to meetings 3 nights a week and all day on Sundays that wouldn’t really affect our relationship. On the other hand, my husband already gets home after the kids go to bed a couple of night a week. If he had to add a labor-intensive church calling to his schedule his kids wouldn’t see him, and wouldn’t really know him, and that would be extremely sad.

  22. George Smith, PhD, PE says:

    Come on ladies – why not research the source of the data?

    AMERICAN GRACE; HOW RELIGION DIVIDES AND UNITES US by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell (Simon and Schuster, 2010).

    Peace and Happy New Year.
    gls

  23. Naismith says:

    Supporting gender equity? If doing what men do–having the priesthood–is seen as the only way to be “equal,” that attitude shows little respect for the femaleness of our nature and the work that women do as mothers.

    If I were asked that survey item, I would probably say no opinion. First, because it is confusing since non-ordained women in our church perform many “clergy” functions from other churches (serving missions, performing temple ordinances, giving talks and prayers, serving on ward council).

    Also, I have no desire to be ordained because it is not the church policy at this time. So it is not something that I actively desire.

    But if the policy changed, I would embrace it. Just because I don’t want it does not mean that I oppose it.

    • Deborah says:

      RE: Supporting gender equity. If you are quoting my original post, I am noting that many of my friends + LDSWave do *not* advocate female ordination because they think it might interfere with accomplishing other “doable” gender equity goals.

      “Just because I don’t want it does not mean that I oppose it.”

      A key distinction — I would imagine many LDS women fall into this category. I’d love to see a survey on this, too 🙂

  24. Coffinberry says:

    Last Sunday between choir numbers, I realized that I as a woman do and possess that which non-Mormons mean by “Clergy.”

    When I chat with people I meet in my line of work (I’m an attorney), I often have to ‘translate’ my church activities into language that others understand. The most understandable description of my church calling is to say that I have been called to the music ministry at church (I’m ward music chair and choir director). From the point of view of my Christian non-member friends and kin, they see me acting in a leadership role at church, much as any ordained music minister at their church would do. Their music minister has to coordinate, of course, with other ministry leaders on issues of timing and message, just like I have to do. As for what they mean by ordination, I get to draw on the powers of heaven to which I am entitled both by baptism and by the endowment in effectuating the work I have been called to do. I have been set apart in a ritualized ordinance to do this work. So it seems to me that in truth, I am already female clergy acting in my house of worship.

    I guess I’m saying all this to say that if I were asked the survey question, I would find it very hard to answer. Since the questions were phrased in non-Mormon terms, I would probably answer in terms that emphatically embraced the fact that we Mormons very much already do have female clergy. But I know that is not what is meant by Mormon women (like me) who seek to know what it means to be like Heavenly Mother, and to have women more fully represented in the decision-making, finance-managing, and discipline-invoking branches of church administration. Maybe the answers given to this survey question do not mean what we think they mean.

  25. EM says:

    Please forgive me for not having read all the articles and replies – I will later.
    If I was asked that question I would have said “No and hell no!” It just would be one more thing that I would have to be responsible for and do. If it’s just to be equal with men, then definitely no; I am their equal and in some cases better, and I don’t need to have the priesthood to prove that to myself. I have a voice, it’s loud, and I don’t allow self-righteous, pompous priesthood holders to lord their priesthood over me – I have as much power as they do!

  26. Howard says:

    I am of the opinion that women should conditionally hold the priesthood including the high priesthood office of Apostle and would love to see a female hierarchy extend from her down to the ward level. Sister Beck would make a great Apostle in my opinion and I know God agrees. Not all women want to hold the priesthood so by ordaining female leadership only they would have a choice. The relief society was organized to care for the needy and it would be great to see them with independent leadership persuent to the feeding and watering of all the world’s people something the male leadership has failed to address in a meaningful way.

  27. Corktree says:

    I have to say, I’m a little disappointed in some of the opinions expressed. I used to feel similarly; along the lines of “Why would I want the priesthood?, I already have so much else that I’m responsible for. ”

    But I think this shows a lack of understanding and willingness to look at what women *using* the priesthood would actually look like. Do most of us really still believe that anyone that claims to want official use of the priesthood is power hungry and wanting men and women’s roles to look absolutely the same? If this is how women who interact with mormon feminists feel, then the 10% doesn’t surprise me at all.

    How would it be, if the sphere of endowed women were enhanced, not expanded, by officially being allowed to use their priestesshood in the roles that they already have. Or how would it be if women were allowed to sit in at meetings that they are currently excluded from; meetings that directly affect women as individuals and as a whole. Really, it makes me sad that we still view the acquisition of priesthood in this way, and not as the power of God that it is. Do we not believe that Heavenly Mother has the priesthood and uses it?

    What are we really afraid of?

    • TopHat says:

      We’re afraid of being too awesome. 🙂

      Seriously, though, I think we are afraid to admit that Mormonland isn’t as sparkly shiny as we like to think. I mean, we’re told that women are so spiritual and amazing all the time, we don’t want to find out that we’ve been kept from being full members in the Church.

    • Deborah says:

      The theology of what it means to be a “priestess” is sorely underdeveloped . . .

  28. Deborah says:

    Coffinberry: When I worked in the primary presidency I often told friends of other faiths that I was in charge of the children’s ministry — and it is a pretty equivalent job! Relief Society work is a good match with pastoral care ministry in other denominations . . .

  29. Kate says:

    When I think of the priesthood, or what it would mean for a woman to hold the priesthood, I don’t think of it as “increased work”.

    I think of it as the authority to place my hands on my newborn’s head and pronounce a blessing upon him or her.

    I think of it as the right to stand in a circle of men and women, and to give blessings of comfort or healing.

    I think of it as the woman who doesn’t have a male priesthood leader in the home being able to provide priesthood blessings to her feverish child at 1 am, rather than having to call her home teachers to do it for her.

    Yes, those are the opportunities that I, personally, would want to have.

    In terms of others, I think of it as having women who are members of the Quorum of the Twelve. I think of women speaking and being heard at General Conference with the same degree of respect as the Qo12 are. Being given the same amount of time and reverence. Not because they are women and we should respect them – but because they hold the same office.

    I think of it as having (personally) the authority to heal and act in God’s name, but also to having (as a collective female whole) equal representation in the church leadership counsels.

    • Ziff says:

      Beautiful, Kate!

    • spunky says:

      I kind of see your point, Kate, but… I believe that when I pray with the power of the spirit, it is just as powerful as a blessing. Again, perhaps this is because living sooooo far away from a branch, ward or otherwise has forced me to be more spiritually independant. But I see no need for “permission” via some ordination in order to pronounce a powerful prayer of healing, direction or otherwise. Women in the church pre-WW2 had prayer circles, and prayed with strength (I have no idea why this isn’t common practice anymore), so- why can’t I? I guess I see no authoritative value in something “bestowed”, especilly when the “blesser”- male or female may have emotional influences that detract from the spirit. I also see no value in someone being an effective mouthpiece for God on my behalf. If Elohim have direction for me, I see no reason why a “priesthood holder” can be the only vessel for this direction. I am entitled to inspiration, and the power of prayer is infinate… so to me, the “priesthood” is only the power to ordain those in leadreship positions, and have nothing — not one stitch to do with blessing a baby or otherwise personal blessings that can and probably should be pronounced and inspired through prayer.

      I am with Naismith- not advocating, but will accept it if it were a church policy. I just don’t see the purpose of it at this point.

      • Jessica says:

        I think that the problem is that not all women understand that they have power. I went to our ward’s priesthood preview as part of the primary. And I waled away thinking I can do all that minus the actual ordinances that people see in church. And that is the problem for me – official recognition of that power and the teaching of every church member that is lacking. I think that it is a lack of the use of the power that worries me. And I am with you what happened during correlation? Its sad when truth is lost in general practice. And the faulty logic that is used to justify it.

  30. jks says:

    I can see being disappointed when someone says they view having the priesthood as more work and not something to envy.
    However, Kate & Corktree you didn’t address the idea that many women see the male only priesthood has something that has benefitted their fathers, wives and husbands. We might see the pros of male-only outweighing the pros of having women in the priesthood.

    • Kate says:

      I wonder if similar arguments were maintained before women were given the right to vote – if women could vote or run for office, perhaps men would no longer do their civic duty! Women would hold all of the leadership positions in the land!

      I don’t buy into the argument that if women have the priesthood, the church would suddenly become a matriarchy. Political history and religious histories don’t seem to support this idea, either.

  31. Corktree says:

    That’s assuming that allowing women to use the priesthood they receive in the temple will diminish what the men do or what they hold. I don’t think it does.

  32. MB says:

    Has anyone taken into consideration that in almost all other denominations clergy are paid and it is a profession? So for many of those interviewed it is a question about employment access and equality while in the Mormon context it is about volunteer work.
    I’d bet that besides tradition the financial remuneration or lack thereof does change the nature of women wanting or not wanting to have that job and men wishing more ardently that they could share it.

  33. x2Dora says:

    From college days, I remember that women were not allowed to be Institute Directors. Hardly suprising. However, I do remember being surprised that women with young children were not allowed to be teachers or secretaries at the Institute. Not sure if this was a localized practice, or church-wide, or even if it’s changed in the interrrim.

    • x2Dora says:

      And by “young children,” I mean anyone under the age of 18.

      • Jessawhy says:

        Yep, my favorite seminary teacher had to quit when she had a baby. I could tell that it wasn’t what she wanted to do, but that was CES (church) policy.

        I believe it still is. . .

      • MB says:

        Jessawhy,
        I don’t know about paid ones, but not for volunteer ones. My son’s current seminary teacher gave birth to a sweet baby a year ago, took a month off, then came back and and is still teaching, her choice. She tells me she was asked whether or not she wanted to continue. She loves it.

  34. MB says:

    Another thing to consider is that in most Christian religions, the question to any of it’s female members would be about whether or not women who wish to undertake the paid profession of priest or clergy should be allowed to do so. It’s about women other than herself for the most part. It would require no major change in her worship responsibilities or expectations. In the LDS faith this question when posed to a woman means “should you personally be expected to assume priesthood as an active member of your faith?”

    Those are two very different questions.

  35. Steve Kimball says:

    I think its so sad that women are raising young men and women in the LDS church where they are taught men are superior to women. Nothing will change until Section 132 is removed from the DC since it makes women a commodity. My GGGrandfather chosen by God (right) said “I think no more of taking another wife as I do buying a cow”, seriously! C’mon women stand up and fight for your voice. Ask, where is our revelation that we are not inferior. Refuse to make crafts and do homemaking. Refuse to allow your daughters to be brought up in such an archaic system. Grow some!

  36. ktpsyc says:

    I realize that this post is late but I was just so excited to read a thoughtful, educated debate on this topic. When it comes to religious topics often times people become consumed with intense emotions and what started to be an open and honest conversation transforms in to something ugly and meaningless. So for that I thank you all!

    Before I give my thoughts on this topic, I would like to comment on Steve Kimball’s post:

    “Ask, where is our revelation that we are not inferior. Refuse to make crafts and do homemaking. Refuse to allow your daughters to be brought up in such an archaic system. Grow some!”

    It is not my understanding that Men are thought of as superior to Women in the Mormon faith, I believe they are taught that there is equality between the sexes. However, I understand that you may have a different eperience in this. Be that as it may, as a feminist myself I find it curious that in your comment you encouraged women to “Grow some,” implying that in order to stand up for themselves as women they needed to take on masculine qualities. I would encourage you to be mindful of this as this also sends the wrong message. Men are not better than women and visa versa. I mean no insult, I believe we are on the same page with this.

    With regard to the post topic. I have another consideration in this. Kate & Corktree I love your perspectives. I would like to add to them as well. Endowed women members in the Mormon faith already execise the priestesshood in the temples. I am not sure who was originally polled in this survey, but would wonder if women answered the question based on their understanding that they already held the priestesshood? This is deep doctorine stuff so for anyone reading this who is lost just go ask your local Mormon friend to explain.

    Also, I think something that we feminists often forget is that our femininity is not measured by masculine qualities. Sociologically speaking, characteristics are categorized into masculine and feminine qualities. Masculine qualities like courage, strength, stoicism, logic, independence etc. are placed at higher value in society than feminine qualities like compassion, empathy, cooperation, nurturance, softness etc. But this only happens when we adhere that type of understanding. Although this interesting debate questions the “why don’t Mormon women necessarily want the priesthood?”…I wonder if it has to do with their satisfaction in their feminine role? Have we considered that there may be some value in these feminine qualities? I am not making the whole “oh women already have so many responsibilities why would they want the priesthood too blah blah” argument. I too am repulsed by this logic.

    Rather, maybe Mormon women don’t necesserally see the need to hold it themselves because they don’t see it as a threat. Debates over equality often derive from power struggles, when one group has power and the other is marganalized (Like women and voting). The priesthood is not a symbol of “man” power or touted as such, so maybe these women don’t feel a power struggle to have it?

    There is also something to be said about the yin and yang of male and female roles. I bet there are many Mormon feminist women out there that would agree that they like seeing men in a leadership role as a preisthood holder because it makes them (the women) feel safe and secure (thats right, I just went there). Not because the women can’t spiritually protect themselves or be leaders in their own right. I am not implying that at all. I am simply saying that maybe there is security in knowing that your husband (for example) is humble enough to honor the priesthood, and fulfills his spiritual duty to God, all the while being an EQUAL partner in the relationship. Maybe Mormon women actually get something out of having men hold the priesthood, and I don’t mean spiritually. Maybe it creates an environment where they are free to feel safe in their feminnity without pressure to also adhere to masculine roles.

    This is a very interesting topic and I am glad people are able to express their thoughts in an open and safe manner.

    *I did not spell check this before posting 🙂

  37. All LDS women should step up to the plate and recognize that everyone receives the priesthood of God upon Baptism since God is not about prejudicial elitism thrust upon women due to men who justify tradition. Due to historical suppression women today fail to recognize that women during the time of Christ filled prominent leadership position even as Apostles! Please research the scholarly writings of Karen L. King and Elaine Pagels and many others thanks to divinely preserved early Christian writings that political Christian leaders order burned since they unrighteously demanded “orthodoxy” rather than the spiritual teachings of Christ.

    My following remarks pertain to a blog posting (Mormon Heretic) that brought out the historical truth that women held the Melchizedek Priesthood equal to men during the very early “pure” years of the church. The truth that women held the priesthood equal to men in the early “pure” years of the church prior to the fallibility (ego and “carnal desires” aka D&C 3:1-11) of men messed things up. Luckily, we are now in the midst of the prophesied cleansing!

    This was prior to the mess and “abomination” of polygamy (Jacob 2:23-35 and Jacob 3) no matter who practices it even the Biblical “men of old” like Abraham who gave us the consequence of his sins (“whoremongering”) and lack of faith in God with the hatred of Hagar and Sarah and the Christian-hating Muslims.

    In actuality as revealed during a profound NDE preceded by a mother’s three prophetic dreams and recorded in journals, women (and men) receive the power (priesthood) of God upon Baptism…It is just that simple without the elitism of ranks.

    Excitingly for this time of prophetic fulfillment (Isaiah’s “shouting from the rooftops” aka the inspired internet), the truth is coming forth and the Prophetic Cleansing of the church (D&C 64, 112) continues with each blindly-obedient Mormon wakes up.

    I pride myself on being a true Mormon who is aware of the warnings of the Book of Mormon applies directly to the church.

    We can see the problems with King Joseph Smith who failed to become an apostle due to his ego and desire for control which correlates today with King Hinckley and now King Monson.

    We can also see how Joseph Smith fell as warned by God due to JS’s “carnal desires” (D&C 3:1-11). Although we have been taught that all our leaders are perfect and next to God, Joseph Smith’s uncontrolled “carnal desires” is a type and shadow of King David.

    However, you’ll note in Quinn’s “Origins of Power” pg 645-646 Joseph Smith repented of polygamy and Masonry which stems from Satan’s requirement of Cain by taking a Satanic blood oath which continues in all LDS Temples as we (prior to 1990) slit our throats, cut out our hearts and intestines as ways to “suffer our lives to be taken” as we consecrate (blood oath) all of our time, talents and all that we do possess” with a Blood Atonement penalty if we told any of the SECRETS of the Temples.

    Secrets are not of God, nor are blood oaths required in all temples as “they come of evil” as Christ taught.

    D&C 124 states the condemnation of the church due to our “follies and abominations” (polygamy, Masonry, taking the priesthood away from women, Kingship, secrets, elitism/Zoramites/Rameumptum Tower snobbishness of LDS leaders and members.

    Exciting events are in store for those truthseekers and Mormon Heretics who care to know the truth! Thanks for your inspired Blog.

  38. Please excuse the errors as my previous hurried post should not distract from the truths presented! Thank you since a misconception remains regarding the supposed teaching of Christ that we should be perfect. The actual translation should be that we are to be pure as a child (what child is perfect?) and merciful versus perfect which sets everyone up for failure, guilt, and vulnerable to be controlled by judgmental uninspired church leaders.

    Where Matthew 5:48 reads “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” Luke 6:36 has, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”

    My team of pure LDS Truth Seekers have a book coming out entitled, “The Great and Most Abominable: The Prophetic Cleansing of the Mormon Church”. We are living in a most exciting time! Remember that Abinadi was not called from out of the church hierarchy of President of the Church King Noah (book of Mosiah) to preach repentance…

  1. May 30, 2016

    […] Who Thinks Women Should Hold the Priesthood? Men, Apparently by Deborah […]

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