Guest Post: I'm Not One of Those Women. I'm Just Thinking, Don't Worry
mValiant is a reformed-Exponent-lurker who lives with her husband in one of the bluest states in the union. She knows all the words to Saturday’s Warrior, served a mission, and loves visiting teaching.
When I was growing up, I often heard a cautionary tale from my mother about what happens to women who want the priesthood. According to the story, a group in her old stake in the northeast had sat around and talked so much about how much they wanted the priesthood that they all became lesbians and left their husbands and their six children (each). This was back when I had no idea what a lesbian was, but it sounded scary. Ye olde LDS slippery slope was alive and well: IF you want the priesthood THEN you are going to become a lesbian and abandon your children.
Nowadays, having met plenty of perfectly wonderful lesbians (with children, mind you), the “THEN” part of that warning doesn’t sound so bad at all, but I am still very frightened by the IF part. IF you want the priesthood, and – BAM- I immediately start to disclaim, “Of course I don’t want the priesthood, I’m just thinking about gender roles in the church, but I don’t actually want anything to change, I’m not one of those women, I’m not trying to upheave everything that makes your life feel safe and secure and comfortable. I’m just thinking, don’t worry.”
However my “just thinking” on the matter has recently been galvanized by an article in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof that calls for an end to discriminatory practices against women in religion including the exclusion of women from the religious hierarchy. He reports on a group called The Elders (which includes women… and very hopefully lesbians, right?) led by Nelson Mandela that issued a call to all world religions that says (among other things, I suggest you read the whole piece here) that “the justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a higher authority is unacceptable” and further “we believe that women and girls share equal rights with men and boys in all aspects of life.”
LIGHTENING BOLTS! THUNDER! MY HEART LEAPS INTO MY THROAT! That is what I believe! I have been saying that for years (to people I trust not to throw me to the priesthood-lesbian conversion squad for saying so). It was the most exciting thing I had read in years.
So I started talking to my LDS friends of all political persuasions. What do you think this means for us? What are the implications of such a statement for LDS women? And I have been surprised to find that very few seem to think that this applies to the exclusion of women from the LDS religious hierarchy.
There are lots of reasons given for why it doesn’t apply to LDS women, and as I listened to them, it occurred to me: you could have said any of these things about black men pre-1978. They can still “fully” participate in their own way, they can make their own meaning, they have informal power in the church, maybe they are in it for the community rather than for the power, etc. But even with all of those reasons to make it OK for excluding black men, we are still horrified that it ever happened. Our church was racist, gasp, we discriminated against black men by excluding them from the religious hierarchy: a dark era in our church’s history.
And yet, it seems perfectly acceptable to us to choose another characteristic and say, “Ah, but this one is different. This isn’t just skin color, these are genitals!” as a reason for excluding another group from the religious hierarchy. I don’t get it. Like Kristof said, I think there are negative consequences to a fully male hierarchy that is supposed to be ordered and ordained by God. I want to be in a church where women interview men to determine their worthiness to enter the temple (and vice versa), women receive inspiration from God about men’s callings (and vice versa), women approve men’s expenditures using the church’s assets (and vice versa), women count the tithing, women can be bishops. I don’t care how we get there, but that’s what I want.
Do you think that The Elder’s call applies to the exclusion of LDS women from the religious hierarchy? Why or why not? Do you think there are substantive differences between excluding a group from the religious hierarchy because of their race versus because of theirgender? Why or why not? And do you want my six children? I seem to have started down the slippery slope by saying all of this out loud…