Sisters Speak: Female Ordination and Envisioning the Future

Dear Exponent readers, The next issue of the Exponent II magazine will focus on the topic of Mormon women’s ordination. The magazine will include terrific articles on both sides of the debate, but I would love to feature your opinions on the subject in the Sisters Speak column as well. I am looking for brief (one or two paragraph) responses to the following question, and I will email some of you commenters to ask if I can quote you in the magazine. For those that would like to respond privately, please email me at carolinekline1 at gmail dot com. 

Giving women the priesthood is a complicated issue for many of us. Some long for a day when our daughters will see themselves as full partners and leaders in the church alongside men, hoping ordination will lead to shifts in theology and rhetoric that will recognize women as fully human. Others desire expanded opportunities for women, but fear losing women-centered spaces if women were ordained. Many of us simultaneously experience all these hopes and fears, along with many others. What are your thoughts on ordaining women? If women were to be ordained, what is the change you most look forward to and why? What is your greatest fear about ordaining women?


Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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27 Responses

  1. Frank Pellett says:

    I’d written a couple of posts that were accepted on Exponent about this before, and it’s the #1 aspect of the Gospel I’m most looking forward to. And yes, I’m not a sister, but I am an Exponent reader and am proud to be a part of the Exponent blog community.

    My greatest wish is that some day we get revealed to us the Priestesshood. This would be given directly to a woman from above, with enthusiastic welcome from the President of the Church. Church hierarchy would have to change to accept this dual authority, where the two Presidents, female and male, lead together.

    I dislike the idea that feminism means we have to fit women into the male “mold”. Human is not just male. If women are not fully human, then neither are men.

    I look forward to hearing from not just Prophets, but also Prophetesses. The progress we could make together will be so much more than the sum of what we could do with either alone. There is only so far having only male voices can get us. The best we can do is work on getting us, as a people, somewhere close to being ready for it.

    That’s why I’m kinda glad for the OW movement, even though I don’t agree with it. It’s at least getting people talking and thinking about the possibilities.

  2. Big L says:

    The ordaining of women feels like the right thing to do to me. It would signify a great change in the Church in how members identify with women. It would affect the way women see themselves. It would change the dynamic of leadership in the Church. It would open dialogue about policies which haven’t yet been addressed because women don’t currently have a voice. The biggest thing is that voice. If women held the priesthood and were included in every level of Church leadership, the voice of women would be heard the same as mens and it would be a beautiful, beautiful thing.

    My only fear would be my own ordination. I’m no longer a very literal believer in many things. I see the value in the Priesthood as far as it brings a community together and can facilitate healing and hope because of the physiological changes that can occur in a believer simply for believing. I also recognize the importance of authority in the Church; the entire organization and functioning of the Church depends on the authority afforded by the priesthood. However, I myself don’t believe in the necessity of the priesthood and am happy to not have to do the mental gymnastics necessary for an unorthodox person like myself to hold the priesthood and perform its ordinances. Basically, at this point, if women were extended the priesthood, I would feel like quite the fraud accepting, but because I am an active participant in the faith community, it would most certainly be an expectation. At the same time, maybe serving as a priesthood holder would be a miraculous experience and reign my faith back into the exclusive authority box called Being a Believing Mormon.

  3. Davis says:

    I do not have anything against the ordination of women. If it was announced, I would gladly accept it and gladly accept the changes that came with it.

    My one big question is why does anyone think that now is a better time than in the past for the ordination of women to occur? As a Church, we are less active, less committed and less righteous than at any other point in history. If this is going to occur, I think we as a Church have to move forward a great deal.

    It has been said many times that the Lord is waiting to reveal things to us, but cannot because we do not follow him well enough. Perhaps this is one of those things.

    • X2 Dora says:

      I think that now is the perfect time, so that missionary work can proceed on a larger international scale. In the US, I tend to think that most people have access to church services (both the 3 hour block, as well as help in times of need on the 6 other days of the week), within a radius of a 3 hour drive. However, there are many members, and potential members, who either aren’t able to be baptized, or have access to these services, because of a lack of male church members. What a difference it would make to the people in these underserved areas, if women were given the priesthood and allowed to administer (as well as minister) the church? Really, the time is past due.

    • Common Sense says:

      Women raise priesthood holders.. They shape and form them into who they are and they take great honor in this responsibility..
      The women that complain, about “women” not having the priestood, to put it lightly.. Aren’t Women at all..

  4. Donna says:

    I support the ordination of women because I love the church. I want it to grow stronger, more vibrant and more powerful. Dramatically increasing the number of priesthood holders on the earth will unquestionably be a good thing.

    I would say to all women everywhere: “If you don’t think women should have the priesthood, then don’t ask to be ordained. No one will force you.”

    • Steve says:

      I don’t know if it’s that simple. Currently, boys really don’t have the option to reject the priesthood when they turn 12. It’s kind of forced upon us. I’d prefer that priesthood ordination be made available to anyone who wants it, but that it also be made optional.

  5. Cally Stephens says:

    For me, Ordain Women is about so much more than the priesthood. I believe ordaining women would benefit the Mormon church and culture in countless ways: economically, psychologically, spiritually. But I think the most important reason for ordaining women is that it is simply the right thing to do. Often, when I am struggling to understand my Heavenly Parents plan for me, I ask myself what I would want for my children. I would absolutely want my daughters to have the same opportunities to serve and grow as my sons. In fact, I would be heartbroken if they didn’t. I believe that God would never deny me any blessing on the basis of my gender, just as I would never deny any blessing to my children on the basis of their gender. All are alike unto God, black and white, bond and free, male and female.

  6. Laura Penn says:

    I am a 100% supporter of ordaining women. I think this is a step that will have positive consequences far beyond the confines of our church communities. Churches are the largest and most influential repositories and transmitters of patriarchy. When we begin to see women routinely acting in all capacities within our religious communities and being regarded and viewed and treated as fully and equally human, I believe that boys and girls will grow up into men and women who have very different fundamental assumptions about themselves and each other than we currently have. I think we will find that viewing individuals of the opposite sex in a more nuanced and less restricted way will be a paradigm shift of colossal scope. I believe that we will be freer to see individuals as individuals with strengths and weaknesses, gifts and goals that are unique and that will open the possibilities of tapping the potential of individuals for greatness. I also think it will revolutionize the way girls view themselves as they grow into women. I believe that the creative and intellectual energy that is now being carefully circumscribed will change the world in ways we can only imagine. I believe that boys will flourish as well when they are no longer required to spend so much psychological energy patrolling and enforcing the borders of masculinity.

    I work for a world made new when the divine feminine is allowed to come into full partnership with the divine masculine and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

  7. Sadie Loweh says:

    I would see women included in blessing their babies, holding their babies, as witnesses for their children’s baptism. I would see women talking and counseling women. I don’t want men interviewing young children for baptism, YW and Women and asking about their sexuality, their sexual response system. No more Church courts where men judge women. I would see women being able to teach Seminary as full time CES employees with pay, with benefits and with a pension. Paid female Seminary teachers would show that we value women’s works equal to men and it is worthy of all full pay with benefits. Who knows maybe the women employed for the COB and CES could even wear the same professional business attire that is considered standard for the rest of the country instead of being limited to only skirts and dresses.

    I would see women in a position to advise and instruct on issues of Policy and finances. A women could be a financial clerk, and women could be a Zone Leader over her entire zone. Women would be treated as they are treated in the work force as equals and integrated. I would also see a positive shift where Fathers could be told a narrative that being an involved parent matters. Motherhood=Fatherhood.

  8. Caroline says:

    Love these comments! I will email many of you in the next few days or so to ask if I can quote you. Please keep them coming, people! And if there is anyone out there that is willing to discuss her worries about women’s ordination, please do speak up. I’d love to feature some of those thoughts as well.

  9. Hedgehog says:

    What are your thoughts on ordaining women?
    I can see that it may well be necessary for women to be able to have an equal voice. However, I would prefer to see a dismantling of the overbearing hierarchical structures of the church to accompany the ordination of women rather than a continuation of existing structures, and also a return to a time when corporate titles were not used.

    If women were to be ordained, what is the change you most look forward to and why?
    I long for a time when parents can bless their children together, when wives can bless their husbands as well as husbands their wives. It feels to me that only then will the family truly be complete, and only then see its place as the most important unit in the church.

    What is your greatest fear about ordaining women?
    My greatest fear would be the introduction of a separate priestesshood. In my mind that will serve only to entrench divisions between men and women, and lead to further over-emphasis on supposedly divine gender traits. I really, really don’t fit that mold.

  10. Lori says:

    Caroline wanted some worries, so here they are:

    I see no doctrinal reason why women should not have the priesthood. Most of the arguments against it are reminiscent of the so-called reasons why blacks couldn’t have the priesthood, and yet now they do, and they do an excellent job with it.

    However, I do worry about the effect on men if women are ordained. I think many of them would find it hard to cope, not because they are sexist (most men I know aren’t), but because their presence would no longer be so important, and everyone, male or female, likes to feel needed.

    In every major Christian denomination, women outnumber men in the pews by far. At the moment, the men in our church know we need them there, and not just in a vague, philosophic way. We women really can’t make it function without them because we don’t have the priesthood.

    The gender segregation here is troubling, I know, but with or without the priesthood, women are important. Partly it’s biological: our role in producing and nurturing the next generation is undeniable. Partly it’s because every ward I have ever been in has been largely held together by women who planned, organized, taught, and ministered more effectually than most of the men. (I have no comment on whether this difference is a matter of biology, spirituality, culture, good role models, dedication, or some other factor.)

    Even on a more personal level, I can see this issue. Many women have commented on how much they would love to be in the circle when their babies are blessed, but I feel differently. In a culture that has marginalized the importance of fathers, I found it touching to see the men of my family gathered around my baby girl. Some of them came over great distances for the special day, and it meant a great deal to me. The women in my family congregate around new babies naturally. The mere fact that this was a circle of men was part of what made it meaningful.

    Is the current situation terribly unfair to single women and part-member families? Yes, absolutely, it is. That’s one reason why I think women will eventually get the priesthood. But I do wonder, when that day arrives, will the men still come? Will our boys think that religion is just for girls? Will they stay engaged, if we really can make it function without them?

  11. JH says:

    I love the idea of ordaining women. I think it would be an opportunity for men and women to publicly unite and grow together as they lead the Church into uncharted territory. In addition, ordaining women could create a much-needed sense of purpose and value within the Church framework for women who are single, divorced, married to nonmembers, unable to have children, etc. Change opens the door to possibilities.

  12. I would love to see men more involved in nurturing families and I think women’s ordination could facilitate that. I also would love for women to see themselves as individuals not constrained to fit one mold, and I think ordination could help with that too. My biggest fear about ordaining women is that some women will lose motivation to stretch themselves beyond their limits due to the lack of authority vested in them through a man; that they will never fully realize the Godly power they are endowed with by virtue of their faith in Jesus Christ.

  13. Caroline says:

    Thank you! Fantastic comments. Many of you will be hearing from me soon.

  14. KC says:

    I disagree with women being ordained to the priesthood here on earth at this time. I understand the comments and I believe there is validity to them.
    I am a working, career woman with two kids. I have a wonderful husband who does laundry, dishes, kid watching and nurturing.
    I know that I have a divine role and special place in this world without holding the priesthood. That being said I believe I will hold the priesthood after this life.
    For this earth life I feel inside of me that women don’t need it, perhaps that is part of or probation?
    Individually, I know I don’t need it; not only do I have more than enough on my plate, but I have the power of healing, I have a innate desire to follow Gods command without this special power, and I have plenty of work to do in providing for my family during the day and nurturing my kids (which is my absolute favorite thing to do) in the evenings. I am happy that I don’t have to hold the responsibility for running the Church at this time.
    You argue, well if you’d don’t want it you don’t have to have it. Yet inside of me I still feel, even the most capable, childless woman, married or not has the similar divine nature that enables them to have a noble link to following Gods commands and they have the power of healing. Furthermore, we have a different nature from men. For example, I cannot imagine going and confessing to a woman Bishop; the nature, reaction, understanding, and thought process, etc etc of a woman is completely inherently different than a man. Psychologically, physically, emotionally, spiritually we are different. And I trust that God undersood those differences, way better than we can even pretend to when he organized his Church, including the priesthood power.
    This doesn’t mean we have to feel confined to specific roles, or that we feel less, or that we don’t have a say in the way the church is run. Its not to say that men run the church perfectly either, because they don’t.
    I completely believe that we are equal, but we are different. I love that we are different, and even with our differences, there is a lot of overlap in peesonality etc.
    I feel that the way it is right now is right and I trust my feeling, i trust my God, and I trust our leadership–particularly the women running the church; they are advocaring our needs equally with our brothers.
    Maybe we will need it in the soon upcoming years, I honestly don’t think so. My thoughts, with sone study, perhaps i need to stusy it out some more, are that this earth life is a time of probation and women don’t need the priesthood, men do. Men didn’t need to bear babies, women do. Okay, you may tear me apart, but I feel it, think it, believe it, and I share it. Peace!

  15. Tressa says:

    In a world where we are becoming more and more attuned to only the things we can only see and prove, it isn’t difficult to see why so many women desire to have the priesthood. We see men in the church with more power, prestige, and public acclaim than the sisters. That is what we can see and prove. If that were the only consideration then I would certainly be a proponent for ordaining the women of the church. What I am afraid we would lose if that happens are the things that aren’t seen, that are true. The truth is, we do not know much about Heavenly Mother, her role in the godhead, or her powers and authorities. What we do know is that the prophets have told us that we must call upon and worship our Heavenly Father, in the name of his son Jesus Christ. Father, and son.
    Another truth is that Heavenly Father doesn’t tell us his most profound truths in obvious or easy ways. He speaks in symbols. A male priesthood is one such symbol. If we are to look to our Heavenly Father and worship Him, then those that administer His power on earth are symbols of Him. A sister, by very nature, is not a good symbol of Heavenly Father. A man is the most obvious symbol for a man. By ordaining sisters we will lose that most prominent symbol of our relationship with Heavenly Father.
    It is my belief that the administration of the gospel and the power of God is important to the salvation and progression of men. The same is true of women. How God uses women in the church is important to our salvation and progression. It may be that our salvation and progression also rests in how well we support the roles of men in administering and administrating.
    It is difficult logic to me that women want to fully participate in the church they love and believe in, when the premise of ordain women seems to rest in the idea that all past prophets and administrators of the church were sexists. I don’t see how logically both can be true. At best the argument is that while they were good men, they were too influenced by the prejudices of their (our) day, and that sisters must do their best to correct them.
    Lastly, while proponents of ordain women profess otherwise, a large portion of the arguments for OW comes from people who are dissatisfied with the church, or have left it altogether. That aught to concern us. Even if it is not the intention of proponents of Ordain Women to cause contention, it is causing contention, and at least some of that contention is coming from sisters with no skin in the game. It is worth a moment to pause and reflect and decide if what you are standing for is worth becoming a stumbling block to others in the gospel. It may be that OW sisters have already made that choice and decided it is worth it.

  16. Janey says:

    I am struggling so much with the idea of Ordination for Women. I love it because I have felt terribly hurt by the often open and blatant discrimination of women within our Church. I have felt that so many in the Church and those that oppose the movement have basically said, that my voice doesn’t count. I feel deeply hurt that my pain doesn’t matter to them. That because I’m a woman, my voice counts less. That because I’m a woman, what I feel and think are not as valuable as what men in our church think because they hold the priesthood, because they are the leaders. Does God really value the feelings of the prophet more than my own? Does He not sorrow with me when I feel this pain?

    How am I supposed to truly understand my role as a woman in the eternities? The argument that we have enough knowledge is frightening to me. Would men be satisfied if we worshiped a Heavenly Mother and knew of the existence of a Father, but no additional information about Him? Would they feel that praying to Her would be sufficient for them? I am a fully active current temple recommend holder. I LOVE the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I suffer from the administration of that gospel in our Church. I have experience sexual abuse as a child, I was sexually harassed and then discriminated again in my job on campus at BYUH. Why should my experiences matter less than those who haven’t experienced those things? I have had deeply personal experiences of healing through the Atonement that have given my a strong testimony of the gospel, but I often feel that those experiences are diminished within the church because of my gender.

    I also have a strong desire to choose the right and to follow the prophets. My personal spiritual experiences have been ones, for the most part, that have helped me to understand that obedience is vitally important, even if we do NOT understand the reason we should obey. Adam was commanded to offer sacrifices to the Lord. An angel came and asked him why he did this. Adam answered, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6) I have experienced this over and over again in my life and like Adam, I didn’t gain knowledge of the purpose of those commands for many years.

    I guess I’m a fence sitter on the issue of Ordination for Women. There is so much that I crave and long for with the equality that would come through the complete sharing of the priesthood. My voice would be just as important as a man’s. I could more freely voice concern without worry that my testimony is being questioned or that I’m going apostate. I long for greater diversity in the Church. I think stay-at-home Dad’s should be celebrated and held up as examples for our young men and young women. I think men and women should have less rigid views of their roles in marriage and in the home. I think fear of the unknown is a real factor within the leadership of our Church and that embracing diversity can be terrifying. I think what I completely support in the OW movement is the plea for leadership to pray over these issues. To seek revelation. The voices of God’s daughters, even if it’s not a majority within the Church, should still matter. And unfortunately I feel that the leadership is sending a message, perhaps inadvertently, that women’s voices are not as important as men’s if they won’t even seek for revelation and pray over the issues. Maybe they do. Maybe they have. That has not been communicated to me and it continues to diminish my voice and my role as woman, mother, and wife.

  17. Naismith says:

    Some very thoughtful comments.

    I think that women should be respected and their opinions have equal weight because their roles of mothering and nurturing are every bit as important as what men do. To say that only ordination (what men do) is the only path to equality is to accept a male-normative anti-female viewpoint that makes me sad. And it seems to justify any lack of respect that some current male leaders show.

    I don’t have any problem envisioning what it would be like, because I’ve had female bosses in the workplaces and most of my friends are members of churches with female priesthood. I live far from Utah. It’s just that what I have seen in those situations does not strike me as always favorable to women.

    Of course I can see some benefits to female ordination, but I do see costs, and I have no idea as to which would be best. Like many, many, many women in the church, I would of course accept and embrace female ordination if the church so decided. I am just not convinced right now that is the best direction.

  18. Anon 1975 says:

    As a faithful and active member of the church I am very grateful for those who stick their necks out for women’s ordination. I am so afraid- afraid of hurting my family, losing my calling, my friends. I am also glad for those who have left the church, many over this issue, returning to stand up for those of us who feel powerless to do so.

    That said, I would love to be able to bless my children, my husband, my sisters in the church. I know I can do this now, but some part of me feels like I’m going to be struck by lightning for trying it. I would love to serve as a witness to a baptism, stand in the circle at a baby blessing. I don’t really care about being an administrator, but it would be nice not to get the “I don’t have to listen to you” look from men who serve as teachers in Primary when I give instructions (I’m in the Primary Presidency). I’d also like to see women serve as their gifts dictate: my roommate with an MBA from Pepperdine would make a great Ward Clerk.

    Finally, I don’t see real change happening to our temple liturgy without ordination, because that would absolutely have to happen, and in big ways. If nothing else, for this reason alone I support the cause of women’s ordination.

    I fear, however, that it would be all too easy for the church to create a separate but equal Priestesshood whose duties and authority looked much like the current incarnation of the Relief Society. At the same time, I fear the loss of women’s splaces, like the Relief Society.

  19. Wayne Borean says:

    I’d never read anything on this until today. It’s been fascinating learning about it.

    I did some research. No where in the scriptures could I find anything stating that ordination for women was wrong. Which makes me wonder why women can’t be ordained?

    Not long ago historically speaking women couldn’t vote. Not long ago historically speaking, women could not become doctors or lawyers, or attend university. Was the bar against ordination a social one rather than being based on scripture and revelation?

    If so, women should be able to be ordained, if they wish. I would expect that at first only a small percentage would want ordination, as for many it would be too large a change from what they grew up with, but within five years, I expect that ordination of young women would reach nearly 100% of those eligible.

    I know many sisters who are spiritually blessed, and I think that they would do wonderfully. Indeed, they couldn’t have worse Home Teaching stats than many Elder’s Quoroms do 🙂


  20. Winifred says:

    If women were ordained to the priesthood, we would start to look like the Unitarian Universalist. Women support liberal things like abortion, witchcraft, goddess worship , and gay marriage. The leadership in Salt Lake City supports none of these things.

    • Wayne Borean says:


      So you don’t trust women to do the right thing? Curious, I thought you were one.

      Gay Marriage is VERY much a Conservative issue. After all us Conservatives want to keep the Government out of the way, and why should Government decide what marriage is?

      Same with Abortion. Why should the Government have the power to tell you what to do?

      The Leadership in Salt Lake City isn’t, and has never been Conservative. That’s fine. They have to view things from a religious viewpoint, not a political one.


      • Winifred says:

        If we had female apostles, they would be clamoring for gay marriage.
        Female ordination will never happen.

      • TopHat says:

        I have no idea why this is related at all. Lots of people in the church support gay marriage and it has nothing to do with whether they are male/female or if they have the priesthood. In fact, a counselor in our bishopric chose to skip church in order to march in the SF Pride parade in 2012, in support of Affirmation and Mormons for Marriage Equality. He’s male and has the priesthood, so… your point?

        Let’s get back on track and stop throwing strawmen, slippery slopes, and false causes around.

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