When the Church asks the ladies to study (male-only) priesthood before General Conference
Just before last General Conference, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) sent out an email instructing “the sisters” (not the men) to study three sections from Doctrine and Covenants prior to Conference. Each section had a common theme: the priesthood (which in our church, is a male-only privilege). Some women were annoyed by the gendered assignment. Why only women? But others were hopeful. Could church leaders be preparing us for an announcement that they would ordain women? Or at least, stop excluding women from some priesthood duties that were currently for men only? (Spoiler alert: Nope.)
The Spring 2020 General Conference seemed like an ideal time to remove restrictions on women in priesthood. The COVID-19 pandemic had just begun and doubling access to the healing power of the priesthood seemed like an apt response. Quarantines were making it impossible for faithful Latter-day Saint women to partake of the Sacrament unless they happened to have a worthy male priesthood holder living in their own home.
But while many people discussed women and priesthood in their talks, the focus was more of the same (sigh): the status quo is just fine; men and women are equal in the church even though it’s hard to see it if you don’t squint just right; and if a woman doesn’t understand how she can have priesthood power without being allowed to exercise the priesthood, her own personal failings are the issue, not the female priesthood ban. President Oaks even went out of his way to declare that women are not authorized to give healing blessings, a strange choice of a hill to die on when people were literally dying in a pandemic and unable to call for the elders due to quarantine.
As we get close to another General Conference, I am pulling out my notes from my own study of those three sections of Doctrine and Covenants, which I live-tweeted as I read. Apparently, I didn’t squint just right, because I didn’t find a message about the status quo being perfect in those pages. Here is what I saw: