Disclaimer: this is a personal blog where I like to share and organize thoughts/feelings. I am by no means an authority on this subject and have very likely not understood it fully, as there are covenants I have yet to make in my life. I’m just expressing what I think. Any cyberbullying, name-calling, or other shenanigans done under pseudonym will not be tolerated and, I will add, are far beneath you.
This week, my Facebook lit up with the news that the LDS Public Affairs Department had issued a statement that basically bars all Ordain Women advocates from attempting to get into the priesthood session of General Conference. I saw immediate reactions from my friends. Some shared the statement with an obvious sense of validation, others with anger and bitterness. I, honestly, was pretty surprised by it, because it takes a very proactive and forceful stance, more than I’ve seen recently.
Here’s the statement in full:
So there’s that. Consequently, there’s a renewed determination to stand in line for the priesthood session anyway coming from Ordain Women members.
So far, I haven’t really talked about the Ordain Women campaign on its own on this blog. I’ve made a few comments on Facebook, some that I’m afraid have come across as condescending and have led to many heated and long-winded conversations on feminism, and I’ve also talked about Latter-Day Saint feminism as a general thing, but aside from that, I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut and mull rather than voice any opinions or thoughts. I let them slip sometimes, but not in detail.
One thing you’ll notice about the church’s statement above is that it notes that “wonderful conversations have been held” about the place of women in the church. Ordain Women advocates would argue, “If name-calling, judgement, and a door slammed in your face is ‘wonderful conversation’, then yeah. They have.” From what I’ve seen, many of these “wonderful conversations” have devolved into us versus them scenarios, held between arrogant and insensitive members who off-the-cuff suggest that leaving the church is the best and only option for OW sisters and arrogant OW sisters who condescendingly berate everyone who disagrees with them. I worry that the real problem here is not that there is no conversation, but that conversation is either going nowhere or everywhere except forward.
And that being said, there is likely little that I can add, being one small voice in the middle of it all. But because I’m a woman in a world that convolutes what womanhood is, because I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, because I have this channel of expressing my thoughts, and because OW members are my sisters, some my friends, I feel I should share what I think, too.
You already know: I will not be joining my sisters who support the OW movement in the priesthood standby line this April. I have no interest in doing that. To be honest, I really have little motivation to support the campaign as a whole. Fight me about it, but that’s just how I feel.
For months, I have sought out the why behind the movement, reading articles, blogs, forum posts, and Facebook posts to get a sense of it. I’ve read stories of women who feel extremely excluded from their child’s spiritual development because they could not bless them. I have come to realize the pain that many women harbor when it comes to their inability to give priesthood blessings or their distrust of their bishops in matters of sexual transgression and confession. Even having read these things, I cannot say with a surety that I know how it feels to be one of those women. But they are my sisters. Their concerns are real, even if I don’t share them.
That being said, it’s very difficult to maintain that individual-focused sympathy when there are many components of the OW movement that I find incredibly frustrating. There are many reasons why I cannot stand alongside these sisters when it comes to the issue of women and the priesthood. For now, I’ll share just a few.
1. Ordain Women dialogue frequently demotes motherhood as something women “just” do.
In everything I’ve read about the OW movement, the comments that pain me the most paint pictures of a church where women are just baby-makers. “That’s what we’re expected to do in this church,” some say. “We’re only here to pop out babies. That is the woman’s role within the church.”
I have a couple of issues with this. To start with, I don’t quite understand why advocates who are so set on erasing limitations consistently use the words just and only in the context of motherhood. It makes said limitations seem weirdly self-imposed, which causes me to ask where the real problem is. Are women outside of OW saying they only have babies? Are men saying that their wives are just mothers? Ask me, and I’ll tell you that I hear this message from two sources: the world and Ordain Women. This confuses me to no end. It would make logical sense for OW advocates to fight against priesthood holders who might tell them that they’re “just mothers,” but that message is coming from OW. The prophets celebrate motherhood, and I guess that in classic telephone game fashion, that celebration has been translated into patronizing “put women into their place” language. Is that what they’re doing or is that what we’re hearing?
While we’re talking about that message, I have to say that I don’t believe Ordain Women advocates are hellbent on destroying the sanctity of motherhood or denying its importance — that’s just ridiculous — but I can’t help but feel a bit defensive by the claim that having children is something you just do. I am almost 22, single, and have an embarrassingly small amount of interaction with children on a day to day basis. If I was to refer to childbirth as a burden, a menial task or nothing more than manual labor, that would be completely insulting. For one, because I have no idea, but also because that is not what it is.
If we’re going to use the rhetoric “all I do is just have babies,” then let’s be completely honest about what the process of being a mother entails. I find this to be more appropriate:
All I do is experience heartache and loneliness and redundancy for years before finding a companion and choosing to sacrifice my old life to accept him, an imperfect human being who relies on me to give him strength. All I do is love him and support him and work alongside him. All I do is create life with him, house that life for nine months where my body changes and where I am overwhelmed and where I get to feel that little body press its feet against my stomach. All I do is feed and look after that little body and myself for months before being rushed to the hospital where I, for an unforeseen amount of time, push and labor to get that child out of my body with so many risks associated in the process. All I do is hold an emotional attachment to a little person who will one day grow up to be a leader and a student and a man or a woman, who will likely love me all the more for being the first one to provide for him or her, all I do is pray with that child, make that child’s world, create forts with that child, feed that child, clean up after that child, chase that child around the yard, talk about life and important things with that child, help that child change and improve, make sure they know right from wrong, make sure that they do their homework, make sure that they’re okay at night, make sure that they grow up into someone they and their father and I can be proud of, someone who loves their friends and loves their country. All I did is bring an individual into the world who will one day love and change many peoples’ lives in his or her lifetime after years of being taught how to do it by me. Yeah, that’s all I do and I’m indignant that I can’t give a blessing, too.
I don’t mean to be patronizing, but we all know that mothers are not just anything.
Lastly, female OW advocates like to talk about the priesthood as a gender neutral thing — if motherhood is our grand role in the plan, they say, then fatherhood should be the opposite, not priesthood. Why, then, can’t women have the priesthood?
What if fatherhood and priesthood holder are interconnected? What if motherhood is in fact the complimentary role to priesthood holder because it is just as important? The Lord created the universe and us, did He not? The Lord blesses all of us, does He not? If priesthood is the power of God, then creation is very much a part of that. To claim that the procreative and nurturing power of women is somehow secondary to ordination is to claim that our own existence is a secondary thing, which we know to be false because we know that God’s “work and his glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). To claim, as some women do, that procreative power is incomplete without ordination/priesthood is to be more accurate, which is why I’d guess that men bless life and women create life. Neither, you’ll note, can bless or create without the other, and maybe that codependency is the real issue. It isn’t that women are less than but that women must depend upon someone who depends upon them, which can be hard when you’re independent and a woman.
The fact that so much confusion surrounds motherhood and its place should be evidence enough that Satan is doing his best to attack it. That being said, we must be very careful that we protect and celebrate it at all cost instead of making what we are not and do not have the issue.
2. While church administration stresses the importance of ministering, Ordain Women focuses its attention on the importance of church administration.
From all that I can tell, many of my OW sisters feel less than because they do not play a more central role in church administration. They cannot be the prophet or the bishop, and that angers them. That makes them feel a sense of inequality, which is understandable, because that’s what we’re told today. If a woman cannot do the same job a man has, then geez, that is completely unfair. The weird truth of the matter is that every book and every talk I’ve heard of in the last, gee, I don’t know how long has reinforced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is primarily focused on ministering to others. Nothing about administration matters if your administration is not centered on serving other people.
The message I keep hearing from OW is that it is so unfair for women to not sit in these spots because women can do so much good and are somehow being kept from their potential. I would argue that visiting teaching alone does more good than we could possibly imagine, more so than administering in a ward or in the Church Office Building, in some ways. It isn’t administration that ennobles us, but ministering, which we all can do and have been asked to do. Ministering is less about laying hands on a person’s head and more about giving them bread when they’re hungry, helping them fix a home that’s falling apart, talking to them when they’re lonely. Women are innately good at that, so much so that it’s no wonder the Lord has us work on a local level where we interact with neighbors, friends, and strangers all the time, people who we instinctively know need help.
Didn’t Christ teach us about ministering? I can guarantee that you’ll see the Savior ministering more times than you’ll see him managing in the New Testament and Book of Mormon. He knew, as we should know, that talking with and loving people one on one is more significant than administering. In reality, it makes no difference if women are or are not in the Quorum of the Twelve or the bishopric, because ministering matters more, and from my experience, the Lord puts us in the position where we have the capacity to minister best, not lead best.
3. What matters in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Atonement, eternal life, other people, and what we become, not who does and doesn’t have the priesthood.
My intention in writing this post was not to be cruel or unkind, and I hope that I haven’t come across as that. As I finish with this point, however, I have to admit to some indignation when it comes to certain doctrinal topics the Ordain Women movement often, without necessarily intending to, undermines. Those things are the Atonement and eternal life.
In all Ordain Women discussions I’ve ever been a part of, not ONCE that I can remember has the Atonement of Jesus Christ been mentioned. This, quite honestly, disturbs me and causes me to distrust the entire campaign. Why is the Atonement not being talked about? Why is it not there? My guess would be that nothing else matters if not for the Atonement and nothing else matters as much as the Atonement. That is why it’s not being brought up. To me, it invalidates all arguments of women being on unequal footing, even if that unequal footing is somehow being perpetuated by church leadership.
The Atonement is the great equalizer in this church, not the prophet and not a movement that continues to make noise until something happens. The prophets certainly are led by him, and to assume they collectively don’t know what they are doing is to assume that Christ isn’t directing them (by their fruits, ye shall know them, and we have pretty great fruits in this church), but his Atonement is something he alone can give. Every single person in this church and in this world has been given the gift of the Atonement, and our salvation depends upon what we do with that gift, not about what authority we do or do not have. Through Christ, we are made equal, we are made clean, we are made godlike. He has already gone through all of the pain and all of the heartache and all of the agony to help get us back to the Lord. How can we ask him to do more? How dare we demand that from him? If he truly leads this church, then we must trust it and trust church leadership. If he truly leads this church, then how can we feel like it’s going astray because women don’t have the ordination/authority aspect of the priesthood? To say it’s going astray would be to say that Christ has no authority over this church and that everything is questionable and invalidated, and I know that it is not.
Another thing I feel OW disregards is eternal life, something that I know we are all guaranteed if we work for it. Isn’t it great? We can all become like God, no matter who we are or what we think we lack. In the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no limitation on what we can become. It might take different forms of doing to get there, but the reality is that we can all become like our Heavenly Father. Isn’t it funny, then, that it’s the doing that we’re hung up on? As women, we often do a whole lot: write letters, bake things, host parties, visit the whole block. As women, we often want to do more. But the Lord, in his infinite mercy, is telling us to stop stressing so much about the doing and to realize that who we are is so much more important. In taking issue with the doing part, we often forget the becoming part and don’t become who we need to. It doesn’t matter if you don’t hold the priesthood. If you’re not becoming someone better, then what’s to come of you?
The point is if I were part of a church that doctrinally denied me the healing power, the enabling power, or the forgiving power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ (Even the thought of that sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?) simply because I was a woman, I wouldn’t be standing at the tabernacle door, I would be screaming and beating at it (maybe not screaming, I’m not really like that). If I was part of a church that doctrinally denied me eternal life because I was a woman, well, let’s be honest. I wouldn’t be a part of it. The truth is that we all have access to all of these things if we choose to and all of these things are found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The ordinances help us to obtain eternal life, and it is those ordinances that matter, not the people with the authority to oversee them. For me, it’s a blessing to have the priesthood on earth at all, for what it does and who can access it are infinitely more important than what gender holds it. It’s there for all who seek it.
You see, the Gospel isn’t about you. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has never been about you or I — it’s about him. It’s his church, his word, his brothers and sisters. Even the priesthood, something that people like to claim is a gift doled out to one segment of the church, is codependent on other people and administered in his name. It does not exist without women and men and the Savior together. It just doesn’t. And to argue that priesthood authority, something that we’ve established is codependent and which has associated blessings available to everyone, is something we need more than the Atonement, something that deserves more attention than the Atonement, is to forget that we are all utterly hopeless and unworthy of that priesthood without that Atonement. The second we make this Gospel about our perceived deficiencies, what we want, what we think we deserve, and what we think we lack, we forget Jesus Christ and violate the very covenants we make every week. It is and always has been about him. We’re all given access to his spirit every single week if we so choose it. Do we really realize the power of that gift?
It’s been argued by my OW sisters that Christ said nothing about women and the priesthood, that Christ would have us as equals, that Christ would not condone contention and judgement. These things are all true, but let’s not forget that the most important thing about Jesus Christ is who he is and what he was willing to do for us. Let’s not argue over the he saids in Christ’s life or disregard the Atonement or focus so much on priesthood authority that we treat the Atonement as a secondary thing that doesn’t have the power to elevate men and women together, because that completely undermines Christ’s role and cheapens the Atonement. He is so much more important than I am or you are, and I truly believe that if we kept our covenants and always remembered him, we would feel less of a need to contend about one piece of doctrine in a huge, everyone-centered plan. We, too, would be everyone-centered, because Christ was and is.
I can’t give blessings, nor can I be a bishop. I am needed elsewhere in the Lord’s plan, and I am okay with that. I’m grateful He trusts me with His children, who matter so much more than we give them credit for.
This General Conference, I want to become something better and I want to be a better piece in the Lord’s plan. I personally cannot do that by standing in a line and demanding to get into a session to prove a point or express a desire that will not be rewarded by my presence there. I can do that by trusting in the Lord’s will, forgetting myself to go to work and actively participating in a worldwide sisterhood that is diverse and divine and more powerful than some of my OW sisters, sadly, give it credit for.
Call it ignorance, oppression, concession, or defeat. I call it faith.