I want to talk about Ordain Women. Not for it or against it, because I know lots of lovely, intelligent, articulate women on both sides of the issue, and frankly, I’m not even sure if female ordination is a thing that I want/need etc. I don’t want to talk about their political tactics and whether or not they should ask to come to Priesthood Session. I want to talk about what Ordain Women did.
They took a prophet literally.
No. That’s really what they did. Now, you can argue about whether or not he was speaking as a prophet of God in that moment, or the president of corporate body known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (not to be confused with the religious body that also has the same name) as long as you want.
What Gordon B. Hinckley, the prophet that I grew up with and love and cherish, said this, when asked what it would take to give the priesthood to women:
RB: So you’d have to get a revelation?
GBH: Yes. But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it.
Compass Interview with Gordon B. Hinckley, Aired: November 09, 1997
Well, now there is agitation. There is a group of women in this church who are asking for further light and knowledge, something that we have also seen done by prophets throughout time. Our church was founded by a young man who felt something amiss with the spiritual arrangements of his day and so he asked. And he got a revelation. Throughout the Doctrine and Covenants, we see Joseph repeatedly going to the Lord and asking for revelation, for understanding, for truth, and again and again he was answered.
These women are not claiming to have received revelation for themselves or for the church directing that they should have the priesthood. They are turning to the prophet and beseeching him to ask.
And why are they doing that?
I cannot speak for all of them, but as I have talked to women in this church, I have found that many share similar sentiments to my own. I would not feel comfortable speaking in numbers, because I do not know percents or have raw data. So I am just going to speak for myself.
I will never hold a position in this church where I can make a decision that a man cannot override.
There are many positions that I cannot hold because I am a female that have nothing to do with gender. I cannot be a finance clerk or a counselor in the Sunday School presidency.
Men can come and sit in on lessons in Relief Society. Women are not welcome to attend Elder’s Quorum.
These may seem like little things, and they may be, but they’re indicative of a larger issue in the church. I go to the temple and feel cut off from God. I see Eve silenced, and I am veiled, literally and figuratively from communicating with the Lord. I serve my husband. My husband serves the Lord. I am taught that I am eternally separated from him. I will always be one step removed from His presence.
We claim the existence of a Heavenly Mother and yet we know nothing about her. So we turn to Heavenly Father as our understanding of divinity, and as a male, we follow His example, and put men in charge. Mother is silent, and I’ve heard so many reasons why that may be the case but none of them have satisfied me and my soul-deep ache to know more about her.
We learn in the Family Proclamation that the family is God’s plan for his children and it requires a mother and a father and they both have different roles and this because women and men are different and gender is essential and eternal.
If men and women are different and gender is essential and eternal, and then we cut off access to the female half of God, we are denying women the ability to have a role model of divine womanhood. For whatever reason you want to concoct, because there is no official doctrinal reason, I’ve looked for one, we are telling women your ability to know a female version of godliness is less important than the male version of Godliness. Is Mother decorating Kolob for eternity? Is She perfecting her recipe for enchiladas or hummus? Is She canning celestial peaches? What is She doing? Does she work with Father to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of her children? I would hope so. And if the most crucial part of our eternal lifespan is spent on the earth, is She interacting with Her children in some way while they are here?
If women are eternally nurturers, and are responsible for the nurturing of children, then it seems really odd to me that we, as a church, are preaching the eternal nature of the family, and then effectively putting us all in a single parent home while subjecting the children to soul-crushing amounts of stress. It seems that this is the time when She would be most involved with Her children.
But no, we must not invoke Mother. We must not talk to Mother. We are pointed to Christ and we are told that Christ suffered not just for our sins in the garden, but also for our pain and our sorrow and that he knows the heartbreak of a miscarriage because he experienced it.
And then we are told that motherhood is equal to priesthood.
Well if Christ knows of the pains of motherhood as a man, and we are taught that we have the capacity to be like God, then is it possible we are overstating the necessary separation of the genders here? Motherhood is held up as the highest possible role for women in this church, and yet Christ showed that those pains are not unique to females. He, as a male, was able to experience that sorrow. We are to become like God. Christ is perfect, like unto God. Christ knows the heartbreak of women. He experienced the heartbreak of women. If we are to come unto Christ and be like him, then how do we separate out Christ’s experience of femininity with invalidating the universality of the Atonement? Yes, he is the Bridegroom that comes for the Bride, but he is also the mother hen gathering her chickens. Maybe the divisions we put up between women and men, and the distinctions we make between them, are as historically contingent and socially constructed as racist pronouncements about denying blacks the priesthood that the church had to officially distance itself from and state that they had no basis in doctrine, despite having been preached by prophets of God for decades.
I don’t think the Ordain Women movement is necessarily about women wanting the priesthood, per se. I think it is about women wanting more opportunities to serve in the kingdom, to use talents that have been given them by God and that they have developed through hard work and effort. It so happens that the only way they see to do that as the church is currently constituted is through the priesthood. That is because the Relief Society has been systematically stripped of its independence, its finances, and its scope. Women used to anoint and bless other women in the early days of the church. They were independent, with their own finances and buildings and hierarchy. If you read the minutes of the early Relief Society meetings, they actually asked the brethren to leave so they could get down to business. There are times where I feel the modern corporate church is as far from the church that Joseph Smith established, as the churches that offered no comfort to Joseph were from the one that Christ established on the earth.
And so women ask for the priesthood. Not because they want to be equal to or greater than men, but because they want more opportunities to serve. They want more opportunities to help, to improve the programs of the church, to strengthen families, to lift up the weary hands that hang down. They are turning to the prophet, and saying, “Please. Please ask. We have faith that if you ask, you will receive. Please, let us know who we are as daughters of God, and what that means for mortality and beyond. Please, don’t let me be cut off from serving Him forever.”