With the recent launch of Ordain Women, the Bloggernacle has lit up with debate about whether or not women should be ordained to the priesthood. I’ve observed that these debates are typically formed around several recurring arguments. I’d like to address these arguments, and discuss why they aren’t particularly good arguments against ordaining women to the priesthood.
If God wanted women to have the priesthood, they would already have it. I think I understand the reasoning behind the argument. It’s probably something like, God is in control. He knows what He is doing. Who am I to question His ways? I respect the faith behind that. My problem, though, is that faith is a principle of action, not just belief. Our entire religion exists because a young man had a question, and he was willing to do something about it. Our Church has had many revelations and programs come about because people noticed a need and decided to ask God for more information (for example, the Word of Wisdom, and the revelation on blacks and the priesthood). Perhaps God already wants to give the priesthood to women; He might just be waiting for us to have the faith to ask Him, and show that we’re ready.
Men and women are different but equal. This statement does two main things. First, it attempts to reinforce the strict traditional gender roles taught by the Church. Man=priesthood holder, father, husband, leader, provider, patriarch. Woman=mother, wife, nurturer. Second, it tries to justify a men-only priesthood by stating that everyone is “equal.”
In my eyes, the “men and women are different” idea strengthens the argument as so why women ought to have the priesthood. Although I don’t agree with the strict gender roles, I do think that the Church would benefit from a more diverse leadership, and women have different experiences and perspectives that would be very valuable. On a more local scale, I think the Visiting Teaching program would benefit from women holding the priesthood. They could give blessings to their sisters instead of calling the Home Teachers, and this may help Relief Society sisters to form closer relationships with one another. And within families, it would be absolutely wonderful for mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and other women to be involved in the ordinances of their relatives, rather than just spectators. Not every family matches the priesthood-holding-father/mother/children ideal promoted by the Church. Including women in priesthood ordination would be a blessing for all families.
Motherhood is the equivalent of the priesthood. This is similar to the argument above, but has a little more doctrinally- and intellectually-questionable content. First of all, the parallelism of the language doesn’t match: mother and priest are not opposites. Mother and father are, and priest and priestess are. Trying to match “motherhood” to “priesthood” doesn’t make sense, and it sets up a false analogy from the start. Second, this argument doesn’t address the fact that one of these roles is based more on physical ability, and the other is based more on spiritual discipline. Any woman with good health or the means to adopt can have a child and thereby become a mother; men have to be members of the Church and following a strict moral code to be a priesthood-holder. Third, there’s an inherent inequality expressed in the idea. In the Church, “motherhood” means one thing, more or less: you are a woman and you have children, whom you take care of and are responsible for. “Priesthood,” however, is an ambiguous term, and is open to many possibilities. It may mean “father” at some point, it often means “man,” it can mean “Church leader,” it sometimes means “the power of God,” etc. One term, motherhood, has a very specific definition, and many people use that to imply that all women are supposed to be mothers. The other term, priesthood, is very open, and the implication is that priesthood-holders can do as they please. So by saying that the two are equivalents of each other, we’re being told that the path for women is defined and limited, and the path for men is ambiguous and wide open.
Men: “It’s not a big deal. It’s just a bunch of busywork!” This argument really bothers me. The fact that the arguer refers to the priesthood as “busywork” tells me that he doesn’t understand what the priesthood is, and it’s disrespectful. The bureaucratic duties associated with a calling is not “the priesthood,” and the power to act in God’s name is a big deal. And the attitude of the argument itself feels very condescending to me. It’s like saying, “Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head about it, little girl. You wouldn’t understand, anyway!”
Women: “But I’m too busy for the priesthood!” I find this a weak excuse. First of all, everyone’s busy. So what? Secondly, here’s a link to the priesthood duties for an elder in the Church; the basic time commitment is not that bad. And thirdly, there is a difference between the priesthood and the callings associated with it. Holding the priesthood doesn’t mean someone will be immediately called to the bishopric. In fact, increasing the number of priesthood holders in a ward or branch would make that less likely to happen. (Heathen opinion: no one is obligated to accept a calling, especially if they are feeling overwhelmed with everything else in their life. Family and well-being are more important than Church callings.)
What arguments against female ordination have you seen around the internet that aren’t particularly convincing?