Tomorrow, myself and many others will stand in line for the Priesthood session of General Conference. You can read Ordain Women‘s FAQs for the event, explaining the purpose behind the event and details regarding it, here. Earlier in September, several Ordain Women organizers including myself sent a letter to the Director of Events for Temple Square requesting tickets for women to attend the Priesthood session- you can read more about that as well as the letter itself here. On Tuesday, September 24th, we who signed our names to the letter received a personal email response from Ruth Todd, a spokeswoman for the LDS Church, who explained that the Church would be “unable to honor [our] request.” The Deseret News broke the story the same morning that the Priesthood session would be broadcast live for the first time this year, followed closely by another story in which the Church directly discussed its response to Ordain Women. Ordain Women responded with this press release explaining that we will still stand in line for the Priesthood session.
So clearly all this has become a fairly big deal in Mormonism. I want to say a little bit about my involvement with Ordain Women, and then I’m going to include a few short pieces from people who either do not support Ordain Women, or who support Ordain Women but do not like or disagree with the action planned for this Saturday. I will also link to past pieces on this blog that did not completely agree with or support Ordain Women. My hope with this post is to provide information about the details of the event to give a basic foundation for discussion and understanding Ordain Women and this action, to elaborate on my involvement and to make clear the ties between Young Mormon Feminists and Ordain Women, and to provide a space to understand the positions of those who disagree with the action or Ordain Women itself.
I have been involved with Ordain Women since its inception. I realized early on in my faith journey that not only are there no good arguments against women’s ordination, but I feel deep within myself and through personal revelation that women will one day be ordained. I’ll stand by that personal revelation through whatever comes.
Since I knew I believed in women’s ordination and I knew that I was willing to publicly advocate for discussion of it and request for my leaders to prayerfully consider it, I wanted to be involved. I agreed to be a spokeswoman, at the time as an active member, BYU student, and Church employee, because I was tired of being afraid and because I knew that if no one speaks up, we will never know how honest we can be.
Although I started this blog and have been perceived by some as almost a default spokeswoman for my generation, this blog and its authors do not take a unified stand on female ordination. There is a huge variety of views and opinions in the younger generation on the topic. I do not represent my peers.
But I know I could not have integrity, that beloved value I first studied and loved in Young Women’s, if I did not speak up for myself and what I believe to be good and true. I am not demanding anything on my timeline; I’m in this for the long haul. I believe women will be ordained in my lifetime, and I will do whatever I can to put my shoulder to the wheel and help the good work move along by advocating for half the church to be allowed to fully participate. So I’m going to stand in line on Saturday to demonstrate my love for this Church, for Mormonism, for my Mormon people, for my ancestors who I imagine have been waiting for these days, and for the God in whom I believe.
The following are several short posts with thoughts about Ordain Women from people who do not agree with Ordain Women or with the action this Saturday. I include them in this post partly because they are mostly short, and because I want to encourage discussion of Ordain Women in a way that does not stigmatize people who hold any particular opinion, for or against or anywhere in between. You can read past posts from this blog disagreeing with female ordination or Ordain Women here, here, and here.
I represent a minority view.
It’s been a while since I stopped believing that women’s exclusion from the world of priestly duties is doctrinal or divinely sanctioned. Despite this I am hesitant to petition for priesthood as it is currently envisioned. Although I fully support my Ordain Women sisters, support them and love them and would be the first to defend them, being ordained to the priesthood doesn’t currently fit with my vision of what it means to be a powerful Mormon woman.
I see ordination to the current priesthood model as a type of assimilation-the giving up of power and uniqueness in the face of outside pressure.
My exposure to different feminisms, from Africana Womanism to Muslim feminism, has made it increasingly difficult for assimilation to sit well with me. Many global feminisms gladly recognize difference between men and women and celebrate that difference.
In fact, one of the reasons Neylan McBain’s recent piece spoke to me is because I know it speaks to many women around the globe who aren’t Mormon. I think about Muslim culture, where homosocial gatherings can be incredibly freeing and fun for women, and of Africana Womanism and Black feminism, where sisterhood has always played such an enormous part in the lives of many black women. For many of these women an equality model that would strip those relationships of their built and shared meaning would be a terrible loss.
So if not the current model, then what? Especially since I believe the current model is, as Joanna Brooks writes, “arrested” in its development. There is so much imaginative work to be done, and I believe it must be done by women.
Simply, I believe in a loosely separate but equally powerful priestesshood. In my mind, priestesshood is something that has to be taken up by women, it is not something a man can endow. In my mind, I imagine complimentary roles between priests and priestesses. I imagine rites and ordinances associated with priestesshood that do not currently exist. Yet, based on my conception of the flexibility of roles within families based on need, I also don’t see the separation between priestesshood and priesthood as stringently as others think I should. Do I think for instance that performing ordinances such as baptism are beyond the realm of priestesshood? No.
Ultimately, do I know what exactly this would look like in practice? Of course not. I’m open to that mystery. I also welcome something radically different from the model currently in place and I’m not as of now interested in becoming a part of it.
I want it to change in ways that aren’t just cosmetic. I want there to be cosmic changes.
I don’t support the priesthood session event because I would be livid if men did that to us, as I’m irritated enough that males speak in Young Women and Relief Society general meetings. I felt it would have been more productive to push for female-only speakers (or mixed-gender speakers in Priesthood session as well) and acknowledgment of the general relief society meeting as part of actual general conference. I feel that the mainstream, uber-traditional mormon can understand and be more supportive of that, whereas sending women to priesthood session might come off as a little nonsensical. I think things like this are ultimately unsuccessful distractions, which brings me to the next issue- why I don’t fully support Ordain Women.
I am totally in favor of female ordination. I have a personal belief that the topic of ordaining women is inspired, I think it’s only a matter of time and humility, and I think it will solve a lot more problems than it will cause. I understand that petitioning for change is not flouting God’s purposes, but a historically valid method of fulfilling them. The place where Ordain Women and I part ways started with the Pants campaign. I think the sacrament is a sacred symbol that reminds me of my ordinances and covenants with God. Sacrament meeting is the last place where I want to see activism of any kind. I know I’d be writing some area authorities if someone organized an anti-feminism campaign (everyone wear corsets and hoop skirts!) for peaceful protest during sacrament meeting. Plus, there was/is no rule against pants. I wish there had just been a general consensus that we should break the taboo and just start wearing pants to church and sharing experiences, not adding more stigma and taboo by associating it with protest/activism/a specific brand of LDS feminism. I would wear my nicest pants to church regularly if it hadn’t been for that. If we had all just decided to wear pants whenever we feel like, they’d probably be seen as more mainstream now. I think my feelings on how that campaign went are best summed up with a facepalm. It’s campaigns like the Priesthood Session event and the Pants thing that make me feel like I can’t make an Ordain Women profile unless I’m willing to accept that I’m probably going to be embarrassed by my association in the same way I was embarrassed to be LDS during Prop 8. The problem is that I don’t depend on Ordain Women for administration of what I feel are necessary ordinances. I do need the LDS church for that, so there are greater incentives to be part of the church, warts and all, than there are to be tied to Ordain Women as opposed to less controversial groups, like LDS W.A.V.E.
Personally, I can’t think of any good reason women don’t have the priesthood.  And I think that the church would be a better organization if women were ordained. Hence, I support the ordination of women: I definitely think it would be a good idea.
That being said, I don’t quite identify with the Ordain Women organization. Part of their mission statement reads thus: “Ordain Women believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of [the fundamental tenets of Mormonism].” That one word, “must,” is just what puts it one step too far for me, personally. “Must” to me means that the way forward has been determined, the answer is clear, there is no other valid option. While I think ordination of women is the best path forward, I don’t know it. And I’m uncomfortable telling people I sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators that I know what direction the church needs to go; that’s just not what I see my role being.
On the other hand–and maybe this is splitting hairs–if OW was all about imploring church leaders to sincerely and urgently ask if female ordination is not indeed a good idea, then I’d be totally in favor of it. I do think church leaders should be asking that question, and I think it’s fine, and in fact good, if members faithfully encourage leaders to ask questions that are important to them [the lay members]. (If church leaders have asked this question already, and have received a definitive answer one way or the other, I’d love to know about it!) I think ultimately it comes down to whether I’m totally committed to my opinion being right, whether I think it’s at least possible–even if unlikely!–that God’s answer on the issue would be “no, women should not be ordained to the priesthood in the same sense as men.” I think such an answer is possible–though I’d quickly add that I can’t believe that the status quo regarding women is ideal; in other words, if women aren’t meant to be ordained, I have to believe that there will be other ways for them to achieve much more equality with men in our church organization and culture. While I find that outcome unlikely–I do think that the ordination of women is (part of) the way the church is going to, and should, change–I can’t rule it out. And that’s why I don’t join the OW movement. 
However, I’d like to emphasize that this is my personal stance. It’s what makes the most sense for me and how I understand Mormonism. It incorporates theological beliefs (how God wants me to act), ethical beliefs (what is right), and pragmatic beliefs (what will be most effective in promoting gender equality). But I could be wrong–on all counts. Maybe there really is no chance that some form of separate but equal when it comes to priesthood ordination is OK in God’s eyes, or maybe it’s just inherently wrong for this difference to persist, or maybe these kinds of bolder approaches are going to help change things for the better more quickly. For these reasons (in addition to the general prohibition on it) I don’t judge anyone who does participate in OW–I see myself as more on their side than not, after all, and of the people I know affiliated with the organization, virtually of all them seem sincere and honest.
This post is already a bit long, so I won’t go into details, but I will say though that the more I think about it, the OW action  scheduled for October 5th (women waiting in line for standby tickets to go to the Priesthood Session of General Conference) strikes me as a good thing. (I mostly love that it’s generating discussion and also that it’s more open to interpretation than OW’s mission statement’s language.)
 I’m using the phrase they’ve given for it, not “protest” as some have described it.
Dana Ackerman, who blogs at Empowered LDS Women:
Since I was a young woman I knew I would do great things. My parents brought me up to think anything was possible, so that’s what I thought for myself. I was always determined I would do something spectacular.
I also find more meaning in the Relief Society Declaration which says:
“We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who: …dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriages, families, and homes. Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood. Delight in service and good works. Love life and learning…”
Notice it doesn’t say “dedicate ourselves to strengthening OUR marriages, families, and homes” but instead keeps it broad. Notice that it says we are not only to find nobility in motherhood, but JOY in womanhood. Notice it talks about loving life AND learning. These are things any and all women can take part in because they extend beyond the home and reach to blessing the whole world.