not in Primary anymore

saturday is a special day

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.

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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.

Image courtesy of Feminist Mormon Housewives

Image courtesy of Feminist Mormon Housewives

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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.

Jen:

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.

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Melissa Cole:

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.

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Austin:

Personally, I can’t think of any good reason women don’t have the priesthood. [1] 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. [2]

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 [3] 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.)

So that’s me: in favor of ordaining women, but not a member of Ordain Women.—[1] “have the priesthood” and “ordination” are the phrasings I’m going to use as a catch-all for the Mormon male experience with priesthood as distinct from that of Mormon women–maybe women get the priesthood in some sense when they are endowed in the temple, but that’s not what I’m going to be focusing on here. And I don’t want to go through all the arguments for and against female ordination here, but this great post addresses a lot of the common arguments against it.[2] That being said, OW’s members have a range of views. This profile on their site, for example, is something I could get behind 100%. However, even though my position would apparently be welcome on their website, I’m not personally comfortable joining an organization with their mission statement for the reasons given above.

[3] I’m using the phrase they’ve given for it, not “protest” as some have described it.

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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 am still convinced that I will do something and AM doing something spectacular! It may have not always been so, but the biggest reason I feel so empowered is because of the gift of womanhood. I feel that being a woman is what defines me not only physically, but spiritually as well. Men and women alike are all born with immense and unlimited potential to achieve. Perhaps the things we achieve won’t always be the same, but they will always be equal in the sight of God and should be to us as well.
Before I got married I felt that I had divine attributes to develop in order to achieve my full potential as a daughter of God. I felt instinctively that my womanhood would be the very thing to help me soar in my career, or whatever I chose to do. I felt keenly the love God had for me as a woman. I knew I had a mission on earth–things I was sent here to do. I feel strongly that everyone has things to accomplish in this life and all of those things help us find joy in our eternal gender and become the people God wants us to be.
I am twenty-two years old, married for two years with a daughter of one year. Some would say I have and will accomplish little in my life, since I’ve given it so early to motherhood. Even I couldn’t help but feel that way some times during my engagement and even during pregnancy. What happened to feeling like I was going to do something spectacular with my life?
Something studying the gospel has helped me to learn is that motherhood IS something spectacular. It is the most spectacular thing I could ever do and I love it! I love the feeling that all the characteristics I am working on to be a better mom also help me to be a better woman and daughter of God. I love feeling that by trying to be the best mom I can, I also can accomplish some of what I was sent here to achieve.
But, something else I love about what this gospel has taught me is that I can do incredible things IN and OUT of the home. Too many people think that women belonging to the LDS church were meant to spend all day inside of their homes with no reason to live but keeping a clean home and raising well-behaved children. Now, that wouldn’t be necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t believe that is ALL. Or why would Relief Society have ever come into place?
My favorite thing to tell people struggling with this sort of topic is: Motherhood falls UNDER the role of womanhood, NOT the other way around. This is not to say motherhood isn’t important and special and incredible–because it is all of those things and more! But women were not created for the sole purpose of being moms. That is one of the great privileges and responsibilities assigned to women in general, but it is not their only responsibility.
I am no stranger to the incredible emotions and love and even power that comes with motherhood, but I also am no stranger to the incredible things women can do outside of the home too.
We find a lot of this when we see the incredible things women do in their callings in church auxiliaries.

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.

My personal opinion is that while men are ordained to exercise the priesthood all within the church, women are called to exercise the power of God (or priesthood) outside of it–in their homes and to all their friends and communities. Women were meant to be on the forefront of service and missionary work and, of course, strengthening families. This is a woman’s role in God’s kingdom–to use the power of God (aka priesthood) in a completely different, but just as important and necessary way, than the men.
Women all over the world should feel they have a purpose–a mission–on this earth that revolves around their divinely gifted gender. I LOVE being a woman!! I love calling myself a daughter of God. I love that my husband and I can compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses and progress together by realizing our equally amazing potential to be what God wants us to be together and separately.
Being a child of God means I can do spectacular things. Being a daughter of God means I have direction and can find fulfillment in doing those things.
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12 Responses to “saturday is a special day”

  1. Jen

    I enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts. I am a little confused though by Melissa’s statement “The place where Ordain Women and I part ways started with the Pants campaign” The Pants campaign was done by All Enlisted before Ordain Women existed. I think you have some great points about how Pants was handled but talking about Pants makes no sense as it wasn’t Ordain Women’s doing.

    Reply
  2. Randa Bench

    I think the Ordain Women group need to read the Old Testament book, Numbers 16 to understand what they are messing with.

    Reply
  3. Daniel

    Why do you guys want to be able to come to another session? It’s just another 2 hours of sitting and being bored. You girls are lucky.

    Reply
  4. Jordan

    If any of you feel oppressed in God’s church then you do not understand his gospel. The whole Ordain Women Organization is founded upon doctrinal ignorance. Carefully read the scriptures and participate in the temple ordinances while pondering a woman’s role in the church. You will see that you have been missing the truth all along.

    Reply
  5. Nouner

    Jordan and Randa Bench lol you people are idiots. You’re each like the 35,245th and 35,246th people respectively to say the exact same thing. Repeat stale, non-gospel dogma much?

    Reply
  6. Jean

    “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.”

    My “good argument” against women’s ordination is a prophet I sustained & the scriptures. Personal revelation is given for you, personally. Revelation for the church comes to the prophet and the prophet only. As a side note, I take offense, as a woman, that the things gifted to me as a female are being undervalued and that the gifts given to men are being regarded as the only gifts of value.

    I admire your courage, but I’m sincerely sorry that you’re struggling with finding a balance between your pride and your faith. I encourage you to read your scriptures and talk to your bishop and pray for personal revelation the way it is meant–to receive a testimony of your church leaders who have been called of God.

    Reply
  7. Brittany

    Kudos to you for showing the other side of the argument, something that isn’t done nearly enough. But as to what you and the organization are trying to accomplish, well, as my B.F. Miley Cyrus would say, forget the haters, cuz somebody love ya.” Or in other words, you gotta do what you feel inspired to do, regardless of whether everyone else agrees with it . All those geniuses can say you’re misguided, lacking in testimony, and all other such nonsense, but there is nothing wrong in getting God to spill the beans on how he sees this issue going. It worked for the black members of the church, and them holding the priesthood used to be seen as SUCH a crazy idea. Aren’t we the church that pens such inspiring EFY song versus such as “With God, nothing is impossible?” Yup, that’s us. Why does everything have to be about undermining men or undermining women, and roles and whatnot? Priesthood is the power to bless, to create. I personally would like to spend my eternity involved in that process. I don’t forsee myself on the sidelines.

    Reply
  8. Nouner

    Jean, that is an incredibly condescending post. Your “good argument” is laughably anything but. Hannah telling you the truth- that women are second-class members of the Mormon church- hurt your feelings. Some times a person takes the truth to be hard. In addition, it seems like your view of the church is following in lockstep and robotically obeying your male leaders. Since that seems to be the case, why bother repeating the same stale arguments that every mormon feminist has heard a thousand times? If you’re so convinced that the people here are wrong, allow me to question: why are you reading this?

    The way I figure it, if I was to ask you that question in person, you’d give me some line about “concern for your fellow man” or maybe even some sugar-coated fear about “these durn femnists leading good christian women astray”. Honestly, let’s face that that is a pretense and/or fear of change. I can’t help but imagine you’d have been against women voting back before it was taken for granted too. After all, where in the bible do women vote?

    I propose that the writers on this site have made excellent cases along every line of thought for why women should be ordained to the priesthood, and I’ve been reading the comments here and on facebook and I have not seen a single counter-argument that was better than “but that’s just not the way we do things”.

    Let’s face it Jean, your post was basically worthless. You repeated overworn, tired, unfulfilling excuses and paraded them as if they were somehow enlightening or interesting. I urge you in return to re-examine you line of thinking and to try and come up with something better than “I can’t have the same priesthood as men because a man told me so”

    Reply
  9. Kel

    This is the “grass-is-greener-on-the-otherside” thinking. My YM don’t get a nice room and comfortable chairs. They don’t get social time with the guys or time to work with each other on their interests. They don’t even get the special bond that mothers get with their kids. And the list goes on. Have you ever heard – If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy?

    This has nothing to do with equality. Just more of a power grab.

    Women already control the church, they just don’t know it.

    The priesthood is a service – the power of God’s to his people. And it’s power is only accessible through certain means. It’s certainly isn’t based on gender, as all people have access through it.

    Reply
    • Nouner

      ” They don’t get social time with the guys or time to work with each other on their interests. ”

      What do you think a quorum is dude? And you’re not seriously suggesting that because the RS room usually has more padded chairs that that’s as good as being involved in decision-making?

      “It certainly isn’t based on gender, as all people have access through it.”

      Oh OK, the priesthood isn’t based on gender. Show me a ward with a female bishop. Show me a female stake president, and feel free to show me the half of the quorum of the 12 that are women. I’ll hold my breath.

      Reply

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