shaken quiet dignity
Saturday night, myself and about 150 other Mormons (and over a hundred more whose names were carried on cards by proxies) individually requested entrance to the tabernacle on Temple Square to wait in the standby line for the Priesthood Session. The last 30 or so were not able to request entrance as a garbage truck was driven in front of the door and the line closed soon after, since it was 6:00pm and the session was beginning. I compiled a post on Friday in preparation for the action here, you can read about Ordain Women here, news articles about the event here and here, a personal blog post about the event from OW founder Kate Kelly here, and you can see pictures of the event- including of each person being denied entrance- here. Church spokeswoman Ruth Todd has stated that the Relief Society meeting is a corollary to the Priesthood session of conference, but this answer is unsatisfying even on its face.
You can see a short video clip of us standing in line here.
I was shocked at how emotional the experience was for me, and from talking with others who attended, it was a common experience. Below are some brief reflections from young Mormon feminists on what it felt like to be excluded not merely from attending a session of General Conference but from even attending in a satellite location.
One week before Priesthood Session October 2013, Hannah Wheelwright and I decided to go the General Relief Society Meeting together. That night, I was allowed to step over the threshold of the Conference Center before a man placed his hand on my back and called, “Brother, this is a ticketed event for women only.” After he ushered us back over the threshold, Hannah and I walked across the street to the Tabernacle. There we were greeted with smiles from missionaries acting as ushers, anxious to gather everyone on Temple Square into the Tabernacle to enjoy the meeting. As disappointed as I was at not being admitted to the Conference Center, I felt glad to be permitted to sit beside others, women and men, to view the Relief Society Meeting broadcast from the Tabernacle. The Priesthood Session was a different experience. I was shocked as we were turned away not only from the Conference Center, but also from the Tabernacle. As we approached the Tabernacle, one by one, there were no missionaries to greet us. Instead, as I approached the Tabernacle, I saw groups of men rushing inside at the beckoning of one large man, while another man, Doug Peterson, stood to meet each of us. Upon approaching him, I asked him if sisters were being admitted to this session. “No,” he told me. I told him how I had been admitted to the Tabernacle one week earlier to view the Relief Society Meeting. He told me that I would need to direct my concern to Temple Square authorities, not him. As I turned around, my pain doubled. Missionaries ushered men into the Relief Society Meeting broadcast. Doug Peterson flatly told women that they were not welcome to view the Priesthood Session broadcast. After being turned away, we walked through the cold evening air, and we heard the voice of Henry B. Eyring leak out of the tiny speaker of a smartphone: “To hold the priesthood of God is to be held responsible by God for the eternal lives of his children.”
After being personally rejected at the door of the tabernacle I cried. I wanted to compose myself, so I looked for a private place. I walked to a nearby tabernacle wall, where no one else stood. During the hour I stood in line people tried not to see me, looking above or beyond me and my sisters and brothers. Now, I felt someone’s eyes on me. I looked up and saw through the age old glass of the tabernacle windows a man looking out at me. We held eye contact. He looked torn as he gazed out the window at me. Our interchange was real and personal. He stood inside, accepted in to listen to our prophets speak, and I, I stood outside. The reality of my rejection become undeniable. I began to cry harder. The man seemed torn, as if he desired to comfort me, if only he could. He began to smile, perhaps to better connect with me or cheer me, but then, quickly realizing it would not be appropriate, pulled his lips down and then his eyes, breaking our eye contact. He couldn’t continue to keep gazing at me as I stood outside, denied and tearful.
A powerful dimension of this experience for me was that this man was African American. Whether or not he has ever experienced this type of treatment personally, he has inherited a heritage of discrimination and oppression.
I’m grateful for this man and our interaction. This experience humanized him and the men and boys who walked unseeing by me into the tabernacle. I pray that this experience humanized the identity of Mormon Feminist for him. This forcefully manifested the reality of gender inequalities and discrimination in the church I cherish. I believe women should be ordained.
I didn’t expect to be let in.
Yesterday, I went to the park resolved to walk to the Priesthood session and then walk back to the park all too quickly. I wore comfortable shoes so that I could bear all that walking. And I bore a comfortable attitude of cynicism so that my heart would no be broken when I was turned away because of my gender.
Unfortunately, my feet hurt anyway, and I still felt rejected and broken. I wasn’t optimistic, I wasn’t positive, but I was still desperate for some acknowledgement from the church that I am God’s DAUGHTER and not Their Daughter IN LAW. I didn’t get that. I got a man’s apologetic eyes as I was told to leave, I got a garbage truck rolled in front of the door, telling me I am less valuable than trash, I got blister from the walking, and I got a new goal as men streamed past us as we waited in the cold, looking everywhere but at our faces. Our heartbreak.
I am going to continue to make them look at me, not matter how much people want to look away. I will continue to ask, and knock, and seek. To stand in lines, at the back of the bus, in a different room, at a park with my Sisters and Brothers.
And I believe, someday, we will be let in the door.And that my heart, and my feet, won’t have to hurt anymore.
Standing in line for priesthood session was both an empowering and humbling experience. It was amazing to stand in a sea of women who want the same things that I do. It is so easy to often feel so alone within the church, and it was lovely to meet and be around people who truly understand my hopes for the church. As I approached the steps of the tabernacle, I knew that I would be turned away as it had been made very clear that no women would be admitted to the session. I wasn’t expecting the rejection to sting as much as it did. “Women are not allowed inside that building” is what I was told. It was extremely shocking an hurtful to be told in a matter-of-fact way that my gender wasn’t welcome.
I wasn’t planning on coming to the Ordain Women event. I completely supported it, I just found myself reluctant to attend such a public, controversial event. However, when the church announced they were broadcasting it live, I felt a little slighted. It felt as if the church said, “We know what you’re going to do—stay at home and watch it and stop complaining.”
As I stood in line at Ordain Women, I pondered why I was there. I thought of all the women who came before me, and I thought of the women who couldn’t be there, and lastly, I thought of my dear brother and sister, who I know would be standing with me if they could.
I stood in line, and I smiled. I actually felt strangely hopeful—they had to let us in, right? They wouldn’t let not let us in. Even when I heard they would deny all of us, I kept thinking maybe they would just get frustrated and usher us in. When I approached the front of the line, I felt my heart beating so fast. “I’m here to watch the priesthood session of conference,” I said with a smile. The man looked at me, weary, and replied, “We’re sorry; it’s only for the men. You can watch it somewhere else.”
I walked away, my heart breaking. All of a sudden, into my mind came two things. First, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Second, I was filled with overwhelming love from my Savior, which was mixed with pain by being turned away as I recited my favorite scripture, 2 Nephi 26:33, which includes the phrase: God denieth none, male or female…
As we sang “I Am a Child of God”, after every woman had been denied, I looked up to the Salt Lake Temple and began to cry. I cried out of pain and sorrow, but I also felt a strange peace when singing “Lead me, guide me, walk beside me” as we turned away from the tabernacle and walked back to the park.
I cannot express how I felt after, it is the same pain mixed with hope, a hope that things will change. A hope that I will walk up the Conference Center one day, and they will take my tickets and say, “Thank you Sister” and I will sit with all my friends in the gospel—male or female, bond or free, Jew or Gentile, Black or White.
I decided to go before I realized the event was going to be a big deal. Even though I wasn’t decided enough to actually advocate women’s ordination, I wanted to support my friends and make sure they knew I was not only there in fair weather. I wanted to show them that I hear them and respect their search. I also wanted to help open the conversation about gender roles in the Church. At the event I felt sad that it should be necessary but grateful I could be a part of it. I was not as emotionally attached as many women there, though it was a bit awkward asking for a ticket, being allowed in, then declining to go in. As I listened to the session at the park, sitting around a phone with three women, I heard the priesthood speakers through a new filter that sometimes made their comments especially poignant or sadly ironic. I began to wonder what the big deal was in resisting female ordination.
Something that was surprising was how disappointing it felt. Going in, I fully expected to be turned away; the point I felt was not to get in but to raise awareness and start a dialogue. Even so, it was heartbreaking to stand by, watching hundreds of men pass me by, and when we finally got a chance to ask at the door to be personally turned away, one by one. Someone caught a picture of my face while I was at the door, and emotions were completely transparent at that moment; I can see myself fighting back tears. Still, I feel it was overall a positive experience, and I am so proud of all of my fellow sisters and brothers who stood with me. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Becca Hiatt, my proxy whose card I carried with me in the line. I thought about you to help give me courage when it was my turn to ask in person. Thank you and thanks to all of those who could not make it for coming in spirit.
The most surprising thing about the experience was how very few people walking by were willing to look me in the eye. People kept walking by, looking at the ground, and hurrying their children along, as if we somehow would contaminate them if they acknowledged that we were there. However, the few people who stopped to talk to us in line were largely kind and supportive. One man asked why we were in line, and when we said that we wanted to attend the session and that we wanted the priesthood, he said, “Good! You should!” I feel very lucky to have been able to stand there with so many of my sisters and to know that I’m not the only one who feels the pain that I feel about the limited role women play in the Church. It was much more disappointing to be turned away than I expected it to be, but I hope that this will start important conversations and I look forward to a future in which women will be able to participate more fully in the Church that they have committed so much to.
I was anxious about the action for months. Sometimes when I thought about it I felt sick to my stomach or my heart would pound really hard. It’s hard to do something that you know is going to be unpopular. I was still nervous as I drove to Salt Lake City, and as we walked through the crowds of men at the conference center, but I felt safe being in line with my friends and with all of the other supporters who were there. The strangest part was the men walking past us to Priesthood Session. The ones farther away stared at us, talked about us, and took pictures, like they thought we couldn’t see them. The ones who passed by closer to us avoided eye contact, walked by quickly and looked at the ground or over our heads. It was like being invisible and being in a fishbowl all at the same time. Walking up to ask for the tickets was scary too, but I am glad that I did it. It made the whole experience more personal and meaningful to me. Overall, I am happy about the action and I think that a very important conversation has begun within Mormonism. I am excited about the future of Mormonism and women’s place in it, and I am ready for whatever comes next.
I joined the group of women requesting entry into the priesthood session as a male ally. Even though the odds seemed stacked against us, for some reason I was relatively confident that we would be let in. And, I was really hoping that the women would be allowed to join us men in listening to our prophets. But I could not anticipate what lay before us. I thought it was amazing that every woman was going up, one by one, to ask for entrance. However, I had no idea how painful it would be. It honestly broke my heart to see these women broken down by the rejection, to see so many women so hurt by what happened. And yet, at the end of the day, even though they were not admitted, I still love the spirit of solidarity and support they all had for each other even when they were turned away. And it made me ready to support them even stronger in the future and advocate even harder for change, because I know that these women deserve far better than this.
At this event, I felt what Relief Society is supposed to be like for the first time. I felt the Spirit stronger than I have in a long time. I felt like I belonged. I felt loved, listened to, and wanted, just like how I’ve wanted to feel at church. Even standing in line and knowing I wouldn’t be allowed into the meeting, I felt the comfort of the Spirit telling me I was doing the right thing. When I reached the front of the line, I was looked in the eye and told I couldn’t enter the building. I felt like a little child being rebuked for asking a question I thought was legitimate and answerable. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. It was too ridiculous. It was too small to cry over. It was too small a thing to be denied. But the Spirit came back on the way home. We laughed and encouraged one another. Yesterday, I saw fellow members who welcomed me into their fold. I saw a church, however, that did not.
I wasn’t terribly emotionally invested in this event. I’d decided to go to support those who are invested, defending their right to ask questions and speak up about problems. I also wanted to meet other LDS feminists and feel their positive energy. I anticipated having fun. I did have fun. The people with whom I stood in line were awesome, the weather was nice, the music was pretty. I didn’t really expect us to get in . . . but, I realize now, I didn’t really expect us to be kept out, either.
He responded, “I appreciate that. However, this is a standby line for a meeting for men only“. I said, “Thank you”. And stepped aside.
Hearing those words, “Men only”, was shocking to me. It was so strange to me knowing I was being denied entrance to a building because I am not a man. That was the only reason.
As I stepped out of the line, crying harder now, I was embraced, enveloped in the arms of two women who I had never met. The love, unity, and support I felt from these women and all those who stood with me that day. Although I felt heartbroken and hurt, I also felt the spirit reaffirm that this is a righteous desire and that my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and brother Jesus Christ love me and my sisters. They are “No respecter of persons” and my hope and faith that women will someday be ordained in this church that I love, is stronger than ever.
There are things I am very unsure of. I’ve had a variety of spiritual experiences, but I remain uncertain as to what those spiritual experiences exactly mean. Regardless, I feel I should mention that every contact I’ve had with Ordain Women has felt spiritual to me, including this past Saturday waiting in line for the Priesthood Session.
29 Responses to “shaken quiet dignity”
I was not able to attend and frankly I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I’m a big supporter of feminism, but to be honest, I’m kind of a coward when it comes to these things. I just wanted to say that I’m proud of you all. It sickens me that The church, my church, my faith treated you all so horribly. I wish that there was something I could do. I wish that I could turn back time and be there and stand up and stand with you all.
I’m sorry you were treated unkindly. I believe that if the Savior were there, He would have let you in.
This account is so beautiful, and so full of bravery! I like the statement that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and our brother Jesus are no respecter of persons. It is a thought that I’ll remember always, to cheer me up. When the day comes that all are truly enlisted, the brothers and sisters that stood up first for the rest of us will be ever counted as pioneers in our century.
[…] to be righteous that they make it work for them, grateful for what they do experience. But many many others, so many others that the weight of sorrow I witness often overwhelms me, see the unequal policies […]
Hannah, I have had several people I know see your name associated with OW and ask me if you and I are related. I am very happy to tell them that though we are only distantly related through bloodlines, we are so very closely related in spirit. My daughter Sharon, who was there with the group Saturday night, had many of the same reactions as the rest of you, feeling such emotion at the rejection. It was a hard thing you did. Thank you to all of you for being there and for your continued strength and integrity. The discussions that this has sparked just in my own family are so positive and progressive. There is change in the wind.
Much love to you, Catherine! I am proud to share our name 🙂
I’m 38 and I loved so many things about the even on Saturday, but something I especially loved was seeing people of all ages united for equality. I have deep respect for the older, silver-haired women who have been fighting this fight for so long, with so much opposition. I have respect for the men and women my age who, if they’re like me, endured the equality for themselves, but can’t abide it any more for their daughters (mine is 2). I have respect for the young people who are really going to sway this issue.
Your generation is vital to this movement because you experience equality in most regards of your lives but then go to church and are relegated to an ancillary role. It’s not okay and you are fighting to change it. You will gain momentum, you will gain numbers, you will speak up now. I am excited for your intelligence, faith and passion — just as I am the beneficiary of older women who suffered persecution for being feminists, my daughter will be the beneficiary of your drive for justice. God bless young Mormon feminists!
This will be my first comment on this blog. I’m not a regular blog commenter, so to speak, but I cannot restrain myself with this one.
I am not “anti-ordain women”. I appreciate the desire for the priesthood and I feel it is completely appropriate to bring your desires to the attention of the prophet and apostles. I myself don’t feel the desire for the priesthood, but sure, I understand others do and that’s a-okay.
But this… This “oh I’m so sad I wasn’t let in” and “he said men-only, oh, I am so discriminated against” and “male or female, black or white, bond or free” ETC all of this you type on your MacBook pros in your heated apartments with bellies full of Cafe Rio burritos, your words so eloquently threaded together because of your college educations…. All of this… And you know what I can’t help but think? B.S. And you know what I can’t help but smell? B.S.
It is all “much a do about nothing.” What you experienced outside the Tabernacle Saturday night? That’s NOTHING. Stop feigning such bravery, it’s embarrassing. Stop making the very obvious but not outright comparisons to racism. Please. PLEASE!! I GET that you want equality. I dooooo. But let’s be honest here. Women in the church are not unequal. We have more responsibility and burden and expectation placed upon us in the church than we do almost anywhere else. No, we don’t have the priesthood or an official decision making presence, so we are “unequal” there I’ll consede that BUT, we have bigger fish to fry, ladies!!! Lets stop gazing at our damn navels and try and rescue the real victims around us! They are everywhere! They are lds gay teens contemplating suicide. They are single moms a paycheck away from bankruptcy. They are your little brother with a debilitating addiction to pornography. Women and the priesthood? Psh. Are you too dense to see you already have all the tools you need to summon all the powers of heaven? You already have them!!! The priesthood is the power of God and the God I believe in blesses me with whatever power my faith will allow, regardless of whether or not I hold the priesthood (which I don’t, I’m a woman)
So please, get over yourselves! Stop trying to relive the Rosa Parks story your 5th grade teacher read to you 10 years ago. You don’t have to “fight inequality” to be significant. You have more power and privilege and opportunity than any of the women that came before you. How about you try and use your blessings to serve those with real problems?!
This woman has it spot on. How can any of you sustain te prophet yet say that the church that he stewards over is discriminatory. And to the person that said that the Savior would have let you in, I find that to be borderline blasphemous. Read the bible, when people tried to practice his gospel in their own way he was displeased. Did he not overturn the tables in the temple? The church is currently being run exactly how He wants it. If you do not believe so then you do not understand our doctrine and should not call yourself a Latter Day Saint. Do you really believe you can lobby your way into the priesthood? Please stop being rediculous.
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity… freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed… all men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality… injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Totally agree with you!!!!
Christ also defied the religious and political sentiments of his time. He disregarded ritual washings, taught gentiles and jews alike, and promised them eternal life if they would follow him. I continually look to his example because although he was defying his society he comes across as so humble, so thoughtful, so careful in the New Testament. I know sometimes this movement gets ahold Of my pride. I continually pray for added humility and ponder on what I truly mean to get across instead of focusing on how great i am for battling oppression.
when reading the new testament, I see a Christ who unlike us knew what his Father wanted him to do, and being at least in a physical body, figured out how to do so in his own way. and God trusted him that his own way would be appropriate. He said, this is my Beloved Son, hear him, because i trust that what He will say to you will be righteous and true. I know God trusts me too, thats why I can feel his spirit sometimes and why I continually reevaluate why. i say the things i do, what i say, my humility and my courage. i know god wants meto love Him and to love my neighbor.
I agree, this seems to be a movement of a priveleged middle class, and maybe somg of the writers have adopted very religious tones and sentiments for persuasion. but that’s the nature of writing. if you dont buy it, their writing has faied to persuade you, and that’s their loss. Your first paragraph persuaded me to see your side and the voce that comes through in your second paragraph certaily did make me agree that i had similar sentiments about some of the above passages. But it didnt completely persude me, so language didnt completely help you either.
Just because there are other problems in the world doesn’t mean that this problem isn’t worth worrying about. I have been incredibly touched and inspired by the brave women and men who have been courageous enough to stand up and draw attention to the very real inequality that is present in our church even when that means they literally get left out in the cold. Thank you to all of you for lending your voices to this very valuable conversation and effort.
What I would wish to do is have the first photograph made into a small card that mothers can take to Sacrament Meeting on Mothers’ Day and exchange for the flowers and platitudes Maybe the picture of the garbage truck could be on the reverse side.
The event Saturday night really appears to have been an attempt to make the church look bad. Maybe I am wrong. But that is how it appears from my perspective. And this is sad to me. I think you really have to back up and look at the motives of the ordain women movement. Do you believe the brethren have apostatized from the truth? The gospel is about following. We are disciples, not lobbyists.
Do you really believe that’s what the OW women think? Your perspective means little so long as it is based on completely false assumptions about the “motives” of people you are not a part of nor even trying to understand. A better question to ask than “do you believe the brethren have apostatized” (where the answer is obviously “no”) might be, “do you believe the restoration is complete and there is nothing left for God to reveal?” Do you believe article of faith 9?
The fact that you believe these women are oppressed proves my point. Thank you for demonstrating a comparison so blatantly preposterous it borders on laughable.
That question is inevitable when a person or organization tries to pressure God’s servants into changing or contributing to the perception that they are behind or mistaken in their leadership. It really is that simple, in my opinion. I believe God certainly will continue to reveal His will through His servants. But I do not believe His will is made known as a result of lobbying in this way.
What if the result of this lobbying is that the brethren say that the Priesthood is not to be extended to women? Because that is the case so far. And that message was pretty clear in general conference.
What do you make of the statement in Doctrine and Covenants 1 which states, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same?” That statement, along with the statement from 1 Nephi should really make us think before feeling like we are in a position to correct the Lord’s servants- “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”
I really don’t want to be too critical or make anybody feel like they don’t belong in the church. I am no better than anybody else and have big issues and flaws that I have to deal with. But I really think this is a serious matter that threatens testimonies and lives. The brethren have stated very clearly in the past that feminism is one of the greatest threats to the church. And I think they meant threat to the faith of members of the church.
I simply believe this is one commonly traveled road away from faith and discipleship. And in the context of a day in which we know there will be many who fall away, I think every person needs to remember the most important points of truth.
Again more false assumptions and failure to even attempt to understand the movement. I don’t believe anyone was trying to “pressure” the Brethren into changing. And I’m not sure how you perceive women petitioning the Brethren to hear them out and go to the Lord on their behalf as implying that the Brethren are “mistaken” in their leadership. If that was the case, then why even respect and seek the response of the Brethren in the first place?
There are historical and scriptural precedents for seeking the will of the Lord in similar ways, and I personally see these women as demonstrating their faith and personal commitment to the Lord, while they await further light and knowledge. I also believe there are strong scriptural and historical reasons to feel the Lord has not yet revealed everything on the subject of women and ecclesial and sacral authority. Unless you understand some of the extent of the present gaps in our knowledge, and the pain those gaps have caused in the lives of some of our saints, then of course you have no understanding of a movement like OW.
I feel like the voice and will of the Lord can only be sought and received on a subject when realize that it hasn’t really been sought yet. There are parallels here with the history of blacks and access to sacral power. Don’t use 2 Nephi 9 as a crutch to justify your mediocre understanding of things.
And your large assumption is that the brethren have not thought about this or sought guidance from the Lord. That assumption directly contradicts many statements from them over many decades. They have spoken many times about the roles of men and women- both at home and in the church. They have predicted and spoken about the pressures to make men and women the same. They have stated that feminism will be one of the greatest threats to the faith of members of the church. To assume that they have not sought direction from the Lord on this matter despite all of these warnings and statements is a little naive, in my opinion.
The core of this movement is the belief that these members of the church know more and are more in tune with the Lord’s will then the Lord’s apostles and prophets. There is no way around this.
There is not the precedent you claim with blacks and the priesthood. The brethren pleaded with the Lord for quite a while to know His will on that issue. It was not a result of public protest or campaigns. If you base your course on that view of history, it opens up a thousand different roads and issues about which a person or persons can campaign. A person can then question, doubt, and protest any doctrine or any practice or policy of the church.
The other assumption in your post is that I have a “mediocre” understanding of things. This is a very convenient assumption that allows a person to dismiss another’s opinion or position. But you are incorrect- I have dealt with this on a very personal level with many women close to me.
Two questions I have had for those women seeking to be ordained to the priesthood and attend priesthood meeting are:
1. What are your feelings toward those female leaders of the church who sustain the current policy and doctrine of the church relating to only males being ordained to the priesthood?
2. How many women who stood in line for tickets to priesthood meeting attended the Relief Society meeting the week before?
I think the answers to those questions would be very interesting (at least to me).
If I am incorrect about your understanding of things, then you tell me — when have the Brethren sufficiently explained what was going on in Joseph’s time — consider the 30 March 1842 meeting with the Relief Society when Joseph said “he was going to make of this society a kingdom of priests” http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1842/30Mar42.html, or the 28 April 1842 meeting with the RS when Joseph said that “the sisters would come in possession of the privileges, blessings, and gifts of the Priesthood, and that the signs should follow them, such as healing the sick, casting out devils”, or the patriarchal blessing of Susannah Bigler given by John Smith on 10 February 1844, as recorded by George A. Smith, telling her that she is “a Daughter of Abraham… and a lawful heir to the Priesthood in common with thy Companion and thou shall have power through that Priesthood to redeem thy dead friends” — and why things are so different today? Why could Joseph F. Smith in 1907 (things had already changed quite a bit by then) still endorse the idea of women administering alongside men — “It is no uncommon thing for a man and
wife unitedly to administer to their children, and the husband
being mouth, he may properly say out of courtesy, ‘By authority of
the holy priesthood in us vested'”? Why did these privileges disappear? Where did these understandings go?
Now, I wouldn’t argue a simplistic assumption that women had anything like the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods or that this is what Joseph was giving. But “Priesthood” used to be a term that incorporated so much more than it has since circa the 1920’s. The lines that were drawn around then separating the rightful exercise of spiritual gifts to a thing mainly done by priesthood cut off a lot of activities that Joseph Smith himself had endorsed a hundred years before. Administrative changes pushed women’s voices out of important circles — the moving of the Relief Society President’s office from next door to the church president and into the Presiding Bishop’s building might be symbolic of that.
Now, as to whatever the OW people are thinking, it isn’t really my fight, but I’m just trying to clarify here that there are reasons to feel the Lord has not yet revealed everything and reasons to feel the need to petition the Brethren for additional light.
I would respectfully suggest that the women who lean so heavily on the “kingdom of priests” quote (many of whom are admittedly much smarter than I am) are seeing what they want to see and not what is there. If Joseph Smith were directed to ordain women, he had every opportunity to do so. If he were directed to organize the RS as a priesthood quorum, he had every opportunity to do so. Instead, he, like every subsequent prophet, only ordained men.
I cannot fully explain what Brother Joseph meant when he said that any more than I can explain many other “problematic” quotes from early church leaders. However, the current church policies are certainly in keeping with prior church policies regarding women and the priesthood.
Perhaps I don’t k ow my RS history well enough, but what are you referring to when you say that the RS does less than it used to?
I’m 100% onboard with people seeking additional light. However, I don’t think that’s an issue for the First Presidency. If you (or I) don’t understand what God is doing or why he’s doing it, that’s something entirely within our power to receive revelation on. I honestly don’t know what more the Brethren can say on this topic, more than what was said by Elders Anderson and Christofferson. And if this is entirely about asking questions, then why try to attend priesthood session? What does that have to do with earnestly asking questions?
Stacy, what I personally think about it is that “priesthood” simply had a completely different usage in the 19th century. Joseph expanded the meaning of the term “priesthood” to include all those who received certain ordinances in the temple. This is sometimes called the “cosmological priesthood” and in some ways seems to have been meant to supersede or act as the ultimate expression of other priesthoods. Just like freemasonry was a steppingstone for introduction to the further mysteries of the endowment for men, the Relief Society seems to have been partly established to prepare women for the endowment. This cosmological priesthood seems to be what Joseph was alluding to in his talks with the RS.
One good source for some of what the Relief Society used to be involved in and some of the ways it changed is Thomas Alexander’s “Mormonism in Transition” book, especially chapter 8 on the auxiliaries.
To me the most valid points for scrutiny about the role of women in the church are the following: first, women are barred from certain callings and administrative positions which no revelations have explicitly restricted to the Priesthood. Certainly tradition shouldn’t replace revelation on the subject. Second, women used to anoint and administer blessings to the sick and to prepare women for labor. The assumption that all gifts of the spirit (including healing) are the exclusive domain of the Priesthood is without strong scriptural or historical support, and could do with some reexamining.
As to your final questions, I can’t answer them since I’m not involved with ordain women. I may not share the same inclinations or goals as they do, but I’ve posted what I have to point out the real need for conversation, for additional light, understanding and petitioning of the Lord for help sorting out certain issues. I also think it would be worthwhile for the Brethren to be involved, and to acknowledge some of the nuances of the problem so those who really do care about these things won’t feel like they’re being “talked past”, if that makes sense =).
The descriptions provided regarding having a spiritual testimony rather sounds like the response of the nervous system. ie. Biological due to emotions. All feelings powerful enough can & do cause this response. Just like a testimony meeting where a speaker cries- mirror neurons fire off which elicits a response. Those responses are known to happen at activists rallies, political & social events, great speeches etc.. There are woman on the other side of your goal who would’ve felt similar feelings for seperate “gendered” sessions. It’s relevance to our own personal situation which invokes that biological response. Causes make people feel important & valued & cause a release in hormones. Solidarity really caused that sense of spiritual connectedness… But great if you think it was the spirit, it aids well being to think that- literally. Thats how the brain works.
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