Zelophehad’s Daughters

I’m a Spiritual Slacker; Do I Need the Priesthood?

Posted by Lynnette

If indeed my XX chromosomes have blessed me with an extra dose of spirituality, I’m having a hard time seeing it. Truth be told, I find it a real pain to get up on Sunday morning and attend church, and I frequently find myself thinking how nice it would be to instead stay home and read novels, preferably while eating brownies and ice cream. I’ve been known to avoid the internal debate altogether by simply sleeping in–and when I wake up and see that it’s too late to make it, I think, aww, what a shame, I guess I’ll have to try out my latest arrival from Netflix.

I periodically think that I need to figure out how to make regular scripture study a part of my life, but somehow I have yet to implement this. I so detest visiting teaching that I’ve been avoiding it for years. I get wrapped up in my own problems and forget to pay attention to the people around me. In my personal interactions, charity frequently faileth, especially when I’m stressed, tired, or in a hurry. I can be hopelessly lazy, and I spend too much time blogging and otherwise playing online instead of working.

When I look at all of this, I can’t help thinking that in several aspects my life resembles the dreaded picture I hear invoked so often of what would happen to men if they didn’t have the priesthood to pull them out of their natural spiritual apathy–that they’d stay home and watch sporting events instead of bothering with religion. (It’s true that sporting events are unlikely to seduce me in this fashion, but just replace “sports” with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and you’ve got me.) Could it be, then, that I am likewise in need of such a remedy? I hear that if women had the priesthood they would run everything, leaving nothing for the men to do, but I can guarantee that I personally would be not pose any such threat.

So what do you think? Am I depraved enough to need priesthood ordination to save me?

81 Responses to “I’m a Spiritual Slacker; Do I Need the Priesthood?”

  1. 1.

    I don’t think that this form of “spirituality’ has anything to do with the priesthood. If priesthood is meant to address a gender gap, (and that is a huge if), it’s much more likely to address this one.

  2. 2.

    Lynnette, if you had the priesthood you would forego the latest Netflix arrival and go straight to the pornography. At least this is the impression I get from every priesthood meeting I attend or listen to.

    In Edward Geary’s collection of essays, Goodbye to Poplarhaven, he describes his first experience “wardteaching”, as the junior companion to one of the high priests in the ward who takes himself too seriously. They visit an inactive woman on a Sunday afternoon and find her working in the yard, tending her flowerbeds. The man chastises her, she responds sharply, then he chastises her again for not having sufficient respect for The Priesthood. She responds by saying “You were a fool before you got the priesthood. All it has done for you is make you a pompous, insufferable fool.”

    I think the same could be said of anybody who thinks the bestowal of priesthood office automatically makes them more spiritual. Section 121 mentions the danger of people pretending that the priesthood will cover their sins, so it continues to boggle my mind when people use the excuse that men need priesthood because they are such backsliders.

    p.s. I just re-read this and realized that you might think I am implying that you are a fool. Of course, that is not the case.

  3. 3.

    I wish I could press Like on Mark Brown’s comment. :)

  4. 4.

    I second Kim! I love Mark’s comment.

  5. 5.

    Mark, nice mention of Poplarhaven, some of my favorite mormon essays.

  6. 6.

    I like Matt W.’s comment.

  7. 7.

    I don’t like anyone’s comments, because no one has yet voted to give me the priesthood. And you all know that the secret feminist desire is to be a bishop. :P

    That said, Mark Brown’s comment was great, especially this point:

    Section 121 mentions the danger of people pretending that the priesthood will cover their sins, so it continues to boggle my mind when people use the excuse that men need priesthood because they are such backsliders.

    Matt W., what if I now confess that I played games as a child which involved war and destruction? Would that mean I needed the priesthood to overcome that? And if men have a tendency to be more into such things, is it really a good idea to having them run the church? They might declare war on the Catholics at any moment.

    Whatever gender gaps there may be–and I’m not denying their existence, though I also think those assertions frequently gloss over the individual variation within genders–it’s usually quite a leap from there to “this is why we need a male-only priesthood.” (And I do recognize from your note that “it’s a big if” that you’re not necessarily arguing that.)

  8. 8.

    I also really don’t like the male-bashing that frequently underlies the rhetoric about how men need the priesthood because of their uniquely masculine flaws. (And people accuse feminists of male-bashing? We’re pretty tame in comparison to what gets said about men when this argument comes up.)

  9. 9.

    It is hard to see how either gender or the priesthood has anything to do with spiritual slackerhood. There is a statistical gender gap in Mormonism — women are disproportionately overrepresented in the population of active Mormons (compared to other denominations). So the argument that the priesthood somehow keeps men active or makes them more devoted simply has no factual support. If anything, the facts suggest the opposite. The only people I see repeating the argument are LDS feminists — it doesn’t fit the facts, but it fits their preconceptions.

  10. 10.

    I don’t buy any of the assumptions, but just for sake of argument…

    Suppose we draw an analogy: We compare Men’s spiritual depravity to Men having only one leg; Women are spiritually gifted—i.e., they have two legs. The Priesthood is like an extra leg. Thus, for Men, the Priesthood makes a big difference, bringing him up to the respectable bipedal standard, but for Women, it provides no benefit because what’s a girl gonna do with a third leg?

    Thus, Lynnette, you’re altogether unsaveable from your Netflix addiction. (May I recommend Exit Through the Gift Shop on instant play?)

    Dave: your data doesn’t suggest anything of the sort. I know a guy who had to take growth hormone supplements growing up due to a deficiency in GH production. He’s still kinda short—only 5’6″. According to your logic, the GH actually made him shorter.

    The comparison should not be between the activity level of men v women, but rather the activity level of men in a male-only v Egalitarian priesthood. So you’d have to run the experiment with sample populations where 1) men are denied the priesthood, 2) men and women are given the priesthood, and 3) how it is now. Then watch what happens to the activity level of men in the different groups.

    And in fact, I think that’s what the Church is really lacking: an Office of Experimental Religion.

  11. 11.

    Brianj, sociology is not an experimental science. But there is plenty of data that can be collected and analyzed using statistical methods. Take a look at American Grace, the most recent comprehensive book-length treatment of American religion. It includes a plenty of discussion of Mormonism. The Mormon gender gap is substantial. Discussing growth hormones is irrelevant to the facts (that there is an LDS gender gap) and to the issue (why there is an LDS gender gap).

  12. 12.

    There is a statistical gender gap in Mormonism — women are disproportionately overrepresented in the population of active Mormons (compared to other denominations).

    I thought women were overrepresented among active Mormons, but less so than compared with in other churches in general (at least in the US). I blogged about that a few years ago, but I realize you’re much more conversant with the literature on religiosity. Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying?

    And in fact, I think that’s what the Church is really lacking: an Office of Experimental Religion.

    Brilliant, BrianJ! If the Church ever did this (and I suspect they do on small scales test new programs out) I would love to analyze data for them. Of course, I’m likely far too heretical for them to allow me to. Also, I’d have impure motives: I would want to tinker with the data in all kinds of ways I’m sure the GAs would not be interested in hearing about.

  13. 13.

    Lynnette, I think you definitely should be ordained to make you less evil. Did I hear you were coming to enjoy watching Troll 2? Perhaps nothing short of ordination can save you.

    Also, perhaps new male converts who want to be ordained should similarly have to demonstrate how evil they are without the priesthood in order to qualify for ordination. Certainly it’s understandable to preemptively ordain boys/men who grow up in the Church, as a check on our evilness. But men who join later may just not need it, much as women clearly are too righteous to need it. ;)

  14. 14.

    I seriously could have written this very post, word for word. If the priesthood makes those who hold it “more spiritual,” then I definitely need it. OOPS! Unrighteous desire!

  15. 15.

    Ziff, I posted on it a couple if years ago as well, referencing a media post that cited Pew Forum results.

    http://mormoninquiry.typepad.com/mormon_inquiry/2009/05/the-puzzling-mormon-gender-gap.html

    The data is available at the Pew Forum site. Very large sample sizes compared to the survey data used in American Grace.

    http://religions.pewforum.org/

    The LDS female to male ratio is 56% to 44%. The only groups listed that have more lopsided ratios are Historically Black Churches (60/40) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (60/40).

  16. 16.

    Thanks, Dave!

  17. 17.

    I’m wearing out my welcome, but that’s what I do.

    Obviously the original post is facetiously playing on the “justification” sometimes offered (although I’ve only ever heard it on feminist websites as well) for a male-only priesthood that without the priesthood, men would never go to Church. But, since the Church doesn’t teach that, I think the answer to the original post is: Maybe this “justification” isn’t a valid reason for a male-only priesthood, but…so what? Because someone, somewhere thought this might be a valid reason for the status quo, and it turns out to be wrong (assuming it is), suddenly the Church should ordain women?

  18. 18.

    So the argument that the priesthood somehow keeps men active or makes them more devoted simply has no factual support. If anything, the facts suggest the opposite. The only people I see repeating the argument are LDS feminists — it doesn’t fit the facts, but it fits their preconceptions.

    Actually, it’s generally the LDS anti-feminists who make this argument. The LDS feminists are generally the ones who are calling the anti’s on it!

  19. 19.

    Obviously the original post is facetiously playing on the “justification” sometimes offered (although I’ve only ever heard it on feminist websites as well) for a male-only priesthood that without the priesthood, men would never go to Church. But, since the Church doesn’t teach that [ . . . ]

    Mike, I don’t think anyone is arguing that this is the official canonized doctrine of the church. But I hear it all the time, and I was hearing it long before I was reading feminist blogs or there was any such thing as a bloggernaccle. I’ve heard versions of it from BYU religion profs, from BYU other profs, from bishops, in RS lessons, and from friends in conversation. I’m glad to hear you’ve never run across this particular theory for the church’s gender discrimination, but it’s a pervasive folk doctrine: women are naturally more spiritual/service-oriented/church-going/pick-your-virtue than men, so men need the priesthood to compensate.

    And as Lynnette’s much abused younger sister (she used to put my stuffed animals in the microwave!) I can attest that she is badly in need of some compensatory priesthood.

  20. 20.

    Office of Experimental Religion.

    Ooo!! I want to design experiments for that! Oh, wait. Do you have to hold the priesthood to work there???
    *walks away, diappointed, yet again*

  21. 21.

    Melyngoch,

    women are naturally more spiritual/service-oriented/church-going/pick-your-virtue than men, so men need the priesthood to compensate.

    I remember a talk by President Faust (a great man) in which he stated that the virtues or attributes on which exaltation depend come more naturally to women (or something like that). I think that’s probably true. However, the second half (…so therefore men need the priesthood) wasn’t something I’d heard until recently. But, if you’re saying that it’s a false rationale, I would probably agree.

    (she used to put my stuffed animals in the microwave!)

    That’s pretty nasty.

  22. 22.

    Holy cow. Ho. Lee. Cow. Can we aggree that mormon dot org is NOT a feminist website? Because at this following url, you can read the following quote:

    http://mormon.org/faq/women-in-the-church/

    The purpose of the priesthood is to serve others as Christ served us. Women, regardless of marriage or children, already spend much of their life serving and helping others. Most men don’t provide the selfless, christlike service that women naturally perform. The priesthood is a way for men to perform that service and become closer to God through acting in His name through service.

  23. 23.

    Mark Brown,

    I think that’s why that site has a disclaimer:

    Answers are the sole responsibility of the members.

    Also, I don’t think that’s quite the same thing as saying men would skip Church to watch sports, or Buffy, without the priesthood. Sounds like she’s saying that men don’t have all the opportunities to serve that women, through motherhood, naturally have.

  24. 24.

    I find the sexism behind that statement no less infuriating and ridiculous than I do the racism which says that Germans are natural alcoholics or that black people are prone to stealing watermelons. We do great damage to the gospel when we try to bring such smelly cultural baggage into Zion.

    I’d like to engage Matt’s point in comment # 1 for a moment. I take his comment to mean that the priesthood is given to males to counteract the toxic effects of the culture that surrounds us. In order to accept this idea we must also accept the idea that the way we do things now might change. At some future time, the priesthood might be taken from males and given to females, if females are the ones who need it then in order to give them the additional support they need at that time. In fact, why not allow beehives to be ordained right now? The glittery pink Disney Princess culture which engulfs them is very damaging.

  25. 25.

    Mike, of course it is the responsibility of the members. Did I claim differently? My only point was to refute the claim that the only place we see that argument is on feminist websites, as you and Dave asserted. That assertion is obviously not correct.

    And I think you misread her. She didn’t say that women have natural opportunities to serve through motherhood. She said: Women, regardless of marriage or children, already spend much of their life serving and helping others.

  26. 26.

    Ziff: I’m sure you would provide the Ensign with some stunning graphs of your results!!

    Make sure to check out the methodology section of the Pew report, which lists the margins of error. The Mormon sample margin of error is stated at 4.5% (most likely due to small sample size), thus causing me to question whether Mormon male:female ratios (44:56) are really all that different from Mainline churches (46:54), Catholics (46:54), or even Evangelical churches (47:53).

    Dave: First, I’m still not convinced that there is a comparably larger gender gap. The Pew study doesn’t support that claim. If you say that American Grace has the data to support that, then I’ll just have to trust you on that. Second, even if there is a gender gap—even a gaping, massive one—I wonder how you conclude that the male-only priesthood makes it worse. Your comment #9 provided no support for that theory. Are you saying that a compelling case is made in American Grace?

  27. 27.

    Enna: “Ooo!! I want to design experiments for that! Oh, wait. Do you have to hold the priesthood to work there???”

    No, but you must have a full beard.

  28. 28.

    Mark Brown,

    My only point was to refute the claim that the only place we see that argument is on feminist websites, as you and Dave asserted. That assertion is obviously not correct.

    You’re getting a bit nitpicky here, so I’ll follow suit: I didn’t say that it is the only place we see that argument, I said it’s the only place I have seen that argument. And I still don’t think you’re correctly interpreting the statement you quoted:

    And I think you misread her. She didn’t say that women have natural opportunities to serve through motherhood. She said: Women, regardless of marriage or children, already spend much of their life serving and helping others.

    Sherri Dew, General Conference, October 2001: “Motherhood is more than bearing children. … It is the essence of who we are as women.” You might disagree, but the Church leaders (in this case a woman – see we’re equal) teach that motherhood, with all its opportunities for service, is the essence of womanhood. I don’t think it’s quite the same for men. I think the quote was pointing out that the priesthood offers men opportunities to serve they otherwise wouldn’t have, not that the priesthood is necessary to keep men from growing into their sofas.

  29. 29.

    Mike, that’s not the first time that something stupid has been said over the pulpit in conference.

  30. 30.

    As you can probably tell, this attitude really angers me.

    Imagine a man who works hard, 60-70 hours a week at two jobs to support his family. He goes to church on his only day off in the week and has to listen to this kind of bullcrap.

  31. 31.

    Church is really lacking: an Office of Experimental Religion.

    At least in the 70s, 80s and 90s it was well staffed and in full swing.

    I had no idea they had closed it.

  32. 32.

    Mike

    You’re getting a bit nitpicky here, so I’ll follow suit: I didn’t say that it is the only place we see that argument, I said it’s the only place I have seen that argument.

    I think you may be suffering from a selection bias here. How often one has heard this argument is highly correlated to how bothered one is by male only priesthood, and how much time they’ve spent asking authority figures about it during their youth.

  33. 33.

    Lynnette, I don’t have the keys to confer the priesthood upon you. Now that I think of it, I’m always losing my keys. Anyway, I can’t make you an elder, but I do narcissistically recognize myself in your self-description. Therefore, I’m voting to make you an honorary man. Congratulations!

  34. 34.

    Many are called, but few are chosen. And actually, many aren’t even called.

  35. 35.

    It’s mind-boggling that someone would argue that the “women more spiritual” claim isn’t made.

    “In order to attempt to get the male somewhere near even, the Heavenly Father gave him the Priesthood, or directing authority for the Church and home. Without this bequeath, the male would be so far below the female in power and influence that there would be little or no purpose for his existence. In fact, [he] would probably be eaten by the female as is the case with the black widow Spider.”

    -Hartamn Rector, Jr.

    “Spouses need not perform the same functions to be equal. The woman’s innate spiritual instincts are like a moral magnet, pointing toward spiritual north—except when that magnet’s particles are scrambled out of order. The man’s presiding gift is the priesthood—except when he is not living the principles of righteousness. If the husband and the wife are wise, their counseling will be reciprocal: he will listen to the promptings of her inner spiritual compass just as she will listen to his righteous counsel.”

    -Bruce and Marie Hafen

    (More at BIV’s posts, e.g., http://kolobiv.blogspot.com/2007/11/more-on-greater-spirituality-of-women_18.html)

  36. 36.

    I agree with Mark Brown that Matt W. (#1) implied that priesthood would be addressing a gender gap created by culture, rather than a gender gap in inherent spirituality. I would add to Mark’s response that if this is the case, why should we bandage the problem rather than address underlying causes? Wouldn’t it make more sense to instead change the culture, at least within the church?

    And Mark’s #2 is spot on. The whole argument that priesthood is a compensation for men’s innate spiritual handicaps flies directly in the face of the scriptural teaching that priesthood cannot cover sin. If that’s true on an individual scale, why on earth wouldn’t it be true on an institutional scale?

    As to Dave #9, I’d just remind us all of how very easy it is to manipulate statistics to support an argument. The people who argue that male-only priesthood ordination is necessary to make men spiritually invested in the church could just as easily point to a smaller gender gap in Mormonism as evidence that the policy is indeed working and that were there not male only ordination, we’d look more like mainstream religions that have an even larger gender gap.

    And Mike #28, the fact that a woman said something as assinine as “motherhood is the essence of who we are as women” does not move the statements truthiness into the realm of truth. I am a woman. I am NOT a mother. And I find it deeply insulting to argue that I am simply because I have the physical capacity to become one (can you imagine how stupid it would be to argue all men are fathers [or even all fatherhood is the essence of who men are as men] because they have sperm?). Sherri Dew lost most of my respect in that particular conference talk.

  37. 37.

    Kaimi, your link doesn’t work. I think this one will:

    http://tinyurl.com/3exth65

  38. 38.

    Dave (#9)

    The only people I see repeating the argument are LDS feminists — it doesn’t fit the facts, but it fits their preconceptions.

    I’m not sure if you were saying that LDS feminists are making this argument (which as Dora notes, is not the case–quite the opposite), or that they’re talking about an argument that isn’t actually being made anywhere. But as several people have already noted, it appears in a variety of places. So this slam on feminists really wasn’t fair.

    Mike (#17)

    Maybe this “justification” isn’t a valid reason for a male-only priesthood, but…so what? Because someone, somewhere thought this might be a valid reason for the status quo, and it turns out to be wrong (assuming it is), suddenly the Church should ordain women?

    Wow. Maybe time to take a breath and slow down a bit? If I put up a post arguing for female ordination, it will actually argue for female ordination. Then you can disagree with me. But that isn’t what I’m doing here.

    And as for the “so what”? Aside from giving me a chance to confess my moral failings to the bloggernacle, I can see at least two reasons to discuss this rhetoric:

    1) It isn’t just “some person somewhere” who thinks that superior female spirituality is a valid reason for male-only priesthood. It’s a sentiment which has been expressed repeatedly by multiple church leaders. The church isn’t just saying, “this is God’s will”–they’re giving explanations. And if those explanations don’t hold water, that does raise questions about the practice that such explanations are defending. That’s what I want to do: call problematic ideas into question. (And no, in and of itself, that is not an argument for female ordination.)

    2) Setting aside the ordination issue, I think this rhetoric is harmful to both genders. As Mark Brown points out, it’s drastically unfair to men to make those assumptions about them (and to continually berate them for their presumed tendencies toward evil). It also idealizes women in a way that can be very alienating to women who don’t fit the ideal, and devalues any efforts women do make toward greater spirituality or service (because for them it’s just something that “comes naturally.”)

    I’m not saying that church leaders are going to the extreme that I did in this post–though while this might sound over the top, I’ve actually heard comments like, “without the priesthood, men would just sit around and watch sports all day” way too often. But it’s pretty clear that multiple church leaders have expressed the belief that women don’t have the priesthood because they have some kind of spirituality that men lack.

  39. 39.

    BrianJ, #10

    an Office of Experimental Religion.

    As soon as I saw this phrase, I knew Ziff would be by. ;) I think you two (and Enna) should start an independent office of experimental religion, and blog your results with fun graphs.

    Melyngoch (#19), I appreciate your adding your testimony of my spiritual depravity. In the mouth of two or three witnesses . . . (Though in my defense, I didn’t actually turn the microwave on while the stuffed animals were inside.)

    Kevin (#33), I’m honored. I wonder what I’ll look like with a full beard.

  40. 40.

    Lynette,

    It isn’t just “some person somewhere” who thinks that superior female spirituality is a valid reason for male-only priesthood. It’s a sentiment which has been expressed repeatedly by multiple church leaders.

    What I was pointing out was that, as Elder Oaks said,

    The lesson I’ve drawn from that, I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it… I’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon [those reasons] by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking

    In other words, even if a purported explanation comes from a GA, it may still be speculation. The Lord isn’t in the habit of providing us explanations.

    And if those explanations don’t hold water, that does raise questions about the practice that such explanations are defending.

    This is what I was disagreeing with – if those explanations don’t hold water, so what? It doesn’t say anything about the practice that someone, somewhere, even if he was a GA, gave an “explanation” that turned out to be wrong (assuming, without conceding, you’ve disproved it). That doesn’t necessarily say anything about the practice such explanations purport to explain because again, if the Lord hasn’t explained it (most likely, I would think, through the Prophet), then we’re basically guessing at reasons which is “unnecessary risk taking.”

    If I put up a post arguing for female ordination, it will actually argue for female ordination. Then you can disagree with me. But that isn’t what I’m doing here.

    Fair enough – you don’t directly argue for it, no. But why would you be attempting to “raise questions” about the practice (i.e., male-only priesthood) if you were perfectly content not holding the priesthood? I’m not saying you want to be bishop. But (I don’t mean this to be offensive although you might take it that way) is there such thing as “chicken feminism”, at least in the Mormon context, i.e., beating around the bush (it’s all about changing stations in the men’s room) when in reality the ultimate goal is, and always has been, and always will be, female ordination?

    Just asking.

  41. 41.

    Mike, I’m beginning to think that you’re the one obsessed with the topic of female ordination, since you’ve now hijacked two posts with a desire to debate it. I don’t have time to respond to everything you said right now, but two quick points. First, on ordination, I’m personally a bit conflicted (see this post), though yes, I probably lean more toward than against. But second, that isn’t the point of this post. I’m simply asking you to stay within the parameters of this particular discussion. It’s not that I’m trying to hide from other questions–I just want to tackle one topic at a time.

  42. 42.

    (And by the way, for a lot of feminists, priesthood actually isn’t the ultimate goal. Ordaining women wouldn’t necessarily preclude female subordination, and that’s what I’d like to see gone. I’m not bringing that up to start a debate on that subject at the moment, but simply to point out that Mormon feminism is more complex than you seem to be assuming. So you don’t have to search for female ordination as the hidden agenda in every single post.)

  43. 43.

    No, but you must have a full beard.

    Done! Think of all that time and money I’ll save on nair and tweezing! Yes!

    Ziff, BrianJ, I’ll get my special grant writing pen out and draft some protocols. I’m seeing us starting out with something simple. Maybe a 150 person double-blind where we give 1/3 the women and men the priesthood and tell them it is making up for the fact that they have no innate spirituality, we tell 1/3 of the men and women that they get to be mothers and fathers (ignoring the reality of their parental status) and that is the essence of their being so forget about having the priesthood, and we tell the last 1/3 that they have equal access to God regardless of their gender.

    Primary outcome: number of patients that blog obsessively about religion and gender issues.

    Secondary outcome: number of patients that call other patients to repentence.

    Exclusion criteria: all of the ZDs, seeing as how they have reached nirvana already.

  44. 44.

    Okay, more thoughts.

    What I was pointing out was that, as Elder Oaks said,

    Quoting a GA to support your argument that we should be careful about believing GA’s kind of undermines the argument. By your logic, couldn’t I say, “well, I know there are some church leaders (e.g., Elder Oaks), who believe that we shouldn’t ask questions or look for reasons. But those are just the opinions of some church leaders.”

    The Lord isn’t in the habit of providing us explanations.

    I’m not so sure about that pronouncement. Just off the top of my head: the Spirit gives Nephi an explanation as to why he has to kill Laban. Alma and Amulek get an explanation about why they have to watch women and children get burned. (Both disturbing explanations, but there nonetheless.) The Word of Wisdom comes with an explanation—it’s to counter the evil designs of conspiring men. So while explanations might not always be offered, I don’t think they’re are all that unusual.

    It doesn’t say anything about the practice that someone, somewhere, even if he was a GA, gave an “explanation” that turned out to be wrong (assuming, without conceding, you’ve disproved it). That doesn’t necessarily say anything about the practice such explanations purport to explain because again, if the Lord hasn’t explained it (most likely, I would think, through the Prophet), then we’re basically guessing at reasons which is “unnecessary risk taking.”

    I don’t know if you’re intending to do this, but this sounds like an attempt to silence the conversation–what I hear you saying is that we shouldn’t even be having any discussion related to male-only priesthood, because it’s dangerous. (Though oddly enough, several GA’s don’t seem to have a problem with such “unnecessary risk taking.”) You can certainly disagree with things we say, but we don’t generally look kindly upon people telling us what is or is not okay to discuss on our own blog. (If you have concerns about it, you certainly don’t need to put yourself in spiritual jeopardy by participating.) Though I hope I’m just misreading your intent here.

    But why do I think it matters that GA’s are giving these kinds of explanations? Because I take them at their word—if they’re saying these things, I think they honestly believe them. And they’re the ones setting policy for the church, so it matters a great deal what they think. If they have particular theories about why women shouldn’t be ordained which satisfy them, they’re not going to think much more about the issue. And in the LDS church, we have a history of revelation coming because people asked questions. God doesn’t seem to just strike out of the blue; he responds to questions (see, WoW, blacks and the priesthood). We didn’t get the 1978 revelation until a lot of questions had been raised about the basis for the practice. In other words, the questions that get asked are influenced by contemporary discussion and cultural forces.

    You also seemed to have ignored my second point, about why I think it’s a problem for women to be described as more spiritual, even apart from the ordination question. (Maybe because you’re under the impression that feminists only have one goal?) But I do have serious concerns about that. I’d have concerns about it even if women were ordained. I think it’s harmful, wherever it’s coming from. So, in my view, also a topic worth discussing.

  45. 45.

    Fair enough – you don’t directly argue for it, no. But why would you be attempting to “raise questions” about the practice (i.e., male-only priesthood) if you were perfectly content not holding the priesthood? I’m not saying you want to be bishop. But (I don’t mean this to be offensive although you might take it that way) is there such thing as “chicken feminism”, at least in the Mormon context, i.e., beating around the bush (it’s all about changing stations in the men’s room) when in reality the ultimate goal is, and always has been, and always will be, female ordination?

    Just asking.

    I take offense when people call us chicken feminists. We’re actually pretty straightforward about what we think. I suspect there’s a range of attitudes among my cobloggers toward female ordination, from ambivalence to open advocacy. Where we likely agree is that I suspect we’re all open to the possibility.

    But I seriously doubt that the “ultimate goal” of anyone on this site is female ordination. That’s ludicrous. Personally, I doubt there’s a way for the church to validate women’s full humanity and subjectivity without ordination. But that isn’t even close to enough, and it isn’t even close to being my own highest priority. If you think my feminist concerns would be allayed by female ordination alone, you have something else coming. I support women’s ordination, but for me personally, there are about a dozen more pressing issues.

    And as long as we’re revealing our hidden agendas, why is female ordination such an important issue to you? Could it be that you find it easy to dismiss women who advocate female ordination as power-hungry? I don’t mean this to be offensive, but is there such a thing as “chicken sexism,” in which people beat around the bush rather than owning up to their sexist attitudes?

    Just asking.

  46. 46.

    Enna, I love it!

    Primary outcome: number of patients that blog obsessively about religion and gender issues.

    Lol. In your experimental religion studies, you should definitely try to identify what factors turn people into blogging lunatics.

  47. 47.

    what factors turn people into blogging lunatics.

    Easy.

    Start with lunatics. Add a blog.

    At least that is how it worked for me.

  48. 48.

    Last comment by me on this post.

    Lynette,

    I don’t know if you’re intending to do this, but this sounds like an attempt to silence the conversation

    No, I didn’t mean that at all. I think the “risk taking” refers to people, including GAs, who attempt to “explain” the way the Lord does things without an actual explanation from the Lord. And even if you engage in such risk taking, I fully recognize your right to discuss whatever you want on your blog.

    But why do I think it matters that GA’s are giving these kinds of explanations? Because I take them at their word

    Well…OK. But, what about when they say that a male-only priesthood is what God intends? Or that spiritual attributes come more easily to women? Or that all women are mothers? Or that by divine design fathers are to preside? Do you take them at their word then?

    We didn’t get the 1978 revelation until a lot of questions had been raised about the basis for the practice.

    In my opinion, you’re confusing correlation with causation. Just because questions were asked by some members doesn’t mean that the revelation came as a result of those questions.

    You also seemed to have ignored my second point, about why I think it’s a problem for women to be described as more spiritual, even apart from the ordination question.

    No, I think I discussed this in the context of James E. Faust’s quote. I believe that spiritual attributes do come more easily to women. I definitely saw that clearly on my mission. And I don’t see a problem with that, since it’s a general statement and doesn’t mean that women are necessarily more righteous than men.

    Kiskilili,

    I take offense when people call us chicken feminists.

    I wasn’t calling you that, but can I assume that you would see how the term “chicken patriarchy” might be offensive?

    But I seriously doubt that the “ultimate goal” of anyone on this site is female ordination. That’s ludicrous. Personally, I doubt there’s a way for the church to validate women’s full humanity and subjectivity without ordination.

    So, as I understand it you’re not interested in women’s “full humanity and subjectivity” being validated? That’s a bit depressing, isn’t it?

    And as long as we’re revealing our hidden agendas, why is female ordination such an important issue to you? Could it be that you find it easy to dismiss women who advocate female ordination as power-hungry? I don’t mean this to be offensive, but is there such a thing as “chicken sexism,” in which people beat around the bush rather than owning up to their sexist attitudes?

    Just asking.

    There’s the snarkiness I’ve been waiting for. Seriously, though, if you’re not after the priesthood, I’m not really sure what your main goal is. And, fyi, if Pres. Monson had announced female ordination in the last GC I honestly believe I’d be fine with it. I guess my main concern with the original post was that it didn’t fairly represent the Church’s teachings. It seemed to imply that some people’s opinions were Church doctrine and then tried to discredit those opinions.

  49. 49.

    I just love it when critics of LDS feminism lob something like this:

    I guess my main concern with the original post was that it didn’t fairly represent the Church’s teachings. It seemed to imply that some people’s opinions were Church doctrine and then tried to discredit those opinions.

    As if LDS feminists must fairly represent only the church’s actual teachings (whatever the hell that means) rather than engage with common beliefs we encounter regularly. And as if the people who spout the nonsense that we engage with don’t themselves believe that nonsense to be Church doctrine.

    Two points:

    1. The church does not have a creed in which it lays out in black and white the core elements of its doctrines. The advantage: that leaves the church a little more open to change things without seeming to contradict “doctrine” (e.g., policy re: blacks and the priesthood and blacks and receiving temple blessings). The disadvantage: its members regularly elevate to the level of “doctrine” things that are most likely not actually doctrine. As a result, criticizing LDS feminists for not representing church doctrine fairly is a pretty lousy criticism, since LDS doctrine is a rather slippery thing.

    2. Feminism is at its heart about examining, critiquing, and transforming culture and society. As such, it should rightfully engage not only with top-down church teachings, but also larger social attitudes and ideas. Which is precisely why what normal Mormons espouse in their ordinary lives matters every bit as much as what the top echelons of Mormon leadership preach over the pulpit and in church publications when it comes to Mormon feminism. Frankly those two things (top-down teachings and commonly held beliefs amongst the Mormon membership) are not nearly so distinct as church apologists would like them to be.

    For both these reasons, a critique like Lynnette’s in the OP cannot be dismissed as invalid because it doesn’t “fairly represent the Church’s teachings” when it does completely fairly represent the opinions and beliefs of a significant portion of the church populace (and of many among the top ranks of church leadership), which beliefs and opinions are often espoused as doctrine (especially given the church’s insistence that what we hear over the pulpit from church leaders constitutes the Word of God).

  50. 50.

    You’re misunderstanding me, Mike. It’s not that I don’t want women to have the priesthood. It’s that I want way, way, way, way more. Priesthood. isn’t. enough.

    Seriously, though, if you’re not after the priesthood, I’m not really sure what your main goal is.

    You talk as if priesthood is the single site of sexism in the entire church. That’s what I find baffling.

  51. 51.

    I wasn’t calling you that, but can I assume that you would see how the term “chicken patriarchy” might be offensive?

    If someone is committed to full-blooded patriarchy and I called them a chicken patriarch, I would expect them to be offended, and rightly so. Chicken patriarchy should be offensive to patriarchy-lovers everywhere. It has a form of patriarchy but denies the power thereof.

  52. 52.

    Sorry, Mike. I probably shouldn’t have been snarky to you in my earlier comment. I think I’m responding with anger to the perceived implication that priesthood is the only feminist issue worth discussing, the only “true” feminist issue. I support women’s ordination, but it’s also, for whatever reason, not an issue that’s hurt me as deeply as other instantiations of sexism. So I want to make sure there’s room both for broader discussions in the sense that all examples of sexism are open to investigation, and narrower discussions in the sense that questions analyzing particular statements or claims of all sorts are fair game. But I apologize for my snideness and acknowledge that it probably wasn’t fair to you.

  53. 53.

    I LOVE ZD!!!

    And yes, you are deeply depraved, and can only be saved through the guilt that comes with being called to something higher and better and knowing you’ll never measure up.

    But let’s be honest. I’d pretty much always rather stay home and watch Buffy, regardless of what else I could be doing.

    Speaking of which….

  54. 54.

    We love you too, Nat! But where are your priorities? Get off this blog at once and go start watching Buffy.

  55. 55.

    A most stimulating and smart discussion. You Mormons ain’t dumb!

    As an Ex-Mormon, and a convert to Secular/Cultural Judaism, it seems to me that the argument that
    God Gave Men the Priesthood cuz they Neen it More
    does not represent this “God” person in the most favorable light.

    Why would an intelligent being delegate the power and leadership of Its Only True Church
    to the gender less likely to be successful in the role of leadership.

    Don’t seem to omniscient to me.

  56. 56.

    :) Most definitely.

    This is such a frustrating issue to discuss because culturally we are still committed to the idea that women don’t have the priesthood. But that’s not true. Women who have been to the temple have the priesthood; it’s just not acceptable for them to use it administratively. I see no reason, other than weird theological arguments and cultural inflexibility, for that not to change. It makes no sense to me that women will not be equal to men in the sight of God in terms of authority one day. But that’s just me.

  57. 57.

    And by authority I meant administrative authority. I think they are equal now. I refuse to believe otherwise; it’s too depressing, and I will not have my dignity as a woman trampled on by small-mindedness.

  58. 58.

    Liz, I mostly agree about women and the priesthood in the temple. There’s one small problem, however. In the temple women are spoken of as being priestesses unto their husbands, rather than unto the most high God like men. I’d like to reclaim what currently happens in the temple as evidence that women do have the priesthood; I just don’t think it can be done given the current gross discrepancies between treatment/representation of women and men in the temple.

  59. 59.

    Last comment by me on this post.

    All right–I’ll do my best not to engage an imaginary version of you after this comment.

    No, I didn’t mean that at all. I think the “risk taking” refers to people, including GAs, who attempt to “explain” the way the Lord does things without an actual explanation from the Lord. And even if you engage in such risk taking, I fully recognize your right to discuss whatever you want on your blog.

    Thanks for the clarification, and sorry for jumping to conclusions.

    But why do I think it matters that GA’s are giving these kinds of explanations? Because I take them at their word

    Well…OK. But, what about when they say that a male-only priesthood is what God intends? Or that spiritual attributes come more easily to women? Or that all women are mothers? Or that by divine design fathers are to preside? Do you take them at their word then?

    Yes, I do. I think they’re completely sincere. I just disagree. The reason I brought this up with reference to the “women are more spiritual” issue is because I’m assuming that they genuinely think that’s why women shouldn’t be ordained. Your case that this is just a matter of God not having said anything on the matter would be more compelling if that’s what the GA’s were consistently saying, too.

    In my opinion, you’re confusing correlation with causation. Just because questions were asked by some members doesn’t mean that the revelation came as a result of those questions.

    This one would need its own post—I’ll just say that the de-coupling of questions from revelation doesn’t seem to me to fit at all into Mormon history.

    if you’re not after the priesthood, I’m not really sure what your main goal is.

    Like Kiskilili, I’m baffled by this. Is the male-only priesthood really the only thing you see in the church that feminists might dislike? Personally, I see it as a symptom of a more pervasive problem (of women not being quite people). Other feminists could well disagree. We actually had a discussion of the “feminist linchpin” a while ago, looking at the different issues which people saw as central.

    I guess my main concern with the original post was that it didn’t fairly represent the Church’s teachings. It seemed to imply that some people’s opinions were Church doctrine and then tried to discredit those opinions.

    Actually, the original post didn’t represent church teachings at all—I’ve never heard any assertion anywhere that women should be given the priesthood if they are spiritual slackers. ;) It was meant as a light-hearted spoof of an idea that I’ve heard pretty much all my life, both informally and over the pulpit. Though of course it was also an implicit critique of that idea. But I can’t see where I implied that it was church doctrine.

    And Amelia’s already eloquently tackled the problems with this complaint. Mormon doctrine is just notoriously difficult to pin down. (My observation is that people tend to label “doctrine” things they like, and “culture” things they don’t.) The nebulousness makes me a little crazy at times, but mostly I like it. I appreciate Joseph Smith’s aversion to creeds not because I necessarily dislike something like the Nicene Creed, but because I like the resistance to enforcing orthodoxy.

    But now I’m hijacking my own thread. Back to this particular issue–off the top of my head, I would call the idea of women’s superior spirituality quasi-doctrinal. But regardless, as Amelia pointed out, it’s not as if we can’t critique things unless we can definitively establish that they’re doctrine in some official sense. Plenty of non-doctrinal stuff has harmful effects.

  60. 60.

    Amelia, you are right, and it makes me cringe. Nevertheless, I still refuse to believe a man mediates my relationship with God, even given the language in the temple. I think the language of the temple is the way it is to create unity between men and women, but I don’t think it indicates subordination. It’s the structure we are given, but I don’t think it contains the whole reality of gender relations. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but in the end, I think all, men and women, are equally priestesses to Christ, the Bridegroom.

  61. 61.

    I refuse to believe men mediate my relationship with god, too, but it’s hard to get away from that in the temple ceremony as it is. I tend to simply believe that the problematic representation of women in general and the relationship between men and women specifically in the temple is a flawed product of our cultural moment. I don’t even think it’s the structure we’re given, since that implies divine sanction of this inequitable structure. I just think it’s one among many examples of human sexism enshrined as revelation of God’s will.

    I’m with you in believing all men and women are equally priestesses to Christ. I also love that you used “priestess” in reference to men. :P

  62. 62.

    Great post, as always. I wrote a post a little about this after last Mother’s Day and the language of women being “naturally” more selfless than men.
    http://www.the-exponent.com/2009/05/11/naturally/

    I have to say that I’ve heard this from lots of people, including my MiL, that men would be lost without the priesthood. I don’t buy it.

    I just started reading the Priesthood section of Women and Authority and I guess I didn’t realize that women felt they held the priesthood from the endowment until it was taken away by statements from general authorities. It makes me pretty sad, actually.

    I also thought I should recommend that Matt read Lynnette’s excellent essay on the question of what a woman might do in the celestial kingdom. (I can’t remember the name of the presentation you gave at Claremont a few years ago. Didn’t you post a version of it here?) I think it helps explain another problem women might have with Mormonism apart from Priesthood.

  63. 63.

    why did Christ call 12 men as apostles?

  64. 64.

    how on earth could anyone answer that question spud? what are you really trying to get at? It’s usually more helpful if you come right out and say it.

  65. 65.

    why did Christ call 12 men as apostles?

    Because 13 would have been too many?

  66. 66.

    Kiskilili writes:

    I support women’s ordination, but for me personally, there are about a dozen more pressing issues.

    I also support women’s ordination. Please list them.

  67. 67.

    Jessawhy, for what it’s worth, I think it’s a pretty big stretch to say that women felt they held the priesthood from the endowment. They simply didn’t think about priesthood the way we do now, and there’s no straightforward way to map their experience onto ours. Stapley & Wright’s articles on female participation in baptisms for healing is a lot better at getting at early Mormon women’s experience than anything in Women & Authority.

    It’s also oversimplifying to say that the priesthood was taken away by general authority statements–what happened was a complicated process of systematizing and bureaucratizing a charismatic movement, the development of our current priesthood organization. It is true that women were marginalized in this process, but it’s not a simple matter of having had the priesthood and then losing it. Amanda Hendrix is doing interesting work on the ways that charismatic gifts gradually fell into disrepute in the church.

    (Sorry–I love W&A, and think it was a great (even groundbreaking) attempt at compiling the best work of its time, but much of that work doesn’t hold up all that well a couple of decades later)

  68. 68.

    I love you all. Since I’ve been in Primary for a while now, I just read threads like this and imagine that that’s what I’m missing by not going to SS and RS. I feel much better about SS and RS as a result.

  69. 69.

    Howard (#66), you might be interested in a poll we did a few years back:

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2007/01/10/poll-on-feminist-concerns/

  70. 70.

    LOL!

    [this makes more sense if you saw the comment before it that got deleted, but it’s always good to see Mark laughing, so I left it in]

  71. 71.

    I also support women’s ordination. Please list them.

    I’m a little reluctant for fear I’ll start another (potentially explosive) threadjack, but, off the top of my head:

    1. Why should women hearken to their husbands as their husbands hearken to God?

    2. Why isn’t this structure (God–man–wife) emphasized in temple prep? (And I do think man–wife is a fairer rendering than husband–wife.)

    3. Why won’t God address Eve directly when he asks her to covenant?

    4. Why does Eve, unlike Adam, have no preexistence?

    5. Why are women priestesses to their husbands and not to God?

    6. Why, outside of the temple, do we claim we have a super positive view of Eve when, inside the temple, we have one of the most negative views around today?

    7. Why do women give themselves to their husbands when men don’t give themselves to their wives?

    8. Why doesn’t Heavenly Mother play a role in creation as reenacted in the temple drama?

    9. Why should husbands preside over their wives?

    10. Why is God giving women out as sexual party favors in section 132?

    11. Why are we left supposing either that women must logically exist in the next life as gestation incubators or wondering whether women exist in the eternities at all?

    12. Why is Heavenly Mother incommunicado?

  72. 72.

    It shouldn’t surprise people that it’s the wicked women who object most strenuously to this justification (men need the priesthood because they’re spiritual slackers).

    Besides being offensive, the argument has obvious flaws. One is empirical: where are the churches hemorrhaging men because women have too much power? One is ethical: why would God deny half his worthy children opportunities for growth and relegate them to a vulnerable position in the community just to appease the wicked needs of the wicked half? One, as Duane Reade points out (55), is practical: why would God assign leadership responsibilites to people who seem least capable of fulfilling them?

    But in this understanding, there’s no provision made for wicked women. God makes provision for the righteous women and the wicked men. Why shouldn’t the rest of us complain?

  73. 73.

    I just recently learned the hearken covenant had been softened.

    [edited–please don’t quote the temple ceremony verbatim]

    So it has gotten better, but yeah, still misogynistic.

    Makes me really curious about what goes on in those meeting discussing temple changes.

  74. 74.

    How has the hearken covenant been softened? it hadn’t been changed at all in the 10 years I attended the temple. I haven’t been for about 2.5 years. Has it changed in that time? Last I knew, the way Kiskilili presents it as subpoint 1 in comment #71 is accurate. Do tell me if I’m wrong.

    And I’m offering up a vehement AMEN to Kiskilili #71 and #72.

  75. 75.

    I think Tulip’s referring to the 1990 softening of the “obey” covenant.

  76. 76.

    ah. Then it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot, since “hearken” means about the same thing as “obey” even if it sounds slightly nicer. I could make the argument that it means “listen to” but since the covenant includes the “as to” clause and we all know that if we just listen to God but don’t do what he says then we’re screwed, it operatively means “obey.”

  77. 77.

    Yeah, that’s my take. I think it’s a cosmetic change. Rather than modernizing the language, they’ve made it more archaic. The advantage of “hearken” over “obey” is plausible deniability–there’s obvious continuity, but at the same time people can capitalize on the ambiguity of “hearken” if they’re uncomfortable with the clear implications.

    But they didn’t change the structure that puts women at the bottom.

  78. 78.

    Tulip, hope you don’t feel like we’re going after you–it’s always a challenge to figure out how to discuss the temple. And I wonder too how those decisions get made!

    This is a great threadjack, but probably worth its own post, so I’m going to ask that we get back to the original topic.

    Sincerely,
    Dictator Lynnette

  79. 79.

    Lynnette thank you for the link.

    Kiskilili thank you for the list. I wondered what you meant by more pressing than priesthood ordination and thought you were talking about issues that could be more easily resolved but these are scriptural and temple questions wouldn’t they require new revelation to answer or significantly change? I think D&C 132 could be interrupted a number of ways other than giving women out as sexual party favors but I get your facetious point however I don’t get this conclusion; wondering whether women exist in the eternities at all? was that facetious as well?

  80. 80.

    Howard, those are excellent questions, but we’ve gotten rather far afield from the OP. And the discussion of these issues usually goes wild, which is why I requested an end to this particular threadjack. I actually think this conversation has probably run its course, so I’m closing comments. I’ll leave you all with a final thought: are trolls more spiritual than goblins?

  81. 81.

    […] the Church as a patriarchal institution run by old white males. When the topic came up recently in a ZD thread, the ZD discussants (generally a fairly rational bunch) simply denied the data. Well, I think the […]