To the Rescue

I support Ordain Women and the call for Church leaders to ask God for new revelation on women receiving the Priesthood. I am impressed by the many women and men who eloquently express their pain and their faith through blog posts and Facebook comments, hoping and praying for change in the Church they love. I admire their courage as they make themselves vulnerable by putting their bodies in line, and politely asking to attend the Priesthood session of General Conference. I am saddened that such direct actions seem to be the only way to enter meaningful dialogue with General Authorities. And frequently I am discouraged by the reactions to Ordain Women from some of my brothers and sisters, fellow members of the body of Christ, fellow Mormons.

“You are prideful. Why don’t you just follow the Prophet? Why don’t you use proper channels? If you don’t like the Church the way it is, why do you stay? You should just leave and find another church.”

As a believer, a returned missionary, a temple attender, a former Young Men’s president who has served in Elders Quorum presidencies and High Priest Group leadership, as a current Primary pianist and early-morning seminary teacher who tries to help old families load up their U-hauls and new families have someone to sit by in sacrament meeting, who has imperfectly but earnestly been a home teacher for 30 years, I am wounded by these criticisms. They make me feel rejected by my own people. They say to me that my way of being a Mormon is unacceptable.

Even so, in my soul I do not doubt that I am acceptable unto God, and I believe that my support of Priesthood ordination for women is an essential way that I live out my faith in God and my leaders and my fellow members and the 9th Article of Faith–“We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

But the criticisms still wound me.

In this month’s Ensign, President Monson refers to the painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner that he envisions as To the Rescue. The painting shows a courageous crew heading out from the safe shore in a rickety rowboat, into the storm where a ship is nearly lost, desperately shining its distress lamp through the darkness. President Monson compares the crew to the loving, faithful church members who seek out their dear ones who have left church activity, lost and in peril from the storm of life.


To you, dear crew members–my friends, family, fellow ward members, who have loved and cared for me through the years but who may not understand my support of Ordain Women–I am in need of the Rescue. I am in the Church but am also out in the waves. Not because I struggle in sin or wander in fear or apathy or ignorance, but because the shore has become a painful place, sometimes crushing my soul on its rocks. Sometimes I wade out into the storm because I am not welcome on the beach, my ideas and dreams perceived as a threat to other beach-goers.

Dearest crew members, here is how you can rescue me. Widen the shoreline a bit. Make it a safer place for me. Don’t tell me to leave. Grow comfortable with the idea that my difficulties with the beach need not detract from the enjoyment and protection you derive from it. Experiment with being OK with my questioning, questing presence on the sand, side-by-side with your firm believing presence. Please don’t fear that my different beliefs must necessarily corrupt yours. Rescue me by accepting me.

One of my favorite Primary songs sums it up nicely:

I know you, and you know me.
We are as different as the sand and the sea.
I know you, and you know me.
And that’s the way it is supposed to be.

I help you, and you help me.
We work together and we’re starting to see.
I help you, and you help me.
And that’s the way it is supposed to be.

I love you, and you love me.
We reach together for the best we can be.
I love you, and you love me.
And that’s the way it is supposed to be.


  1. I am in the waves also. My sons and daughters are drowning and too often those who don’t understand their pain watch them drown. Sometimes they even push them back into the waves. I need rescue. The twelve year old girl who wants to pass the sacrament needs rescue. The young female lawyer who is respected as an equal in her profession but not her church needs rescue. The missionary who can’t explain why his or her mother can’t give him a blessing before he leaves for two years needs rescue. The young mother who wants to stand in the circle and hold her baby during a blessing needs rescue. None of them are sinners, but they are wounded. If you don’t agree with Ordain Women please love them anyway. They are part of the Body of Christ. When one member is wounded all should mourn.

  2. Mike, thanks for this post. It is lovingly written. Much better than the rants I have been having lately. I used to be the sweet voiced primary teacher who wouldn’t question anything. I am older now.

    Hjisha, thank you for your comment.

  3. I love this. I just read Ezekiel 34 and it reminded me so much of the thoughts presented here and the promise that Christ will heal those that have been hurt by “shepherds that do not feed the flock.”

    “I will seek that which was lost and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick”

  4. This is an amazing post. Thank you.

    Sometimes when church members employ the rhetoric about rescuing lost souls, I am tempted to reply:

    “Not all those who wander are lost.” –J. R. R. Tolkien

  5. Outstanding, Mike! I particularly like your point about your needing rescuing, but not because of sin or ignorance. This is such an important point! I think it’s just outside what we’re taught in the Church to even imagine as a possibility.

  6. I live in a biracial family. We occasionally discus the ban on the priesthood. We recognize that had the church ordained blacks (and we know some were) the church probably would have become a very “Black” congregation. In an age of slavery and prejudice this would have meant a different demographic. Maybe a demographic that couldn’t have become as prosperous and eventually sent out so many missionaries to other countries. So the blacks were ordained later. (Too late, I think. But priesthood leaders carry their own prejudices.)

    Should women have the priesthood? (Certainly there is suggestions in church history that some were given priesthood responsibilities, just like some Blacks were.) Maybe the patriarchal society of the nation demanded that women not be ordained. Because once again the demographics would have been different. So maybe there is a time for women to be ordained.

    On-the-other hand, we as a religion can easily accept that the tribe of Ephraim has a specific calling to preach and other tribes of Israel had different callings and roles. We don’t feel angered at these different roles. Certainly men and women could have different roles.

    Please, don’t feel so heart broken over it. I want to rescue you. But if the only way to rescue you is for women to have the priesthood, I can’t help. And we found joy before my sons could hold the priesthood. Please, find joy now.

  7. Allie, thank you for your insight as well.

    Even though the idea of ordaining women feels so foreign to me, I agree with loving each other and being kind to each other. I do not feel open (or closed) judgment.

    I don’t understand it, but I do respect that there are many members who struggle to feel they are significant to our church due to not always seeing eye-to-eye with what they consider mainstream mormonism.

    I know that no one wants to be pushed back into the waves, nor should they be. You also may not understand why I am content with understanding the gospel as I do, but we are both children of a Heavenly Father who loves us dearly. That is enough for me not to judge you, and vice versa.

  8. Thanks for the nice feedback, everyone. Hjisha, I love the “When one member is wounded, all should mourn.” LilyTiger, I also love the “Not all those who wander are lost.” Amen!

    AllieJ, I appreciate your response and your openness to the possibility of change within the Church. It is an interesting exercise to wonder what would have happened had the priesthood/temple ban for blacks been lifted earlier, or never implemented in the first place, or to imagine the same for the priesthood exclusion for women. I am uncomfortable, however, when some people try to find explanations for why God wanted it that way. Perhaps earlier changes would have caused challenges for the Church, but us members coming up with non-doctrinal justifications for racist or sexist policies seems problematic to me. Instead, I think it would be healthier for us and those discriminated against to simply own the racist and sexist policies, rather than placing responsibility for them on God.

    I can see where it might be appropriate for people to have different roles at different times (I am not currently the bishop, and that is OK, but I am not precluded from the calling because of my gender). Certainly men and women have different biological roles, but it is not clear to me why such roles should imply different roles in governing the church, or giving priesthood blessings, or preaching the Gospel, or relating to God in the temple.

    I appreciate the kindness of your response and your willingness to go to the Rescue for someone like me. Perhaps I can reiterate that the Rescue I need is not that the Church change–that is something I cannot control–but instead a willingness by my brothers and sisters in the Church to acknowledge and accept my pain and my desire for change. Rather than be told why I shouldn’t feel pain, or why the status quo is God’s plan, I need someone to just sit with me, unthreatened by my different beliefs, and say, “We want you here with us.”
    I have much joy in the Church; that is why I stay. But that joy coexists with a deep pain, and I simply need someone to mourn with me.

  9. I just love that– the rescuing is mourning with those that mourn, feeling their pain when they struggle, whether it’s about church doctrine/policy/tradition, or other things.

    Let me reiterate what you have said, to everyone– “We do want you here with us.” 🙂

  10. This is beautiful. I, too, wish RS presidents would read this. RS is such a hostile environment for me, that I rarely attend any more. Thank you.

  11. Don’t worry too much about those of us who are lost. Many of us drifted over to a lovely tide pool. It’s nice here. Better, even.

  12. Really appreciate this post, and the comments as well. Nothing more to add at the moment, other than a ‘thank you’.

  13. This is perfect. I think we have a lot of “active” members who are in need of rescuing, but feel like we’re pushed further out each week, when we hear in RS/Priesthood meetings that people usually lose their testimonies because they’re either sinning or wanting to do so. When we have an entire Sunday School lesson each year devoted to pushing people to donate to the Boy Scouts of America, but aren’t allowed to announce the young women’s fundraiser over the pulpit. When we are told that we just don’t have a testimony of the prophet because we don’t automatically accept everything he says (even when we have prophets’ counsel to NOT automatically accept everything they say).

  14. Thank you everyone for your comments, and Mike C. especially for writing this articulate and spot-on message.

    I am a convert to the LDS Church, and my upbringing was that of a fundamental Church of Christ theology (NOT those of the FLDS). It is a strain/variation of religion that derived from the Campbellite Restoration Movement in the 1800’s. We did not believe in instrumental music (acapella only). We believed in the strict example given of using ONLY one cup and ONE loaf of bread, and so any other variation (multiple cups, torn up bread, etc), was an error egregious enough to send your soul to hell. Women did not speak in church, nor could they pray in church, much less lead a song/hymn. We were lovely benchwarmers. When the “men” of the congregation occasionally needed to discuss issues and finances of the church, the women were politely dismissed out of the building and encouraged to fellowship with one another (We usually went to eat at Taco Charlies down the road and talk). And the other lovely kicker that got us compared to Mennonites all the time: Women could not cut their hair – it was viewed as a covering that gave them the power to pray for themselves. If we “uncovered” our head by cutting, shaving, trimming our hair (even split ends), in any way, our power to pray to God without the need of a man to do it, was lost (until we publicly confessed and repented our wrong, of course – I finally caved in to “sin” at age 19 and gave myself some bangs!)

    All these things hurt me SO deeply. The message of being second rate and second class and in a status just above children rankled. Because of this, my most common childhood and teenage wish was that I quite literally never existed. The young amongst us would talk, and in whispers (even the boys) would confide that secretly, we never wanted to have girl children because of how we would have to raise them. How did you justify something so painful in explaining to her why she had nothing to do with the church, and couldn’t cut her hair….why she was somehow important….except that no one could really explain why.

    But I have a voice, and I wanted it to be heard. I could read and study the scriptures as critically as any man and write up lessons and sermons. But I couldn’t be the one to deliver the message. It had to be given by a man (my Dad).

    When I finally drifted away from that church, I was like a refugee on a raft, with all the sky above me as proof that God and Christ were real, but nothing solid beneath me any longer. One thing I will give the CoC is that they honestly try their hardest to interpret scriptures as literally and historically accurate as possible. They try never to put words in God’s mouth. Because of this, I had a complete understanding of why (from my view) no other faiths had it quite right either. And the Mormons…BOY were they deluded. Except…..once I was adrift….what else was there? Nothing else was true either. Little niggling thoughts and epiphanies started coming my way, little by little, until it made complete and logical sense (not just in my heart), that the only true church in the world would be the one that continues to converse with God through a prophet, to help lead us. After all, this method was used throughout ALL the history of scripture (even the NT, via the Apostles). So finally, I came around and joined the Church 12 years ago, and knew peace. Mostly…

    Here was a church that seemed to be progressive, given my background, and seemed to think more of women. They were aloud to speak and pray in church. They weren’t completely invisible and even held callings. What a huge step to take for someone who never got to do a church related thing in her life (except sing and warm the benches). I was pretty content and tried not let some of the larger picture issues bother me. I figured that I would see more clearly in time or that little epiphanies would continue to come my way. And they have, in certain things. But I distinctly remember, even during my conversion process, that I was bothered by the fact that men could have the priesthood, and that women had nothing. I remember asking the missionary sisters (and the well-meaning lady members they brought with them), if it bothered them at all that women couldn’t have the priesthood. They practically looked at me cross-eyed, perplexed that I had that desire and would even bring it up. It made NO sense to them whatsoever and they told me that they personally did not feel deprived in any way. I feel like I blindsided them with the question, like it was almost ridiculous. And I know that there are MANY MANY of my sisters today that feel that same way today.

    I was ultimately baptized by my own, sweet husband. How cool is that? However, for me, the feeling of disparity I had about women, their true roles in the church, and their lack of priesthood (or priestesshood) power, never went away. I began to receive church callings, fulfill roles, got my Patriarchal Blessing, and EVEN got called to speak to and address the entire congregation on several occasions. It was a dream come true! Ha ha! Here I was, a mere woman, talking to ALL the members and having a voice! But ultimately, I was a voice without actual “say” in anything.

    When I went through my endowment (1 year after our marriage….don’t get me started on that topic), so that I could be sealed to my husband, many of the words brought my heart and soul to an uncomfortable “stop”. Instead of feeling the warmth and joy I had hoped for (and I admit here, I had ALOT of trepidation here because of the whole “garments” thing, which overshadowed alot of my day (that’s for another topic)), I was dismayed to hear that my husband got everything, direct access to God and the universe, but that I was essentially subject “unto” him, as long as he is doing right. My access to God and the universe and its power was “through” my husband. I’m not exactly sure why this is supposed to be comforting and “ok”. Of course, I don’t live in fear, as many of my poor sister do, that my husband will try to exercise this over me. He listens to me and isn’t the type that tries to exert his opinion over mine. It’s a fact that one simple, tiny little word can COMPLETELY change the meaning of an entire sentence, paragraph,or story. To further compound what is obviously an inequality wherein I am somehow not a priestess unto God, but “unto” my husband, there is the additional step of being given a “secret” name by which your husband will call you forth from your grave to be with him. Some might find this notion romantic, and even a form a true love. Instead, it gives me NO comfort and further proves to me that I am, once again, a second class citizen in the Kingdom of God, hidden in the guise of important church callings and being able to speak and pray where men can hear me. Let’s say a husband decides not to call his wife’s name and forget her? What if he decided that no, he really DOESN’T want to spend eternity with her? What if there was a falling out between a couple who dies and he decided she might not be as worthy to progress as he once believed, and because HE has the power, she doesn’t get called forth? Don’t put that past some “special” people. Isn’t that an actual possibility given the circumstances? Another kicker for me? I can’t know his “secret” name because I simply don’t ‘need’ to know it. What?? I love my husband, by the way, but shouldn’t it be the LORD that calls me forth from the grave to come and meet Him as well as my hubby and my loved ones?

    Time goes on, and I become a mother. I love my children dearly. But how much more cool and meaningful and fair would it have been to stand in that circle and hold my children, even if I wasn’t the one that could give them the blessing? Is a woman’s presence in that circle a sin? Seems strange since I can be the subject of a blessing. Even stranger still since I can stand in a circle in the true order of prayer, my hand on another’s shoulder. But there again is something that hurts me to the quick. The requirement for a woman to veil her face. Boy does that throw me back into my old Church of Christ days when women had hundreds of thousands of teeny tiny protein strands on their head that they weren’t to cut so that they had an authoritative veil upon there heads,you know, so that they didn’t need a man to pray for them. It is SO hurtful to me that it was in the temple that I somehow came around full circle to be shown that I really was, even if just slightly, second class for real. I thought I had escaped those days forever, but there it is again for me, especially in the temple, that unless something changes, I will never be equal or just as important as men. Men only, doing officiating, passing sacrament, witnessing, giving blessings, having direct access to the heavenly power of their Father based on their sex alone (since only males currently get the priesthood).

    Power. There’s a word that many think women are after when we say we want the priesthood. Well, I want the priestesshood. Why shouldn’t I want something equivalent to what men have? Why shouldn’t I, a faithful, convenant keeping member of my Lord’s church, also have authority and say in what happens? Why shouldn’t I also, his daughter, have direct access to him and his power? Who isn’t enamored with the idea of having the power to be ultimately wise and to shape and form worlds and universes and all the incredible things that go in them? After all, it’s what we (well, really men) are promised. Growing up, I wanted to be an astronomer. The idea of “mother” never really came into mind until my birth control failed. Men and women, they create a child’s body TOGETHER. But that’s where it stops for a woman. Apparently, because we have a “secret compartment” that allows a *parasitical relationship between an embryo and a human body to thrive, we don’t get to create cool stuff and worlds. I would argue that women don’t “create” life either, any more than men. Our two “seeds” combine and then the cute little parasite steals from us what it needs to “grow itself!” You can grow and support an embryo in a medium OTHER than a womb. So see? You don’t really need us right? Except that you DO need our egg. And we need your “seed”. There is nothing all that special about our biology that gives us some “edge” over a guy, so that in recompense, he gets the power of the priesthood instead. Here’s a quick example. One dear sister was born without a womb. However, she had eggs. She and her husband were still able to have a baby because they had “seeds together”, not because she’s some “miracle mystical mother” who obviously needs nothing more than to be an “all powerful momma”.

    To boot, the creation story has it that only all men were present, creating all the coolness. They even created Adam’s body without a woman (at least according to the account as it is written). What further, demoralizing proof do we now need that maybe you guys just really don’t need us? That we will only EVER have a background, silent, questionably useful role in eternity? I mean, what’s the point of becoming like gods and having all of their knowledge, but not actually getting to use it because you were a woman (which, by the way, did we even have a choice in?)

    Honestly, many days, I am back to sincerely wishing I never existed if this is the case. And so I have truly come full circle, in many way, back where I started from when I first cast off into the void of sky and shifting sea. Feeling so incredibly wounded and lost again. Uneasy with and even becoming terrified of an eternity that holds no more equality or joy for me than I could have hoped for before. As Mike C. so eloquently pointed out, there is nowhere else for us to go, those who find the shore painful, constantly landing on the rough rocks. We are on the rough seas desperately trying not to drown. How can we convince our more conventional or conservative brothers and sisters to make some more space on shore for us? We’re still siblings after all. We’re supposed to take care of each other. Take care of each other. Tearing someone down is Satan’s job…right?

  15. Oh TC Pace. My heart aches for you. I am so sorry for all the hurt and pain you have been through throughout your life!

    I really appreciate your final comment– it is Satan’s job to tear people down, not ours. ESPECIALLY not ours. We claim to want to be like Christ, who loves us all even if have issues with church policy, doctrine, etc.

  16. Mike and TF Pace. Thank you so much for your thoughts. I could not go to church today, because I hurt so much. I struggle most Sundays, but go because I hope. Thank you so much your lovely beach analogy. I plan to use that to explain my feelings when I am put down again by my brothers and sisters in the gospel..

  17. I don’t think there is any doubt that those who would encourage another to leave are Just Wrong. They don’t have the stewardship to judge another in that way. We LDS ought to be incredibly tolerant of others, because of our belief in personal revelation and stewardship.

    I totally recognize that we all take different paths on our faith journey. Some in kayaks, some swimming alone, some on cruise ships. I don’t expect others to feel or think like I do.

    So how would you like to see that demonstrated, in practical terms? How should we express our love to others when we don’t agree with them?

    And when it comes to pain and being put down, please understand that there is a lot of pain and judgment on all sides.

    I’ve had numerous people slap me down when I offer to listen, by saying, “Oh, you wouldn’t understand, you have such a perfect life!” Which isn’t quite accurate, to say the least. I’ve been asked how I could possibly support the church’s gender stance, and then had my sincere views dismissed as “platitudes,” or told that I am hopelessly conservative, traditional, brainwashed, or worse. And I wasn’t attempting to tell others how THEY should think, but merely answering a question as to how I see it.

    And as far as the claim that “direct actions” seem the only way to get the attention of church leaders, I haven’t found that to be true. In the last few years, I’ve attended three different events (e.g., Saturday night session of stake conference, stake RS activity) where visiting General Authorities took extensive Q & A from the audience, providing a forum for rank-and-file members to voice their concerns and questions.

  18. Naismith,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I like your image of the different boats–here’s to wishing I were on the cruise ship.

    Your question about how to express love to others we disagree with is a great one and I’m not sure I have any novel ideas. I suppose for starters, on the Bloggernacle we could all be a bit more patient with one another, perhaps looking for common ground. I love how that was done in this post:

    In our local congregations, perhaps what we could do is deliberately try to get to know people who we sense are very different from us, rather than just sticking with those friendships that come easily. As we know them better we’re more likely to decide that their motives are honorable and their different beliefs are reasonable, even if we disagree.

    I agree with you that there is pain and judgment on all sides. However, although all members face the many difficult challenges of life, within the Church, TBMs are supported institutionally in their beliefs, receiving lots of postive feedback and benefits as a result of their mainstream attitudes. They hear talks over the pulpit and in General Conference that validate them. Other types of Mormons find themselves much more frequently on the outside, and often find it painful just to stay engaged. That is why I think that within the setting of the institutional Church, we should all take special care to make sure that these types of Mormons receive more support.

    Regarding direct actions, I am glad that the GAs took extensive Q&A from the audience at those different events you describe. However, I think it highly unlikely that most Mormons would feel comfortable in such a setting bringing up questions such as the historicity of the Book of Mormon, or gender inequality in the Church, or the desire for the ordination of women, or problems of abuse in “worthiness interviews”, or existing policies that exclude gay members. Instead, I think most Mormons would fear the social and possibly ecclesiastical repercussions of such questions, and so would self-censor. Furthermore, Q&A sessions are sporadic and not necessarily widespread. So, I believe we need structures put in place for regular, honest feedback that doesn’t place members at risk of losing their recommends, their callings, or their social support in the ward. Currently I do see anything like that in the Church.

  19. “As we know them better we’re more likely to decide that their motives are honorable and their different beliefs are reasonable, even if we disagree.”

    And then what do we do? Because I find that is a more common place for a member to be than telling someone to leave. I truly do accept that there are multiple paths to faith, and various ways of being a faithful Mormon. But I am not sure what you want us to DO about it.

    “However, although all members face the many difficult challenges of life, within the Church, TBMs are supported institutionally in their beliefs, receiving lots of postive feedback and benefits as a result of their mainstream attitudes….”

    Has that been your experience? It hasn’t particularly been mine. There is always someone willing to criticize and make me feel like a failure, if I am willing to listen to the voices of others rather than the voice of the Spirit.

    “Other types of Mormons find themselves much more frequently on the outside, and often find it painful just to stay engaged.”

    I don’t feel a need to categorize “types” of Mormons. The church is a lovely mosaic, to which each of us bring our unique color, and the larger picture is enriched because of it.


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