I spent many hours today listening to General Conference. As is usual for me, I was especially touched by President Uchtdorf’s talks. A couple of his comments, combined with events in Salt Lake City tonight, coalesced to form the thoughts in this post.
As anyone who reads Mormon blogs, or Mormon-related news of any sort, is no doubt aware, many women (and some men) came together in Salt Lake City tonight and asked to be admitted into the Priesthood session of General Conference. The group that organized the action is called Ordain Women, and their whole purpose is to call upon the leadership of the LDS Church to ordain women to the Priesthood alongside men. Many of these women have great faith that this is something that will happen, even though it hasn’t yet.
I once shared that faith. For two-thirds of my life, I was certain that women would hold the Priesthood someday. I wasn’t sure why we didn’t yet, but I could accept the current fallen state of affairs. After all, black men had to wait until 1978 to hold the priesthood. I didn’t know whether there was a greater purpose for this, or it was simply the fault of the limited vision of the leaders of the church, but it was how it was, and those who waited faithfully, not knowing how long it would take for them to receive those blessings (or even if they ever would) were blessed when the Priesthood and temple blessings were granted to them. I always saw women’s ordination similarly (though we admittedly have it a little better, since we can already go to the temple). I didn’t know if there was a reason women had not yet received the Priesthood, or if our church leaders simply hadn’t asked yet, but it didn’t matter too much to me. I was content to wait.
Even with the waiting, I never doubted that women someday would receive the Priesthood. After all, I had been told my entire life that our purpose here on Earth was to become like God, and that someday we would be Priests and Priestesses, Gods and Goddesses, and create our own worlds. It’s a part of Mormon theology that has always resonated with me, possibly because I’m a writer and have spent my entire life creating worlds of my own. And it seemed obvious to me that women would have the Priesthood. After all, how could we be Priestesses without the Priesthood? How could we be Goddesses without the power of God? That made no sense. So obviously women would receive the Priesthood.
I maintained this certainty until I first went through the temple for my Endowment. It was a hard, troubling, doubt-inducing experience in many ways, but that’s not what I want to focus on here. It was, however, the first thing that ever made me question my view of the eternities. Maybe it wouldn’t be how I’d always pictured. Maybe we wouldn’t really be Gods and Goddesses, Priests and Priestesses, working together to create worlds of our own. Maybe women really were just an afterthought, not nearly as important to God as His sons. Maybe we wouldn’t really have the Priesthood, because maybe we wouldn’t really ever be equal partners.
Once this seed of doubt was sown, there was more than enough evidence to keep it growing. In the temple, in the structure of the worldwide church, in the structure of local wards, in the way women and men were talked to and about, everywhere I turned there was more evidence to tell me that the wonderful vision I’d embraced for most of my life was not a true vision of how things would be, that things in Heaven would be considerably less wonderful than I’d imagined. I tried to console myself with scriptures that talked of the glory of Heaven, and the thought that a loving Father wouldn’t create a Heaven that would be so painful for me and many of my sisters, but it was hard. It was hard to maintain faith in that, and many days I have despaired. There was a lot of talk about missionary work during Conference today, too, and that is an area I have struggled with. I struggle not because I’m afraid of what someone will think of me, but because as much joy as the gospel gives me, it imparts a lot of pain, too, and I have a hard time inviting someone I care about into that situation. It’s hard enough to live there myself.
But today I’m deciding to take courage. I’m choosing to lean on the faith of my sisters, who believe that women will be ordained. I’m choosing to, as President Uchtdorf instructed, “Doubt [my] doubts before [I] doubt my faith.” I had faith for many, many years that women would hold the Priesthood, and that we would work alongside men as equal partners. My doubts aren’t gone, but today I’m going to doubt my doubts rather than my faith. President Uchtdorf later said, “What had seemed impossible a moment before immediately became a reality.” I’m choosing to have faith that as dismal as things look to me today, they will change. As others have stated, the answer will continue to be no, until it is yes. Today I’m holding onto hope that the yes will come.