They (Don’t) Need Me Every Hour

Hi, my name is Petra and I’m not needed in the Church.

No, seriously: I don’t have any special skills that no one else in my ward could provide; I’m not building the kingdom by bearing children; and I don’t contribute to the basic functions of the ward by performing ordinances or conducting or organizing meetings, or even activities. I serve in a calling, and I try to be helpful, but since anyone else could do what I do, I’m not needed. If I stopped going to church it would pretty much be business as usual.

I’m not really needed in my family, either. My parents love me but they have other children, and my husband loves me but could have married someone else or been happy single. (He was pretty happy for 26 years before I came along, after all.)

Does this sound like a giant pity party I’m throwing in this post? I hope not. I don’t need to be needed, in my family or in the church. Even if they could function without me, my ward wants me (I hope!) because I’m willing to serve, because I positively contribute, and because they like me. And even if they could function without me, my family wants me (I hope!) because I’m willing to serve, because I positively contribute, and because they love me.

My contributions to my church and family aren’t unique or exclusive to me, but I still like to think they matter, and I matter because I do them. If I woke up one morning and suddenly announced that I was leaving the church because someone else could be a Sunday School teacher, or that I was leaving my husband because he could do the laundry himself without my help, I’d be decried as selfish and short-sighted. I’d be sacrificing good things that make me happy–my church and family relationships–simply for the sake of feeling uniquely needed, and I’d be overlooking the many places I’m wanted, and the many places I can contribute, in favor of the one special role only I can fill.

That isn’t my attitude to my ward or family, though, luckily. I know that just because I’m not needed doesn’t mean I’m not wanted.  I may not be needed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t serve. Anyone else can teach my Sunday School class, but that doesn’t diminish the service I offer. My husband can do the laundry himself, but it still shows my love when I do it. The fact that someone else could take over the vast majority of my service doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable when I do it, and doesn’t mean that I should quit showing up and offering it.

So tell me: why are we making that argument for male-only priesthood?


  1. I feel that same way. If the church is a stone cut from the mountain, I was a little piece that chipped off as the massive thing hurled itself down the hill.

    The institutional church builds in fail-safes into the structure and culture to strategically guard against a reliance upon individuals and diversity. Even PH holders are not individuals, but “servants” who are supposed to be interchangeable. To that point, it probably doesn’t matter if the servant is a he or she. We are the “Borg” and it doesn’t matter.

    Your point is well made. Still, I point out that we all look the same if we’re butt-naked from behind, but we look different in the front. I don’t buy the priesthood-is-for-boys-childbearing-is-for-girls argument, but I do wonder if there isn’t something intrinsic to our divine gender roles and the use of priesthood/priesthoodess powers.

  2. You “wonder”? That has pretty much been the message for years.

    So you get the Priesthood in this life. Then what? Female Apostles? Of course. The you can hang with the boyz in the Church Office Building and feel good about yourself.

  3. OAK, please don’t be dismissive of women’s experiences of being less valued in the Church. You say “feel good about yourself” like it’s a bad thing. Don’t women deserve to not be put down when attending church, when worshiping, of all things? I think you also clearly miss the point that women who want to be ordained want to *serve*. Do you seriously think that’s a bad thing?

  4. I think implicitly the argument is based on men’s fragile egos. Sometimes this is made explicit. Am I understanding that right? It’s the idea that men will only participate in church if they feel like they can make a unique contribution. People will point to men’s generally lower rate of participation in religious activities (e.g., church attendance) and say that men will only stay around if they get to do something that the women don’t.

    Just thinking out loud here, I’m not sure if I buy the assumption or not. But even if I do, it seems unfair to bend things to men’s direction just to accommodate our egos.

  5. Amen, Petra!

    Besides the specific problems associated with that line of argument, I think your post nicely demonstrates the problem with members creating non-doctrinal explanations for why things are the way they are. The arguments often are faulty and even embarrassing, if we try to imagine how they might look to someone who is not a Mormon, such as someone who is investigating the Church, e.g., we feel it is important to exclude women from the priesthood because it makes some men feel better about themselves and more committed to the Church; maybe if we still excluded blacks then white men would feel even better about themselves and even more committed to the Church.

  6. I totally agree. I read a book about a Black church in the New York metropolitan area (can’t remember exactly where) called Upon This Rock. A very controversial pastor revitalized whole neighborhoods through his church, and one of the things he did was put responsibility on the men to be leaders. They had been failing their families and communities, but when he put them in charge of church stuff, they started doing their family and community duties as well.

    I drew two lessons from this: 1. It can be inspired to have policies that are unequal for genders IN A SPECIFIC CULTURAL CONTEXT. 2. If we think we are that cultural context, then it means we men need to repent. If we are going to stop doing our duty towards our families and communities just because we aren’t in charge, then we have a serious problem. I also think it shows very little faith in the faithfulness of LDS men to imagine that we will leave church activity just because we aren’t in charge (and maybe we should leave if we are that prideful and unwilling to change). Alternatively, it shows a low opinion of LDS women to think that they will stop respecting men if men aren’t in charge. It’s just a pessimistic view of the Saints that I don’t share. We can do the better thing.


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