Elder Oaks gave a talk in Priesthood Session tonight that was the most direct response to Ordain Women that I’ve yet heard a GA give. He hit a lot of points that have already been argued to death on the Bloggernacle. For example, have you ever heard that priesthood is for boys and motherhood is for girls? That one was certainly news to me!
But he did say one thing to OW that I thought was actually interesting. He said that the Quorum of Fifteen doesn’t have the authority to decide to end the female priesthood ban:
The First Presidency, and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting church policies and procedures . . . But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.
This seems pretty straightforward. What he’s saying is that ending the female priesthood ban isn’t something the Quorum of 15 believes can be done without a revelation from God. (Or at least he personally believes ending it would require a revelation.) Of everything he said in his talk, this comes closest to actually addressing what OW is asking for.
But what’s frustrating is that he either doesn’t know in any detail what OW is asking for, or he doesn’t care to address it. From their mission statement:
We are committed to work for equality and the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood. . . . We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.
OW isn’t asking Church leaders to end the priesthood ban without God’s say-so. They’re actually asking the General Authorities to ask God about it. So Elder Oaks is sidestepping the question OW is asking, and jumping to answer a question that they haven’t asked. I can see two possible reasons why he would do this. First, it’s possible he’s simply unaware of what they’re asking for. He’s a busy man, and he doesn’t have time to delve into the details of who OW is or what they want beyond the name of the organization. Second, it’s possible that he knows what they’re asking, but that he thinks it’s not worth taking the question to God, since he’s sure already that the answer will be “no.” After all, he calls the female priesthood ban “divinely decreed.”
I have to say, neither possibility is terribly encouraging. I am glad, though, that at least he didn’t say that they’ve asked God and God said no. I’m sure all the OW critics will take what he said to mean this, but I’m glad he didn’t actually say it. This means the OW request is still out there, unasked and unanswered.