Sep 09

Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD: Called of God

In this trip to the ZD archives, Lynnette discusses those of different faiths who see their church participation, whether through ordination or otherwise, as a vocation.

An acquaintance of mine was ordained in the Episcopal church last month. She’s a warm, lively person, probably around the age of my mother, who despite not knowing me well stopped to give me a hug the night before my comps defense. The path to ordination is a long one, with a lot of requirements along the way, and even for me as an outside observer it was kind of exciting to see someone finally make it to the end of it. Continue reading

Jun 25

When will the female priesthood ban end?

Monday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I was actually surprised at how badly I took the news of Kate Kelly’s excommunication. When I heard about it, I just felt sick, and even my usual coping strategy of information-seeking didn’t work very well. Every Facebook post and news story I read just made me feel sicker and want to cry more. I had expected beforehand that excommunication would be the outcome. Or at least I told myself that I was expecting it. Given how difficult hearing the actual news was for me, though, I guess I had been holding out more hope than I realized that the outcome would be something else–anything else.

But that was Monday. Today, I’m trying to think about the future, specifically, the future of the LDS female priesthood ban. I really believe that it will one day be lifted. I just have no idea when. But because I find it soothing to crunch numbers and speculate, I’ve gone ahead and done that in this post. I realize, though, that this is little more than guessing.

Continue reading

Apr 05

What Elder Oaks Did and Didn’t Say to OW

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.

Apr 04

Ordain Women, Women’s Ordination

A guest post from Jacob Baker, whose first guest post on ZD can be found here. This post is also on Jacob’s personal blog.

At the outset, I should say that at this point nothing is going to stop Ordain Women, whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s clear that no amount of criticism or shaming will fracture the movement. In fact, these have really only served (unsurprisingly) to strengthen it and add to its numbers. OW may have begun as an organized movement but has become something of an event, in the philosophical sense of that word–the eruption of something new that breaks with the prevailing order, something which marks a before and after. Those who are riveted by an event (like Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ, after which he was never the same again) can only understand certain truths in its wake. Continue reading

Mar 21

Insider/Outsider Talk in the Church PR Response to Ordain Women

The Church PR department’s response to Ordain Women’s request for tickets to the priesthood session of Conference makes the point that OW is a minority movement:

Women in the Church, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for priesthood ordination for women and consider that position to be extreme.

One question this argument raises is how they know this. Are they relying on the Pew data (rah of fMh has an interesting response) or the American Grace data, or some internal survey of members’ attitudes, or perhaps just assuming that it’s true?

But I don’t want to get into that question here. Instead, I wanted to talk about another question I’ve seen raised a number of times on the Bloggernacle, namely, why would Church PR make this argument at all? After all, shouldn’t this be a question of right and wrong rather than how many people support the idea? We have all kinds of discussion in the Church of how we should do right even if it’s unpopular, so why should it matter how many women do or don’t want the priesthood? Either it’s right or it’s not; that’s what matters.

Continue reading

Dec 13

How to Disavow the Priesthood Ban

For many years the Priesthood ban has been a matter of embarrassment and consternation to many Mormons. It makes us seem close-minded and exclusionary as a church, and seems to contradict many of our scriptures and core teachings–God not being a respecter of persons, all are alike unto God, etc. We struggle to explain it to our non-Mormon friends, and sometimes wish that it had just never happened. And to add insult to injury, we’ve had to endure many folk-theories justifying the ban, theories that are non-doctrinal and even offensive at times. So, it has finally come time to fully disavow the ban, once and for all.

Well, it turns out that a recent internet post inspired me to propose a forthright and direct disavowal that does not ignore the messy and painful history behind the ban. I realize my disavowal is imperfect, but here goes:

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Sep 27

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.”
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Aug 25

Are gospel doctrines more vague when they are applied to women?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is built upon the idea that we can seek answers to fundamental questions about ourselves and our relationship with God.  Many celebrate the peace they find in the church through having answers to life’s deepest questions. However, I would contend, that many of the essential doctrines of the church are much more clear when they are applied to men than when they are applied to women. Subsequently, among members of the church, there appears to be a wider variety of opinions about how these doctrines apply to women, while the application of these doctrines for men is much less contended. Below, I have listed three essential areas of doctrine in which I think this is the case. Continue reading

Jun 20

Please, Emperor, Prayerfully Consider a Wardrobe Change

In the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, the Emperor is fooled by some charlatans into paying a lot of money for some invisible clothes. As he parades through the town in his underwear, the cowed crowds lining the street applaud and praise his marvelous new clothes. It is not until a boy yells out, “The Emperor has no clothes!”, that everyone finally acknowledges this truth.

I was reminded of this story when my wife, a Young Womens’ leader, related her latest Sunday experience. In the new youth curriculum, the June lessons are about the Priesthood. So, this week the Young Women’s president asked a couple of male leaders to come talk to all the girls about the Priesthood. Continue reading

Apr 05

Which is it? Did Jesus say so, or are you going to use your Jedi mind tricks?

In Peggy Fletcher Stack’s recent article on the Ordain Women movement, she quotes Church spokesperson Jessica Moody on the question of whether women could receive the priesthood:

But a male-only priesthood “was established by Jesus Christ himself,” Moody said, “and is not a decision to be made by those on Earth.”

This argument stands in contrast to Relief Society General President Burton’s comment on the same issue in the Church’s new video:

I don’t think women are after the authority; I think they’re after the blessings and are happy that they can access the blessings and power of the priesthood. There are a few that would like both. But most of the women, I think, in the Church are happy to have all the blessings. That’s what matters most to them, and it doesn’t matter who holds that umbrella. They’re happy to let someone else hold the umbrella because we have different complementary roles and are happy with that.

So which is it? Did Jesus command the priesthood ban be put in place? Or is going to be that Church leaders will send their female spokespeople to wave their hands and try to convince us with a Jedi mind trick that real Mormon women don’t actually want the priesthood? (President Dalton’s “[you] will see no need to lobby for rights” comment fits perfectly here.)

Continue reading

Nov 18

On Mission Hierarchy, Gender, and Organizational Communication

In support of RAH’s Sister Missionary Leadership Project over at fMh, here’s a post about my mission originally published at Both Sides Now in July of last year.

In our mission we had APs and “Traveling Elders” who assisted with a lot of the nuts and bolts of mission organization (for a primer on the organizational structure of LDS missions, see here). They acted as extra eyes and ears for the Mission President (MP), traveling around the mission area and checking in with different companionships, helping to arrange apartments, discussing difficulties in different areas or companionships, etc. Because mission rules prevented the young Elders from visiting one-on-one with the Sister missionaries, the MP created a calling he dubbed the “Coordinating Sister.” It was the Coordinating Sister’s job, once or twice a month, to travel around the mission area with her companion, work with other Sister missionaries, and then report back to the MP. From my vantage point it was a very helpful calling, since mission culture and rules meant not only that Sisters were often more isolated than Elders, but also that they typically felt very inhibited about discussing problems in companionships with their District or Zone Leaders or even with the MP. (I should probably note that neither I nor any of my companions served as the Coordinating Sister.)
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Aug 06

Quietism

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. –Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28

Last March, on the Sunday morning Daylight Saving Time began, I went to church as usual, took my son to nursery, and immediately noticed that the clock in the room was still on Standard Time. I found that my first, entirely natural impulse–to change the clock to the correct time–was so swiftly and automatically stifled that I almost didn’t notice I’d had it. I’ve learned very well to do little at church on my own initiative, lest my actions inadvertently violate an unknown directive or intrude on someone else’s stewardship. Continue reading

Jun 19

Women and the Priesthood, Fifteen Years Later

Maxine Hanks’s 1992 anthology Women and Authority includes a chapter by D. Michael Quinn, provocatively entitled “Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843.” Quinn makes it clear that he’s not arguing simply for what I’ll here call “soft” claims about women’s priesthood status, for example, that women hold the priesthood only “through temple marriage or through the second anointing” (368). On the contrary, he’s arguing a “harder” claim, that women actually held–and therefore, by the successive conferral of authority that authenticates Mormon ordinances, continue to hold–the Melchizedek priesthood completely independent of marriage, on the basis of temple endowment alone. Continue reading

May 09

Unfulfilled Priesthood Blessings, and the Power of Religious Ritual

A recurrent problem in Mormonism is that of how to make sense of patriarchal blessings which make promises that don’t come to pass, or are even just plain wacky. (For some recent bloggernacle discussion of the issue, see here and here.) One common explanation when this happens is to interpret it as a communications breakdown, so to speak; perhaps the patriarch has simply misinterpreted the will of God, and pronounced blessings which reflect more of his own biases and expectations than genuine inspiration. Given that these blessings are mediated through fallible human beings, it’s inevitable that they’re going to have flaws at times. Continue reading

Jun 23

Amen to the Priesthood or the Authority of that Man

That they [the rights of the priesthood] may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. -D&C 121:37

So why do I so rarely see “amen” being said to someone’s priesthood or authority?

Continue reading

Jan 27

Called of God

An acquaintance of mine was ordained in the Episcopal church last month. She’s a warm, lively person, probably around the age of my mother, who despite not knowing me well stopped to give me a hug the night before my comps defense. The path to ordination is a long one, with a lot of requirements along the way, and even for me as an outside observer it was kind of exciting to see someone finally make it to the end of it. Continue reading