On Complaining

Rosalynde here expresses some of the concerns that I have about the methodology of the Wear Pants and GC Prayer efforts.  I want to add a few more thoughts:

(1) When President Hinckley was interviewed by Larry King, a caller asked this question:  “Since we’re getting into the 21st century, President Hinckley, what is the chance that women may hold a priesthood in the Mormon church?”  Here is his response:

Well, they don’t hold the priesthood at the present time. It would take another revelation to bring that about. I don’t anticipate it. The women of the church are not complaining about it. They have their own organization, a very strong organization, 4 million plus members. I don’t know of another women’s organization in the world which does so much for women as does that, as this church has. They’re happy. They sit on boards and governance in the church. I don’t hear any complaints about it.

This leads to the following questions for me:

(a) On the idea that LDS women aren’t complaining:  Was this a throw-away line?  An off-the-cuff remark?  Or should it be read as a more serious, intentional statement?  (Note that he does repeat the idea.)

(b) Was Pres. Hinckley saying that women should complain about not holding the priesthood if they don’t like the status quo?  Was the reason that he didn’t anticipate a revelation on the topic the fact that everyone seems pretty content with the situation, but if they were not content, then there might be a revelation?  (Note here that virtually every major revelation in LDS Church history has come about because someone had a question or a problem.)

(c) What kinds of “complaints” do you think Pres.  Hinckley was talking about here?  Assuming that there is such a thing as appropriate complaining, what would it look like?

(d) The book American Grace (which you should definitely read, if you haven’t already) reports that about 90% of Mormon women were opposed to the idea of Mormon women priesthood holders, but only 52% of Mormon men were.  How does this data relate to President Hinckley’s statement?  What to make of the 10% of Mormon women he either doesn’t know about or recognize here?  And, perhaps more interestingly, what to make of the nearly half of Mormon men who, while perhaps not “complaining,” would prefer the end of the gender ban?

Those of you who know that I am a feminist may think that these are fake questions designed to generate a pre-determined answer.  I promise you they are not.  I am genuinely not sure what the best answers are here.  I had been under the impression that this was the best way to protest, but President Hinckley’s words have made me wonder if I have been too limiting.

(2) Despite the cross-sniping on the pants and prayer issues, I am extremely thrilled that the Church is moving in a direction that I, as a feminist, applaud.  The introduction of the new YW curriculum combined with the lowered age for female missionaries will, I am quite certain, spark a change in the rising generation that will dwarf the wildest dreams of the pants-and-prayers protesters.  I don’t think any of us can fully anticipate how different the church will look in a generation or two when the church is peopled and led by a cohort where men and women were equally likely to have served missions and where the more feminist-oriented girls were not chased out of the church by Sunday lessons about the (hideous AND unscriptural) concept of being a “helpmate.”  (Compare a similar lesson from the new curriculum here.  It is much, much different.)

(3) Nuance is difficult in the best of circumstances; in the quick-comment world of blogging and the deeply divisive issue of women in the church, it may be a lost cause.  But, for what it is worth, here is my take:  I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of wearing pants to sacrament meeting or writing letters asking for a woman to pray in GC.  While I’m happy to see both of those things happen, I don’t support the “public protest” approach.  But I was drawn, like a dog to its vomit, to the lengthy comments both of these protests drew–comments on the usual Mormon blogs, as well as the Facebook groups, and other places.  And the comments just stunned me.  Just completely knocked me flat.  (Some samples here.) And while I can think of plenty of reasons to disagree with the pants and the praying, the violent comments and the “you are on Satan’s side” comments and the “you should leave the church” comments were stunning to me.  I realize that the Internet brings out the worst in people, but Facebook is not anonymous and I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of any one encouraging anyone else to leave the church, especially over these relatively minor disagreements.  Not to mention the threats of violence.  All of this is a long way of saying that (1) there aren’t two sides to this issue–there are multiple sides and (2) we are being given an opportunity to practice Christian charity here, and many of us are failing.

(4) But back to the protest angle.  I don’t like All Enlisted’s approach.  I think it will ultimately do more harm than good, as it divides the church unnecessarily and causes leaders to dig in their heels so an not to be seen responding to public pressure instead of revelation.  I concede that I may be wrong about this, however.  The church has shown an incredible sensitivity to public perceptions recently, and they may be willing to respond to embarrassing articles in the mainstream press in a way that they aren’t to reasoned academic writing or slap-dash blog posts making the very same arguments.  And maybe it would be wrong for our leaders to ignore the protests just because they are protests.  I have no idea.

(5) I keep coming back to the story of Zelophehad’s daughters.  These girls were not content with part of the law of Moses.  (They were clearly against the clearly written law of the Lord.  There was no wiggle room here.  The Lord had spoken, and they disagreed.) They went to Moses and stated their case.  (They did not round up others to join their complaint. They did not publicize their reasons for disagreeing with the law. They did not speak against Moses, but to Moses.) He said he’d pray about it. (He did not worry about seeming to bow to public pressure.  He did not say that the Lord had already spoken and that was that.  He did not criticize them for not believing the prophet.  He did not say that they were steadying the ark.  He did not accuse them of taking Satan’s side or lacking faith or not understanding their divine roles or seeking to pursue their so-called rights.) Moses received a new revelation and the girls got what they wanted. (Revelation is real.  And it changes.  And sometimes, groups of women outside of the governing structure instigate the change.)  

106 comments for “On Complaining

  1. I cannot believe that damnable neologism “helpmate” crawled its way into a manual! Burn it with fire, I say! My analysis of it here.

    “I don’t like All Enlisted’s approach. I think it will ultimately do more harm than good, as it divides the church unnecessarily and causes leaders to dig in their heels so an not to be seen responding to public pressure instead of revelation.” I agree. Rachael (Givens?) has some productive thoughts along those lines,

  2. While I haven’t been involved with planning either of these actions, I have participated small ways. I do feel conflicted about promoting feminist activism within the church because, as Julie points out, there’s a risk of retrenchment. At the same time, it’s disheartening to feel invisible and inauthentic; part of the appeal of writing letters or wearing pants is to claim a place in the community and make sure leaders know people like me exist. I don’t actually expect any changes to come about through letter-writing campaigns, but finding ways to voice my concerns in a system that sometimes makes that difficult gives me some hope for future changes and makes it easier to keep participating in the church in the meantime.

  3. I think point number 5 is key. But, unlike Zelophehad’s daughters, we don’t have any venue for personally stating our case to the prophet, without others hearing and without getting others involved in the cause. We can’t walk up to Moses’s tent or stroll over to Joseph’s front door for a quick chat. And, frankly, in a Church this size it’d be a tremendous mess if we could. There’s a reason that large, slow-moving bureaucracies tend to replace approachable and dynamic individual leaders when over time an enterprise grows from several thousand (or hundred) to several million. And it takes different tools to communicate with a bureaucracy than it does to communicate with a single dynamic individual.

  4. I agree with Euthyphronics #3. With statements like Pres Monsons that there is no demand for womens equality, with no sign of change, with no opportunity to communicate with our leaders, what is left if you believe change is necessary and apropriate, and what God wants?

    If you believe, as I do, that God is not the one discriminating against women, then it becomes a question of how to persuade the powers that be to do what ever they must to bring the Church into line with God and the Gospel.

    There is no provisions to allow us to communicate with the Prophet so what is left but protests? If there were (and with the technology we have today there should be ) how many requesting change would be enough to require the question be asked? Moses could have told the women they were the only ones with a problem, so the majority was happy. Is a thousand asking for change cancelled out by a thousand opposing change?

    I think if there are a thousand asking for change the Prophet has a responsibility to find out what is Gods will. Retrenchment is pride so should not be part of the considderation for a Prophet.

  5. Now I don’t have American Grace (and perhaps its worded differently there), but I will say that saying that 48% of LDS men would be opposed is not the same as saying that 48% of LDS men “would prefer the end of the gender ban.” Just a small quibble with an excellent post.

  6. John, here’s the quote from the book:

    “Mormon women are overwhelmingly opposed to women as (lay) priests, but Mormon men have more mixed views: 90 percent of Mormon women as compared to 52 percent of Mormon men.”

    So, yes, there is some ambiguity there, but I think the book is saying that they would not be opposed, and I agree with you that that is not necessarily the same thing as “would prefer.”

  7. On the idea that LDS women aren’t complaining: Was this a throw-away line? An off-the-cuff remark? Or should it be read as a more serious, intentional statement?

    I don’t think the statement was made to invite complaining, or to suggest that complaining would result in a change. And it wasn’t a throw-away comment, either. It was a true statement, along with others, showing why there wasn’t any compelling importance in pursuing the matter. My son doesn’t have a dirt bike, and if my pro-dirt bike neighbor asks me why my son doesn’t have a dirt bike, I could say honestly that my son isn’t clamoring for one [unspoken, but also true, is my and my wife’s pre-decision that my son won’t get one even if he wants one — after all, we make the decision, not my neighbor and not my son]. So I think some people read far too much into President Hinckley’s statement.

    I’m reminded of a common missionary complaint, “Every Member a Mission President!” Here, though, it might be “Every Member the President of the Church.” One of the most important principles we have to learn is to magnify our own callings, however small in our eyes, while letting others magnify their callings. Complaining and protesting simply don’t fit well in the Church, and they shouldn’t — we don’t want to become a mobocracy where decisions are made by pressure and majority vote. And these issues become far too important to too many of us, distracting us and others from the beautiful and genuine gospel message of faith, hope, and charity.

    The comments stunned me, too — but the vitriol wasn’t solely on one side — there was far too much on both sides, but one side has the benefit of being able to take the mantra of “fairness” against the other. But fairness isn’t the most important of all principles.

  8. Thank you, Julie. I think this is one of the best discussions of the issues yet. I particularly appreciate you recognizing that one might self-identify as a Mormon feminist without necessarily agreeing with All Enlisted’s approach. I also agree that few have appreciated the impact that the recent changes the church has made will have on women in the church. I, for one, believe that they will be revolutionary.

  9. “Young women, you will be the ones who will provide the example of virtuous womanhood and motherhood. You will continue to be virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy and of good report. You will also be the ones to provide an example of family life in a time when families are under attack, being redefined and disintegrating. You will understand your roles and your responsibilities and thus will see no need to lobby for rights.”

    This was said by Julie B. Beck, current General Young Women’s President and former General Relief Society President. It seems her take on the issue is that complaining/agitating/protesting are uncalled for among LDS women. I think she was about as much experience with LDS bureaucracy, LDS women, and LDS women’s roles as anyone. Does her view carry much weight in the LDS feminist circles since she IS an LDS woman in a prominent leadership role?

    If this is the church OF Jesus Christ upon the earth, and this IS the dispensation of the fulness of times, don’t we think that at sometime during the restoration of the gospel when Joseph Smith WAS asking all those questions about the priesthood, how to ordain other priesthood holders, etc. When he was doing all of that questioning about HOW to do things properly, if the priesthood was meant to be for both men and women, wouldn’t the Lord have mentioned it way back then when it was all being asked?? Why make us wait until now and ask again?

  10. Jax, it was said by Elaine Dalton, not Julie Beck.

    Your questions presume prophetic infallibility. You are entitled to your own beliefs, of course, but prophetic infallibility is not a Mormon belief.

  11. Apologies on my citation there… My daughter was listening to a Beck talk and I had her on my mind…

    No, my question doesn’t presume prophetic infallibility, it is whether or not the Lord is infallible. Why didn’t the Lord include females in the priesthood back when Jo. Smith was asking the precise questions about the priesthood, who can get it, how, how to transfer it, how to properly use it, etc. Unless you think Jo Smith blatantly left that part out of the revelations, then it is a question of why the Lord didn’t tell him when he asked.

    And does Dalton’s comment carry any weight? It might only be meant generally, but she could have been speaking directly to this issue… does her counsel matter to LDS feminists?

  12. Great write up. One thing I’d love to see is alternative proposals to what All Enlisted is doing.

  13. Jax,

    Two examples that might help you understand the argument that I am making here:

    I believe Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon under the direction of the Lord. I believe the Lord is infallible. It does not follow that I believe that the translation of the Book of Mormon perfectly reflects the will of the Lord. In fact, Brigham Young said, “If the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. ”

    Similarly, I believe Joseph Smith constructed the Joseph Smith Translation under the direction of the Lord. I believe the Lord is infallible. It does not follow that I believe that the Joseph Smith Translation perfectly reflects the will of the Lord. Spencer W. Kimball, for example, has offered corrections to the Bible that were _not_ part of the JST.

    So the infallibility of the Lord does not guarantee that a prophet’s work is infallible.

    “And does Dalton’s comment carry any weight?”

    Her comment is too ambiguous for me to be confident as to what she meant. (I presume that she wasn’t implying that rape victims in India should not advocate for their rights, but her words do allow for that interpretation.) I think what she wanted to say was something like this: church culture is not secular culture, and the language and actions of “rights” and “lobbying” are not how we operate here. I actually agree with that sentiment, and that’s one of the reasons why I express discomfort with pants/prayers/protests in the original post.

    Jax, any thoughts on the scripture about Zelophehad’s daughters? How does your model of the Lord’s infallibility explain how a bunch of women with no status could get Moses to change the law that the Lord had given them, when it was very clearly prohibiting what they wanted?

  14. I like to relate the idea of complaining to your old post from years back, Julie, about prayer and petitioning the Lord. I much prefer private complaints a la the parable of the unjust judge, but the internet makes that impossible, unfortunately.

    I won’t be petitioning, but I am neutral on the issue. One thing I do know, is that when significant changes of this nature are announced, if one has the Holy Ghost, then they are usually an interesting mixture of surprising and ‘feeling right.’ If something in this realm ultimately happens, it will be done in wisdom and order, line upon line, which is probably a lot later than most are hoping for, but that witness will come.

    If it never happens, we should not be resentful of the fact that no matter what we do on these sorts of issues, many will mock and point fingers and cause shame. There will never be shortage of that, so it is vain to hope otherwise, which is why I think that some portion of those in favor of these issues have taken that position.

  15. “Why make us wait until now and ask again?”

    The priesthood ban against blacks was removed more than a century after Joseph Smith died and after being questionably imposed by another “prophet.”

    I don’t know if your question comes out of a complete lack of the historical changes the Church has gone through (all within the last dispensation) and the processes and elements that triggered such changes.

  16. hm… typing late at night after having taken my sleeping pill probably not a good idea.

    *lack of {knowledge} of the historical changes the Church has gone through.

    It seems to me the more educated people are about how changes and “revelations” have come about, the more open to see the appropriateness of members being able to communicate their concerns through public displays. Because, I don’t mean any offense to the author of this post, but the scriptural proposal that refers to Moses is not only outdated/idealistic/unrealistic but also inapplicable to our context and our time.

  17. “Why didn’t the Lord include females in the priesthood back when Jo. Smith was asking the precise questions about the priesthood, who can get it, how, how to transfer it, how to properly use it, etc.”

    I realize that you mean to suggest that if he didn’t mention women then, he’s not going to bring it up now, but your question presumes a kind of pre-fab model of gospel restoration that hardly squares with either scripture or the historical record. The restoration is clearly a work in progress and one that proceeds in fits and starts according to the faith of his servants and the circumstances they find themselves in.

  18. It’s funny that with all the revelations on priesthood in the Doctrine and Covenants, not one of them says that only men may be ordained. We know from the revelations how many teachers form a quorum, we know how to convene a disciplinary council on the president of the church, we know the duties of a bishop, but not a word saying that women can’t be ordained.

  19. Thank you, Julie. I completely agree.

    For the record, I have made alternate proposals. Many times. And, predictably, been given the figurative smackdown for it by the same people who profess to the desire for charity and fairness. Unfortunate, because I have done these alternate proposals with much success so far.

    The truth, I feel, behind these movements is that they not only desire change, they desire power through spectacle. It seems by what they say and how they act that victory achieved through quieter means would not be a true victory in their eyes. They not only want change, but to feel like they were able to force change. And, ironically, they are the single biggest deterrent in my efforts to actually effect that change.

  20. One minor note about the statistics you cite. You say that according to American Grace, 90% of Mormon women “were opposed to” the ordination of women. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the other 10% favored ordination, or were likely to complain if it weren’t done. That 10% could be made up of a lot of women in the “I don’t care” and “Either way, it’s fine by me” and “I’d like it, but I’ll wait for the prophet to speak” categories. If so, the vocal complainers might be much fewer than 10%.

  21. Thank you Julie for a thoughtful post. Personally, I am torn as to All Enlisted. I have not signed their petition, but I also can’t bring myself to condemn them. I try to adhere to the premise that one should not critique an approach unless they can offer something better. And I can’t find any better approach for addressing their sincere concerns. “Patience” is the best I can do, but patience without a framework for action is fruitless; kind of like fasting without a purpose. You just suffer needlessly.

    FWIW, I do think the petitions will have some affect (hopefully beneficial). They have already led to President Dalton’s discussion of “lobbying”, which at minimum demonstrates that church headquarters is paying attention. I imagine church representatives are preparing responses for the inevitable press questions at April Conference as to why women prayed or not. And numerous conversations such as this are taking place within the church body that otherwise may have not.

    The “mormon moment” continues. And whether we agree with their approach or not, I am glad that All Enlisted is part of the conversation. Perhaps Elder Christofferson’s comments on the new website mormonsandgays is appropriate:

    “You’ll see in these experiences that some people state what you could call the position of the Church – it coincides perfectly – and others not. But again they’re all very authentic, and as we listen to one other and strive to understand, things can only get better.”

  22. Julie:
    Thank you for a well written and carefully considered post.

    I am hopeful that someday you may (if you haven’t aleady) compare the old YW curriculum with the new in a detailed and probing way. As a feminist. As a believing feminist.

    For example, in the new lesson, it states this:

    “Bring two objects that are used together to accomplish a common goal (like a pencil and paper or hammer and nail). Invite the young women to explain the differences between the objects and how they are used together. Explain that men and women are given different responsibilities that complement (or “complete”) each other to bring about God’s purposes. Invite the young women to describe some of the ways men and women complement each other.”

    I applaud the leveling-up of roles: both are essential, etc, etc. But I still bristle at the idea that the roles are fixed. Rather than ask about ways that “men and women” compliment each-other, (thus giving teachers and students the chance to spout shallow platitudes and generaliztions about “nurturing” and “strength”), I would have preferred that the lesson say something like this:

    “Invite the young women to describe instances where they have seen parents compliment each other. Perhaps your own parents differences have helped each one become a better person, a better mother or a better father.”

    For me, then, roles would not be fixed, but the idea that parents work together through differences can be discussed.

    So, I still find the new lesson to be constraining; more so than necessary.

    Anyway, maybe you have already done this. This is another example, for me, of how we complain. I am not sure that there is any venue for me to participate in the writing of these lessons. Last time I checked, I wasn’t in charge, and so my input isn’t sought or heard.

  23. Jax: Is there any record of Joseph Smith asking God about women and the Priesthood? I don’t know of any, but I am no expert. Even in areas where he appeared to lead by example (conferring the Priesthood on someone with African lineage) his actions weren’t followed. In this case, we don’t know why, but perhaps the practice of giving the Preisthood to people with black skin was too “far ahead” of the cultural lines that were drawn at the time. (See Nate Oman’s recent excellent recent post on this.) JS did appear to provide women with Priethood assignments such as temple assignments. Perhaps he was more expansive about this practice than we think. Does it say anywhere in the scriptures that only men can practice the priesthood? Or does it appear to only imply that?

    President Hinkley once said that he had searched the scriptures and found no basis for providing the priesthood to women. I remember being discouraged about this, because the scriptures also provide no basis for the giving of the priesthood to eskimos, or those with physical handicaps, etc. I remember thinking that Joseph Smith would not have been content, when he was prophet, with simply searching the scriptures. He would have brought it before the Lord, I think. I don’t think that we have any strong evidence that this issue has been brought “before the Lord.” For me, re-stating the status quo is not the same.

  24. #17: “Because, I don’t mean any offense to the author of this post, but the scriptural proposal that refers to Moses is not only outdated/idealistic/unrealistic but also inapplicable to our context and our time.”

    No offense taken. One of the things I was trying to work out in this post is how we apply that scripture when we can’t just walk up to Pres. Monson’s tent and tell him what we think. That’s why I looked at the Pres. Hinckley quote about “complaining” and what he was trying to teach us there.

    #20: “The truth, I feel, behind these movements is that they not only desire change, they desire power through spectacle.”

    I don’t think it is OK to speculate about people’s motives:


    #21: Good point, Mark B. I wish I could see how the question was worded, but Amazon isn’t letting me into the cloud this morning, and I can’t remember if the book ever even gave the actual wording of the question. Regardless, I find the gender difference interesting, especially in light of the fact that Pres. Hinckley (and, I think, these conversations generally) focus on what _women_ want or need and not what men want or need.

    stephen hardy, I like your analysis of that lesson and I agree with you.

  25. Julie: I understand that both of my above comments are, unfortunately, thread-jacks to some degree. In the future I will try to be better. I always enjoy a good discussion, but I will understand it if neither idea is followed-up on. They aren’t really in line with your topic, which is about constructive critisicm for believing Mormons. Before reading remarks I wasn’t even aware of Zelophehad’s daughters. Be assured that they will be discussed frequently in our ward from now on.

  26. Julie, I don’t KNOW individual people’s motives. But in my comment, I explained why I feel that way in general. It’s not speculation so much as evaluation based on experience. Of course it’s okay and necessary to evaluate what seems to be the motivation behind such movements if one is deciding whether or not to participate in them.

  27. @LeftField I read through all the major D&C sections on priesthood before commenting earlier, specifically looking for mention that priesthood needs to only be given to men… didn’t find it though.

    @Julie M. Smith I agree with the fallibility during translations and such, but the restoration of the priesthood was done by actual beings. It wouldn’t be an issue of fallible work, but that Smith totally didn’t understand words spoken to him… that he just plain missed it. Smith went to pray about baptism and how it was to be done and a person showed up and taught him and authorized/ordained him. Did John forget to mention to Joseph and that anyone (men and women) can be ordained, or did Joseph and Oliver both forget that it was mentioned, or did they willfully remove it? All three of those seem very unlikely to me, the only alternative left would seem to be that the Lord didn’t (not necesarily “doesn’t”) want females to have the priesthood.

    Obviously the Lord changes the way he wants/needs things done. If/when he wants female priesthood do we doubt that he’ll make it happen? Why the need to protest/agitate/whatever to make it happen now; on our timetable?

    Do we think the question has ever been asked by the FP and 12? Do we think they have ever approached the Lord and asked, “Can women be ordained to the priesthood?” Any history on it (GC notes, Journal entries, etc)? If it never has, then perhaps it should happen, at least once.

    If it has been asked, and the answer is “No”, then what? Would it satisfy the feminists to be told that it has been asked and the answer was no? How long of a wait would be necessary until asking again? Would the feminists believe it was asked or would they feel like they were lied to just to satisfy them? Or would it be a continual cycle of agitation, continually demanding that the Brethren ask again, until they get the answer that THEY think the Lord should give?

    Out of curiosity, was anyone calling for a reduction in mission ages?

  28. Stephan Hardy answered part of my question while I was typing it… Thanks. Can anyone else add information they’ve seen where JS specifically asked about female priesthood holders?

    Even if he didn’t specically ask, do we have a good reason why the Lord wouldn’t have just included it with all the other teachings he gave us about priesthood?

  29. I can see SilverRain’s point, but I have to disagree with the generalization. When you have a large group of people participating in a movement, you will inevitably have some individuals in that group doing it for the wrong reasons. I find questionable to throw away the actual cause of movement because of these individuals.

    There are missionaries that go on missions for the wrong reasons, that doesn’t mean missions are inherently a bad thing and that one should avoid them and be unsupportive. There are people who marry for the wrong reasons, that doesn’t mean we should scratch marriage out as a communal farce. Etc.

    But if SilverRain does have alternative methods to have concerns on a global basis heard by the actual decision makers and actually have a global impact, then I applaud her efforts.

  30. Forgive my lack of scriptural knowledge, but did the story of Zelophehad’s Daughters come before or after Moses was told he needed to delegate? Also, how do our numbers compare to Israel at that time?

    I wonder these things because they effect how much this story can be a parallel to our time. Most of the other stories we have of people going to the Prophet with a desire for change involved the request coming from someone rather close to them, rather from near-strangers.

  31. Jax 28 I for one had sent up mighty prayers for a reduction/ leveling of mission age for women and cried tears of joy when the announcement was made. I’ve also written the general RS pres asking why YW don’t do VTing w/ the women as YM do with HTing for the men (as we are supposed to follow the pattern of the priesthood). She wrote back that there was no prohibition against YW participating in VTing and I was welcome to suggest it at my local level. I never did.

  32. 28 Obviously the Lord changes the way he wants/needs things done. If/when he wants female priesthood do we doubt that he’ll make it happen? Why the need to protest/agitate/whatever to make it happen now; on our timetable? …Do we think the question has ever been asked by the FP and 12? Do we think they have ever approached the Lord and asked, “Can women be ordained to the priesthood?”.

    Well, President Hinckley said it could be changed but there is no agitation for it. Therefore agitation may well be the Lord’s method for getting it changed! Agitation motivates and stimulates dialog and if the problem is more a matter of member acceptance rather than God’s will dialog may be what God wants or finds acceptable as a path for growth. Are we to remain as children forever or can we evolve to enlightened gospel knowledge based on our thirst for it? Shouldn’t we be reaching for more? Is there something wrong with our participating in asking for more?

  33. I don’t know if agitation is the “Lord’s method”, but it is definitely a method He has responded to… Parable of the unjust judge, the women in Tyre and Sidon who asked for “scraps” from the table, Jo. Smith and lost pages, law of divorcement (Matt 19:7-8). Sometimes that agitation brings blessings (woman in Tyre/Sidon was called faithful for continuing) and sometimes it a detriment (lost pages). Are we wise enough to know what effect will come from our protestations? How many examples could be given about blessings that came from NOT having our requests granted?

    We’ve been told to “ask and you shall recieve”. Does complaining to the press qualify as asking? When/how will a NO answer be recieved?

    Answer honestly, if the LDS PR team released a statement, “Do to requests made to the FP for women to pray in GC, a prayer has been given and an answer has been recieved that the Lord is pleased with the Q70 to continue fulfilling that assignment.” Would that satisfy the All Enlisted (and other feminists) people? Or would they say that the Brethren didn’t ask enough, or with willingness to accept the answer, or that they don’t understand the answer they got…etc. Would knowing they had been heard, and that the Lord had responded, be enough?

  34. I can’t read President Hinckley’s mind as well as some, but my guess is that he was speaking to a secular American audience and was therefore using the terms of political change with which secular American audiences are familiar. I don’t think this meant that we are to adapt those terms ourselves.

    My main complaint with this post is that it did not adopt the title “De Complainibus.” Dog latin conveys the suitable tone of gravity.

  35. Jax,
    Great well thought out questions! I statue you.

    Adam G.,
    So Hinckley used the opportunity to brush off the question using secular spin rather than to answer in a straight forward honest manner?

  36. Thanks, Manual, but I should point out that I said this is why I, generally, feel this way, NOT that this is why, generally, people have a specific motivation.

  37. Demaris – I would very much like to see the correspondence you received from the general RS President. I tried to implement YW visiting teaching in my ward and was shot down by the stake RS President. You can contact me at daveemaildump (at) gmail (.) com.

  38. “If the LDS PR team released a statement…”

    Y’know, something about this bugs me. We make a big deal about having a prophet. In that case, shouldn’t it be the Prophet telling us what the Lord has said, rather than some PR team?

    How would the “All Enlisted (and other feminists) people” would react if (say) the Prophet announced that 70s giving the GC prayers was divine revelation? There are many different individuals in the group you described, and I strongly suspect there would be as many different reactions as individuals. I imagine some would be dissatisfied; some would leave the Church; some would be disappointed, but accepting; some would be grateful to know that the policy is divine rather than mere institutional oversight; some would be grateful that their concerns had been heard and taken before the Lord; and others would have even more complex and nuanced reactions than the ones I described here.

  39. I’ve been wondering, along some of the lines just above my comment, how bittersweet it will be for the folks at All Enlisted when the first female to pray in general conference turns out to be Sister Dalton. And in the press conference afterwards, it’s revealed that the plans to change policy came about years previously from her lobbying for that right (as is her role as a women’s leader).

  40. H.Bob, considering President Dalton’s recent remarks, I am 100% positive there will be no press release to the effect that she “lobbied” for a right to pray in GC. And to answer your question, if she were to pray, I imagine the folks at All Enlisted would be much more “sweet” than “bitter”. Hopefully the same is true of you.

  41. Several roughed out thoughts:

    First, has anyone seriously sat down and considered the social and theological implications of the ordination of women? Just off the top of my head, I guess if men are not the “priesthood-holding gender,” our conceptions of the temple endowment, initiatory, temple marriages/sealings, Second Anointing, etc. would have to be altered in significant ways. What of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood? Change the wording to include daughters? Would D&C 132 apply to both genders in the SAME ways? Would both genders face the same obligation to missionary work?

    Second, I am not so sure the notion that “if we don’t ask, God will not tell us” holds much water. SOME revelations were in answer to specific questions. But in how many instances does the Lord bless us with more information, knowledge and light than we asked for? To claim that women don’t have the priesthood because no one asked is akin to claiming that God accidently forgot to mention that women could do so through nearly two centuries of revelation regarding priesthood.

    This notion also really screws up our teachings about prayer, revelation and a loving God. How many times has a loving God warned individuals and the church collectively about things we have NOT been praying about?

    Now some will point at the Blacks and the priesthood issue. But the history is very different. Blacks initially had it, it became a church policy based upon an erroneous interpretation of scripture and fallacious claims that Joseph Smith withdrew the practice, etc.

    There is no scriptural basis for the ordination of women. There is no denial of any spiritual or eternal blessings to women in current practice as there were with African Blacks. In fact, the arguement could be made that priesthood is a burden placed upon men.

  42. “Due to requests made to the FP for women to pray in GC, a prayer has been given and an answer has been recieved that the Lord is pleased with the Q70 to continue fulfilling that assignment.”

    I bet you a nickel the answer to such a glib request would be along the lines of: You have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

  43. The priesthood had to begin somewhere and be incubated until it grew in number. It has a history of being given to more diverse people over time, moving from exclusively Jewish to Gentile to Blacks until it reached inclusively worthy male. It has transcended ethnicity in it’s growth why not gender?

  44. Dave K, wish I could, but it was years ago and I have no idea where that letter is now. :-)

  45. Julie,

    Thanks for a thoughtful piece. I just can’t get past the history of the priesthood ban on this. It is really hard for me to see any intellectually honest reading of history that doesn’t point to all the agitation around the issue from both within and without as signficant factors in the reversal of the policy. The same is clearly true for polygamy as well. I am sure that prayer played a role too in both changes. Agitation and prayer are not mutually exclusive. If we look at the two examples of big changes in the modern church (and what could be bigger than women’s ordination as a change?) then it appears that both are at least neccesary conditions. I am trying to wrack my brain for a big change that happened where the format appeared to be lots of private prayer and no or few signs of public expression of discomfort. One that just came out of the blue. I can’t think of one, but maybe someone else can?

    Also, while I agree that the changes to missionary policy and the YW manual will have larger impacts long term, I don’t think you get those changes without the rise of feminist conscious within the church at some level. So to take those as examples that are somehow outside of a process of public feedback and complaint I think deserves to be examined more.

    Finally, the agitation for change is at least in part motivated by real concerns of very problematic trends within the church. We know that young women are leaving the church at higher and higher rates, as our are young people generally. I think a lot of us see the church losing a generation of wonderful bright young women. (I always suggest people who don’t believe this to go and ask their stake the activity rate of young women 18-24 and how that has changed over the last 10 years.) A lot of us are struggling with our conscious about raising our bright young women in the church. These trends will eventually require something to change with or without agitation. As you mentioned the very problematic blow back to something as simple as Wear Pants to Church Day indicates at very least pockets of deep cultural problems that our women must face everyday in their church activity, attendence and families. The fear is that we will change too late. For the blacks and the priesthood issue it was stymying growth, a huge PR headache but was affecting a relatively small percentage of Mormons. Women are different in that they already make up well ove 50% of the active membership of the church. Too little, too late could be very, very bad. For me and my family with our two beautiful young daughters what else can we do but find some way to tell the church that change must come. We can of course vote with our feet, that really is the other silent “non-agitation” option here. Just pray and take my family out the door. More and more people are. I think making a little noise is preferable to abandoning ship, at least for now. I think it is really problematic for any organization if leaving is the only form of legitimate dissent.

  46. Whoa! I had not yet heard about the new YW curriculum. I was released from being a YW leader about a year ago, and this new curriculum is a long-hoped-for dream come true! Thanks for sharing the link in this post!

  47. Great post, Julie. I think there’s room for various kinds of dissent in the church, from private prayers for change to more public acts like signing petitions and wearing pants. I also agree with others in saying that approaching the prophet personally is neither feasible nor encouraged, necessitating some creativity when we’re trying to apply scriptural precedents like the one you mentioned. Personally I think that the most helpful way to encourage change is to employ a variety of different tactics. I keep thinking about the suffragettes, and how many tracts and pamphlets they wrote, and how many congressmen they visited, and how many long intellectual conversations they had. It was all to good effect, and eventually bore fruit. And yet, without the iron-jawed angels standing outside the white house for days and weeks and months, would women have ever gotten the vote?

  48. “I think it is really problematic for any organization if leaving is the only form of legitimate dissent.”

    Puts in a single sentence a thought I’ve been trying to have for a long time. Thanks.

  49. I think it […] causes leaders to dig in their heels so an not to be seen responding to public pressure instead of revelation.

    Julie, do you think the revelation giving blacks the priesthood would have some sooner or later absent the small but steady stream of bad press and public protests the church faced from the late 1960s onward?

  50. Some say prayer is THE answer. Prayer is important but it is also important to note that prayer alone wasn’t enough to reverse the ban on blacks.

    President Kimball said in a letter to his son: Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired. I think few people receive revelations while lounging on the couch or while playing cards or while relaxing. I believe most revelations would come when a man is on his tip toes, reaching as high as he can for something which he knows he needs, and then there bursts upon him the answer to his problems.. It took months of pondering and kneeling in prayer for this LDS prophet to receive an answer. Regarding the ban he also said: I had a great deal to fight…myself, largely, because I had grown up with this thought that Negroes should not have the priesthood and I was prepared to go all the rest of my life until my death and fight for it and defend it as it was.

    Since revelation isn’t simply bestowed on a prophet and it actually takes months of work requiring setting aside personal assumptions and biases, what motivates him to do this work for something disagrees with besides agitation? Thus the role of agitation, a word we have President Hinckley to thank for. Government agitation preceeded OD1 and the turbulent civil rights movement preceded OD2.

  51. “Now some will point at the Blacks and the priesthood issue. But the history is very different. Blacks initially had it, it became a church policy based upon an erroneous interpretation of scripture and fallacious claims that Joseph Smith withdrew the practice, etc.”

    Well, there is quite enough material to answer to this paragraph that it would merit a different post. But, Suleiman, if you do a little more research on early Mormon women and the usage of the priesthood, you will learn some amazing things you obviously are ignoring presently. I wouldn’t be so quick as to assume the issue is that much different as you suppose it is.

  52. I like the post, Julie.

    The chief problem with Dalton’s statement about lobbying is that it is simultaneously confident and vague, dogmatic and transparent. One can project onto it anything one wants, and feel entirely self-justified in the process.

  53. Also, regarding the following:

    “To claim that women don’t have the priesthood because no one asked is akin to claiming that God accidently forgot to mention that women could do so through nearly two centuries of revelation regarding priesthood.”

    I am not sure this is the exact scope of the Mormon feminist views regarding why women don’t hold the priesthood. It is ubiquitous knowledge the roots of male leadership even from the Old Testament, could be traced to an inherently male oriented (and sometimes misogynous) culture, rather than pure divine revelation. The fact that conservatives struggle with a wider view of how the Old Testament culture came about does not make the culture be 100% derived from the will of God, and I don’t think it is.

  54. “And maybe it would be wrong for our leaders to ignore the protests just because they are protests.”

    Ding, ding, ding.

  55. Thanks for your post and the discussion. I enjoy trying to understand where other people are coming from.

    “I think it […] causes leaders to dig in their heels so as not to be seen responding to public pressure instead of revelation.”

    But does public pressure relative to an issue foreclose revelation that takes the same position?

    This view of leaders — that they dig in their heels — seems to demean them to me. Healthy engagement and the exchange of information and reason seems much more preferable to me. We are promised answers if we ask and seek.

    Where is my Mother-in-Heaven? This is my concern or complaint, or call it what you will. It is sincere, heartfelt, and timely. Pants, purple, a woman praying in conference. I’m okay with all of them. Where is my Mother-in-Heaven? A boy can ask.

  56. Really. Why can’t it be as simple as this: God wants his sons to represent Him, and not his daughters. What if it really is that simple?

  57. Agree with 48 and 51. I don’t know what silverain is advocating as an effective method for change, but I can not see any way of conveying our pain, concerns etc to the 15.

    On the point that 90% of the women in the church don’t want to be priests(or bishops). Had they been asked whether they would like to participate in the blessing of their child, or even be a witness at the baptism of their child, or have their daughters given equal treatment with their sons, I think you would get a different answer.

    After a discussion at christmas with some of my daughters, both with university degrees, one RS pres, the other a councilor in YW, I looked in handbook 1 to see what might be allowed. The handbook is very black and white on some things and vague on others, because on the vague things they are allowing for exceptions. The Relief Society Presidency could permanently attend bishopric, and when it comes to conducting Sacrament meetings, “councilors may conduct” it doesent the RS presidency can too, but it doesn’t say they cant, or that it has to be a High Priest.

    Would it change the atmosphere of the ward if the RS presidency were in bishopric every week? When I was in a bishopric I remember telling my wife we decided.(to start meetings at 11am), and her response was you wouldn’t have decided that if there were women there.

    It would certainly change the atmosphere if the RS presidency rotated with the Bishopric in conducting sacrament meetings. I think the provision is there so that if all the bishopric is away someone can still conduct the meeting, but it does not say that person must hold the priesthood which is what is said every where else to exclude women.

    My daughters also wanted the number of dark suits on the stand reduced. We had 7 on Sunday. It only takes one person to conduct Sacrament meeting, shouldnt the others be with their families?

  58. “Really. Why can’t it be as simple as this: God wants his sons to represent Him, and not his daughters. What if it really is that simple?”

    If that really is what God wants, would it have been too simple for Him to mention it just once somewhere, anywhere, in all of scripture, including multiple detailed revelations on the priesthood? We know there’s supposed to be 96 elders in a quorum. Not 95; not 97. And the Almighty just “forgot” to mention that all of them are supposed to be men?

  59. God wants . . ..

    If a boy, denied all knowledge about his mother by his father while he is an infant, toddler, youth, etc., growing up, asks, as a man, his father about his mother then, would it seem right for his father still to say, I didn’t want and don’t want you to know.

    Because he’s God, we can’t ask, seek, and pray to our father-in-heaven?

    It’s possible the answer is what we don’t like/expect, but a loving relationship implies respect and love. Otherwise, who want’s that kind of relationship?

  60. “This view of leaders — that they dig in their heels — seems to demean them to me. Healthy engagement and the exchange of information and reason seems much more preferable to me. We are promised answers if we ask and seek.”

    I like this a lot. Also, always assuming that the leaders responding positively to a publicly displayed concern is not only immature but also demeaning of their very roles as leaders of the church. If they were to act accordingly, does it have to be that “they yielded to the pressure”? Can it not be that the concern was real, legitimate and in fact required an action from them? (as it has been historically)

    Painting this position that leaders shouldn’t respond to concerns just for the sake of not giving in to pressure seems a whole lot on the same line as what we define with the term “pride.” “Forget it, I am not listening because heaven forbid anyone would think I am responding to pressure.” Yeah, it definitely does not sound praiseworthy. So, this assumption is a bit hurried and a bit one-sided, always with the “heaven forbid it appears as if…” worry in front of it.

    So I guess I am in disagreement with point number 4 of the OP. Nor do I think we should assume leaders have to be in the position of keeping appearances nor should we assume agitation and divisions are “unnecessary.” It seems to me they are necessary more often than not and they have had some of the most positive outcomes in church history.

  61. I meant to type “…always assuming that the leaders are giving in to pressure rather than receiving revelation because they are responding positively to a publicly displayed concern…”

  62. daughters. What if it really is that simple?”

    If that really is what God wants, would it have been too simple for Him to mention it just once somewhere, anywhere, in all of scripture, including multiple detailed revelations on the priesthood? We know there’s supposed to be 96 elders in a quorum. Not 95; not 97. And the Almighty just “forgot” to mention that all of them are supposed to be men?

    Well apparently he “forgot” to say that women were included. Maybe he just assumed we were bright enough to look at history, notice that in all recorded scripture it is only men who have held the priesthood, and to follow suit.

    I think it is reasonable to ask, at least once, whether it is okay to ordain women. But I’m skeptical that if it were announced that the FP had indeed asked, and that they were told “NO”, that that would satisfy the All Enlisted crowd. I’m skeptical that they want to find out the will of the Lord, but rather that they want to be able to say “The will of the Lord should be _______”. I’m sure the responses would be varied, as someone earlier pointed out, but I think a great portion of the ‘group’ would still be unsatisfied and still complaining.

  63. Jax,

    “Maybe he just assumed we were bright enough to look at history, notice that in all recorded scripture it is only men who have held the priesthood, and to follow suit.”

    I”m not saying they held the priesthood, but the following women in the Old Testament apparently had the title Prophetess: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah. Then there is Anna mentioned as a Prophetess in the New Testament.

    So I would say that the scriptures are silent on women having the same titles, and apparently the same prophetic ability, as the priesthood title of Prophet.

  64. I’ve been inculcated with I’m a child of God faith; as such, like a typical child, I hope to have an overbearing persistence in asking, especially when it comes to really important questions on the path to wisdom.

    Pants, prayers in conference, etc. are steps — complaints, concerns, if you want to term them that way — toward the more fundamental, important questions, aren’t they? But in my mind, yes, they are just the beginning of what I want to know.

  65. Yes to Manuel’s #64. And further, it’s disconcerting to see such a jaundiced and negative view of “activism,” which I’m convinced this largely Euro-American, upper-middle-class-dominated discussion has little concept of in terms of its importance and legitimacy as a means to address injustice and inequality–and why would it? This is not the demographic that has most benefited from “activism” in the past several decades.

  66. @Sonny, to be a prophet, or have the spirit of prophecy, is to have a testimony of Jesus Christ – to know what he was/did in the past, know what he is like/doing now, and to know what he will be like/do in the future. That knowledge is possible to both men and women regardless of priesthood. I know many women today that I consider prophetesses, but none of them hold the priesthood. That is probably why 40-something percent of men don’t care if women get the priesthood… once you have it you realize it doesn’t convey any special knowledge or blessings. You can be a prophet and teach Sunday School, be a Bishop, be a temple matron, or just a person in the pews. No special training required.

  67. #64 Manuel
    “If they were to act accordingly, does it have to be that “they yielded to the pressure”?”

    Well… yes, it does. No matter how it happens a lot of people will see it as caving in to pressure. Some will see it as proof that it’s wasn’t a divine change. People already think that about Blacks and Polygamy. A lot of people say good riddance to them. I’ve always found that an interesting thought, because the same people just came from arguing that we need to succor the (insert group of people here) because the Christlike thing to do is love them. And that argument is absolutely correct until they scorn someone for not being in their clique.

    Looping back to the OP now… I think that despite what I just said about the fact that people will see a women praying in this next conference as a “caving in” I think that it should only be at best a minor consideration. We just don’t have to scorn* those people who see it that way so vehemently.

    *Which Manuel in no way did on this wall.

  68. @Jax,

    Yes, after I commented I figured you would respond as you did. My bad for choosing a that as an example.

    My quibble is this– I don’t think the written scriptural record is as clear as you perhaps think it is regarding what 21st century women can or cannot do in the church, given that the Lord reveals according to the conditions, culture, traditions, and the readiness of the people to receive throughout time. For that reason alone, things may be different now than they were in 1830. Or maybe not.

  69. Bryan S,

    What I meant to say with my comment is that it really shouldn’t matter whether some people believe they are caving in to pressure or that some people believe they received revelation. As leaders, the priority should go beyond the risk of what some will say. Because what you are saying can be adapted as an exact but opposite counterpoint: “The leaders are not receiving revelation and will rather please the status quo, therefore they are already caving in to the pressure of the status quo keepers.”

    These two views of caving in to the favored group should be beneath their leadership. Therefore, the excuse that they shouldn’t do something based on a given perception of a group of people is further proven inadequate.

    If a concern is raised, and there is a current situation regarding the concern, the non-leader thing to do is to ignore it. There are options to address the concern, including but not exclusively “It has been brought to our attention and we are praying about it;” or “We have considered that before and have not received unanimously the witness that we should proceed in such manner;” or “We are studying the concern and the current situation does not seem to be under the scope of a doctrinal need, therefore we are considering an administrative change in policy to allow for the situation to change;” ETC.

    There are MANY ways to handle a concern of a group of people. In my professional life, I do this all the time, and I find it silly to consider who is going to think I am caving in to pressure when I need to act regarding the discontent towards a situation being endured by my subordinates. Maybe I simply have a different expectation of what a leader should be.

  70. Analyzing President Hinckley’s words, doing my best at trying to avoid speculation as to what is going on in his mind, and considering this is a spontaneous answer which he didn’t necessarily prepare for, I find the following two statements rather interesting:

    “…The women of the church are not complaining about it. … I don’t hear any complaints about it.”

    Here one thing is clearly exposed. There is a gap when it comes to a venue to communicate concerns to the person in the planet holding the ultimate last word on an issue. The spontaneity of the answer is important because the precise word that comes to President Hinckley’s mind is “complain.” In his answer, “complain” does not seem to have a negative connotation immediately attached to it, rather, it seems as the venue he understands is available for him to be aware of concerns among the group in question.

    I find this very valuable, as this is what applies in the real here and now context. President Hinckley’s spontaneous reasoning as to how he is supposed to learn about a concern is the exact same manner this post deals with: complaining. Would there be a more adequate method as to how he is supposed to learn about the concern, he would probably have mentioned it.

    I want to further mention that the “complaining” I have seen so far within the church has not been inappropriate, crude, insulting or in any other way distasteful. Of all the methods one could protest or publicly voice a concern, the ones chosen seem to communicate they want to be listened, not just cause shock and divisions.

  71. Assuming President Hinkley was being candid, is there an official protocol per his observation for complaining so things are tallied and addressed? How would one go about lodging a complaint? What ramifications would it have today in light of our history, which includes the likes of those who’ve been disciplined or worse? Or is that apples and oranges?

  72. Well you have a few choices wreddyomot:

    1 – ask your stake president
    2 – ask a visiting authority during a stake conference Q&A
    3 – write a spam letter to an apostle

    If you can answer all the Temple Qs honestly there is nothing wrong with asking an honest question, you can’t be disciplined for that.

  73. I don’t think the written scriptural record is as clear as you perhaps think it is regarding what 21st century women can or cannot do in the church, given that the Lord reveals according to the conditions, culture, traditions, and the readiness of the people to receive

    Sonny, I don’t disagree with this at all. Because circumstances change so does prophetic counsel. Sometimes it is “go to Egypt because they have food” and sometimes it is “lets get the heck out of Egypt”. But sometimes what the conditions, culture, and traditions reveal is a hardness of heart and an unwillingness to accept what the prophet says; and so the Lord gives the law of Moses instead of the fulness of the gospel… We aren’t really wise enough to see it clearly, can we? So agitating that “we want something different” seems foolish to me since I don’t think anyone can say for sure that “different” wil be “better”. If he wants female priesthood holders, Great! – and I’m sure it will happen. But I’m pretty sure the Lord tells the President of His church and his Apostles, and has them tell the people, rather than telling people and having them inform the President and Apostles.

  74. 78 But I’m pretty sure the Lord tells the President of His church and his Apostles, and has them tell the people, rather than telling people and having them inform the President and Apostles.

    Well that’s the problem, contrary to common TBM belief, according to President Kimball the Lord doesn’t just “tell” the President of His church, the president has to ask! And it may take months of work on his knees to finally receive an answer.

    Tim Malone reporting on Elder Perry’s visit to his Sacrament meeting says Elder Perry answered the question “Have you ever seen an angel or the Savior?” with Elder Richards’ report of a pre 1983 manifestation of President Woodruff and the 1978 outpouring of the spirit regarding lifting the priesthood ban. And he said that the heavens only open on rare occasions. Nothing more recent than 30 years ago? Apparently not!!!

    Are the brethren inspired? I believe they are just as we can be but a conversational relationship with a member of the Godhead? That appears to have ended long ago. Today revelation must be sought and since it is a lot of work to receive something must motivate them to do the work necessary to receive it. Are they bothered by egalitarian issues? They don’t appear to be yet many of their members are. Feminists just want to ask Moses to seek an answer but unfortunately today’s Moses is unavailable and unreachable.

  75. This is a great post – probably one of the best that I’ve read – on the issues that women face in the church.

    As a woman in the church, of course I have thought long and hard about polygamy, priesthood, and other things. Yet when it comes to women holding the priesthood, I think that President Hinckley has correctly stated my sentiments. I haven’t complained. And I’m not sure I will. To be honest, I feel so overwhelmed already – with the roles and expectations of motherhood, I’m not sure I want to feel more burdens to bear. I know that it may sound like a cop-out, but it’s not.

    And as far as the power of the priesthood is concerned, I know that it infuses my life. Sister Beck said something in a talk once that I really liked, – don’t confuse the power of the priesthood with the authority to hold it. President Packer has also talked about this nuanced difference. As a member of the church who has covenanted with the Lord – in the waters of baptism and in the temple, the power of the priesthood infuses my life. It strengthens me – literally; it guards me and protects me. I guess that this is why I haven’t been all that worried about holding the priesthood.

    I also have a lot of faith in some of the promised blessings – I’m not sure what they mean, but I have a feeling that I’ll be happy to be a queen and a priestess.

    I love the idea you bring up with Zolephad’s daughters. And it is true – the Lord wants us to petition Him. This is how the entire restoration of the gospel was brought about.

    The pattern in the gospel is line upon line, precept upon precept. I wonder if some of the revelations we have seen in our church follow this same pattern. For example, during Joseph Smith’s time some people thought the Relief Society (though it didn’t give priesthood power to women) was proof that Joseph Smith and the church, at large, was a fraud. During that time feminism wasn’t widely accepted. Perhaps we, as a people and a church, needed our milk before our meat.

    Anyway – this comment is long, but I wanted to express my admiration for the tone of this post. I don’t agree with the way that some groups dissent. It is divisive. And I think that it really goes against the cause that they seek. I believe in the power of prayer. I think that if we are praying, our prayers will be heard by God people will be inspired. Women, close to the prophet, will be inspired. Our prayers will be answered. Additionally, we will be inspired. The Lord does teach us what to pray for, and if what we desire is good, then we will be prompted to continue to pray – even if a solution doesn’t seem possible. We can trust that the Lord will work in His way and hear our prayers.


  76. #74 Manuel,
    I pretty much agree with you despite the points in my post.

    #80 Catania,
    This brought up an interesting thought related more to women getting the priesthood and not women praying in GC. I’m not sure how to express it so here’s my best try. Catania doesn’t want the added responsibility of the priesthood. Right now that’s fine, she can be an upstanding member without it no problem.

    Apparently there are a large number of women who also don’t want that responsibility either. I don’t know what those numbers are now though but let’s say it’s a majority. There are a minority (but growing in my opinion) of women who do want the priesthood (OK it’s more nuanced then that but bear with me). If the priesthood were given now there would be a large number of women who don’t want or weren’t maybe ready to receive the priesthood yet who would now need to get it to be considered a full member in full activity.

    If we really are just a revelation away maybe we all need to drink a little more milk before we can get it?

  77. Quick side question: Does All Enlisted have a website? Or a way of contacting them/knowing who is organizing/heading the group up?

    And thanks for this, Julie. I’ve also been struggling about protesting, complaining, and revelation.

  78. Catania, your sentiments are the same that I hear from most women in the church – namely, that you do not desire the rights/responsibilities that come with the priesthood. I respect that. But I have to ask, do you extend the same privilege to the men of the church?

    I know a number of men who honestly do not desire the rights/responsibilities of the priesthood. They are fine serving in other ways and do not want the added burden (at least at this time). Yet the church handbook says we should encourage these men to accept the priesthood. And these men are adversely affected by their decision in ways that women are not because they cannot go to the temple without receiving the MP. Should men be discriminated against in this way just because they have the same (non)desires as women?

  79. 81 If the priesthood were given now there would be a large number of women who don’t want or weren’t maybe ready to receive the priesthood yet who would now need to get it to be considered a full member in full activity.

    This brings up a very good point and I think this it is a very real issue. But it could be easily addressed by offering the priesthood to women on a voluntary basis perhaps requiring it in high leadership callings thus allowing women to choose the level of church governance they wish to participate in. Time would then settle the issue without the pain of exclusion some now feel and I believe the body of the church would benefit from their perhaps representative but fully franchised voice.

  80. Re: 81 – If the time came that the Lord revealed through the prophet that women were to hold the priesthood, I would happily accept my duty. I love the Lord. I want to serve Him. I want to do all He requires – no matter what that is. I feel like there are many women who feel the same. I also do not think my “lack” of administering the authority of the priesthood diminishes my importance to God or His love of me (or other women, for that matter).

    Re: 83 – men are extended the same privileges women are in the church: namely: agency. For all of us, blessings are given according to the laws upon which they are predicated. The laws of sacrifice and consecration are real and bind Heavenly Father as much as they do us. No one is discriminated against. We all have our choice and will receive the appropriate consequence. The pattern is clear.

    I wouldn’t suggest men are “adversely affected” by their decision to hold the priesthood, as they enjoy many blessings associated with the choice. Sure, sacrifice is required, but as King Benjamin explains, as soon as we do sacrifice, the Lord blesses us – leaving us the unprofitable servants. The only one who runs at a deficit is God. We can never repay Him.

    These blessings that men enjoy – coming from Priesthood responsibility and service – are the blessings that many of the women who protest seem to be after. Despite this, I don’t think that women are “adversely affected” either. I have come to understand my role as a woman – even though I have a long way to go in achieving my potential. We, women, are also blessed, and often in ways that men can never experience or appreciate.

  81. Thanks Catania. I agree with most of what you say, particularly that we are always in the Lord’s debt. To clarify, I was not suggesting men are “adversely affected” when they choose to accept the priesthood; rather, they are so affected when they choose not to accept it. A man’s decision to decline the priesthood excludes him from the temple. A woman’s does not. That is discrimination. It may not be wrong. It may be very wise. But it is discrimination.

    I also agree that men receive many blessings through priesthood that they would not otherwise receive. But I disagree that women can receive those same blessings without taking on the same role. One cannot have it both ways. If women can receive all of the blessings of the priesthood by having equal access to the ordinances, even though they do not participate in the ordiances, then a man can do the same – receive the ordinances from another without receiving the priesthood himself. To say that exercising the priesthood brings something *more* to a man’s life is to admit that that something is missing from women’s lives.

    But I digress. My real question is whether a person’s desires should be a factor in determining their “role”. I read your post to suggest that you think they should. And I think President Hinckley agrees. Otherwise, why would he refer to women’s desires in discussing whether women should have the priesthood. So getting to your agency point, do we grant men the same agency as women? If a woman can say “I have enough on my plate with motherhood; I don’t want the burdens of the priesthood” can a man also say “I have enough on my plate with fatherhood; I don’t want the burdens of the priethood”?

  82. Well put Catania. In my estimation, the Spirit working through someone feels the same, no matter your gender or position. I know it is much more than semantics, but as an insensitive and oblivious man, that shared bond makes me too content to even consider things like this, regardless of their moral mandate.

  83. Dave –

    I actually agree with you on the point of women and men receiving blessings based on their roles. I will not understand the joy it is to baptize or bless a child. I probably didn’t explain myself well earlier.(you know…these “comments” aren’t always the greatest forum for this kind of discussion.) However:

    1) I am blessed with the power of the priesthood. I am not authorized to administer. These blessings we receive from the power of the priesthood (not from administering it, but having it administered to us) are the same for men and women – We are blessed by the priesthood when we are baptized. Without the priesthood, we wouldn’t have such an opportunity. The priesthood physically blesses me. It is in the marrow of my bones. It protects me from the power of the destroyer. All this, even though I don’t “bear” it. This is out of God’s mercy and my willingness to covenant with Him. Men are blessed in the same way. They are also recipients of the priesthood power. They cannot administer these ordinances to themselves, but, like women, must be baptized by another. It is in this sense that I think we are experiencing similar blessings.

    2) I recognize that I do not experience the blessing or responsibility to bear the priesthood. Yet, as a woman, I know that men do not understand, experience, or receive the blessings that are uniquely “feminine”. (I don’t mean this in a girl-y way, but in a way that denotes blessings given to each of us based on our roles and duties). There is a closeness I have to Heavenly Father and to my children that will never be experienced by any man, no matter what Priesthood he holds, and this is a real blessing for me. I know that people have a problem with Motherhood being the “answer” to priesthood, but maybe it is good to remember that Eve was called the “mother of all living” long before any child came along. This is why I don’t think that women are “adversely affected” by not administering in the priesthood – not because they can experience the same exact blessings or satisfaction as a man does in His duties, but because we, women, have our own duties, uniquely ours, that Heavenly Father blesses us for.

    As far as desire/motherhood/priesthood/fatherhood…Well, have a feeling that many women might be okay with taking on priesthood if they were assured that a man/father could take on the role and duties a woman has. But this seems neither likely nor possible. While it is only anecdotal evidence, I know many women who work, and have thus taken on the role of co-provider, who are married to husbands that don’t seem to fully pull an equal load as far as motherhood/nurturing children goes. They may contribute more than the “mad-men” era father did, but still there are so many situations where women are working, making appointments, signing kids up for sports, coordinating schedules, making dinners, wiping bums, bearing children, staying home with sick children, etc. I understand this is a broad statement, and there may be exceptions, but I have a feeling that many women in the church feel that if they took on the priesthood then that would be one more thing they were expected to do, and that it would result in many men shrinking from their duties. Just a guess that this is the source of women’s “lack of desire”…they would probably ask, “If I put one more thing on my plate, what would be left on the man’s plate?” (btw…I recognize that not all men are selfish jerks, I happen to be married to a super helpful, caring, nurturing man. So i hesitate in making a broad statement. But I really think that at the heart of why many women aren’t clamoring to hold the priesthood is because they already have heavy duties that are equivalent in importance and difficulty to the responsibilities of the priesthood. Some women may wonder Would the work then be fairly redistributed?)

  84. When my daughters discussed this, one said she didn’t want the possibility of being Bishop, but when the other asked if she would like to be involved in the blessing, baptising, confirmation, etc of her children, or join with her husband in blessing sick children, she did.

    Most men are not bishops etc, but exercise their P”hood in their family. The handbook specifically excludes non p’hood holders from joining in any of these family spiritual activities. This is where most women, like most men, would be exercising their p;hood.

  85. #43 and Jax,

    Actually, women DO exercise the Priesthood. They do so in the Temple; as women perform washings and annointings for other women there.

    Its also important to note that past prophets have stated that women SHARE the priesthood with their husbands. Up until the 1950s, women regularly annointed and administered to the sick.

    Consider this:
    “someone apparently reported to Joseph that the women were laying their hands on the sick and blessing them. His reply to the question of the propriety of such acts was simple. He told the women in the next meeting “there could be no evil in it, if God gave his sanction by healing.., there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water.” He also indicated that there were SISTERS WHO WERE ORDAINED to heal the sick and it was their privilege to do so. “If the sisters should have faith to heal,” he said, “let all hold their tongues.”6

    I would encourage you to read this article and the accompanying links:


    It’s quite fascinating, and it will become clear to you that the intention of Joseph Smith was that women would be more involved in ecclesiastical matters, and that over time these practices and privelges were changed or done away with. That is one of the issues driving Mormon feminist requests that current practices be reexamined.

  86. Its limited scope. Right now this is only done in the Temple. It used to be done outside the Temple, and women had a greater role. Spiritual priveleges and authority for women have been systematically reduced over time, coming to a peak in the 1950s (I think) when women were told they could not pray in Sacrament meeting.

    Read the links – they explain it better than I can.

  87. Neal, I knew a few “old” Mormon families that still engaged in those practices. And quite bluntly, not one of those elderly women (they are all gone now) would EVER claim they had priesthood authority. They viewed it as a spiritual gift or being set apart within the Relief Society. Their prayers were prayers of faith. They never did anything by the authority of the priesthood.

  88. Perhaps those families, at the point where the practice was ending, felt that way; but if you read the materials I linked to it is not clear if that was always the case. Especially the earliest accounts linked to what Joseph Smith said (Eliza R. Snow was pretty outspoken about it). That also does not explain what happens in the Temple, where women routinely perform ordinances. Are you saying that isn’t by the authority of the priesthood??

  89. To me, though, there is a slippery slope from “sharing” the priesthood through a temple sealing, to “sharing” it through the endowment, to using it outright anywhere and with anyone.

  90. Or ordaining Young Women to the Aaronic Priesthood – I’ve known of bishops pressured to do just that.

  91. John,

    The ‘sharing’ in the Temple is not just participating in ordinances – its administering them.

    And the whole point is that women used to perform ordinances outside the Temple. Why not now? Why can’t women get that back? They were allowed to for 100 years.

  92. Temple ordinances used to be performed outside the temple too. And priesthood and temple ordinances used to be off-limits to whole classes of people. And hymns used to be sung while the sacrament was being passed. (Heck, speakers used to pause while sacrament prayers were said.) Maybe those who were (and are) sustained as prophets, seers and revelators over the years knew something, grasped something that we still don’t. (But don’t get me started on those who say things went downhill after _________ died, etc. or that we do or have _________ because the Saints wouldn’t listen, a la Samuel giving Israel a king.)

    I will grant that the path the Church has taken over time hasn’t been a straight one. Too many seem to choose to throw sand in the machine rather than try to grasp the big picture. That is nothing new, unfortunately. (I’m still trying to grasp it myself – but I’m grateful for what we have.)

  93. caveat: I have not, and will not, read all 90+ comments made before I write this. I simply don’t have time–I wish I did!

    I really like the story of Zelophehad’s Daughters. I would love to see the possibility of this kind of direct dialogue between those of us in the church hurt by its current structure and policies and the prophet. But how do you suggest that actually happen? There is no mechanism in place for such a direct dialogue between lay-level members hurt by policy/practice and the prophet. Or even the general authorities. Letters are sent back to Stake Presidents. There is layer after layer of mid-level bureaucracy between lay membership and the prophet and quorum of the twelve, a bureaucracy that, whether by design or by default, tends to reinforce the status quo while dismissing dissent.

    It seems to me that respectful public dissent is just about the only mechanism for a lay member to make her voice heard when her voice is speaking words of dissent and hurt and a desire for change. Yes she can speak directly to God. And yes hopefully God will prompt the prophet to consider these issues. But it seems the prophet needs to know the question is out there, the need for change is felt, before he will think to ask for it. What better mechanism do we have for speaking so the prophet can hear than vocal, public, respectful dissent?

  94. Thanks, Julie! I really appreciate the way you honestly share your experience.

    For what it’s worth, I think that most public dissent (complaining) stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Church in Heavenly Father’s plan. That may sound harsh, and I could probably find a way to express this idea better, but probably not in any succinct way. Ultimately, it boils down to my ability to trust the Heavenly Father is at least as concerned about his Children as I am and that He has sufficient power to act in their benefit. So, if I find myself wanting a change that I cannot personally influence through long-suffering, gentleness, and persuasion, I’m probably heading in the wrong direction. Even if it seems to be a fully righteous desire.

    This position doesn’t have to trivialize individual pain stemming from imperfect individuals or the Church as an institution. In fact, I think it provides the most sensitive way to honor that suffering. When I recognize that mortality is going to suck, and that the Church and it’s Leaders are part of mortality, I open myself up to the compensatory power of the Atonement. When I recognize that even Church leaders are going to make mistakes, whether from weakness or sin, I can accept that Christ’s Atonement has to cover them as well. Rather than minimizing or dismissing (or even worse, perpetuating) my pain, I can bring every last bit of it to Christ and allow Him to heal me. More than just taking the pain away, this process allows me to grow more than I would have otherwise.

  95. @ Neal (94):

    “…if you read the materials I linked to it is not clear if that was always the case.”

    So you want the Brethren to set church ordinances based upon someone’s interpretation on what Eliza R. Snow said?

    Let’s have faith that there are modern prophets… Since 1830, I am pretty sure that the idea of the priesthood ordination of women has been mentioned to the Brethren more than once.

  96. Suleiman, you’re on a tear today! Running from post to post putting women and those who would speak kindly of them in their proper place. You must feel mighty gastonish today!

  97. Yeah, belief in modern prophets and the Christ is the head of this Church is “gastonish.” But the goal of feminism isn’t kindness towards or respect for either gender. It is absolute equality or “sameness.”

  98. Yeah, because “belief in modern prophets and the Christ is the head of this Church” requires having only men pray, providing no divine model for women, and — most of all — spending four times as much on boys so they can have filled up bandelos.

    Yeah, and making sure no one talks about anything you don’t like. Equality, for example.

    P.S. I’m ready to hear you disparage all those who QUESTIONED why blacks didn’t have the priesthood. Like, ahem, Jeffrey Holland, who did it from the time he was young.

  99. Ahhh… if you feminists would only question the way Elder Holland questioned. You know, powerfully… privately and in prayer.

  100. How do you know we don’t?

    Suleiman, I’m 48 years old. Do you know how long I’ve actually been speaking “publicly” on these issues that have bothered me since I was 4 years old? Praying privately may not be the entire answer for everyone. Who are you to say whether others have personal inspiration that says speaking up is the right thing to do?

    Go ahead and pray how you like, but don’t set yourself up to dictate to others how and when they speak on issues of importance to them. You have no stewardship over anyone here that I can see.

    You repeatedly, in thread after thread, have ignored reminders about something important. Almost all revelation is the result of questions by those in authority. Those with authority to receive revelation from the church pray about issues they KNOW about. And if they don’t know about the problems people encounter, they aren’t likely to ask. They have enough problems they DO know about that they don’t spend much time digging around for those that they’ve never seen addressed.

    Changes in the endowment and initiatory were the result of direct input from regular people. So were changes in the garment. (BTW, how many GAs or even GA wives are worried about the fit of nursing garments today?)

    You seem to believe you have myriad connections to the upper echelons of church authority (I mean, you claim your GRANDMA served!), but do you know that the church actually, regularly gathers focus groups to get feedback ABOUT ISSUES THEY HEAR BEING DISCUSSED? And by “hear,” I don’t mean that the by having visions about what people pray privately about.

    I’m glad Joseph didn’t tell Emma to shut her trap and go to her closet to pray about the mess at the school of the prophets. Good thing it wasn’t you in charge.

    Peace out.

Comments are closed.