Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of the Ordain Women Movement

It’s hard to know the future, but I will hazard a prediction: the Ordain Women project will fail. If I understand its ambitions correctly, Ordain Women would define success as an announcement that the prophet, having followed the invitation of these faithfully agitating sisters, has gone to the Lord and has received a revelation that women are to be ordained to the priesthood. I don’t know if women will ever be ordained to the priesthood, but I would be shocked if this was to happen while any institutional breath breathed in the Ordain Women movement.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that for pragmatic reasons Church leaders do not want to change basic doctrines or practices in response to what they see as attempts to publically embarrass the Church over its basic doctrines and practices. Doing so creates an incentive for others to seek to publically embarrass the Church. I suspect that Church leaders also worry that changing basic doctrines and practices in the face of public pressure erodes the moral authority of the Church if it is seen as another institution that can be pushed about by savvy political operators.

The second reason, I believe, is far more important. I think that the members of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are utterly sincere in carrying out their callings. I think that they do not regard the Church as theirs. They do not feel that they are at liberty to alter core doctrines or practices. They must be convinced of new revelation before announcing such changes. However, I suspect that in most instances the phenomenology of prophetic revelation is much like the phenomenology of the revelations claimed by ordinary members. It is a matter of prayer, pondering, and an intense inward scrutiny of one’s soul for the traces of the Spirit, that interruption of the divine from beyond one’s self. I think that the prophet is genuinely concerned that he not mistake his own judgment or longings or fears for the Spirit. I suspect therefore that it is psychologically and spiritually very difficult for the prophet to accept a revelation commanding that he “give in” to pressure while the pressure is mounting. I suspect that the fear of mistaking cowardice for revelation in such situations makes it very nearly impossible for the prophet to accept a revelation in such a situation.

In support of my theory, I offer two examples. The first is Wilford Woodruff’s decision to issue the Manifesto in 1890. If you read Woodruff’s diary from this period, I think it is clear that the decision tortured him. He was forced by the direst legal necessity – the impending annihilation of the institutional Church and the loss of the temples – to act, but he worried that what he heard was his own fears not the whispering of the Spirit. Indeed, I think that the history of post-Manifesto polygamy occurred because the revelation that Woodruff received was minimalist. It was the least possible retreat from polygamy consistent with the survival of the Church. He simply couldn’t feel any authorization from the Spirit to do anything more. In part, I think that this is precisely because he was acting under such extreme duress.

The second example is David O. McKay. President McKay was troubled by the racial priesthood ban. He wanted the doctrine and practice to change, and on numerous occasions he reported to intimates going to the Lord and seeking a revelation on the matter. He reported that he was unable to feel any answer from the Spirit. To my knowledge he never provided a detailed account of his own internal dialogue in those prayers and the examination of his own soul for the traces of the Spirit that must have been involved. I suspect, however, that part of what inhibited his receiving a revelation was, ironically, his very desire that such a revelation be given. As a man sincerely convinced that it was not his Church to do with as he saw fit, I suspect that he feared above all else mistaking his desire for God’s word.

If I am right about this, I suspect it means that if a revelation on women and the priesthood was ever to come it would come – like the revelation on blacks and the priesthood – after the public Sturm und Drang has ceased. This is why I believe that the Ordain Women movement will fail. That said, I suspect that it will have a positive influence on the Church in this sense: It places pressure on Church practices around gender. I don’t think it will move the issue on priesthood ordination because I believe that practice is central and seen as non-negotiable in the absence of special revelation. On the other hand, the Ordain Women movement – if it survives for a substantial period of time – will likely cause a lot of thinking about what is central and non-negotiable and what is not. In that thinking, I suspect that we are likely to see pragmatic attempts to increase the status and participation of women in Church government in ways that can be accommodated without priesthood ordination.

I’ve no idea if there will ever be a revelation commanding the ordination of women. I will, however, hazard a bet that so long as the Ordain Women movement uses general conference to generate media events, no such revelation will be forthcoming.

166 comments for “Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of the Ordain Women Movement

  1. Amen. I particularly agree with your second point. The brethren are completely sincere. I’m so tired of the old “they’re trying to pull one over on us argument.” your assessment of ordain woman is very fair.

  2. “It places pressure on Church practices around gender….the Ordain Women movement….will likely cause a lot of thinking about what is central and non-negotiable and what is not.”

    This is the salient point. OW is forcing us to think about how we think of men, women and gender identity going all the way back to Nauvoo, at least.

    Your example of President McKay is on point, especially if we contrast his experience with President Kimball’s. It is my belief that Official Declaration 2 was only possible in a post-Lester Bush world. Despite Pres. McKay’s good intentions, the necessary brainwork and legwork had not yet been done. He was “taking no thought, save to ask” and therefore he was incapable of receiving revelation on behalf of the church.

    Ordain Women is helping us start to ask the right questions. In my book, that counts as a solid win.

  3. Mark B. “Ordain Women is helping us start to ask the right questions. In my book, that counts as a solid win.”


  4. Regardless of whether they get the credit, many important developments have happened in the short time period OW has existed. First, members can now visualize the faces of upstanding members who support ordination. It’s harder to dismiss someone who is smiling. Second, discourse from salt lake has materially changed. There is now consistent rhetoric regarding the fact that men are not “the priesthood.” Church leaders no longer set out reasons for the exclusion of women; they simply say “we don’t know.” And church leaders and the PR department have made clear that members who desire ordination, and even those who speak in its favor, are very welcome in the church. For the first time in forever, I’m starting to hear actual dialogue on the subject in church hallways (unfortunatey, not yet in gospel doctrine class). So whether OW still exists when the war is won, they have been a significant part of many advances. Thank you.

  5. Nate, I also largely agree with the logic of your post. Female ordination will take many years. It will also cost us wonderful members. It seems that all progress has cost. Darius Gray is a strong member today. But Lester Bush is not. In my cynical view, this change will happen for the same underlying reason that befell previous change to what had been taught as a divine practice (polygamy and the racial ban); namely, we will be forced into it by internal pressure. The church faced an existential crisis in 1890. Internally, leaders and members supported change. The church faced an impossible future in Brazil in 1979. Internally,leaders and members supported change.

    The church has been plodding alone with zero growth for years now. Numbers are starting to go negative. Internally, leaders and members are warming to the idea of women taking on more leadership. Witness the missionary age change. As more women show their leadership abilities in the world (careers), as more women have time available (longer lives and fewer children), as fewer men step up to the plate (greater burden to be the sole provider), and as the numbers continue to be weak, pressure will grow within a tired leadership to better utilize our good sisters. First as clerks, eventually as bishops. As members get a taste for women’s participation in performing ordinances (we are beginning to see support for women to give children blessings, just as they did historically), members will begin to desire their participation in baptism, the sacrament, and all other ordinances. Internally, hearts will change. Here’s hoping the Kate Kelly and her friends are blessed with patience and long life.

  6. Nate, by this logic, one would be obliged to conclude that the Genesis Group failed, that Darius Gray failed, that Margaret Young failed, etc.–that all of the above, to use your words, may have had a “positive influence on the Church,” but nonetheless, strictly speaking, failed. Which, I think, is a frankly stupid conclusion to come to. You could, I suppose, respond that Genesis, Gray, et al, did not constitute an organized and unified and singularly focused interest group with explicitly stated “ambitions,” but rather a collection of individuals and associations that merely shared broad social and historical concerns and hence did not present the kind of psychologically complicating “public pressure” to the leadership of the church–and thus perhaps truly could be said to have “succeeded” or “had an effect” with the 1978 priesthood change, or the 2013 statement of race, whereas OW, because of their institutional make-up, could not, at some future point, should women receive the priesthood, be so described. But if that is your response, I suggest that your political understanding of how and why groups organize, articulate their influence among both amongst their members and through those they interact with, and use direct action spread influence further, is somewhat limited. I’m not saying that every protest group everywhere always makes a difference; I am saying that the direct challenging of those in authority makes a far greater difference in the agenda upon which decisions are made–even, I think, by leaders within a church with a pious, authoritarian gerontocracy at its head–than you’re giving it credit for.

  7. I agree that things have to come in their own time. I also agree that if the leaders don’t actually do some heavy pondering it is unlikely anything will change in any important area. I don’t know what will happen in my lifetime, if anything at all, but I find it terribly sad and demeaning that women can’t even run their own organization without the authority of a man over them and that a woman who is CEO of a multi-national corporation or a general in the military would still have to get a man’s okay to do anything significant in the church.

  8. While your first reason is likely spot on, it should cause concern and it inherently contradicts your second reason. If the Brethren delay or avoid listening to divine promptings for fear that it may weaken their authority, you have an organization that is no longer led by the divine. Fear of losing authority seems to indicate a lack of faith of whose church this is.

  9. Piggybacking on Russell’s remark, and the election of Darius Gray as 2013 Mormon of the Year, I hereby nominate OW to receive the award in 2028.

  10. The idea that overt public pressure on LDS leaders does not produce change may have been true in the past, but it may not necessarily be true today. Consider the more recent example of the Bott affair, which was embarrassing (front page of the NYT) and did produce an immediate and positive response from the Church (a clear and direct repudiation of racist folklore of the type repeated by Bott was posted at within 48 hours). That, after decades of less public, less embarrassing suggestions by concerned Latter-day Saints that such a repudiation was needed.

    A related question is why Church leadership finds it so difficult to undertake even minor positive change in practice or doctrine when there is no public pressure. It’s not so much that public pressure is ineffective at producing change as that nothing seems to be effective at producing change.

  11. Nate, regarding David O. Mckay: I gathered from my reading of the Prince biography that he stopped pushing because he couldn’t find unanimity in the Quorum of the Twelve on the subject. The Edward Kimball article shows that unanimity was one of Spencer Kimball’s biggest concerns (and efforts) as well. You’re right about the external pressure part: President Kimball didn’t want to give the appearance of bowing to it, and almost deliberately waited until that pressure had eased a bit. But as Dave K. suggested above, internal pressure mattered too: a lot of believers, maybe most in areas where it mattered most, wanted things to change, and that surely had an impact.

  12. “On the other hand, the Ordain Women movement – if it survives for a substantial period of time – will likely cause a lot of thinking about what is central and non-negotiable and what is not.”

    God willing, they may even succeed in assuaging the felt need for bright young Mormon men to offer shallow, yet painfully condescending explanations of things Mormon feminists have known for decades.

  13. OW is already a success!

    …after the public Sturm und Drang has ceased.. Isn’t interesting given all the time that passed OD2 did not arrive before the Sturm und Drang began? That’s because LDS prophets were blind to their own bias and they bought into the folklore spued by their predecessors leaving them reactive instead of proactively leading. Bias is often mostly subconscious OW serves to raise that bias to a conscious level allowing it to be reconsidered and in doing so provides a worndeful service for all of humankind!

  14. Yeah, it has all been said above, but Nate, you have an exceptionally narrow definition of winning.

    Kris FTW.

  15. I agree with most of the other commentators. In my book, Ordain Women is already succeeding, because it has so many people talking about the multitude of serious gender issues we have in the Church. But then, I am more interested in solving gender issues than in ordaining women to the Priesthood per se.

  16. Russell: I’ve no doubt that folks get involved in collective action for lots of reasons and with lots of hopes and ambitions. I don’t really have much of a dog in the fight over whether we use the term “success” or “failure” for the impact that OW may have. I thought I was defining success in terms of the publicly stated goals of the organization. My main question is why it is the we don’t see revelations in response to overt public pressure, even in cases where we do ultimately see revelations. If there is any value added in this post (and perhaps there is not), it’s in my theory about the phenomenology and psychology of prophetic revelation.

    Kristine: I am not being condescending to all Mormon feminists, only you ;->. Clearly, I am less well informed on what Mormon feminists have known for years than are you, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them make this particular argument about the psychological constraints on revelation. The arguments I have seen have focused on either concerns about public credibility or arguments about the blindness created by male privilege. I am suggesting a psychological mechanism that is somewhat different than the the psychological mechanism of male privilege. I am fine conceding, however, that psychology is complicated and there are lots of different forces at work. I suspect that what’s got your goat here is my use of the term “failure.” Mea culpa maxima.

    Craig H: Clearly there were a lot of factors at play in the run up to the 1978 revelation. Unanimity was a concern, but David O. McKay also repeatedly said that he just didn’t feel that he’d received a revelation on the matter. What interests me is the psychological/spiritual/phenomenological dynamic at issue in that absence. I freely concede that my theory here is entirely speculative.

    Dave: I don’t know why change is so difficult. I suspect that it’s a combination of bureaucracy, centralization, and fear by the highest leadership that they will mess things up.

  17. True, Nate, but SWK didn’t get THE revelation until there was unanimity, was my poorly-stated point. He felt pushed to get it, but he wasn’t going to force the other members of the 12 to his view, and in fact seemed to work very hard in the manner of longsuffering, persuasion, love unfeigned, etc.. Perhaps the sense of non-unanimity was the key to the psychological/spiritual/phenomenological dynamic of DOM not pushing it harder, was what I should have said. Not enough internal pressure, in other words, not enough internal sentiment in favor, yet, in that body.

  18. Craig H.: Perhaps you are right. It may be that SWK thought that a revelation would force unanimity and DOM didn’t think that it would. I don’t think, however, that there was unanimity in favor of rejecting the ban in 1978 just waiting for a revelation. Indeed, if I recall correctly several very conservative members of the Q12 were not present at the original meeting where the revelation was presented, and were in effect presented with a fait accompli — i.e. the FP and the rest of the 12 lined up behind the revelation — when they got back to SLC. (It’s been a while since I looked at this; so I freely concede my memory may be off here.)

  19. Dave K.: One quick quibble with your comments. The abandonment of polygamy was incredibly wrenching. It’s true that there were many members in 1890 that hoped the church would abandon the practice but there were also many members who had plural families to whom they felt obligated and who had suffered greatly the principle. These folks did not easily accept the Manifesto. Indeed the Manifesto did not end polygamy in large part because of this. The final end of polygamy in the wake of the Smoot Hearings required the excommunication of an apostle, dropping another from the Q12, and generated schisms that exist to this day and command the loyalty of thousands of people. I don’t think that it makes sense to see it as primarily about internal pressure rather than massive external pressure.

  20. the FP and the rest of the 12 lined up behind the revelation. So in the modern church the brethren vote to accept or reject revelation?

  21. 26 And it came to pass that Enoch journeyed in the land, among the people; and as he journeyed, the aSpirit of God descended out of heaven, and abode upon him.

    27 And he heard a avoice from heaven, saying: bEnoch, my son, cprophesy unto this people, and say unto them—Repent, for thus saith the Lord: I am dangry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed ehard, and their fears are dull of hearing, and their eyes gcannot see afar off;

  22. RAF: I can’t tell you what Margaret Blair Young was doing in the 1970s, but I suspect that nobody else can either–since her life was full enough during that decade to be involved in any significant way with the Genesis Group.

    Second, the Genesis Group was organized under the direction of the leadership of the church. And its purpose was not, as I recall, to agitate for a change in the priesthood ban. And it didn’t, at least not in public. What Bro. Bridgeforth or the others said in their private meetings with church leaders is beyond my ken.

    As others have said elsewhere in much greater detail, the public criticism of the church over the priesthood ban had largely died down by the late 1970s, compared to the noisy protests of the late 1960s. All other considerations aside, that change allowed President Kimball a space in which to seek revelation on the priesthood free from apparent outward agitation for a change.

  23. Howard: As I understand the procedure, the revelation was presented first to the FP by SWK, then to the Q12, then to the other general authorities, and then to the general membership of the Church. At each stage, people were asked to accept the revelation or not. In the past, all members of the Q12 of the twelve have not always accepted all revelations or actions by the FP. John W. Taylor and Mathias Cowley both resigned from the Q12 rather than accept the abandonment of plural marriage, and Joseph F. Smith ultimately excommunicated one of them, John W. Taylor, as a result. I am assuming that if the prophet comes to the Q12 with a “thus saith the Lord” revelation there is huge pressure for the Q12 to fall into line, but these are very strong willed men, men who have often worked closely with one another for decades, may lack a sense of awe toward the president of the church, and in some cases have roughly equal amounts of high church service. I suspect that they cannot be expected to “rubber stamp” a revelation if they are not convinced of it’s truth.

  24. Russell and Kristine: If I amend the first sentence to “the Ordain Women project will fail in its stated ambition” are we good?

  25. I think it is interesting that so many people assume that the brethren are worried about not caving in and saving face and only doing the right thing if it appears like it was their own idea. These do not seem like Christ-like qualities to me. Christ was responsive to the people he served, including women. Christ always did the right thing, instead of worrying about appearances. I hope the brethren are seeking to emulate these Christ-like qualities.

  26. Mark B,
    D&C 107 addresses decisions made by the quorm. We stretch this to have men vote to accept what God says? And lacking unanimity we time the vote for selected absenses? Sounds more like a political tactics than a divine revelation.

  27. I think it extremely strategic that ordain women picked a task that they knew they couldn’t accomplish. It extends the duration of their ability to gather people concerned with gender fairness over time.

    The political analogy would be prayer in school and antiabortion in the Republican Party. Next to no progress has been made on those issues but it created a wedge issue to align political identities.

    The interesting aspect to me will be the effect on the people who are not at all in favor of gender equality in the church. What role will the reactionary forces take in coalescing around the opposite positions.

    I don’t know that the lds church has good ways to assimilate diversity on these issues. Over time the church has become more and more made up of people who want clear masers and authoritative positions.

    If ordain women creates a permanent divisive force but avoids sanction it will have changed the church much more than if women are ordained.

    The other interesting thing about your historical examples is the role of overt political pressure outside the church.

    Fortunes may change but it is easy to imagine the us not having another conservative president for 20 or more years totally remaking the judiciary and the political environment in the USA.

    If this new environment takes on equal rights as a new focus that could produce the same level of pressure faced by willford woodruff.

    Additionally privacy seems likely to be further eroded. Every financial and personal act of the church has a much greater likelihood of becoming part of the public record. This whole dynamic has changed significantly what authority can accomplish.

  28. Sorry for my inept fumbling of the keyboard which posted the Moses reference above.

    To finish:

    The blindness and deafness of the people that prompted the calling of Enoch is exactly the same affliction that plagues us today.

    The faithless fear that paralyzes the leadership in order to maintain the illusion of being independent of the desires and prayers and petitions of the membership of the church, would be moot, if our leadership acted prophetically and instead of always showing up to the party late with a sheepish “gee wiz how did we miss that one” grin (see polygamy and blacks and the priesthood) and instead lived up the charge in section 107:

    91 And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses—

    92 Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.

    Furthermore, if we as lay members of the church did our part by “upholding them with our confidence, faith and prayers” D&C 107:22 instead of spending energy reminding each other to lower our expectations of the prophets (see Nathaniel’s post today)thus eroding the faith of the same, and furthermore if we importuned God as the woman did the unjust judge as we have been encouraged to do in two different tomes of scripture, perhaps the Church and Kingdom of God would truly be a stone cut without hands and would be dramatically transforming the world in anticipation of Zion returning from heaven and a day of peace and rest for the earth and for all that long for that day.

    But alas I am consigned that these are my days and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow…

  29. If ordain women creates a permanent divisive force but avoids sanction it will have changed the church much more than if women are ordained..

    Very interesting observation! But don’t say it too loudly we don’t want to wake the sanctioning Pharisees.

  30. Exponent II April: I don’t think it is about saving face per se. I don’t think that the psychological mechanism is a fear of embarrassment in admitting some mistake. I think it’s a matter of worrying that the moral authority of the Church is fragile, and trying to figure out the best way of husbanding that moral authority so as to do good things in the world. This requires judgments and tradeoffs. The second, and more important constraint, I suspect, is a genuine fear of doing the wrong thing, of caving into pressure because they were too weak to stand up for God’s teachings when it became unpopular. You may believe that they are substantively mistaken in their judgments about both what husbands moral authority and about what violates God’s teachings, but I suspect that ego is not really what’s driving it. (Of course I could be wrong. No one is a paragon and everyone is motivated by ego some of the time.)

  31. Nate, your description of revelation and change in the church is a generous one. And persuasive. It’s easy for me to accept that church leadership is completely sincere and that they see themselves as short-term stewards. I believe the leadership of the church wants nothing more than to “get it right,” and no doubt they struggle mightily with that charge.

    Will church leadership be influenced by groups like OW? Who knows. But, I’m just an ordinary member, and I’ve been influenced by them. I have two daughters. I’ve sat in sacrament meeting with the male bishopric elevated and at the head of the congregation. I’ve thought about my daughters while the young men bless and pass the sacrament. When I see a group like OW publicly express that women should be ordained, it makes me hopeful for my daughters. So, for what it’s worth, OW was successful in influencing an ordinary dad in Idaho.

  32. Nate (#22), First, thank you for responding to everyone’s comments. It’s a lot of work. I fully agree with your addition to the historical record. 1890-1910ish was an existential crises precisely because we were so invested in the practice (both doctrinally and practically). Many people were hurt spiritually and temporally by the change. The point I wanted to make was that, despite the real cost, the majority of church leadership came to embrace the change because of internal pressure. External pressure was not sufficient, though it was arguably a driver of some of the internal pressure. In like manner, female ordination will not happen so much because of external pressures as it will from internal (both from women’s desire for more blessings/responsibilities and men’s realization that the work will stagnate until we let women preside too). And for the record, I consider OW to be internal pressure. It is an organization of insiders – our fellow sisters (and a few brothers).

    On a related note, I would also amend my prior comments to add one more important work done by OW: they have moved the goalposts. Because they are willing to ask for everything, those women who ask for less are now viewed as acceptable, even conservative. As one example, the T&S sidebar links to a blog by Fiona Givens in which she expresses public support for (i) women giving blessings of healing to their families and other women, (ii) RS having sole stewardship over its finances and manuals, and (iii) women taking the lead on hymn selection. 20 years ago, those views could lead to a disciplinary council. Now they fail to raise an eyebrow.

  33. I’ve read all the comments so far, and it seems like everyone thinks that eventually women will be ordained, and are now basically talking about how the church politics of that will play out.

    Am I alone in thinking that women will never be ordained?

  34. Dear Nate–the set of “The arguments [you] have seen” is not coextensive with “the arguments that have been made.”

    I don’t have a goat in this fight; I largely agree with you. I’m merely annoyed that you think you’re being clever.

  35. Jax,

    Nate’s premise was not soon, but it is astounding how little you hear, the never, ever, ever that you would have heard before. Your church is different than it used to be.

  36. The orthodox want to frame the tension as being between what God has designed and progressive demands. By that isn’t where the tension lies. God is evolving humankind to higher levels of awareness and compassion for one another. Some get it others don’t (yet). Today particularly in the South one can still find bigotry politely or occultly expressed, yet much of the developed world experienced their race enlightenment and moved on. The church remains stuck in the 1950s where dispite polyanna appearances there are many underlying problems including the brethern’s average collective view of who women are and what their role should be. So the tension actually lies between differing levels of consciousness rather than diferent political ideologies.

  37. I know the church is different; far removed from the ultra-conservative roots. And I realize that “never” is a long time. But I still don’t think it happens. And I don’t know that I’d be opposed if it did happen. I just don’t think that it ever will. I think the male-only ordination is as eternal as God.

  38. the brethern’s average collective view of who women are and what their role should be. So the tension actually lies between differing levels of consciousness rather than diferent political ideologies.

    I think this view forgets to calculate HOW those brethren get to be “the brethren”. They are chosen and selected by Christ for their positions. I think it very likely that their views on topics are MUCH closer to the view Christ has then the view of the uber-conscious among us. Their view of who women are and what their role is, is probably much better than ours.

  39. Perhaps Jax but they are also saddled with defending the folklore taught by those selected by Christ who proceeded them. This places them in a lagging and reactive position.

  40. Nate (#28),

    If I amend the first sentence to “the Ordain Women project will fail in its stated ambition,” are we good?

    I suppose we’d be more in agreement, except that I’m still curious as to why you assume that your definition of Ordain Women–an organization that conceives of its own success in terms of the leader of the church “receiv[ing] a revelation that women are to be ordained to the priesthood”–is exhaustive. Because I really don’t think it is. From the first page of the Ordain Women website (in 36 point type!):

    “Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”

    Do they clearly communicate that they, as a group, collectively believe that the ordination of women to the priesthood is needful? Yes. Do they then state that as their goal, as both individual members and as a group? No, they do not. So what do they state as their goal? To “create a space” wherein people concerned about “gender inequality” in the church can make the case for why they (the people concerned about gender inequality) think there is a “need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood,” and not feel isolated and thus “hesitant” in doing so.

    Splitting hairs? Possibly. But then, sometimes close readings are necessary.

  41. I agree with OP. I can’t see the LDS church ordaining women in the near future, and especially not in direct response to groups like OW. I also can’t imagine the Ordain Women types staying active for very long. I get the sense that those that are free-thinking enough to demand that the LDS leaders give them the priesthood are probably free-thinking enough to question the authority of the LDS leaders and the validity of their religious claims altogether.

  42. “I’m merely annoyed that you think you’re being clever.”

    Fair enough. Just think of how more annoyed you are when I actually am clever.

  43. saddled with defending the folklore taught by those selected by Christ who proceeded them.

    But again, those who proceeded them were selected by Christ, and therefore their view on women and women’s role(s) are probably very similar (if not identical) to what Christ’s view is. Unless you think Christ is selecting people who are out of harmony with His views, then we will always end up at this point.

  44. “Unless you think Christ is selecting people who are out of harmony with His views,”

    You mean humans?

  45. Howard,

    Even if we are evolving to higher levels of consciousness, it does seem fair to say that we are devolving in some pretty significant ways at the same time, particularly relative to family, community and decency.

  46. Steve Smith,

    You said: I also can’t imagine the Ordain Women types staying active for very long.

    The fascinating and new aspect of this is that they may be grounded enough as LDS people that they feel that they are the true inheritors of the restoration. They don’t have a strong incentive to leave if they see the church leaders as caretakers until they can assume leadership of the church. Obviously, people don’t usually want access to a power or a role with no desire to exercise the power and authority of the role.

    For a true believing latter day saint, they don’t view the church as co-extensive with the leadership of the church. It just wouldn’t make any sense to leave a church because it had misguided leaders if one believed fully in the church as a God’s church.

  47. Jax, substute their view on blacks for their view on women’s roles and you will see what I mean. Being selected be Christ didn’t make the balcony they spoke about blacks true.

  48. There are many offsets to your observation of devolving mtnmarty, the world no longer faces the prospect of nuclear winter and the visable potential for war has been reduced to regional conflicts rather than world war. Much is evolving in a positive direction when you take the global vs local view.

  49. balcony = balogna I assume. Autocorrect error.

    Yes, humans are out of touch with Christ’s view, but prophets are supposed to be MORE in line with Him, not less. And so a single prophet might be in sync on most topics and out of harmony on a few others, but a steady stream of them all in harmony on any particular topic makes it apparent (or not so apparent to some) that Christ heavily favors/calls people with that view of women and women’s roles. Maybe one individual differs from the group, or the group is off a little as a whole, but by and large I think it safe to say that as a group they are MUCH closer to Christ’s will then those claiming they have a “higher consciousness” about right and wrong.

  50. I admire your view Jax but I don’t share it. It’s not because I don’t believe the gospel, I do. It’s because over time something very important has deminished. Today group inspiration takes the place of “thus saith the Lord” revelation and inspiration is far more man than God as the ban on blacks fiasco demonstrates. Revelation is far more God than man and the church needs to find their way back to it!

  51. So you think Christ has been cut off from the church? He doesn’t guide it anymore? Or that he wants to guide it better but the humans in charge aren’t letting him? They refuse to listen to Him? Or want to listen but aren’t able to?? Is He incapable of influencing them? Or are they incapable of listening? If it is them that are the problem, then why did He call them? Why didn’t He call those with a “higher consciousness”? Why didn’t He call people who would listen to inspiration? Why do we have Elder Packer instead of Elder Howard? Most people on here think you’re views are closer to Christ’s views the Elder Packers views are anyway…

    What I’m obviously suggesting is not that the Brethren are out of step with Christ (that they have failed in getting revelation), but that you are out of step with Him. That He selects people He wants to accomplish His goals and doesn’t make mistakes in who He selects, what their views are, or what ‘folklore’ they believe.

  52. Steve Smith (48)–you’re just wrong. There are plenty of lifelong Mormon feminists, and some of them are even older than I am :) If they leave, it’s likely to be because other members refer to them pejoratively as “the OW types” instead of “sisters,” not because they don’t have enough faith or testimony.

  53. Jax, I think it’s clear that the church hasn’t been guided by “thus saith the Lord” type revelation for a long while and that inspiration is farl less accurate. I can’t speak for Christ but I believe the spirit will communicate with anyone who can hear him.

  54. Howard, if the church hasn’t been guided by that type of revelation then it is by design by Him who controls that… not because of the current or former Brethren and their views. If Christ wanted it differently, then it would be so. I’m not crying “all is well in Zion,” but am claiming that Christ is still the head of this church and HE controls its programs, goals, leaders, and priesthood; and not the Brethren you are accusing of failing.

  55. Jax (#58),

    I can’t answer for Howard, but I would like to answer some of your questions for myself. As I understand it, true revelation must be approved by several different bodies to become binding. One of the bodies is the FP. Another the Q12. And yet another the full membership. Just like with God Himself, the decisions made by each body are necessary, but not alone sufficient.

    When I engage in conversations on this topic, my purpose is not to counsel the FP or Q12. Just as with God Himself, I am not part of those decision bodies. My primary purpose is to dialogue with the church body, which must of its own accord decide that it desires female ordination before any revelation will be received. This is a necessary step, though also not sufficient alone for revelation to be received.

    To some small degree, my desires should matter in the calculation and so I feel it appropriate to speak. Moreso, I have a young daughter who has expressed desire to participate in priesthood functions; I feel a duty to speak for her. And I have sisters (biological and spiritual) who too often are denounced for speaking their desires; I feel a duty to create a sphere in which they can speak without being cast out.

    I care very much what the FP and Q12 think. Interestingly enough, they have spoken in the months since OW was created. What I hear from them is (i) the gender restriction is a practice they feel can only be changed by revelation, and (ii) they do not express any opinion as to why the practice exists. I find that very encouraging. While the general membership continues to proffer explanations for the practice (tomorrow’s folklore?), the brethen who guide the church have ceased to do so.

    I find a parallel in this process to what occurred with the racial ban. In 1949, the FP stated that the racial ban was doctrine and adopted various explanations in support. In the 1960s, the FP continued the racial ban, but stopped providing any explanation; they just said “we don’t know why.” In 1978, the FP and Q12 changed the practice and Elder McConkie famously counseled a few members to forget the prior explanations. Later, Elder Holland and others took to labeling the explanations as “folklore,” but a few members persisted in teaching them. Finally, just last month, the church officially disavowed those explanations, though doing so without fanfare. The question of whether the racial ban was divinely instituted, divinely tolerated, or something else remains an open question.

    So, regarding women’s ordination, it is not yet “1978,” but it is also not “1949.” If OW had any role in helping that development, I am most grateful.

  56. Dave,

    Good response. As I said earlier, I’m not sure I’m opposed to women being ordained, just that I don’t think it will happen. And I don’t think we can lay the ‘blame’ for it not happening at the Apostles feet as Howard seems to do; that their lack of ability to recieve revelation is a hinderance to way they think the correct way should be.

    I have 4 daughters myself. So I’m not blind to the desires to see them get to do what my sons will get to do. My point has been that if women don’t have priesthood now, or if they never do recieve it, it isn’t because we aren’t following Christ like we used to, as this quote implies:

    Today group inspiration takes the place of “thus saith the Lord” revelation and inspiration is far more man than God as the ban on blacks fiasco demonstrates. Revelation is far more God than man and the church needs to find their way back to it!

    but rather that they don’t have it because that IS what Christ wants. I don’t think it is a failure of leadership, because Christ is leading. Howard seems to see it as a leadership failure because I assume he doesn’t think Christ is actually involved.

  57. Kristine (59), the trend among active Mormon women seems to be complacency with the male-priesthood norm. While many Mormon women can be considered light feminists in that they seek a greater role in ward business and validation for career-pursuing females, the ones demanding the priesthood are more assertive feminists and often tend to doubt many of the LDS leaders’ authoritative claims. Also, you have me pegged wrong. I am strongly in favor of the women being given the priesthood and assuming leadership roles in the LDS church. But I am skeptical, if not also critical, of the LDS authorities who I believe are too bound to tradition to make any significant changes soon.

  58. Thanks Jax. I’m curious as to why you conclude that Christ intends something (in this case the restriction of priesthood authority to only males) simply because it exists. In my view, we are all very much a work in progres (both individually and collectively). I don’t assume something is intended just because it is.

    I often hear the argument that “Christ would have given women the priesthood if he had wanted to.” But under that same logic, we should also deny women the opportunities of missionary service, praying and speaking in general conference, and singing in our choirs. Christ never expressed allowance for women to do those things during his ministry, though he did allow men to. In fact, now that I think about it, women should also be excluded from fishing and riding on boats.

  59. mtnmarty,
    I’m not arguing that negative entropy has been suspended, the Devil has been bound or nirvana has arrived. But spotty as it may be the Holy spirit is poured out on all of humankind with positive effect.

  60. Jax please read link offered in #35 above. Revelation doesn’t actually work the way you want it to.

  61. Sorry I am not a regular reader nor participant on this board but I am inclined to believe that Jax is some kind of troll.

    Does anyone really take seriously anyone who uses Christ and control in the same sentence?

  62. This is not exactly on topic, but whenever I think about the “Ordain Women” movement, I am genuinely curious why women in the church seem to generally feel either 1) completely dismissive toward the topic or 2) wholeheartedly support it and see it as a necessary next step.

    Is it just a factor of personality and political/social outlook?

  63. A careful look at President Kimball’s history shows that he spent much of his adult life preparing for the priesthood revelation. His early general conference sermons were often harsh criticisms of church member’s racist attitudes toward American Indians. It is almost stunning to read his early addresses on the topic; they reveal a sensitivity towards racial prejudice. In addition to this he apparently kept a binder (please no Mitt references!) where he collected clippings, articles, etc, on the subject. He obviously would have been aware of President McKay’s effort to consider a change.

    The revelation, which resulted in a significant change in church policy if not doctrine (?), came as a result of years of preparation.

    Thus, I would conclude that the person who will usher in the change on women’s formal status in the church may be about 23 years old today, and is starting to be bothered by the general status of women in our church. He may have taken note of the faithful efforts of sister missionaries on his mission. Now we simply have to wait for him to become a bishop, then stake president, then mission president, then general authority, then apostle… all the while fattening that binder (perhaps kept on a smart phone) with reports, ideas, T&S posts, and simultaneously having small informal chats with his colleagues. Then when he is about 87 he and the Q of 12 will be ready for the change, and hopefully the church will be ready as well. The change may appear sudden to church members, but in fact it won’t be to those who eventually pray for the revelation.

    At least that is how it apparently was for the Priesthood revelation.

    That is how I see it. It will take a long time, with a long period of discomfort and stress.

  64. As a woman, I’d say that women have a strong polarity on the subject because feeling inferior bothers most of us in some way or other. But there are women in the Church who have moved past that or dealt with it (reacting with dismissiveness and/or impatience,) some who haven’t (reacting with celebration/impatience,) and some who don’t let themselves face it (reacting with derision and harshness.)

    All three reactions are a bit short on charity, in my opinion.

  65. Michael P: I fall somewhere in the middle. I believe that women will eventually be stewards of the power and authority of God, though I doubt very much that it will happen in the next 75 years (which about covers my lifetime), and matches up well with stephenchardy’s theory.
    But I also have no trouble believing that it will never happen in mortality. I personally think that mankind won’t accept it. As far as agitation goes, I will educate quietly and occasionally the women and men in my ward so that they don’t immediately laugh with derision when OW is brought up. But I’m no fiery champion for women’s rights. The way I see it, the trajectory (of this slow, huge boat) has been nudged and all that’s left is to teach and change culture in preparation for something that is currently only a hope in my dreams.
    FYI, I tend to lean moderate-libertarian (with a small “L”, thanks) (and getting less and less conservative as the years pass) in American political talk.

  66. Michael P.,
    …either 1) completely dismissive toward the topic or 2) wholeheartedly support it…

    Yeah, it’s a consciousness raising thing. If you happen to be privileged within the current system it is much harder to see the need even when it’s right in front of your eyes; Sister Never Married is such a sweet spirit. Only 182 years without praying at GC?.

    If you’ve been through the awakening to the chauvinist subtleties of patriarchy they bitterly smack you in the face most Sundays.

  67. Dave K.,

    Thanks for taking the time to post #62. It gave me an “aha!” moment at work today. “Creating a sphere in which others can speak without being cast out.” That’s a thought I’m going to have to chew on. Thanks.

    Jonathan #68,

    I don’t post regularly here either, but I don’t think Jax is a troll. Yesterday he offered to buy me and five or six others drinks. Trolls don’t offer to buy drinks. :-)

  68. Just ignore my punctuation mistakes. I blame my tablet, though I’m not convinced that I would have caught them on my laptop, either.

  69. Thanks for the responses to my question. I should use them to refine my question further. Why is it that some women see the current system as “patriarchy” and either oppressive and/or holding women back in some way or and other women do not? I guess I ask the question because from my personal experience, almost every Mormon woman that I have known well, be they young or old, married or single doesn’t really see a big problem with the way things are done now and would probably only like to see relatively minor changes. Not saying that their experience cancels everyone else’s out, but I am curious what causes such a huge disconnect.

    To give a specific example, why is it that many Mormon women don’t feel excluded from the priesthood and perhaps don’t even notice it, while others feel less valued and hurt because they don’t have the priesthood. And in some cases this is all notice about church!

    Don’t know if I am being clear and don’t want to thread-jack, but the contradiction perplexes me.

  70. Michael P.,
    Remember the optical illusion that shows a young women and an old women in the same picture? Those with high mental permeability can see both images quickly others tend to mentally “lock on” to one while “locking out” the other(s) and can’t see both even though both images are right in front of their eyes!

    When everything you have been taught says the church is right, for many it’s very hard, even impossible to see when it’s wrong. Add to this “privilege blindness” and those who are privileged often become willfully blind to the problems because they enjoy privilege within the system as it is.

  71. Michael P,

    I think at least one component of the answer is that in the past feminist women left the church (or were shown the door)so, the women you would know at church would not be strongly feminist and so there wouldn’t be many shades of opinion.

    I think it is a good question why the feminists in the church are now pushing for a change within the church rather than leaving it. Paradoxically it may be that life outside the church has become worse for feminists so more of them are desiring to stay in the church but try to make it a more feminist organization.

    Something like the priesthood does seem to be pretty polarizing in that there are not that many shades of opinion on the question, no one say women should be ordained in even numbered years and not odd numbers or anything like that. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground. Maybe a new type of priesthood, would be one type fo compromise. The lack of compromising choices would tend to make things more polarized. Particularly, if one is told that her opinion is wrong or out of place, she may become an even stronger advocate of change.

  72. Michael P.–I would say there are many more shades and nuances in the spectrum of responses to OW than you allow. MANY. The fact that you (or anyone) can feel confident with such a reductive accounting of Mormon feminist thought is evidence of some of the problems Mormon feminists face.

  73. Steve, I didn’t mean to imply that you were on one side of the OW fence or the other, only that your sample size of Mormon women’s opinions is too small if you think that strong feminism leads inevitably to inactivity.

  74. Kristine,

    There may be nuanced responses to OW but how nuanced can one be about actually ordaining women. It seems to reduce to two choices “Fer it” and “agin it”.

  75. Howard (67),

    He also doesn’t give revelation just because you want Him to. Just because many might want women to be ordained is no reason to think that it will someday happen. Many people want lots of things, even things they think are promised to them in scriptures, patriarchal blessings, or otherwise, which never materialize simply because they don’t understand them correctly. A desire for something to happen that has not been prophetically promised to happen, has not happened before, and appears to have its sole claim to “rightness” in that people would like it to happen, seems to be a very poor reason to think that it WILL happen.

    Jonathan (68), I’m a regular visitor here who comments regularly. I am almost always on topic and don’t try to post things to rile people up. I think I post as often to give thanks or praise as I do to disagree. I even think I do a decent (though not perfect) of writing in such as way as to not sound angry (since I very rarely am). So I’m not sure what your definition of troll is… but I come here to try to get insight from other LDS people, to read commentary on Gospel Doctrine classes coming up, and to voice my opinion (which is quite conservative and occasionally upsetting to some). A troll I am not.

  76. mtnmarty–there are plenty of possibilities: for it, immediately, regardless of cost; for it, eventually, when people are ready; for it, but not convinced of the value of demanding it; against it, willing to apostatize if it happens; against it, unless the Brethren introduce it; etc. And that’s just to the abstract question of ordination. The range of possible responses to the particular personalities and tactics of the Ordain Women movement as presently constituted is even wider.

  77. Kristine,
    Obviously, I am generalizing here. I am not trying to account for all nuances or positions. My own position on this is much more nuanced as well. Though as mtnmarty says, this is fairly polarizing issue that seems to push people to extremes.

    My point is to ask the question of how/why women across the church exist in the same system, hear the same general conference talks, read the same manuals have the same position and authority yet some passionately see (to use Howard’s example) the old woman and others see the young woman. Maybe Howard and mtnmarty are partially right.

  78. My thoughts today on this.

    Evolution resulted in males of our species generally being physically stronger than females. Men love to fight and compete. Of course there have been and always are exceptions, many of them. But males, generally, have exploited and continue to exploit that difference. Such has lasted for a long, long time. To put off the natural man, one has to realize that God — our Heavenly Parents — don’t respect such a difference. Love is more important for them than strength.

    But unlike a lot of us, they’re patient. They’re waiting for us to get our acts together. As soon as we males start respecting and inquiring after the feminine seriously, including Heavenly Mother, I predict it will change.

    I am an optimist. We men need to get it together and cherish the feminine and quit exploiting strength and competition. The patriarchy must go. We must cooperate and work together in love. I support OW and fight against patriarchy, which exploits strength over others.

  79. Michael P.,
    I socialize with man who is one of the world’s experts on gravitational waves. In the middle of explaining them to me he stopped mid sentence and changed the subject with considerable awe saying Einstein was able to think outside the box to conceive of time as a variable instead of a constant! It was right there in front of everyone all the time but no one but Einstein was willing or able to let go of the comfort of their world view to see it!

    Typically LDS feminists didn’t either, instead many of them experienced dissonance with their roles in life and church and as the dissonance grew to the point of pain they slowly crept or were pushed outside of what once was their cocoon, their comfort zone and looked around to see that it was that very cocoon that was inflecting the pain. But in a very loving and well intended (but unenlightened) way of course!

  80. He also doesn’t give revelation just because you want Him to. I know and I suspect OW knows too.

    No one is expecting to compel God. They just want the president of the church to ask God and report back if it’s okay to ordain women as Moses accommodatingly asked God and reported back for Zelophad’s daughters.

  81. We all have blind spots Michael P., when we are mentally and emotionally committed to a particular view or belief we tend to sort out information that contradicts that view and reject it. So that makes us more vulnerable to being blind about the things we are most committed to than things we care less about.

  82. I do not agree that there are only two choices. Most of the LDS women I know in real life are neither. They are not particular for it, as they see great good in the way things are currently done. But they can also see other advantages if things were to change. Should the church decide to change policy on requiring a penis as a qualification for leadership, I think the vast majority of women in the middle would be fine with it, if they thought it did indeed come from the Lord. I mean, how many people objected to lowering the age for sisters to serve their first mission?

    As to how women can have different attitudes towards the church, keep in mind that we are, in reality, treated differently in various places. This is why Neylan McBaine is collecting stories about church practices that respect women. Because they happen some places, not others.

    But even those of us who live in stakes where there is parity in YW and YM funding, etc. understand that it is not the same all over.

    And a lot of MoFeminists would say that proves that there is a problem, since women are always subject to the whims of men.

    But I am not convinced that female ordination is the answer, because I’ve had lots of female supervisors at work who were totally unsupportive of my values. We may well find ourselves subject to the whims of women.

  83. Dear god in heaven, save me and my children from this blog post, its author, the website who published it, and many of the people commenting here, high-five-ing the author.

    The speed with which Mormon men jump up to denigrate Ordain Women while conveniently defending their own privileged position within the patriarchy is stunning.

  84. They just want the president of the church to ask God and report back if it’s okay to ordain women as Moses accommodatingly asked God and reported back for Zelophad’s daughters.

    If that is ALL they want, then I’d be 100% fine with that. But I don’t think that is what they want. And given the most recent conference addresses that seemed to cover this, it seemed like the Apostles were saying, “we heard you, the answer is no”.

    Does it have to be said that bluntly? And if it were, would the OW crowd say, “okay, thanks for asking”??

  85. Does it have to be said that bluntly?

    Well Jax the Lord was pretty specific with Moses:

    And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, The daughters of Zelophehad speak right…And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter. And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren. And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father’s brethren. And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the Lord commanded Moses.

    Is there some reason President Monson can’t simply repeat what he’s told?

  86. For those of you who think it would be telling God what to do, or that it is unprecedented in the present church, next time you are in an Endowment session listen as the sisters (along with brothers) put the on robes of the holy priesthood, so they can officiate in the ordinances of the particular priesthood. They hold it now it is just not acknowledged outside the Temple.

    I believe the culture of the church has been changing from a conservative/obedience culture, to one of Love, and this will bring the ordination of women forward as part of its implementation.

    I think if women in the church are asked whether they would like to be included in the blessing, baptism, and blessing when sick, of their children, you might get a different answer than if you ask if they want the priesthood and they visualise leadership. How many men have leadership positions and how many use it in their families, where women could too.

    If Gay marriage becomes legal in Utah, I expect the church will change it’s position to, “honour obey and sustain the law”, as it has in the past with inter racial marriage etc. Once gay marriage is no longer an issue priesthood for women is next, possibly with a retirement age for Apostles of 80 too.

    The succession in the quorum of 12 could have some affect on how soon this all happens. The top 9 apostles are between 80 and 91. And all registered Republicans. There is then a step down to Uchtdorf at 73, who comes without the Utah culture, so more progressive. Being in the first presidency gives him more opportunity to move the church toward the Love based doctrine, more quickly than the succession might indicate.

    I do believe the church is lead by the Lord, but for 150 years the priesthood was denied negroes because of the culture of the leaders (racism.) So it may take a different culture, among the leaders, before women can have the priesthood they are entitled to.

    My time scale would be 10 to 15 years at most.

  87. Geoff, I know what it says in the temple, but to me it does not mean I have the priesthood, rather that I ought to, that something is missing. It is my understanding that the priesthood needs to be bestowed by the laying on of hands, as it is for men. Nowhere in the temple have I been given the Priesthood, Aaronic or Melchizedek, by the laying on of hands. Those are however the Priesthoods mentioned for both men and women.

  88. Change in the Church is tricky. While we claim a belief in continuing revelation, we’re not entirely comfortable with change, because it suggests that former prophets might have been wrong and, by implication, that present-day prophets might be as well. I, for one, am much less troubled by the idea of prophetic fallibility–or, put another way, that our knowledge is yet incomplete–than I am by the idea that church leaders would resist doing the right thing for fear of being seen as caving to public pressure. As Exponent April suggests, such a concern would not be Christ-like.

    If we as a church are truly to embrace the idea of continuing revelation, I think we need to recognize the role members can play in the process: We articulate the need for it. Leaders who respond to the needs of those over whom they preside are not caving to public pressure, rather, they are being good leaders.

    Unfortunately, because institutional access in the church is tied to priesthood office, women’s voices are often left out of this process. We Mormon women concerned about the issue of women’s ordination have gone public because, lacking institutional access, how else will we be heard?

    Nate, you’re quick to condemn to failure a movement that has successfully kick-started the conversation. If you were a sincere proponent of women’s ordination in the LDS Church, how would you proceed?

  89. Nate,
    Coming back to Mormonism after two decades, I have occasionally heard a new fiction advanced, which asserts that the priesthood ban against black males was only lifted after there was a lull in pressure against the church. This new fiction is usually asserted in connection with an argument against putting pressure on the church. (Of course this makes the church sound very petty: “I will take out the trash, when you stop telling me to take out the trash.”) Pettiness aside, this new story about a 1978 lull in pressure on the church is simply not true. For those of us who were there, and who are familiar with the events that lead up to the end of the ban in 1978, it is clear that there was no lull in pressure. Protests continued. Legal pressure in the form of a threat to the tax-exempt status of BYU increased; the church was seen as extreme for its discrimination, internationally problems in places like Brazil mounted. There was no lull.

    The same will be true with regard to the ban on female ordination. The forces against the policy of the church will continue to grow. The church will be seen as increasingly extreme in its discriminatory practice. It will continue to lose many of its brightest and most talented women, as well as men who will not tolerate such discrimination. This new story of a 1978 lull is a myth apparently designed to convince people that they should not speak out when they see a problem in the church. Personally, I love Mormonism too much to bite my tongue. I will continue to speak out. I hope that this time the brethren will not wait so long to do the right thing. I pray that they will end the priesthood ban sooner, rather than later, and the church will avoid the damage that continuing the ban will inevitably bring.

  90. S. Mark Barnes, nice you came back. As for memories of the 70s, some who were there recall a decline in public pressure during the years preceding 1978, and J. B. Haws noted the same in is recent discussion in The Mormon Image in the American Mind. See my review and comments 3, 4, and 5 in the discussion.

    But I don’t endorse the idea that public pressure is always counterproductive. See my comment #13 above.

  91. I don’t think that the fact that the Church is unlikely to act directly in the face of public pressure implies that public pressure is always counterproductive. They strike me as logically distinct questions.

  92. I guess this is a great example of what happens when we don’t actually teach members history

  93. I am not sure why we hold up the 1978 revelation as the only pattern for revelation or change in the church. It just seems like we overanalyze and dissect that moment in history when it is completely possible, maybe even probable, that it will have little to no bearing on any changes that eventually occur.

  94. OD2 isn’t the only example. OD1 came about via. government agitation. Since these are the only canonized revelations since the D&C it appears that agitation is often the motivation in modern times for seeking serious new revelation.

  95. You make so many assumptions in that last statement Howard that I am no even sure where to begin.

  96. Nate, I join with Lorie (#97) in asking what course of action you propose for those who desire female ordination. You previously expressed support for ordination. In your opinion, what actions are most appropriate and most likely to be effective.

    Michael P. (#102), I believe the reason OD2 is held up as *the* example of revelation is simply because it is the only canonized revelation received during the lifetime of anyone alive today. Also, it is particularly on point for discussions of expanding priesthood ordination to a group that is excluded.

  97. Another issue that Nate did not mention is the complexity of the issue. If the prophet were to ponder women receiving priesthood, would it be the exact priesthood men have, or something different? If different, how would it function? Would it include keys to the Aaronic Priesthood or just the Melchizedek Priesthood? Would women be ordained as bishops and stake presidents, GAs?
    Could the temple endowment be integrated, instead of women and men sitting separately with different temple vestments, would they wear the same thing? How would it change the endowment ceremony in other ways? Sealings? Temple workers at the veil, etc?
    There is a lot more here to figure out and unpack than whether to give black males the priesthood that other males currently have. Just the complexity alone could make reaching a final revelation on women’s ordination (if it were to come) take years.

  98. Those are all great questions Rameumpton. We should certainly give thought to the significant structural changes that would accompany female ordination. At the same time, it is not necessary to have every jot and tittle decided prior to ordaining the first sisters. When Joseph and Oliver were ordained, there was very little by way of priesthood structure in existence. Priesthood offices, quorums, lines of authority, and the like all came later. Indeed, they are continuing to evolve.

    As for the endownment, the seating arrangements and (very) minor clothing differences between men and women do not strike me as necessary components of the ceremony. Allowing people to sit where they like and harmonizing the clothing would be one of the easier changes, though it could lead to the need for an “usher ordinance worker” to make sure no one is making out. I personally would be thrilled to have a sister represent Christ at the veil. What a blessing!

  99. Rameumptom, I support the ordination of women to all priesthood offices and our integration into all positions of church administration. Anything else smacks of separate but equal, which, we’ve learned, is usually not equal. Just to be clear, equality is not about sameness. It’s about equitable access and opportunity given individual gifts and abilities. Yes, there would have to be some of the other changes to which you refer, but most of the women and men I know would welcome them. We’ve made significant changes before, some of which were arguably just as complex. Many of us believe that women’s ordination is inevitable. When that happens, we’ll look back on this conversation and wonder what all the fuss was about.

  100. Several things:

    First, I don’t believe we should really consider the OW movement as being an LDS movement. When you look at their blog/website, we see a large percentage of ex-mormons and excommunicated members.

    Second, the OW did NOT take root in the general “believing” church population (yeah, I’m old, but I do get around… it just did not happen). It is a topic for debate in hte bloggernacle, but little else. The strongest women I know view the OW movement as disharmonious with the cause of women active in the church. Strong LDS women do NOT try to embarass or ridicule church leaders. They take their temple covenants far too seriously for that.

    Third, that said, I believe that there has been a stonger (and welcome) emphasis on women in the last decade. This is possibly a result of the overall discussion of the treatment of women within the church (for which grant minimal credit to the OW movement). I predict that the RS and YW presidencies will be given greater roles in the ward community in the future. I believe that authorities and scholars will pay close attention to the details and teachings surrounding the formation of the RS. I see positive developments coming. But I do not see ordination as an option.

  101. Let’s see. I don’t believe we should really consider the OW movement as being an LDS movement Us vs them. Let’s distance them from the tribe even though we’re forced to admit they had a role in making things better. The purpose of this distancing?

  102. Howard, from my observations (Granted, I only read their website and talked with several supporters), I believe that OW supporters have more in common philosophically with secular feminists than they have with active women in the Latter-day Saint community. Most supporters of OW would still be disenchanted with the Church even if women were ordained. While a few of the vocal leaders are returned missionaries and speak fluent “Mormonese,” I think it would be dishonest to not note the stark difference in philosophies and trajectories.

    If I had to guess, that gap will grow over the next year or so for those OW supporters who are still members of the LDS Church. While I hope for institutional adjustments within the Church, I do not believe that the LDS Church will (or should) change the ordinances of the temple, alter their interpretation of scripture and abandon core doctrines on family and the patriarchal order to ordain women. As Fiona Givens has argued, they don’t need to to create a more generous and edifying environment for women in the Church.

    OW will probably radicalize and get more vocal and forceful. The LDS Church and active members may retrench (I have already noted that trend in the LDS women in my Utah community). I agree with others that the OW supporters will have to make a choice. My guess is that many will be more loyal to the OW movement than the LDS Church. Leading or participating in a movement is so much more exhilarating than the humdrum existence of being an “average” Latter-day Saint.

    To clarify, I have not seen much evidence that the OW movement has made things better. Contributing to a discussion on women in the church I can give them credit for. But the discussion was going on before OW. They didn’t initiate it, they just radicalized it. It will continue if they fade away. I suspect that the returning sister missionaries, devout and well-educated, will have a much, much greater voice in the future of women in the church than the OW folks.

  103. Old Man wrote: I believe that OW supporters have more in common philosophically with secular feminists than they have with active women in the Latter-day Saint community. Why is this an issue? Most supporters of OW would still be disenchanted with the Church even if women were ordained. How do you know this? They didn’t initiate it, they just radicalized it. What’s radical about it?

  104. Old Man, you, quite simply, are wrong about the makeup of those who support Ordain Women. If you’d actually read most of the material on the OW website, you would know that there is a post in the Commentary section featuring the results of a survey of those who participated in the October 5th Priesthood Session event, either virtually or in person. According to the survey, those who participated were:

    –Members of the church, who make up 95% of respondents
    –People who attend church regularly, with 72% of respondents attending church 2-3 times per month or more – just 14% report that they do not attend church
    –Mostly young people, with 80% of participants being age 40 or younger
    –Lots of women, but 22% of participants were men
    –Many individuals from Utah and Idaho, but 34% live elsewhere, including distant places like the UK, Ireland, Germany, Thailand, Denmark, Brazil, Africa, Canada, China, and Mexico

    Most have given countless hours of service to the LDS Church and see their efforts with Ordain Women as a continuation of that service.

  105. Btw Old man I don’t follow Fiona Givens but do you remember a woman named Phyllis Schlafly?

  106. Howard, you really SHOULD follow Fiona.

    I don’t agree with her on this issue, but she’s intelligent, articulate, and well-spoken. Rather than just try to impugn and inflame, you might listen just a bit to other points of view.

  107. Why cheap? It was simply a lead in to set up the idea that the politics of change invites apologists from the privileged class but your discount arrived in advance of that point.

  108. Lorrie #111, I do not see this as necessarily inevitable. I also do not see a different priesthood as smacking of anything. That presumes that the Brethren are in cahoots against women, rather than (as Nate notes in his OP) they are sincere in seeking God’s will.
    If there is a change and priesthood is given to women (which doesn’t bother me one way or the other), it seems likelier that a separate priesthood would be created within the realm of Relief Society as a priesthood quorum. You have to remember, most LDS sisters do NOT want priesthood to interfere with what they already consider a great organization and structure.
    And Fiona Givens’ concept that the current structure allows women to do great works outside the administrative arm of the Church is a significant insight. I know I spend way too much time on meetings, etc., rather than ministering (which I would rather be doing).
    So my statements on complexity really do stand on real merits, and not just on your hope/wish that a complete change will occur.

  109. I’ll read the article Samuel. But “reduce” and “mere” misrepresents my comment. Can’t you read it at face value? Are you arguing she is not among a privileged class of LDS women? Is she a never married? Is she divorced?

  110. Howard: When you post here, I generally just skip your comments. I do, however, know Fiona Givens, and your comparison is both inapt and offensive. Please go away.

  111. I love comments that use the term “rubbish.” It lets pretend that the comment was made with a British accent. Really improves the thread.

  112. Lorie (#116), thanks for sending me back to school. In my own defense, when I had checked out their website it was some time ago. I either missed that survey or it was not yet posted.

    Second, let me argue that “separate but equal” can work if it is not absolute under all circumstances. If the reason for the separation is to work together on a gender-based responsibility or develop an attribute for that gender, of course it is acceptable. I would never attempt to abolish the Relief Society. But I think that women can take a greater role within the community hierarchy, and that need not entail ordination. I just don’t buy the “we have to ordain women to make them equal to men” arguement.

    Thanks for your response.

  113. Old Man:

    Maybe it is time you started trying to root out your (and the church’s) sexism instead of finding every reason you can think of to justify it.

  114. Chris Henrichsen,

    Hilarious. Your post gave me a good laugh on a snowy, cold day. Thanks.

  115. Chris H, ROFL!

    The reality is (at least in this matter), one person’s sexism is another person’s revelation from God. It all depends on where we choose to begin our logic path on where it ends. Few here are saying women should not get ordination. Several are saying that there are issues that would need to be figured out and prayed over in regards to the specifics (as well as to prepare the way for a revelation). To insist that it must be exactly equal or it is sexist, is a false dichotomy. You may as well tell all conservatives that they are Hitler youth or all liberals that they are Stalin’s children. It makes for a nice emotional slam dunk, but there really is nothing there to compare. Nate has shared some thoughtful concepts here, something that those in the OW movement would be wise to consider (IMO). Otherwise, they risk being relegated to the trash heap of movements that ended up going no where.

  116. Nadine (#129): If one defines sexism as tolerance of variation in social and theological roles or responsibilities, I am sexist. If one defines sexism as claiming that one gender is inherently superior or worthy than another, than I am not. I do not automatically see gender-based roles and responsibilities as sexist.

  117. Howard: A bit I suppose. Saying nasty and stupid things about my friend and my friend’s mother counts as grounds for at the very least being personally snubbed.

  118. Kudos w rgd o/p / discussion! (Wow. hundred and change comments & Oman hasn’t turned comments yet, ha-ha-ha)

  119. “If one defines sexism as claiming that one gender is inherently superior or worthy than another, than I am not.”

    By this definition there may be 11 sexists people in the world, but no more than that. It’s a pretty low bar.

  120. Nate,
    Grow up, I said nothing that was nasty. Nothing.

    I’m merely making the point that a women of LDS privilege is acting as an apologist for the privileged patriarchy. Now if your friend Fiona is not among privileged LDS women then I was obviously wrong and you may consider this my public apology to her, to you and to the T&S audience. But if she is, the point is something of substance to be considered with an open mind by all.

    The LDS church is a church of worthy married men with children who hold the priesthood and their wives who are ideally SAHMs and their children. All others are a step or more down in privilege and viability.

    When the the brethren speak for women is it representative of all classes of LDS women? The basis of LDS feminism is that they do not. So while a woman of LDS privilege is indeed a woman not a man does she really speak for the disenfranchised voiceless women beneath her? Given her position withing the hierarchy it is suspect. Is it not?

  121. The civil rights movement began in 1948 yet the church didn’t reverse it’s racially biased position until 30 years later! During those years LDS Prophets offered creative scriptural folklore in defense of their practice and being both biased and privileged largely could not see their own prejudice. The subtleties of gender bias are also prejudice. Racial prejudice is not worse than gender prejudice, psychologically they are the same, a blind spot in someone’s judgement making the other seem less than themselves. It is not surprising that most LDS women find this a non-issue or don’t want the priesthood or are willfully blind to the bias because they love being privileged among women. This is a consciousness raising effort but it isn’t likely to be furthered unless the position of all classes of women are considered and just as the white brethren were blind to the black issue for so long, the male brethren and privileged women of the church are likely to be blind to the disenfranchised women of the church.

  122. I read Jill’s link.

    There is definitely a fifth horse of the apocalypse and the rider is a woman.

  123. I’ve also been reading and posting on Jill’s link.

    I could be persuaded otherwise, but I don’t think “Ordain Women” is as advertised. My impression is that they’re not so much concerned with ordaining women as they are with unordaining men.

    Again, maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong.

  124. One of the assumptions running through this thread is that the church is backward and the world has it right. Based on my experience living where most folks are not LDS, I am not so sure this is accurate. I think that people on all sides are struggling.

    While I want women to be treated as equals, I don’t see how female ordination would accomplish that goal. Ordination for women would be accepting a male-normative worldview of what matters, dismissing traditional women’s work as “less.”

    I think the reality is a third way of looking at things, that values female contributions equally to that of men.

    Yes, the church lauds and supports motherhood. I’ve been in playgroups with non-member mothers, who loved hearing about our views, and admired how empowering the PotF is for women. So that support ALMOST makes up for the huge disadvantage that women have by being the only one who gestates and lactates.

    I am amazed that Howard claims to know what the LDS church is. To me, the LDS church is much more diverse. We have people of all colors and marital status. We’ve had divorced people serving in the bishopric and RS presidency. My ward includes dads at home fulltime and moms who are employed. I’ve been a single mother, and a bishop’s wife, and missed the difference it got me. Privilege? What is that supposed to be good for? I guess that and $4 buys you a cup of coffee. But has anyone ever been denied a temple recommend because they failed to fit some mold? Viability? People are dying from this?

  125. So would the view that it is better to be free that to be a slave be white-normative? Maybe abolishing slavery just devalued the contributions of slaves rather than helping to produce equality. Come on Naismith. Seriously?

  126. …the LDS church is much more diverse… Privilege? What is that supposed to be good for? Move along…these are not the droids you’re looking for…pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

  127. :-)


    I raise bees. In the fall, the females band together and kick the male drones out of the hive. The poor little fellers die out in the cold.

    I’m sympathetic to female ordination, but I’m no dummy. I know the difference between lettin’ the gals in and kickin’ the fellers out.

    Have a great evening. :-)

  128. Slaves?

    Okay, let me give an example. We had a high priest at church who, during a 5th Sunday joint meeting, was encouraging people to become not just temple veil workers, but ordinance workers. And he said that there was only one person in the ward who was, and named him. The sisters in the room all gasped, because we had at least two at the time.

    “What?” he asked. “He is the only one who is ordained.”

    Someone changed the topic, but later we did explain his error.

    So you are saying that instead of expecting him to respect what we do, I should have bowed my head and said, “Yessir, massah” because what women do in the temple is any less binding or important or valuable than what men do?

    I don’t think it is. They are acting with authority. Without being ordained. And I don’t think women who can do that should feel second-class.

    Howard, rather than making fun of me perhaps you could explain what I am missing? What privileges should I have enjoyed as a bishop’s wife that I did not as a single mother? I felt the Spirit during both roles, had the confidence that I was loved and my life had divine guidance. What did I not understand?

  129. Well Naismith since you claim not to see it, if reincarnation is true it is my wish that you come back as a never married so you can experience being a sweet spirit.

  130. Old man (#132) By any definition of sexism, assignment of roles by sex is sexism, and saying that female roles are just as important as male roles does nothing to make it less sexist. Add to that the fact that it is an all-male hierarchy in the Mormon Church that determines what is a proper “role” for women and you have a highly sexist church. You can argue, I suppose, that it is proper, beneficial, and God-ordained, but it is a far stretch to argue that it is not sexist. An institutionalized system of having males telling women how to be women strikes me as the epitome of sexism.

    You can go on defending this sexism all you want, but I am an old woman, and I have watched (and fostered) a generation of women that has grown up in a world that does not limit them to the church’s narrowly-defined roles. Those women are taking their talents and ambitions and abilities and putting them to use in places where their varied contributions are appreciated and rewarded, and it is the church’s great loss.

    Eventually the Mormon church will ordain women and integrate women into all positions of leadership on an equal basis with men. Those with the power to make decisions for the institutional church should do it sooner rather than later. Regrettably, history shows that the Mormon hierarchy does not move easily from the past to the future, let alone have the prescience to get on the right side of history instead of having to be dragged kicking and screaming into the present.

  131. Howard, you can continue to ridicule me, or you could actually explain the privilege and how it works. I am open to listening if there is something that I am missing.

    I suspect that one disconnect may be that I don’t care much about the social aspects of the church. I don’t look to the church as my only source of friends or care much what others think, since you can’t make everyone happy, anyway.

    I look to the church as the source of salvation and divine revelation.

    I am not totally oblivious to the “plight” of never-marrieds. I wasn’t married when I joined, and expected to never be married because my child made me unmarriageable. I have served with 50-something never-marrieds in various callings, and count two of them among my friends. Their lives are different, but different is not automatically “less.”

  132. Josh, #140: you could not be more wrong. I have been with Ordain Women for almost a year. I have never ONCE heard ANYONE involved in the organization say ANYTHING about “unordaining” men. The idea has truly NEVER been floated.

  133. Naismith,
    Being a man I hesitate to define these issues for women but I’ve seen you around the bloggernacle and I suspect you’ve read many of them as I have, in addition you impress me as intelligent and experienced in life so It seems strange to me that you still don’t get it!

    I look to the church as the source of salvation and divine revelation. Of course but most of the hours of talking and interaction Mormons are subjected to are not really necessary for either are they? So those hours constitute a social gathering and social groups form their own status. Don’t they?

    Perhaps you would be willing to accept Joanna Brooks’ well articulated explanation how the church failing to keep up with 21st century social norms impacts women as a place to begin.

    I work and raise my children in a world where my leadership is essential to day-to-day functioning, my ideas and actions have institutional consequences, and where my gender is viewed as an asset that expands rather than constricts my access. Then, there’s my life as a Mormon. Where I have to step back into a very careful tip-toe gender performance–say this, not that, sit here, not there, not too much, not too loud–that feels more pageant than pragmatics.

    This resonates with me, I observe women holding back willfully demeaning themselves, if it doesn’t resonate with you is it possible that your interaction at church is more orthodox less challanging than hers?

  134. never-marrieds…different, but different is not automatically “less.” So being an Angel in the celestial kingdom is not less than than being a Goddess. From what I’ve heard and read LDS socializing as a single adult isn’t very satisfying or fulfilling and as a single you’re typically left out of the marrieds social circles. How many never-marrieds do you know of that have been called to top leadership callings?

  135. Mormons are big on check lists of gospel living. I assume it was easier to check yours off as a bishop’s wife than as a never married mother.

  136. hkobeal, #153:

    My comment wasn’t meant literally. I have no doubt that OW members don’t talk about “unordaining men.”

    My comment was merely my assessment that OW is only tangentially interested in creating more opportunities for women in the Mormon church. OW’s primary objective is giving women a forum to decry “male privilege.”

    First, I have a problem with “male privilege” because I value language. I like to have discussions with people where the debate is grounded on words that have meaning. Discussions with terms like “male privilege” is like playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with a 5-year old. Every time the child loses he whips out “dynamite” and blows up the game. “Male privilege” is not a word game I want to play.

    Second, I have a problem with “male privilege” because I value myself. I like being a man. My life is too short to spend my time apologizing for my “maleness” or my “whiteness” or my “heterosexualness” or anything else. I’m sure there are others willing to play–just not me.

  137. ” I assume it was easier to check yours off as a bishop’s wife than as a never married mother.”

    And that would be an ignorant assumption.

  138. Howard, Barbara Thompson was just in the Relief Society Presidency until 2012. The difference in the kingdom of God is that callings aren’t affirmative action.

  139. Cameron N,
    I’m aware of token Barbara Thompson and I’m aware that callings aren’t affirmative action. But leadership callings provide examples for people. Don’t they? If you do a child per leader count for the RS and YW General Presidencies that example suggests you should get married and have a lot of children.

  140. Howard,
    Yeah because “child per leader counts” are a big thing in the church. One of the most important numbers huh…..

  141. Thanks to everyone for commenting here, or at least thanks to everyone who managed to comment here without saying insulting things about my friend’s mother who is also my friend. With regard to Howard, please go away.

    I am now going to shut down comments. Please tip your server.

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