In addition to talking past each other (or worse, not really trying to talk to each other at all), a lot of those passionately engaged in talking about women in the church fail to grasp and hence fail to engage the actual arguments. In this post I’m going to describe the dialectical geography as I see it, in order to try and help readers at T&S do better at constructively engaging the arguments (and crowd source the problem a bit in order to help both myself and my readers with their relevant blind spots) in what I consider to be an issue of absolutely fundamental importance.
Important Disclaimer: this is a dialectical and not a historical sketch. That is, I have no intention of depicting the chronology or historical development. Rather, I’m doing my best to lay out in a clear manner the back and forth of rational moves and the argumentative dialogue that one can—from our current vantage point—piece together.
I hope that the dialectical mapping will be useful in helping all of us to reflect on whether we’re constructively engaging in dialogue on these issues. If you take up the most current strands of the argument, or rework a strand from earlier rounds in a way that makes it relevant to the most current arguments, then you’re helping to move the dialogue forward. If you’re merely taking ignorant (or malicious) pot shots at the other side by repeating the stuff that’s long since been answered, then you’re not.
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Feminist Franc(ine) (FF): I don’t feel like women are being treated fairly at Church
Anti-feminist Alex(andra) (AA): I’m just so thankful that we’re in a church where we know that we’re all equally sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father and that all of us can return to live with Him someday.
Structural Inequalities (not just feelings)
FF: Women don’t have the priesthood, which means, empirically, they don’t have equal enfranchisement in the governance of the church. This creates many inequalities. Specifically, it limits women in these ways:
- women’s historical role (substantive changes to women’s role and participation has been entirely subordinate to men and many of these roles have been eliminated)
- specific practices (women are excluded from certain practices, and just which practices they are excluded from changes according to the decisions of a council of men)
- doctrines concerning the feminine (women are not allowed to receive revelation for the church concerning women’s pre-mortal, mortal, or post-mortal roles and goods; and to date, our prophets have not produced any revelations or development of these issues)
AA: women have separate but equal roles in the church.
- We have very strong historical leaders like Eliza R. Snow and modern leaders like Julie Beck
- Practically speaking, we have the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world, and women oversee specific areas of church function
- We have doctrines on a Heavenly Mother and equal temple blessings
Change in the Church:
FF: We’re a church set up for change—it’s built into our structure and theology. Let’s recognize this and bend our collective and ecclesiastical efforts toward women’s renewal and enfranchisement!
AA: The very claim that we need and ought to change manifests a lack of faith. Jesus Christ is the one who set up this church and who has issued the revelations concerning priesthood hierarchy and the differing institutional roles of men and women. Zealous pronouncements on the need to change are dangerously dismissive of this fact.
Analogy to Blacks in the Priesthood
FF: Lots of faithful members and even leaders thought it theologically impossible for black members to receive the priesthood, but it happened. It can also happen for women.
AA: There’s a gigantic dis-analogy: it was black men who were ordained. Historically God’s never ordained women, although we have numerous examples of God shifting which group of men can receive the priesthood.
Structural Inequalities (separate but equal)
AA: Developing separate but equal:
- Women get motherhood (no man can have this!), so it’s different but equal for men to have the priesthood (with no women getting this!); complementarity of this type is a beautiful and meaningful way of tying men and women together.
- There are strong gendered differences between men and women; men having priesthood and fulfilling priesthood functions fits naturally into these gendered differences
- Besides, men are spiritually inferior to women and would probably be less active if they didn’t have the priesthood to train them up (and maybe less likely to reach the Celestial Kingdom)
FF: We don’t have separate but equal!
- Fatherhood is the complement of Motherhood, not priesthood. Why is it the case that men get both fatherhood and priesthood, but women (er, some of them) get only motherhood? Note that active motherhood is a temporary activity in one’s life, one that doesn’t fully come to all women, while active priesthood service spans from 12-to-death for all men (and “indirect” or “inactive” parenthood is equally available to men and women)
- Gendered traits don’t work: they’re not true for everyone, and they vary drastically from place to place and time to time; even broadly generalizing these differences appears merely cultural, not biological/metaphysical
- The claim that men=inferior is just as ridiculous and offensive as the claim that women=inferior. But notice that you’re using the men=inferior as an argument to keep women in subjection to men. This is perverse
Change in the Church:
FF: We ought to see Abraham as the metaphor. He was not originally given the priesthood or its covenants, and it was accounted as righteousness that he sought after it!
AA: Uzzah was trying to do good, saw a genuine need, but failed to respect the sacred (and perhaps practically expedient) divisions God had set. Uzzah is the more appropriate metaphor here.
Analogy to Blacks in the Priesthood
FF: The relevant analogy concerns that which appears to one group to be impossible, but in reality is God’s will. Besides, it’s hard to imagine what there could possibly be about gender that makes one unable to not only act by God’s authority (which women already do), but also be granted the keys, rights, and privileges of acting autonomously within a certain priesthood sphere (i.e., be ordained). As to history, we don’t know that God hasn’t ever ordained women; and prophetesses in the OT and prominent disciples in the NT make it appear that they might well have been ordained historically.
AA: There’s a whole lot we don’t understand about gender and how it relates to our functions. What we know is what we can see from where we are (and it appears that women and men are different with different needs), and what the prophets have revealed (that gender is eternal). These facts make priesthood accruing to gender appear very likely—regardless of whether that makes sense to us. And note that folks like Deborah, Mary, and Lydia didn’t do anything that we today understand as belonging to the purview of the priesthood (e.g., perform saving ordinances). And concerning other women who did (e.g., Zipporah), we’ve no reason to suspect that they were doing anything beyond what women do in the temple today.
Structural Inequalities: consistent inequality
FF: Actually, even a superficial reading of our history shows
- a consistent and increasing displacement of women over time (which is what sociologists since Weber say is the common trend in new religious movements)
- and an almost total absence of women from our official materials – women like Eliza are few and far between and no one has ever accused Sister Beck of being a prophetess (more’s the pity)
- the RS has no autonomy – at every level from local to general it is presided over by men
- the history of the Relief Society is a prime example of marginalization and increased control over time
- this is complemented by “priesthood creep”: the trend of making “men only” not only those callings specified in the D&C as belonging to men (e.g., Bishop), but lots of other callings as well (e.g., SS presidencies, executive secretaries and clerks, Bishop’s counselors, ward mission leader, etc., etc., etc.)
Heavenly Mother and temple ritual are both ambiguous.
Heavenly Mother is:
- Cherished and consistently present throughout our history
- But popularly has for decades been a massive taboo, one we’re willing to excommunicate women over
- And there’s a giant disconnect between the role we teach women (primarily nurturing) and the role of our Heavenly Mother (unknown/absentee mother)
The temple is
- Very hopeful with great potential
- But at every single stage shows a consistent logic of female submission to male authority
In general, separate but equal is no more likely to be equal in the Church than it was for civil rights – it’s a very suspicious nail to try and hang your equality hat on. Historically, “complementary” systems are set up and enforced in order to justify and secure power and privileges for one demographic while denying the same to another. (Note, even when this wasn’t the original purpose, it’s empirically how complementarily has played out in every single historical example.) Besides, what in the world’s wrong with normal old equality? It’s working great in lots of the other institutions we all take part in or observe in the world today (and where it’s absent in other institutions we can all see the big problems!). In order to justify a distinction, you need a reason for the distinction, and no one’s ever been able to articulate a satisfactory justification (e.g., see the abysmal failure of gendered traits in Round 2).
AA: Yes, there are issues with our history and how things have been practiced. But merely offering a litany of problems ignores the genuinely empowering nature of our theology and practice. Perhaps more importantly for us now, it ignores the incredibly rich room for creative expansion that the Restoration imparts to women. Tunnel vision on past problems is itself a problem. It distracts us from such things as:
- The ways in which we can emphasize and build upon our strong female leadership of the past
- The current decentralization and decoupling of authority from men at the ward level (e.g., the shift to an emphasis on ward councils which consist of women and men), as well as similar—if slower—movement at the top
- Numerous opportunities for either reinterpretation, re-emphasis, and even new recognition of empowering themes for women in our doctrine generally and the temple in particular
- Harsh criticism is unfair in part because it denies a plain truth of revelation: not only do we not get everything at once, but likewise, it sometimes takes us time to work out what’s originally revealed.
As to complementarity, just because complementary systems have often been oppressive among the gentiles, this doesn’t mean that it’s got to be that way in Zion. There’s still a beautiful sense in which priesthood and motherhood tie men and women together in ways that bring us closer to God. Even if this isn’t an eternal reality, it’s a practical one here on earth, and the practical success (and potential for continued success) is itself a reason to justify the distinction. Likewise, just because equality works among the gentiles, doesn’t mean that it will work for the Church better than a complementary system will.
Change in the Church
FF: Unique in the Judeo-Christian tradition is our lauding of Eve. As our scripture, temple, and prophetic revelations make clear, Eve acted in righteousness in taking a thoughtful, faithful action in the absence of further light and knowledge. As has been admitted, we lack further light and knowledge; there is no scripture or revelation that bans women from the priesthood. We ought to follow Mother Eve’s righteous example and act.
AA: After being driven from Eden, Adam built an altar and offered sacrifice on that altar because that was the pattern of action that had previously been revealed to him. He didn’t know why. He lacked further light and knowledge. But he held fast to what he <i>did</i> have, and after many days an angel appeared and gave him further light, knowledge, ordinances, and blessings because he had held faithful to the pattern given to him previously. Like Adam, we need to hold faithfully to what we’ve been given until more comes.
Analogy to Blacks in the Priesthood
FF: The only reason that pairing gender with priesthood appears likely from where you stand is the cultural biases you inhabit. As you yourself admit, we don’t know of any particular reason or revelation that either links the two or gives reasons why the two might be linked. In the absence of such revelation, and given the pervasive role that prejudice has played in the past, the safer assumption is that culture and not metaphysics is at work. Besides, we do lots of stuff related to the priesthood and ordinances that Jesus never did. One of the key things that distinguishes us from Protestantism is that we limit ourselves to doing what God approves of, and not merely what God has done in the past.
AA: I may be in danger of assuming that my cultural prejudices come from God. But it’s at least as likely that you’re reifying your own cultural assumptions that men and women are interchangeable, as well as assuming that the human mistakes that play large in earthly societies are also at play in the Kingdom of God on the earth (i.e., the Church). There’s a real danger with taking your assumption as the default every time your own opinion conflicts with Church practice (beyond the fact that it’s disenchanting and keeps one from seeing the hand of God in operation in the Church); namely, this assumption leads to (if it’s not already an example of) seeking to counsel God rather than take counsel from God’s hand.
FF: I agree with what you say about the need to be careful to receive rather than give counsel. But of course, the scriptures also make clear that faithful saints are anxiously engaged, righteously petition their leaders concerning their needs, and in general lend their efforts—including their intellects—to the building up of the kingdom. Whether we want it or not, given the greater context in which the Church resides, the education of the saints, and the egregious nature of the sexism conspicuously on display in the history of this dispensation, we’re facing a crisis. Really, there seem to be only two options:
- Ordain women
- Fully enfranchise women
Culturally speaking, we’re too eccentric now; we must either figure out someway of more fully incorporating women and their talents or else we risk relegating the Restoration to insignificance. More positively, enfranchising women is clearly righteous; we ought to be fully invested in seeking God’s will on how best to do so.
AA: Maybe. But the first option will take a 1978-style revelation, and demanding or trying to get the press to lobby with you won’t bring such a revelation. On the other hand, to anyone paying attention, the second option is already happening – gradually. But gradualism is a far more steady ship for an institution to sail for at least two reasons. First, gradualism is perhaps a logistical necessity for this large of an institution. But second, in addition to being concerned for those who leave our ranks, we must also be conscious of retaining those who are currently faithful. As you note, there’s a balance between adjusting in order to make things culturally easier in an effort to retain folks, and needing to be true to who we are. Our current gradualism gives us good reason to be cheerful and optimistic about how things are going.
Change in the Church & Blacks and the Priesthood:
FF: Yes, it’s always important to ensure that one is not inappropriately trying to “counsel” our authorities. But righteous change and improvement in the Church is not simply a matter of prophets initiating change anymore than apostasy is simply a matter of prophets turning away from the Lord. The poignancy of the current situation, and the fact that it impacts every member of the church, is again analogous to pre-1978. Consequently, it calls for members faithfully preparing for change and petitioning the Lord, and perhaps also the bulldog style leadership of a President Kimball who is willing to weary the Lord (and his fellow authorities) concerning the need for change.
AA: Maybe so. Let’s note, however, that it was President Kimball and his loving interactions with faithful saints that brought this change about over the course of several years, and not political-style activism. There existed a clear pre-1978 line with regard to public lobbying, and that line appears to be consistently maintained today. Consequently, as you note, perhaps the best thing we can do is to pray for and be open to the revelations that will come, whatever those are.
(Note: this isn’t really a round, and it’s certainly not the latest round. Rather, it’s a line of loosely related criticisms that have been around since the beginning and are commonly raised, but don’t get a lot of attention. It strikes as important for two reasons: one, because the criticisms being lodged here are powerful; and two, because argumentative allies of AA need to be aware that they’ve got a lot of work to do in this round.)
Structural Inequality: a more esoteric approach
FF: The criticism of how women are positioned in the church is not merely about the ethics of subordination. The whole body of social psychology and related research highlights the empirical problems associated with social divisions that systematically exclude a given demographic from authority, decision making, and visual prominence in leadership. For example:
- Our perspectives (literal and cultural) are irreducibly finite and filled with blind spots. There is broad consensus everywhere from business to psychology to theology that one of the chief means to overcome our perspectival finitude is through structurally incorporated diversity. As far as leadership in the church is concerned, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot by maintaining a primarily old, white, and male hierarchy.
- Similarly, Mormonism has historically taken the distinction between male & female really seriously—even on a theological level. If we’re serious, than why would it be ok to leave the female perspective/voice completely out of our governance? It seems that once again we’re failing practically to meet the standard we set forth doctrinally.
- There is a massive literature on the real psychological harm done to women (and men) collectively in sexist institutions. This research relates to the significant permeability between individual and collective values, and the way that values implicit in a given structure become absorbed and then expressed (both implicitly and explicitly) by the individuals committed to these institutions. In Mormonism this shows up not only in the young girls who are everywhere asking their parents, “So girls aren’t as important as boys, are they?” but also in the attitudes of boys who unreflectively assume that their own insights and needs are more important than those of their female peers (or parents or leaders).
- Additionally, there is a massive literature on the nature of power structures and how they operate to blind those in power to their own privilege, even when others point it out to them. There are also corresponding burdens placed by these structures on those denied the same privileges.
As best I can tell, Anti-feminist Al(ison) does not have a direct argumentative response to these criticisms. There are, however, a few rhetorical strategies that get employed, including:
- Mere denial (i.e., denial without a supporting argument), sometimes accompanied by alternative visions of how things could be (e.g., “This sounds like a clever and convoluted means of sowing dissatisfaction amongst women when there need not be any. Women in general are happier when structurally subordinate to men—unless people like FF come along and convince them to be unhappy;” or alternatively, simply linking to General Conference talks about how wonderful and happy women in the church are).
- Grudging acceptance, followed by various forms of dismissal (e.g., “Yeah, some of this is true…but…It’s still the Lord’s church;” or “Even so, I don’t think this justifies the virulent criticism being lodged against the church;” or “Here’s where we have to have faith in revelation and that God—as opposed to structural diversity—will help our leaders with these ‘natural man’ obstacles,” etc.).
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One of the more irritating aspects of anti-Mormonism is its bull-dogged persistence in repeating unfair criticisms that have been utterly debunked for more than a century (e.g., ‘Alma’ is a girl’s name, not a semitic one!). On the other hand, it’s just as irritating when faithful Mormons try to enter into apologetics by sneering at long-since debunked theories as though these were still relevant. It’s not that there aren’t still folks trotting out the long dead horses, and I’ll admit that sometimes it’s simply fun to kick them. But we must recognize that having anything to do with these dead horses is a genuine failure to engage the real issue; at best we’ll be left with a foul stench.
This, of course, is common to all debates, especially those we’re passionate about (i.e., those that are worthwhile). With a lot riding on the outcome of our passionate debates, we’re far more comfortable lobbing check-mate style attacks against straw men, even if there’s really no merit. Additionally, long-standing, high-stakes debates are in the continual process of adding new acolytes—and it’s simply a logistical fact that it takes these acolytes time (and lots of bad arguments) to get up to speed.
But none of us want to be mere sycophants incapable of anything other than kicking dead horses. And even if we’re acolytes, we can be aware of the dialogic lay of the land. As far as I can tell, what I’ve presented above is where we’re at. And the question we each need to ask ourselves is, “Am I really engaging the issue as it stands now, or merely kicking dead horses from the earlier rounds?”
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 I also have weak hopes that some of the folks who aren’t anywhere near the real issues will read this and realize, “Wow, I do a lot of jumping up and down about women in the church, but my goodness, I’m not even in the ballpark.” The sensible side of me, however, realizes that there’s nothing a blog post is going to do to help those who feel a massive need to pontificate but absolutely no need to actually be educated on the topic. To everyone else’s dismay such individuals are doomed to continue their public therapy.
 Other necessary disclaimers: First, this is a blog post and nothing more. This means my portrayal is necessarily a mere sketch—perhaps even a caricature in places. Likewise, there are other moves, other lines of reasoning and argument that are not depicted—logistically, depicting everything would be impossible. I’ve already waxed far longer than savvy blogging allows. But I think I’ve captured most of the main lines of reasoning, and done my best to outline those particular ideas that get repeated ad nauseam. Second, I’m ignoring the broad spectrum of positions involved and merely lumping everything together into the general categories of “feminist” and “anti-feminist.” My apologies, but once again, I couldn’t figure out how to do better in a post meant to articulate, quick and dirty, the basic ins and outs. Maybe this medium is doomed to failure. But since so much time and effort is squandered in this medium, I thought I’d at least try.
 Here’s where I acknowledge my own finitude. Perhaps there are solid responses to what I’m calling the “esoteric” front—perhaps some of you readers can point me to them. Nevertheless, I’m an active observer and participant in these debates, and given the poignancy of these issues in my own life, I’ve not been remiss in trying to find responses. The fact that I can’t come up with any is surely due in part to my own position in the debate. But if there are answers, the proponents are doing a lousy job advertising them.
This is awesome and very helpful.
Not as awesome as this, though:
. . . but still very good. I will end up, I am sure, linking to it a billion times–once each for every time someone says “but men can’t be mothers!” as if it were a conversation-ending observation.
Love this, James. My only thought is that your bias is showing. This does paint a pretty clear picture of the discussions I have had over the past nearly five decades on the subject, but IMO it still makes the exclusivity argument look weak. Doesn’t the old school crowd have any better arguments?
Maybe women are supposed to act like Eve and move forward and men are supposed to act like Adam and wait. And maybe the further light and knowledge Adam is waiting for is coming from Eve. Again.
Quite an evolving discussion, James. Jumping right to Round 4, I would agree with FF that there is something of a mild crisis in the sense that a not insignificant number of LDS women now appear to be tuning out or simply walking away from the Church. One can’t simply ignore this development. And while I agree with AA that changes must be made prudently, so as to not alienate a good chunk of the current membership, gradualism may not be enough. The Church is so conservative that gradual changes appear to some of us as significant changes, but if the rate of gradual change is still slower than the present rate of change in society at large, we’re still losing ground and becoming more out of step with society. “Gradual change” sounds positive but may actually mean “we’re slowly falling even farther behind the beneficial changes in society.”
There are some parts of this that I think are really interesting and thought-provoking, especially the twin comments that Alison already mentioned: We ought to follow Mother Eve’s righteous example and act. / Like Adam, we need to hold faithfully to what we’ve been given until more comes.
I am sad to see, however, how far the post falls short of its lofty starting tone. We begin with: “I’m going to describe the dialectical geography as I see it, in order to try and help readers at T&S do better at constructively engaging the arguments.” and then end with one side (FF) making convincing-sounding arguments (based on tone if nothing else) and the other (AA) reduced to “silence”, “mere denial”, or “grudging acceptance.” I wish I was paraphrasing but, alas, those are the actual verbatim options.
You do a great job of presenting your own beliefs, but come up empty when it comes to understanding the alternative. That would be OK in any other setting, where it would be incumbent upon the opposition to speak for themselves. But in a post where you take it upon yourself to express both sides it comes across as thinly veiled triumphalism.
Nathaniel, I think James already responded to your point in Note 3, explaining the weak responses of AA in the epilogue: “Perhaps there are solid responses to what I’m calling the “esoteric” front—perhaps some of you readers can point me to them. Nevertheless, I’m an active observer and participant in these debates, and given the poignancy of these issues in my own life, I’ve not been remiss in trying to find responses. The fact that I can’t come up with any is surely due in part to my own position in the debate. But if there are answers, the proponents are doing a lousy job advertising them.”
The oft-repeated refrain of, “Well I’d love to talk about good conservative arguments if only I could find them,” is a problem unto itself. At worst, it’s a cynical ploy to manipulate the argument and at best it boils down to an unhelpful debate about whether the problem is on the sending or receiving end of the communication.
So I don’t find James’ caveat useful. Either figure out what the opposition has to say or go ahead and own the claim that they opposition has nothing to say. Wistfully pondering on the mysterious absence of intelligent arguments from the opposition adds nothing to the discussion except irritation.
 One of my rules for debating on the Internet is: “Never get dragged into an argument framed in such a way that your opponent can win by simply claiming to be unable to see something.”
So, Nathaniel, point us to the better arguments that he missed.
1. I really can’t afford to be sucked into a long-running debate today.
2. I’m quite serious about my rule to never get pulled into a debate where it’s my job to convince the other side to see something that it’s not in their best interests (in terms of the debate) to see.
3. But I do think the issue is important to enough to keep trying.
So here’s my last post (for today):
My theory is that it won’t help very much because conservative arguments aren’t written in the language that left-leaning Mormon intellectuals understand. The terminology, assumptions, and values are all wrong. What we really need is an attempt to translate conservative views into “intellectual-ese,” but that’s not exactly a high-reward proposition. I’m working on an article now that will give it my best shot, and we’ll see if it works or not. But it’s not ready yet.
In the meantime, the thing I want to try and convey is simply that the inability of liberals to perceive good arguments from conservatives doesn’t actually mean that conservatives aren’t making good arguments. There’s clearly a breakdown in communication, but you can’t assign blame–implicitly or explicitly–without abandoning your position as a neutral commentator.
Of course it is interesting that, in my experience, conservatives have a much, much easier time sketching out the liberal position than vice versa but (again) there’s no objective, neutral way to translate that fact. Maybe conservatives don’t actually have a position of their own. Maybe liberal paradigms are too loaded to conceive of conservative alternatives.
These are shark-infested waters.
In my experience, dogged conservatives have just as much of a hard time explaining the liberal side fairly as liberals do the conservative. I think that part of the reason “conservatives” on the Bloggernacle have an easier time is because they are moderates, not truly conservatives.
The reason “AA” doesn’t have a great response to you is because you have set a battleground upon which she cannot win. Then, you assume that she has no ability to win.
In other words, participation in the Church is predicated upon faith in its basic principles (God the Father, Christ, the Spirit, personal revelation, God’s authority via the priesthood, the efficacy of priesthood ordinances, etc: ie. that the Church is true.) Without a testimony in those things, the “FF” arguments try to persuade on the battleground of intellect. But AA has no interest in fighting on that battleground. It doesn’t mean she CAN’T (after all, there are many people who do just that in apologetics, and they generally have good points even if you don’t accept them.) It means that she shouldn’t. That’s just not the battleground on which we have been asked to fight.
Thus, you get the “faithful” members of the Church who deride the “intellectuals” because THEY can’t fight on spiritual grounds, and the “intellectuals” who deride the faithful because they can’t fight on intellectual grounds.
It’s like a tree full of birds chattering about how dumb the fish are because they can’t fly, all while the fish are swimming around blurbing about how much more fun the birds would be having if they just tried swimming.
Not many of us are flying fish, or kingfishers.
One last thought: these kinds of posts illustrate quite effectively the major problems between the two schools of thought.
Those who believe in the Church’s claims of authority have really only one answer: I have searched, prayed, and received a testimony. You can, too.
But if someone is determined not to gain a testimony, or if they devalue spiritual sources of information, they will never receive that witness. These sorts of posts are like throwing a gauntlet into someone’s lap: prove it, or I won’t believe. By design, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Church cannot be proven. It is intended to be unprovable. That is why it is faith.
Ultimately, their belief and lack thereof will rest only in their own laps. Those who believe are not called to convert, but to testify. Conversion is solely between the individual and the Spirit, and ultimately it will be to God an individual must answer. Judgment as to whether or not they have reached for knowledge from God in every way they can is up to God, temporarily those He has designated, and no one else. All we can do is shrug and say, “I don’t know why you haven’t felt it, but I have.”
That’s not a non-answer, it just isn’t the answer you want.
The basis of this discussion is the assumption that “separate, but equal” is not all right. The modern, liberal notion of exact equality may not be the rule of Heaven. It never was. Only in today’s American society is the “exact equality” assumed to be the goal. What if that is a false idea?
James, I guess I share Nathaniel’s reaction. It’s a good effort, but really founders in the bonus round. If you’re interested in balance, let me suggest an addition.
We now have around 40 years or more of apostles speaking in general conference specifically about ordaining women, and stating that it is contrary to their understanding of the Lord’s will. That seems like a relevant data point that you should mention somewhere. On the one side, it’s the fact that outweighs all others that you mention: The apostles, the people who hold the keys to the priesthood, are saying that the church should not ordain women, and so any further discussion must either remain theoretical, or adapt to that reality, or gesture at apostasy. This is where the other side really has had no response, except variations on “what the apostles say doesn’t matter.”
I think you are correct. Many of positions on the “liberal” side of these kinds of the debates are based in modern values that may not in fact be compatible with Heaven.
I appreciate your point. But what really needs to happen is a discussion of *why* some apostles believe that ordination is contrary to the Lord’s will. The scriptures are silent on the point. Concluding that the Lord is opposed simply because he did not ordain women during his mortal ministry is inconsistent, since the church allows/encourages women to do very many things the Savior never did (serve missions, speak in church, sing hymns, ride on boats) Frankly, it is much more plausive that Christ did not ordain women because the people in his time were unprepared than that he did so intentionally but failed to instruct his disciples as to why.
I appreciate that the apostles are sincere and good intentioned. But they have never claimed to have received a revelation on female ordination. The most they have claimed is their personal interpretation of scripture. And as we know from the other priesthood restriction, prophets and apostles can act in good faith but still err in their reading of the scriptures. As members, it is not our place to say “the apostles are reading the scriptures wrong.” But it is our place to ask for answers – in no small part because doing so very often pushes leaders to question their own views, which then leads to additional revelation (ala 1978).
So here’s some questions I would like addressed. In his remarks last conference, Elder Oaks acknowledged that women are authorized to perform at least one priesthod ordiance – the initiatory. Where does this authority come from? Assuming it comes through being set apart by authorized priesthood holders (the temple presidency), what prevents the same line of authority from being used to authorize women to perform other temple ordinances (e.g., baptisms and confirmations), or to rely on similar lines of authority to allow sister missionaries to baptize their converts or laurels to adminster the sacrament? Relatedly, if women can be authorized to perform one (or more) ordinances even though they hold no priesthood office, is it possible that men could do the same? Could a 16-year old boy administer the sacrament simply because he was set apart for that role by his bishop, even though he was never ordained a priest? If not, why not? Is there something fundamentally inferior about men that they need a priesthood office in order to perform an ordinance but women do not?
I am somewhat intrigued by the counter framing of intellectual vs spiritual. But this raises a question to my mind: Can a liberal have a testimony or spiritual witness in favor of women’s ordination? Or by definition, is the liberal relying on secular or intellectual arguments that are out of alignment with Heaven/God?
In other words, is support for women’s ordination solely the purview of folks who have not received a sufficiently testimony of eternal matters re: this issue?
I am dismayed at the initial assumption of trying to fit this into a binary black-or-white, us vs. them. In reality, among the folks I know, there are all shades of trying to work this out. I am a non-feminist, but I am not an anti-feminist. I work with feminists all the time on issues of common interest (earlier this month our community held a Women’s Equality Day celebration that involved women’s groups of various philosophies).
“There is broad consensus everywhere from business to psychology to theology that one of the chief means to overcome our perspectival finitude is through structurally incorporated diversity.” Yes, that is one of the strengths of the church council system, in that women are on councils and their input is sought. But more importantly, that literature is all about human input, not reliance on the divine. If a church leader is seeking guidance on their knees, it matters less what the gender of that individual is. I’ve had some wonderful experiences as an RS president, marching into the bishopric office to convince them of something on behalf of the sisters in the ward that I was sure about, marshaling every logical argument that I could think of–only to have them accept, through the Spirit, that it was the right thing to do. In some cases it was like, “Oh we knew that wasn’t right but couldn’t figure out how to deal with it.”
I appreciate that other women do not have the same kinds of experiences, which may understandably influence their opinions on such thing.
But also, in my life outside of church, I haven’t found that female leadership automatically makes a better environment for all women. I am considered an atavistic sick brainwashed woman in the eyes of some colleagues, because I have chosen to build my career as a part-time professional so that I have the time I need to serve my family and at church. I make no judgement about how others choose to use their time, but this is what I prefer for me. But it is an ongoing battle to maintain the part-time schedule, a struggle made possible only because I have certain skillz that they can’t find anywhere else. (If not for that, I am sure they would let me go or insist I accept fulltime.) And in my experience, male supervisors have been most supportive.
Of course a “liberal” can have a testimony in favor of women’s ordination. One cannot, however, have a testimony that the Church should ordain women unless that liberal comprises the whole of the Q12 and First Presidency, who are the only ones with the authority from God to work out that sort of decision among themselves. If one believes that one has authority greater than they do, then by definition that one does not believe in the authority of the Church, which makes someone like myself wonder why they are trying to take control of it.
Naismith, I agree, which is why I use quotes. I think such dichotomies are ultimately unhelpful.
This entire debate is predicated on seeing any perceived (temporary) inequality and insisting it must be wrong and changed right now. When you frame the debate that way, you’re providing a textbook example of begging the question.
Since Nathanael G. isn’t aware of any liberals who understand conservative positions on women’s ordination and such, obviously James and Julie are responsible for finding liberal sources that do (goose, gander).
Nathaniel Givens, SilverRain,
Haidt has run a number of empirical studies suggesting that conservatives *do* understand liberal arguments better than vice versa. He claims that this is because liberals have some atrophied moral foundations that conservatives do not, but not vice versa. His explanation has always seemed weak to me, though, because I see plenty of evidence that liberals have fairly strong moral foundations on the Purity/Sacrednes and Ingroup/Outgroup areas, which are the ones he claims they only have vestigially, but its just that they express them in areas that are more opaque to our society. Most day-to-day environmentalism, for example, has only the weakest utilitarian justification: its a purity or sacredness ritual. On women’s ordination, there is little solid evidence that lack of ordination is causing much either in the way of significant distress for Mormon women or significant disutilitarian effects in the form of women falling away (and what evidence there is tends to reverse cause and effect, IMHO). But women’s liberation and gender equality in a strong sense is a leftist Sacred Value. So here we are.
if Haidt is right about conservatives being able to parrot liberal arguments better, I would attribute it to the dominance of the left in the mass media and in education, which means conservatives get exposed more to the other side. Same with the Bloggernacle. That said, there certainly are conservatives who just don’t get liberal arguments at all, or at least claim to not be able to. With them, and with their liberal counterparts, I’ve always wondered if its more a question of “won’t” rather than “can’t.” Like in a fight in marriage, where you can understand perfectly well where your spouse is coming from once you calm down, but when you are all het up the idea of even suggesting that your spouse might have a point worth engaging with is anathema.
Is there any conceivable way that someone could have a testimony that the church should — in any respect, or on any issue — not be the same as it currently is, without running into the points you have raised?
Also, can someone believe have a testimony that the church should change (on any particular issue, not just the ones of this post) while recognizing that they do not have authority to change the Church?
I think the issue within the modern Church is that too many men and women have adopted a cultural, secular view of their lives rather than a gospel view. That manifests itself with some women expecting the Church to mirror the same exact circumstances they now see in the workplace. Meanwhile, the men (and probably some women as well) are pursuing lofty career goals, money and possessions and neglecting their familial responsibilities.
That is my takeaway from the post. A lot of cultural norms and not much gospel-centered discussion.
My best analogy at the moment is this: imagine we have, as members, all boarded a ship called the USS Mormon. We have been baptized (boarded,) perhaps accepted other covenants. We have enjoyed the amenities on board. Some of us seem in first class suites, others in 3rd class (perhaps like myself, as a single mother and divorcee, along with others who don’t quite fit in.) But we all got on the ship. We can also get off the ship at any time. There are dozens of other ships within swimming distance, some of which even have little lifeboats docked on our sides waiting to take people off.
Let’s say one of us has some concerns with the direction the ship is going, or with the quality of food available. Obviously, there are dozens of scenarios in this analogy that could be likened to what goes on in the Church, but since this is just a comment and not a blog post, I’ll skip right to a few options:
1) Send messages to the Captain. This is like prayer and fasting.
2) Try to communicate to the first mate who, since he is very busy executing the orders of the captain, has set up a system of communication so only the appropriate problems are escalated to him. This is the line of authority via bishops, etc.
3) Keep quiet and let it go.
4) Advertise the incompetency of the first mate to other passengers and ships, in hopes that they and the other passengers on the ship will support you in an effort to convince the first mate of error.
5) Get off the ship and build your own ship.
6) Get off the ship and join another ship, or no ship at all.
7) Try to take over the ship yourself.
The “liberal” stand leans towards 4, generally feeling like 1-3 are not effective and, for whatever reason, not wanting to go to 5-7. It goes without saying that 1-3 still support the authority of the first mate and believes the Captain’s orders are still being executed. The rest are a vote of no confidence in the first mate. I, personally, think that 3 can also be a vote of no confidence in some circumstances.
But you cannot, by definition, do 4-7 and still claim to believe that the first mate is acting under direction of the Captain. You cannot seek to undermine the authority of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ and still claim to believe in that authority. Not without displaying incredible lack of integrity.
The only “middle ground” I see is to believe that the ship is a nice ship, going in more or less the right direction, but with a few tweaks it could be perfect. Basically, to not believe that the ship is intrinsically any different from other ships, maybe just has a better color of deck paint, or it offers a better selection of hors d’oeuvres. But for those of us who believe that the ship is something different, who truly believe that the Captain is giving orders, and passionately believe in the mission of the ship, such people who seek to change it in ways that undermine the first mate’s job of communicating the Captain’s orders threaten the very nature of the ship they boarded. It seeks to undermine the very reason most of them boarded in the first place: because they truly believe it is being steered by the Captain through the first mate.
Not a perfect analogy, but it’s the best I have right now.
So yes, it is possible to believe the Church should change and still recognize that one hasn’t the authority to change the Church. But it requires trusting an imperfect person (the first mate) to do his best to steer the ship, and trusting the Captain to intervene with him if necessary. It also depends on the passengers trusting that their messages to the Captain are being read and understood, that He cares about them and their needs, and can communicate those needs when the established line of authority fails. It requires patience, long-suffering, kindness…in short, charity.
Really good analogy! It helps me to see where you’re coming from here, and also where certain others would disagree.
I have a few further questions…Let’s take (2) vs (4). Could one have a criticism of the system of communication (or what problems are deemed to be “appropriate problems” to be escalated) while still recognizing that the first mate ultimately has jurisdiction/authority? Or does one have to accept either/both the competency and the authority of the system of communication in order to accept the authority of the first mate?
As a side question…for (4), can one even recognize the *authority* or *jurisdiction* of a individual while doubting the *competency*? It seems like conceptually, it’s popular to concede that the first mate is “an imperfect person”. But it seems that if one actually applies this imperfection in a practical sense (e.g., addressing competency), then they will be seen as undermining authority. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems a major difference between “conservative” and “liberal” thinking is that the conservative thinking would be that the imperfection of leaders could never affect a major aspect of the church, and even if it did, it would not require action by non-leaders (but instead, the Captain/God alone). Is that a good understanding? Does recognizing imperfection and also recognizing authority require a response of (1), (2), or sometimes (3), to the extent 3 is not a vote of no confidence?
I think I agree with the first sentence (at least, in a limited sense. For example, I might summarize the OW position as being at worst, “We do not believe the first mate is acting under direction of the Captain *on this issue*” without any reference to whether they believe the first mate is acting under direction of the Captain on any other issue.) But I don’t think that the second sentence follows from the first. In a sense, my questions are trying to get at a couple of things that would de-link the second sentence from the first: 1) Can one believe that the first mate could possibly not be acting under direction of the Captain in some issue *while still respecting the Authority of that first mate*…and 2) Can one’s actions to influence the first mate recognize the value, importance, and authority of the first mate?
In your comment, you say that liberals, for whatever reason, don’t want to go 5-7. It seems to me that at least some of the reasons for this reluctance is because liberals still recognize the authority. It seems to me that reluctance to go 5-7 is at least in some instances a recognition that the ship is something different (so getting off is not an acceptable option), the mission is absolutely vital, the Captain is giving orders and the Captain has authorized the first mate to serve on his behalf. It seems to me the liberals would believe that 1) sometimes the first mates may not be seeking/hearing/appropriately acting on answers from the Captain on every issue and/or 2) the Captain provides answers in a number of different ways than just through the first mate, but that working through and with the first mate is essential.
But if I am understanding your argument correctly, I would guess that you would say that avoiding 5-7 is not enough. I would guess further (although I’m more iffy on this) that you would say that one cannot recognize authority if one raises questions about competency.
Where the “gospel centered response” just has the unfortunate side effect of largely boxing women into a single role which necessitates economic dependence and if followed to its logical conclusion would require them systematically seeding most institutional power in the secular, mortal world to men? Not something that has a good track record for the actual health and vitality of real women in society. If all women focus mostly on child rearing while men “provide” through being forced into dealing with the messy secular world by running its politics and economy they end up being super important for raising the men who will run the world and daughters who again will be important raising more men to run the world and the a few “exceptions”. I doubt this is the order of heaven.
This to me is not how Zion should be run. It doesn’t sound like Zion to me. Zion is about melding our day to day secular society with godly purpose and along godly principles. There are to be “no poor among us” etc. This only happens when we engage in messy secular life and we need women there to do it properly. And we need them there not just as volunteers in civic institutions or helping run the social life of church’s or at the hearth. We need women CEOs, engineers, lawyers and professionals of all stripes. We need economically empowered women and politically empowered women. We need stay at home moms and dads too. We need a broad mix of paths for men, women and families to follow. Look around the world and show me one place where economically disenfrachised women who have little societal choice but the stay home and raise kids is a good place to be a mother or a women (or a child). It doesn’t exist. And regardless in the US and the Western world that ship has sailed. No matter how much you wish for a return to the 1950s it is *never* coming back. It doesn’t even really exist inside the church anymore. So lets just give that one up. When I look around my ward and Mormon friends, I see very few people that are “neglecting their families” or putting “riches in front of their kids”. I see a much bigger problem of families trying to stuff themselves into a very narrow box of life choices and making themselves unhappy instead of trying to find a unique path that is best for the family. For some it can be a stay at home parent (it has been for my family for 14 years) for others it is dual high-powered careers and a small family. For some it is both parents taking less demanding jobs to raise a really large family. For some it is a working career mom and stay-at-home dad.
SilverRain, it seems like your argument was already captured in the original post. You may not like the amount of column inches it received, but, fair or not, it simply doesn’t take up much space to give the entire response that, as you say, dwells in the realm of faith not logic/argument: “The very claim that we need and ought to change manifests a lack of faith. Jesus Christ is the one who set up this church and who has issued the revelations concerning priesthood hierarchy and the differing institutional roles of men and women. Zealous pronouncements on the need to change are dangerously dismissive of this fact.”
Jonathan Green, your comment 13 also just reiterates this passage from the original post.
SilverRain, I do very much disagree with you on this:
I feel the spirit when I see women treated with the honor they deserve (an instance happened in my ward at the direction of my bishop last month). I feel the spirit when I read passages of scripture saying that “all are alike unto God.” I sobbed like a baby when the first woman prayed in general conference. I feel the spirit depart when I hear a speaker go on in sacrament meeting about the evils of stay at home dads and working moms. I feel the spirit depart when I see young children heartbroken as they discover inequalities. This is not, as your offensive imaginations in #11 suggest, a mere absence of not-yet-acquired spiritual confirmation of the status quo. This is an affirmative confirmation that women deserve better, and Zion requires better, than our current practice. And, contra your #18, of course it is possible to have this testimony and simultaneously have a testimony of the church and its leaders. Because guess what–it is simply a demonstrated fact that our leadership agrees with me and not you. Under their direction, things have changed and are continuing to change. You don’t need to take liberals’ word for it. According to the Brethren, you are wrong. The status quo has not been ok. People who said it was ok, including you, were wrong. The current status quo is not ok either. People who say so are wrong. We hear from my local leaders and the general leaders that more change is coming. The current status quo will also be changed in the direction of good. We know that doing right by women will happen. I’d rather be telling my grandchildren that I was the one praying for these changes and faithfully helping make them happen within the structure of the church, than telling them that I was the one making up speculative garbage justifications before the changes happened, heaping abuse on my fellow saints who supported the changes on the internet, and taking out ads in the Tribune saying it was wrong afterwards. Choose you this day, &etc.
The headings of all the arguments are done from a liberal perspective and then the conservative has to reply to them.
Proactive conservative positions that I don’t see.
1) Yes I see that those are issues that are legitimate concerns for people. But that doesn’t mean that your proposed solution is better than the status quo. Things have been working under the current structure for a very long time, you have to have a really compelling argument to change something with that kind of track record.
2) Big changes require a great deal of prudence. If changes are going to be made it should be thoughtful and slow or there may be unintended consequences.
3) There will be costs associated with the proposed change that your side hasn’t considered.
4) President of caving to social pressure creates difficulty of preserving freedom to be independent of culture on other issues.
5) Exclusivity of Priesthood power has some benefits. If everyone is special, then no one is.
6) Change is necessary but needs to be considered in the context of the established moral order.
Andrew, I think it’s best if I start here: “But it seems that if one actually applies this imperfection in a practical sense…. ” Think about what that implies for a moment. If you have a manager in a business sense (which managers, I have found, are rarely good managers,) how do you react to your manager’s shortcomings? Or, for a more personal comparison, a spouse?
You should probably understand that I have in my life been in disagreements with my priesthood leaders to the point of screaming matches. But I have, for the most part, still sustained them. It seems paradoxical, but it is not.
As for the rest, I often hear liberals talk about how conservatives play lip service to the imperfection of leadership, but don’t truly believe it. But the part that I find many liberals miss is that the question of imperfection is moot to those who believe in authority from God. When someone relies on the Spirit to teach them how to follow the prophets, assuming a leader IS wrong leaves three basic options: follow at the Spirit’s direction even though the leader is wrong, counsel with the leader (or local representative) directly in humility and charity, or do something else, recognizing that you have authority for your own actions, but not to encourage others to do as you do. I have experienced and could share examples of all three.
Cynthia, if you believe you feel the Spirit in such cases, that is between you and God. I know that for me, the Spirit has invariably tempered my confrontational inclinations and encouraged me to work with, not against, those men who are trying to serve him as best they can. When I have spoken with them or heard their words, I have felt the power of their humble testimonies of my Savior. Their hearts resonate with what I know of God. That is enough for me to trust them.
As someone who works under managers, I find that it is absolutely part of my responsibility to address my manager’s (and senior manager’s and partner’s) shortcomings. If I see some issue from being in the weeds of data, I absolutely feel it is a responsibility to raise it to them (and that is what we are expected to do. For example, staff and seniors on engagements will often know more about the day-to-day budgetary concerns, especially if the budget is unrealistic or the client is asking for out-of-scope activities.)
If my own manager is not responsive, it is absolutely my prerogative to go above the manager to the senior manager or partner with the issue. If I fear for my employment or for backlash from doing this, that speaks negatively on the firm and its protocols, not on me.
This is also not something I have to be in alone. I can consult with other team members who are in the weeds to make the case, or to gather support and strength in numbers.
All of this is done while recognizing that ultimately, I don’t sign off on the project, and also that while I may have a more intimate awareness of the details, I certainly do not (yet) have an awareness of the higher level issues.
And this is all for stuff that is legit/legal. Suppose that there is something happening that I know to be unethical or illegal. My professional standards and even loyalty to the firm demands that I serve as a whistleblower while I support and continue to participate with the firm — even if some other folks will see this as a sign of disloyalty. I can see, then, how saying nothing is a cynical and disloyal response, or how leaving is a disloyal response (and maybe things get to be so bad that I have to do that).
But what I don’t see is how an active approach would be unfaithful.
Anyway, I would imagine that you would believe that the church doesn’t quite fit the same categories as a business, because for a number of reasons, good businesses follow practices and procedures that the church simply doesn’t (including women and minorities in leadership and other such diversity and inclusiveness initiatives.)
So, I’m not sure how this is addressing my questions. You say you have disagreed with your leaders, but you have sustained them nevertheless. But I’m supposing that the divide between conservatives and liberals is on a more basic question like: “What does sustaining look like?”
As to your last paragraph, I’m not sure that liberals are “missing” that the question of imperfection is moot to those who believe in authority from God. I think that to the contrary, they are taking the question of imperfection seriously and noting that authority from God cannot be equivalent to perfection.
If counseling with the leader is one option, one question is: what happens when the issue a person has is not a local issue?
Or does the way that imperfect leadership play out in conjunction with authority from God is that imperfections will only have local impact, but it could never possibly have structural or institutional impact?
Jimmy: (Sorry, I am a Superman fan and anyone named James Olsen is Jimmy to me). Also let me say that I see myself as a centrist on these issues. I offered the name of a woman to be my counselor when I was the Stake Sunday School President (it was refused) and I can see no reason a man could not be Primary President (I was the Nursery Leader for 3 years). If God wants little girls to pass the sacrament then great. However, I want to do a little excavation to uncover the assumptions that I think underlie your arguments here.
Your arguments appear to me to be shallow and incomplete. Here is why. You argue that:
(1) There is a structural inequalities between men and women in the Church.
It seems to me that you tacitly infer from (1) that : (a) all inequalities are unfair; (b) God would not allow anything unfair.
The problem is that both (a) and (b) are clearly false. Some inequalities are fair. That is why you make the argument regarding “Separate but Equal. What is true is that: (a*) some inequalities are unfair and some are fair. Is it unfair that 63.4% of all undergraduates are female? I think so: it is due to systematic grades kindergarten through the end of college discrimination fashioned by an education system where 90%+ of teachers are female and who by and large do not understand the needs that little boys have. However, arguably it is not unfair in light of historical discrimination against women who were less than 30% of college undergraduates as recently as the 1970s.
I know that you cite “separate but equal” to implicitly bring to mind Brown v. Board of Education so that one has a knee jerk reaction that it just cannot be accepted that some inequalities are fair. But inequalities may be fair where they serve those involved — like having separate men’s and women’s tennis or basketball leagues. Here the physical difference make the inequality fairer to keep them separate. (I just know that I am going to hear about a certain Little League pitcher in this regard — but that she is so exceptional just highlights the point). Maybe having a male only priesthood serves men in ways it does not serve women — like involving them where they feel needed whereas other churches who give priesthood to females see a vast reduction in activity of both men and women. I do not know if that is a good reason or not; but God would know it seems to me.
What you need are additional premises: (2) the differences at issue are morally wrong; (3) God would not structure anything morally wrong; (4) the Church ought to reflect God’s will; therefore conclude that excluding women from the priesthood is both morally wrong and contrary to God’s will. The problem here is that: (i) God has no obligation to treat everyone either equally or fairly; (ii) God allows things to occur that are morally wrong to be an engine for our growth; and (iii) God has actually spoken on these issues and he seems to disagree. Premise (2) is not always true and so you have to show why these inequalities are unfair. (3) is at least open to question because he structured this world and life which contains a lot of morally wrong events that arguably he could eliminate at will. (4) is undoubtedly true; but it is far from clear that it is God’s will that women be treated the same as men.
The analogy between Blacks and the Priesthood is transparently flawed because Joseph Smith never ordained a women to an office of the priesthood (as opposed to giving authority to perform certain priesthood ordinances). In addition, there is no scripture to support this ban, but Abraham 1-2 (matriarchal lines inherently cannot convey priesthood) and D&C 107 (all of those called even before the Law of Moses were men) provide a scriptural basis for giving priesthood offices only to men. I know, D&C 107 says that the priesthood was passed from father to son and we do not do it that way. That misses the point. All who were called to priesthood offices throughout all of history and as ordained by God were men according to D&C 107. In addition, D&C 107 speaks of the practice in this dispensation of giving priesthood offices and it names only men and uses the pronoun “he” consistently and exclusively. You could argue that is just presumed usage — except it is not. The revelation is clear that only males are in sight and were called or to be called to priesthood offices.
Of course there is continuing revelation and God could change his mind. But unless and until an argument is made for premises (2) – (4) it seems to me that your (largely unstated and implicit) argument cannot get off of the ground.
I don’t think I’m merely repeating one of James’s points. He contrasts an already-given, divinely appointed but static church, with a pro-ordination appeal to a church led to change through revelation. But my point is that he’s missing the anti-ordination argument based on continuing revelation: The church has made numerous changes in recent decades, church leaders represent those changes and Mormons accept them as the result of inspiration, the question of ordaining women has come to those same leaders repeatedly since the 1970s, but the apostle have uniformly rejected it. Repeated and recent apostolic statements can’t be dismissed as nothing more than an appeal to the way we’ve always done things, at least not if one is truly interested in understanding and dealing fairly with the arguments of both sides, which is what James’s post is about. The challenge for supporters of extending the priesthood to women is to put forward an argument for ordaining women that accepts those apostolic statements as inspired rather than trying to explain why they don’t matter.
“the Spirit has invariably tempered my confrontational inclinations and encouraged me to work with, not against, those men”
To reiterate my comment, if you are not working towards bringing about equality for women in the church, you are working against those men. They are seeking input and making changes. It is very clear that we’re in a “get on the bus or get left behind” moment.
Silence/denial/grudging acceptance is exactly how I would describe the Mormon feminist approach to the very real issue of the feminization of spirituality. For example, Ordain Women’s FAQ says this:
So let me get this straight. Men need an exclusive all male priesthood which includes complete unchecked structural control of the institution otherwise they will take their ball and just go home? This in turn *justifies* creating a system where women cede all decision rights to men? And somehow this is suppose to represent a Christ-like way of administering a church, one predicated on the threat of disengagement?
This to my mind is one of the weakest sociological arguments for placing all administrative authority with men. It flies in the face of D&C 121 which explicitly would seem to warn any church leaders from the temptations of power and influence as being directly opposed to righteous administration. Is “masculine spirituality” predicated only on being in charge? Or being high status and special? This sounds like the exact opposite of Christian teaching to me. It is Christ who taught the meek shall inherit the earth.
Including women equally in the governance of the body of Christ doesn’t destroy masculine spirituality but excluding women from governance certainly must diminish the scope of theirs.
You need to give a far better argument than “weak” to try and convince anyone that this is justification for disenfranchising half God’s children in the church. And trying the engage in the argument that way underscores one of the points of the post. While there might be some more indepth AA arugments out there. It is these types of argument by vague assertion that are the most salient from the AA camp. That is not to say there are not a few more articulate defenders of the status quo out there but they simply do not constitute the average level of argumentation within the church community. I think James captures that pretty well – which is the point.
Also, I think it would be great to see the dialectic geography described by those from the opposite perspective. That would be wonderful and very instructive. It is always better when you can let people articulate their own arguments. A joint post from two people on different sides writing the dialectic would be wonderful.
You talk about “the order of heaven” and later about Zion, but you equate them with the politics, power, and prestige of the world in direct opposition to the family. That is profoundly strange–given how explicitly counter it runs to Mormon theology–and profoundly sad.
Here’s a hint: most of those who “run the world” aren’t even going to be in heaven, or–at a very minimum–I would hardly expect worldly prominence to carry over to Zion or to the Celestial realms. This close identification of secular power with ultimate good is exactly what so many conservatives find alarming about these positions.
Exactly, Andrew. You do not go to the press, nor do you stir up your coworkers to do so. At least, not and pretend to yourself that you are still loyal to the organization. You go through established channels, and if you are not satisfied with those channels, you might go to the press and seek employment elsewhere.
I very much believe that imperfections in leadership can have devastating impact for the Church. But I believe that the Lord is capable of dealing with it, the Atonement covers it all, and I believe in exercising charity and patience towards my leaders. Neither spectacular nor so attention – getting, but it is what the Spirit leads me to.
Cynthia, I’m not sure who you think you are arguing against, but it isn’t me. I am not claiming changes shouldn’t be made, I am claiming there are inappropriate ways to make them. In fact, from my second comment here, I pointed out that keeping silent sometimes is also inappropriate. Please try to read what I’m saying, and not just assume you know. I gave you that courtesy, despite your dismissive tone towards me.
“This close identification of secular power with ultimate good is exactly what so many conservatives find alarming about these positions.”
Setting aside whether or not anybody (conservative, liberal, polka-dotted) believes that there is a direct correlation between secular power and ultimate good (hint: not publicly), I’m curious about this line of reasoning as being descriptive of conservatives. Some have argued that conservatives appreciate the notion that secular power differs from ultimate good because, if they are well served by the current system, it leads to their immediate good as well. What considerations do conservatives take (in your understanding) to prevent their own immediate goods (and desires thereto) from interfering with their notions of ultimate good? I ask, not believing that either the liberal or the polka-dotted is any better at it, but because I think that people laying claim to some potential articulation of the ultimate good should be able to explain that it does more than keep them fat and happy.
Is it possible that an activist, behaving in a way that makes folks in Church uncomfortable, just might be the way the Lord is capably dealing with some imperfection in leadership? Not pointing to a specific case in this instance; just wondering if you’d accept it as a potentiality.
I think we have a profound disagreement about the goal and nature of what it means to build Zion or struggle to do so. In my view of Mormon theology we are to build up a society today that does things like create a world where there “are no poor among them” where there are “no ites” etc. etc. I don’t suscribe to a view where we are just trying to hang on on the edges of the world, removed from it and the mundane, worldly tasks hoping that one day in heaven all will magically be restored without any effort, or agency on our part. I find it at least as odd that the religion that grew up preparing the the Kingdom of God on earth with Councils of 50 and a theocratic government doesn’t have a theology that cares about things like governance. O the church that tried for decades to make a working United Order doesn’t care about economic justie. Moreover, current church teachings have always emphasized citizenship, being anxiously engaged in a good cause, reading out of the best books, pursuing careers that serve humanity as well as feed a family. I don’t find that sad in the least. I do find sad the widespread rhetoric in the church that pits some vague notion of us the Saints versus “The World” and does this blanket condemnation of how it is just getting worse and worse. The basic facts just don’t back up that view of “the World” however you want to define it. In the US for example, teen pregnacies are going down, abortions have plummented, even the percentage of sexually active teens has dipped as has sexual frequency among high schoolers. Despite the many problems all over the world the aggregate level of violence and conflict has dramatically decreased by every concievable measure. Since the 70s the rate of domestic abuse has steadily declined (as women have become more empowered and divorce laws more equal). Technology has eradicated diseases, increased the economic well being of billions. Good evidence exists that the more we enfrachise women politically and economically that quality of life goes up, poverty goes down and child and elder welfare go up. Do I think it will be absolutely sad that religions will be among the last institutions to full enfranchise there women? Absolutely. Shame on us.
So yes, I want to live in a world where my daughters have every avenue open to them. I want to live in a church that supports multiple paths for my daughters to grow, develop and contribute. And yes I think that in heaven we will work and that we will work together and that we will have agency. Isn’t the whole point of our time on earth to learn and grow in these respects? To become more like God him and herself who we believe is active at the cosmic scale in the workings of the world? Isn’t he the God that conservatives in the US love to believe divinely inspired our Constitution and the Founding Fathers?
I always find it a bit sad when those that are enfranchised and in power tell those that aren’t or are asking to be included that they just shouldn’t worry about it.
Just a reminder, there are many, many more than two “sides” to the issue.
Kind of interesting that the OP quotes all kind of research to back up those claims, but the huge body of research on male involvement in church is so summarily rejected. Read (Unitarian) Kathleen Rolenz award-winning sermon on The Vanishing Male, or David Murrow’s book, Why Men Hate Going to Church. This is the impetus behind the Promise Keepers movement. I’ve talked with the director of institutional research for a major protestant congregation, and had a friend in grad school who was a Baptist Minister. There is much concern about men’s involvement in church and the spiritual lives of their family.
I don’t think that body of experience can be dismissed as “weak.”
I am not suggesting by any means that an exclusively male priesthood is the only way to accomplish that goal. Red flags should be raised whenever one tries to use only a hammer when a screwdriver would be more appropriate.
But let’s acknowledge that is has worked for many generations to help women to be supported and valued as mothers. Joanna Brooks has mentioned this, and my non-LDS friends who were also mothers at home were very impressed that my contributions were seen as equal to my husband’s wage-earning.
Of course it’s possible. If you knew me in person, you’d know that making Church folks comfortable has never been a thing of mine. It’s not about the comfort of the members, I hardly care two figs for that.
But, just for a moment, let’s explore what Spirit-driven activism might look like. It’s pretty easy to do so, since the scriptures are replete with examples. Take the prophet Elijah as a great example. He was a big activist for God against the leadership of Israel, which had gone astray. But that’s just it: are the activists willing to claim that the leadership of the Church has gone astray from the will of the Lord? It’s not a “well, they’re with God in 99% of their doctrines, but not this one thing” sort of situation. If you are willing to activate publicly against the leadership of the Church, it is because they are apostate and you have been called by God to re-establish His truth.
Anything short of their apostasy requires patience, working with them to learn God’s will. If they are really 99% right, they can be taught by the Spirit. It takes a huge dose of humility, understanding that we might be just as wrong. It takes the ability to invite the Spirit and listen as much as preach. When we speak by the Spirit of God, both the speaker and the listener are edified. That is the only way one can claim to be working by the power of God.
Otherwise, activists very well might be a tool of God in the same way that the Methodists and Presbyterian ministers were tools of God to inspire Joseph to enquire of God directly. But that’s not the type of tool I’d want to be: used in spite of my dissonance with the Spirit.
Frankly, and I’m well aware that I will probably offend several people and be torn apart by them as a result, as I’ve listened to Ordain Women from the very beginning, I’ve received a testimony that their methods WILL be used by God to galvanize the Church into necessary change, but that their methods are also apostasy. The Spirit tells me they are not inviting the Spirit (though sometimes they use the right buzzwords,) they are not acting according to divine revelation.
I’m not saying that as one of the conservatives on their little thrones of self-righteousness, with an “I’m right and you’re wrong! Neener, neener” attitude. Female ordination has long been a hope and struggle of mine, from the moment I was a 12-year-old tomboy watching the boys play basketball and learn to tie knots while I was relegated to baking scripture cookies and sewing things for my hope chest. My deepest desire in this life is to be a disciple of God, frustrated that there is no formal way for me to dedicate my life in His service. I have thrashed against the tresses of domestic life my entire life.
Far from having a sense of self-satisfied joy at OW’s failure, it pains me. It hurts that they are letting those with less than pure motives direct their efforts behind the scenes. (And I see no benefit in calling out specific people, so I won’t.) It hurts that the people I most agree with emotionally and ideologically are finding the only way to go about their work is to set themselves up in conflict with the Church. I am no less affected by the things that are happening than any flag-waving feminist OW supporter.
But I have spent countless effort, hours of tears and prayer. I have argued with my Church leaders, endured standing up in court while my heart has been laid bare and motivations twisted before secular judges in these and similar matters. I float, even here in the Bloggernacle, with no tribe to call my own online OR offline because I have argued the case of women in front of “conservatives” as much as I have argued the case of long-suffering here. (Online, I have given up on the former, but obviously not on the latter.) I have wrestled, and I do not lightly urge the course of patient charity.
Activism will be effective, I do not argue otherwise. But the side effect of that course of action will be separation from the body of the Church, as activist principles replace the principles of the Gospel in the hearts of activists. You become what you surround yourself with. Short of a “mighty change of heart,” that is the outcome I foresee.
“I would hardly expect worldly prominence to carry over to Zion or to the Celestial realms”
Nobody was talking about prominence–they were talking about the ability to be self-sufficient and to serve effectively.
Precisely, John C. There are important differences in how the Genesis Groups work, and the activism I was discussing.
If the church actually taught such things, you might have a point. But rather, I and my girls have gotten all kinds of encouragement over the pulpit to pursue an education and make a difference in the world. As a young mother, BYU gave me scholarships to take distance learning classes that allowed me to change my major for graduate school. My daughters’ young women leaders ensured that the girls completed enough volunteer hours in order to qualify for honors programs and scholarships with that kind of requirement. One of their YW leaders was a doctoral candidate who had a baby her last year of school. As a young mother, I lived in Florida when Paula Hawkins was elected to the US Senate. So no, I never got the message that LDS women were to keep having babies past menopause or stay confined to the home every minute of every day, if that is what you are suggesting.
My non-LDS female colleagues nowadays feel that they have “little societal choice” but to be employed full-time. A lot of them feel trapped and frustrated that they can’t have a second (or even first) child. I am not sure that they are in that much better of a place.
Their spouses only value their paycheck, not any homemaking services that they provide. I know a lot of women who came of age as feminists in the 1970s who purposely did not learn to cook because that is part of “female servitude.” Every meal they consume is from a restaurant or microwaved from a box. Now they are retiring, and can’t really afford that kind of food budget, but it is hard to change habits at that age. Whereas I benefited from so many great RS lessons on budget cooking, using beans, cooking a roast, etc.
I actually agree with much of your vision of Zion, but I don’t see the church as being a negative force in preventing such dreams coming to fruition. And I see a lot of negativism from other places in society. I was saddened as I watched a pregnant colleague kicked out of our graduate program because of her illness during pregnancy. I thought of my male professors at BYU and how great they were about encouraging and allowing me to hand term papers in a year later.
There’s no doubt that our church treats the genders differently. Whether those differences automatically make women “less” or “below” is less certain. And is it really okay for a man to be telling a woman that she is “disenfranchised”?
“Similarly, Mormonism has historically taken the distinction between male & female really seriously—even on a theological level. If we’re serious, than why would it be ok to leave the female perspective/voice completely out of our governance? It seems that once again we’re failing practically to meet the standard we set forth doctrinally.”
Example conservative response: Which doctrinal standard of inviting female voices into church governance are you referring to? The Godhead consists of 3 male personages. All individuals who restored critical priesthood keys to modern prophets (John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias, Elijah) were male. All past leaders of dispensations (that we know of) were male. The one situation in the bible where a female performed an “ordinance” is not in violation of any rules we know of – there were no stipulations as to who performed a circumcision, though tradition made it a father’s responsibility. Priesthood authority therefore couldn’t have been part of it since most Israelites did not hold the priesthood. Christ set up a church with men in leadership in both the Old World and the New World in spite of the presence of many capable devout female disciples. He clearly noted the tremendous faith of his female followers, but it begs the question, why not establish women in the highest levels of leadership? He wasn’t one to adhere to unrighteous cultural boundaries. One of the few doctrinal points we know about Heavenly Mother is that it is inappropriate to pray to her (which is the reason for most of those excommunications, btw) and that she is NOT a member of the Godhead which governs this earth. What doctrinal precedents are we failing to meet by having men dominate church governance?
Rah 40 agree, this is my vision also.
Was uncomfortable that the original blog gave as a major motivation for change in the church, keeping up with the world. There was little mention of spirituality.
My support for OW is that my understanding of exaltation, and for that matter Zion, includes gender equality. So then why is it not possible in the church? I conclude it is because of the conservative culture of the leaders.
If you read accounts of the lead up to the 78 declaration, the prophet seems to be praying for help to overcome his, and the 12 overcome their, prejudices so the Lords will can be implemented. I see a parallel where our present leaders are unable to receive the Lords will because of their culture. Possibly they don’t even ask because they can not conceive that it is possible?
SilverRain 43. I believe the Leaders are leading in accord with the Lord when it comes to most of the Gospel but are unable to accept the Lords will on a couple of issues like ordaining women, and accepting gays , because of their conservative culture. I believe all of us filter revelation/inspiration through our culture, with notable exceptions. Some conference talks are Gospel, and some contain culture.
To me the difference between the conservative and other view is the culture of the last 50 years of “obedience is the first law of heaven, which covers a number of additional beliefs, including unquestioning obedience to anything from SLC, no difference in value between declarations, proclamations, conference talks, or other pronouncements by GAs (they all come from SLC), the need to sanitise history, the ever darkening world as a church belief, the Lord will never allow the church to stray from his beliefs, never refuse a calling, that modesty is a gospel principle, that being conservative politically is a church requirement, and the lack of any way to communicate with the Leadership. Also that those who don’t see life as you do are spiritually inferior.
I had thought that the First Presidency was leading us away from the obedience culture to a love culture, but not so sure any more.
If you accept this culture you will not consider the need for change, and will not implement it until you are told by the leaders. This applies to every detail not just these big issues. I can not get my ward to stand for the intermediate hymn, because it has not been requested from above.
“Weak” is not the argument, it is my description of the non-response given by these two Mormon feminist organizations to the argument.
It would also describe your non-response which is the same as theirs but with a lot more hyperbole, strawmen, and internally logically incoherent arguments thrown in.
Apparently it has not occurred to you that men could want the priesthood for the same reasons these feminist organizations do. Presumably you don’t think the actions of Ordain Women are opposed to Christ’s teaching or fly in the face of D&C 121 or are predicated on being “in charge,” “high status,” or “special.” Many of their critics use the exact same arguments against them, but my guess is that you would disagree.
Everyone knows that a good way to get people to show up is to give them a job to do. By reserving more and more high-profile callings for men we give them reason to show up and serve in a sphere where they are increasingly outnumbered by women. It may be a sad reality but it’s a reality nonetheless, and it’s not a new problem either:
No one is arguing that this is the order of heaven, but sometimes God allows His people to live a lesser law until they are ready for greater light and knowledge.
I hope that is not too vague for you.
“I believe the Leaders are leading in accord with the Lord when it comes to most of the Gospel but are unable to accept the Lords will on a couple of issues like [insert your thought here]…”
In the old days of the Missouri difficulties, some members thought of Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet (differentiating from non-members who might have called him a false prophet). Maybe that thought processes is still current?
I apologize for misunderstanding. I assumed that when you cited Elijah, you were using him as a model of activism. However Darius agitated, it wasn’t like Elijah. Nor would I want to see activists like Elijah (people would die, yo!).
Anyways, my guess is that Darius thought the brethren were 100% wrong about blacks and the priesthood and he agitated to get that changed. I wouldn’t call his agitation exactly quiet, either. So, so far as I can tell, he doesn’t meet either of the criteria that you extrapolated. He was patient and was trying to work with the brethren, but I don’t think he thought they were one iota right about the priesthood ban. Now, this is me speaking on behalf of Darius, whom I don’t know, and for all I know he might disagree with my characterization of his motivations and understanding. But I doubt it.
Of course, Ordain Women was also trying to meet with and work with the Brethren and was, I thought, remarkably patient as well. I’d also prefer it if they hadn’t incorporated loud and obnoxious anti-Mormons like Holly Welker and Kimberly Brinkerhof into their ranks. But Ordain Women to this day is respectful, deferential, and stoic in the face of great pressure to be quiet on the Church’s side and great pressure to rage against the machine on the Anti-Mormon side. That they choose to speak up, with respect and without rancor, and that they continue to do so, is an indication of where they might fall on the activist/disciple spectrum. Of course, YMMV.
Setting all that aside, this all goes back to Cynthia’s original point in addressing you. When you say, “But the side effect of that course of action will be separation from the body of the Church, as activist principles replace the principles of the Gospel in the hearts of activists.” and Cynthia points out that the Brethren’s principles (and by implication the Church’s) appear to be inclined toward activist principles (in the case of women in the church), what meaningful difference do you see between activist principles and Gospel principles?
That is definitely a remarkably uncharitable assumption about a group in which you don’t include yourself.
I see what you are saying. It seems a strange thing to argue that we must keep women’s talents suppressed in order to allow men’s to flower. Perhaps for a time, men, like women in business, should have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition.
The Genesis Group was organized by three Apostles, Hinckley, Monson, and Packer, and constituted an official auxiliary of the Church. Any similarity to OW ends there.
If Darius’s life and activity began and ended with the Genesis Group, that might be relevant.
I have never met anyone who believes in unquestioning obedience, no matter how “conservative” they are. Not one. Once they do, they are just as far off true as those who believe it is okay to fight against the leadership.
Do you see no problem in your characterization of yourself as nuanced, but those you see as your opponents as black-and-white?
The difference is that when a “conservative” disagrees with someone in authority, s/he proceeds with caution and requires clear, firm Spiritual prompting to act against that leader. A “liberal” acts against that leader unless clearly and firmly prompted not to.
So, if a leader is even only 49% right, if you trust God’s power and believe that His authority is given to this person, you support him because God must have called him for a reason. Even if you don’t follow him on certain points, you refrain from publicly acting against him, embarrassing him, or otherwise undermining his authority. Because it isn’t his authority, it is God’s.
If at some point you cease to feel he is acting other God’s authority, AND you are given direct authority from God, you can challenge him. But until then, you keep it between you and God, and him and God.
I think I follow, now. I was pointing out that the aggressive activism of Elijah was because he was directly called of God to challenge the authority of the leadership. As far as I know, so far OW isn’t claiming to be called of God to challenge the authority of the Church leadership.
Let me put it this way: there are many, many people who are inspired to talk to the leadership about problems they see in the Church. They are acting with patience, charity, humility, respect, and deference. You can know that because you don’t know their names. They did not choose to organize in the public eye and use that to try to force behavior from the leadership.
That is the meaningful difference, John. You don’t know their names. Of those few activists in history whose names you know, (like Darius Gray,) you know them not because they set themselves up in opposition to the Church and demanded change, but because of their efforts elsewhere.
People possessed of the Spirit of God do not garner attention to themselves. If they get attention, it is in spite of their desires, not because of them.
Um. Not sure that I fit your (rather ugly) stereotype, nor do most of those I know IRL who don’t support OW. Of course everyone’s experience is different, but I am a registered USAmerican Democrat and serve on the board of a woman’s organization that espouses some causes that are generally considered to be liberal.
I don’t feel the lack of “any way to communicate with the Leadership,” because I have been in various meetings that were 80% Q & A with no rules. Of course, if you didn’t happen to attend the Saturday night stake conference session, you didn’t have the opportunity to ask the GAs who came. But I have had enough of those opportunities in the recent years that I cannot honestly say that there is no way.
Like SR, I felt great pain over Kelly’s excommunication. It would never occur to me to consider anyone else as “spiritually inferior.” We all have different paths on our spiritual journey and I am busy staying on my own road. I don’t have the stewardship or knowledge to make that kind of judgment about others.
I also want gender equality. With all my being I yearn for it. But what does that mean, and what does it look like? I haven’t found it yet in the world outside the church. I don’t think that treating men and women the same is necessarily the answer that works, although it is used a lot in the place where I live.
“Do you see no problem in your characterization of yourself as nuanced, but those you see as your opponents as black-and-white?
The difference is that when a “conservative” disagrees with someone in authority, s/he proceeds with caution and requires clear, firm Spiritual prompting to act against that leader. A “liberal” acts against that leader unless clearly and firmly prompted not to.”
That’s a pretty black-and white assumption you just threw out there. How was that making your point? Honestly, how do you know what clear, firm Spiritual promptings a liberal has or has not received?
I neither identify as conservative nor liberal. I’ve been accused of being too much of each by the other. Also, I categorized both in equally simplistic terms. Of course actual behavior is more nuanced. Two things factor into my claim: 1) Geoff was explaining the difference to him, and so I clarified my perception, and 2) I was basing both claims on what “conservatives” and “liberals” have expressed.
Near as I can tell, when there’s an issue, most of those who self-identify as conservative gladly claim to require spiritual confirmation before deciding to act differently than the leaders ask, and most of those who self-identify as liberal gladly claim to require spiritual confirmation before acting differently than they have before. Are you saying that you do not fit this norm?
If so, that’s fine. I was painting with a broad brush in an attempt to define differences. But, as more of a moderate, I don’t really have any skin in that game.
So that’s how it works between liberals and conservatives. Such an easy understanding. Thank you for that: conservatives follow blindly or very close to it and liberals refuse to follow barring divine intervention. Hard to not offend everyone but a moderate like yourself with that one.
My description of conservative members @ 49 would cover my Stake Pres, my previous bishop, and my HP group leader. Even down to being anti gay marriage in a country where 90% of people under 40 are for it. And to believing that all Apostles believe the same things so if Elder Oaks says something then they assume Elder Uchtdorf is saying the same thing. When asked to find something from Uchtdorf opposing gay marriage they can’t understand why he has been quiet about it.
I live in a very conservative part of Australia.
I have not seen a GA for 5 years, and only been in one QA meeting when Elder Bedinar was here many years ago, and the questions were submitted and vetted. I have spoken with Bishops and SP about my concerns but the way they argued against my concerns did not make me think they could understand , let alone represent my ideas up the line. Writing to SLC gets no response, the letter is returned to your SP. So I am not aware of any way I can communicate with my leaders. I can send a message to the office of the president of the US and get a response, so why not the church?
There was a GA at the last stake conference, who was an Australian (from another state) area authority. I was out of town and did not see whether he had a QA, but am also not sure how much influence he has with SLC.
The norm that I, as a liberal, act (without caution) against leaders I disagree with unless God clearly tells me not to? Nope, you’ve captured me perfectly. I’m quite the little rebel.
I don’t think it’s strange at all. Or would you say the same thing to minorities who want to apply to Ivy League universities?
Elder Uchtdorf has not been quiet about gay marriage. You omitted 1st Presidency letters. =)
That we should repress minority talent to allow the Ivy League to prosper? It’s not a zero sum game.
Dear gracious, folks. Lighten up. I was trying to quantify what I see as the main difference. If it doesn’t fit you, fine, explain how you see it differently. No need to get all prickly and sarcastic about it. *LOL*
Obviously, I’ve hit a nerve.
There’s a huge, gaping, chasm between the ideals you espouse in your first paragraph and the doctrinaire ideology you jump to in the second.
In the first paragraph you talk about striving for a world where there are no poor, no “ites”, economic justice, etc. Yeah: I get that. Wrote a paper on it (the economic justice aspects, anyway) along with my friend Walker Wright. “No Poor Among Them”: Global Poverty, Free Markets, and the “Fourfold” Mission Now, I don’t expect you to like what we wrote very much, but lets just go ahead and bury this idea that you’re the only one who cares about the poor. But, to the extent that you do: great.
And then we get to this:
So, to recap, “I care about the poor, therefore female ordination.”
I wonder if you’d be able to see the gaping hold between the two if you weren’t so convinced that liberals had a monopoly on concern for other.
But this isn’t the original criticism I launched, a criticism that you seem to have missed because you didn’t react to it at all in your post. You did, however, repeat the grave conflation of secular power and spiritual power that I’ve been critiquing all along when you wrote:
Compare that with this comment from your first post (that I responded to):
The following seem abundantly clear:
1. You view leadership as fundamentally coercive and authoritarian. (I.e. leaders give orders.)
2. You view leadership as empowering in an exclusive way. (I.e. leadership is a privileged status above al others.)
3. You view the secular realm of politics and the economy as dominant to the realm of the family.
4. You think all of these assumptions about leadership and secular power apply to “the order of heaven.”
In short, you’ve adopted the world’s status-conscious, coercive-view of leadership and you’ve replaced the Lord’s very, very different view of service (based on service, consent, and love) with it. Of course once you start to see the Church as fundamentally the same kind of institution as a Fortune 500 corporation or a political government you’d want to advocate for female ordination. That follows logically.
What doesn’t follow–and what alarms conservative–is abandoning the Lord’s ideal of leadership and accepting the premise that the Church is essentially the same kind of institution as any other worldly, man-made institution.
I’m not passionately opposed to female ordination, but I am passionately opposed to the paradigm that most proponents of female ordination seek to import into the Church. I see leadership as fundamentally a kind of service (e.g. washing the feet) that brings with it no special status (e.g. “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”) that is based on consent (“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion,”) and also on love.
The world’s notion of leadership is very different. Leaders get paid hundreds of times more than the people they lead (in companies). They are treated with special status. They are obeyed based on the use of power or the threat of the use of power. Love doesn’t enter into the equation.
It is not impossible that someone could accept Christ’s leadership example and still believe in female ordination. But it is impossible for someone to accept Christ’s leadership example and agitate for female ordination using the language of power, discrimination, status, etc.
Those arguments are based on finding equality within the world, where leadership = power. They do not apply to a situation where leadership is consensual, service-oriented, and devoid of special status.
I absolutely do not believe that our Church does, in fact, live up to the ideal of Christ-like leadership. There are too many Mormons (men and women, conservative and liberal) who view leadership callings as a status symbol, and who expect to obey or be obeyed by virtue of the Priesthood. I am not arguing that we’ve got it perfect, and that proponents of female ordination will ruin Eden.
But I am arguing that, as bad as things may be, they will be irretrievable and permanently worsened if female ordination is ever enacted based on the leadership-as-power-paradigm. To do so would be to permanently and irrevocably abandon the ideal of leadership-as-service. It would be to state with finality that leadership in the Church is about the exercise of power and authority, which would do great damage to our faith no matter which gender was ordained.
That is what I consider most dangerous and corrupting about arguments to ordain women. Not that the ordination itself is a bad thing, but that it is currently being used as a vector to introduce a worldly conception of leadership into the Church. (Which I don’t think is intentional or even recognized by the proponents.)
Well said on every point, Nathaniel. Thank you.
To be fair, the entire “world” does not embrace the leadership-as-power paradigm. I studied the servant leadership model in grad school, and it is still discussed. See for example
And yes, I agree that the church seems to be teaching and striving for a servant leadership model.
I very much agree with you when say “I absolutely do not believe that our Church does live up to the ideal of Christ-like leadership.” Hugh Nibley, if he were alive would agree with you also. Many think the Church is being run like a Fortune 500 company. If current management is not hitting on all cylinders, where is the downside to getting inspiration through a more bottom-up process?
What if there had been better member and missionary input during the “swimming-pool baptism” era. What if there had been member scientific input before the ridiculous “Man, His Origin and Destiny” was published. What if there had been historian input so that the 1978 proclamation could have come much earlier. You are defending an organization structure that you admit is flawed. You are not proposing a solution to the leadership problem, just criticizing those who would like more input. But if the current leadership situation if flawed, why not get more membership input?
Well, yes. The Church–insofar as it involves human beings–will always be flawed. That sort of goes without saying. But it doesn’t mean that I’m defending the status quo against any and all reforms. Instead, what I’m actually doing is saying is:
1. I’m a little uneasy about a certain proposed reform (female ordination)
2. I’m really uneasy about the reasons give for that proposed reform (essentially: we all buy into the idea of leadership-as-power and give up on leadership-as-service)
Neither of these entails sticking with the status quo. There’s lots of movement I would like to see, but that goes outside the scope of what I want to discuss in the comments section right now. (Suffice it to say, I think your suggestion of more membership input isn’t bad as far as it goes, but isn’t nearly radical or creative enough.)
Thanks for the excellent article. Just to clarify my point, I didn’t mean that “everyone outside of the Mormon Church gets leadership wrong,” or something along those lines. I meant “world” not as in “everyone else” but in the sense of John 15:18-19:
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
That is “the world” that embraces leadership-as-power. And it’s quite dominant, but certainly not universal. Leadership-as-service is accessible to all Christians (not just Mormons) since it’s in the Bible and of course is present in many other cultures, traditions, and religions (as the Forbes article you linked indicates).
I wasn’t arguing for any kind of variant on the Mormon monopoly on truth fallacy there.
You got it bass ackwards. In the church men are the minority.
LDS women being elected to office means nothing about prophetic counsel to women. Hyperbole aside, as we’ve discussed before, there has been very specific, very strong prophetic counsel in my lifetime for women to stay home with children.
Here’s my problem with your analogy. I don’t think it’s incompetency at all (and so have never “advertised” the “incompetency” of anyone). I think it’s a function of time/resources/information/awareness/personal experience.
God’s flow of information resides almost exclusively in the space where an authoritative source asks the questions. If President Hinckley’s own statements are any indicator, he did not think female position or ordination was important to more than five or six women on the planet.
When he made the statement, my jaw dropped because I knew, personally, knew so many dozens of women who had spent years/decades in turmoil over the issues of gender. I didn’t think he was lying. I thought he was insulated from it.
BTW, I thought Andrew gave a great list of questions and wish they had been more specifically addressed.
Now, if only we could figure out a reason for women to show up…
My thoughts exactly.
Or maybe “conservatives” (a term I hate in this discussion, since I am a raging, tea partying, conservative…) are:
• publicly compliant while murmuring and gossiping behind leaders backs
• making a show on their rameumptom of obedience
• assume that anyone who disagrees with them (obviously) hasn’t received a prompting, even though they have no clue
And, yea, excluding yourself from groups and then making sweeping, erroneous claims that impugn almost everyone in them will tend to “strike a nerve.” Doing so and telling people to “lighten up”? Really?
hahahahah hahaha hhhaaaaa
No. No special status at all. Except:
• authoritative voice
• permission to perform ordinances
• decision making
• representation of perspective
• insistence that those who disagree are apostate
This is kind of like the old Emma Smith dilemma. (At least the one we used to be taught.) No woman would be forced into polygyny. The wife would have to agree to subsequent wives. Of course, if she didn’t agree, she’d rot in hell for eternity. Plus, if she didn’t agree, he’d do it anyway. But, yes, CONSENT!
So, practically speaking, what does this consent to leadership mean? You can either comply with those who are chosen to lead your or be damned? (Or ousted or shunned or excommunicated or…?)
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we should have a public vote on leaders and be able to impeach and force resignation for those we don’t like, but let’s be up front about how this all works, please.
Alison Moore Smith,
Women already show up. That’s kind of the point. Read the following and you too can move from denial to grudging acceptance:
James, thank you for taking the time and energy to write this post. As others have noted, the issue is, of course, much more nuanced than two competing views–but your framework adds to the discussion. Thank you.
I’ve read the comments. This is for the most part an excellent discussion. Thank you. It’s helpful for a guy like me who, frankly, doesn’t spend too much time thinking about church governance, or faith matters generally. (Great, now I’ve probably discounted my only cogent thought I hoped to add to the conversation.)
Does biology play into the dialectic? Maybe argument #5? That is, there is something deep within us (as mammals) in how we respond to male authority. Our conceptions of God are formed based in some degree on our experiences with our fathers. Our responses to authority figures are tied up with our experiences with our fathers. There are serious biological reactions to how males respond to other male authority and how females respond to male authority. A significant portion of our responses to male authority is hard wired.
If that authority figure is changed from male to female, … I don’t know what happens. I suppose there are many males who respond well to that. Sort of a motherly spiritual advisor. Maybe other males not so much. Females would have biological responses to a female authority figure as well. I’m going to stop speculating …
My point is, gender-based priesthood is a social construct, but it has real biological consequences. It’s at least fun to speculate about. In my opinion, it deserves a back-and-forth dialogue from James.
Doh! Now receiving email notifications. Sorry.
Sigh. Remember when Silver Rain talked about being stuck in the middle on this issue? Yeah, that is clearly where I am as well. To my colleagues,I am horribly old-fashioned to want to be at home with my children after school. To Alison, I did not follow “strong prophet counsel.”
A nice demonstration that women are very different and the conservative/liberal labels may not fit this issue.
Alison, I think we agree that having children is important. I was fortunate to have clear revelation as to how many children to have and when we were done. And it is a boatload of work to raise just my five, so I applaud those of you with larger families. It is hard work that is sometimes unappreciated by those who do not share our values. And it may demand a fulltime commitment from one of the parents.
But I have never seen “staying home” as a panacea. If one just stays home and sits around not doing much, that is hardly following prophetic counsel. What the church asks us is to actively be involved in nurturing a righteous generation.
Of course how to do that is up to each of us, and I could cite quote after quote from General Conference about how there is no one right way to be a mother, that each family is unique, etc. And that we should never use such status to judge one another.
At BYU, mothers with toddlers have been hired as tenure-track faculty, even in the Religion department. How can the Lord’s university perpetrate such unrighteousness? (/sarcasm off)
I very much appreciate the church suggesting that being at home for a season might be an option–because it is not even considered as a viable option by many of the LDS mothers I know. I think that having role models who do that for a season gives us a full range of choices in order to prayerfully decide what is best for our own family.
But really, how is it different for an at-home mother to give a major talk at a big homeschoolers convention vs. an employed mother giving a presentation at a professional conference? Both are going to require research and preparation, considering what to wear and travel to the venue–all of which may take time away from children, which might mean quality time with dad or a grandparent. I don’t think one option is less righteous because it is salaried.
* For those who have been fortunate enough to miss our previous interactions: when President Benson gave a North American fireside on motherhood in the 1980s, Alison had the opportunity to hear it in the Marriott Center, and felt that it applied to all mothers (please correct me if I am wrong, but that is what I remember). At that time I was living in Texas, where we didn’t even have a satellite dish yet, so I read the talk as a mimeographed copy. We thought it was a great talk that I still think about regularly since we applied the principles. But when I prayed about whether to drop out of grad school, the answer I got was actually hurt feelings: “So I arranged for miracle after miracle to allow you to not only attend one of the best grad programs in the country, but to do so with a great fellowship so that you can be home with your children after school? And you are considering squandering that in order to appear righteous to your neighbors?” Um, yeah.
So let me see if I have this straight, Alison. It is okay for the OP to make “sweeping, erroneous claims,” but when I try to, in context, add a different perspective, I’m supposed to accept the vitriol? Sorry, but for real dialogue, if they don’t want to look ridiculous, people are going to have to learn the ability to address points, not just lash out because they don’t like what was said.
The rest of your comment isn’t worth addressing. I always appreciate discussing anything with Andrew, because he makes me think through my assumptions and does so respectfully. However, it’s hard to have a decent public conversion here because there are so many looking to be offended. The quality of this discussion at this point has deteriorated to the point where I see little purpose in continuing to participate, so I’m bowing out.
Naismith, I always appreciate your comments.
What is a “sweeping, errorneous claim” in the OP?
I still don’t follow. Is your argument that men won’t come to church unless they are given important responsibilities within that church? And that, if women got the priesthood, then there would be fewer positions available to motivate men to get their butt to church? Is that the argument?
“it is impossible for someone to accept Christ’s leadership example and agitate for female ordination using the language of power, discrimination, status, etc. ”
Could you explain why you feel this way? When you say “Those arguments are based on finding equality within the world, where leadership = power. They do not apply to a situation where leadership is consensual, service-oriented, and devoid of special status,” the terms you are using are just vague and general enough that I don’t know what you mean by that. To parrot Alison, the reason people stand up when an Apostle walks into a room is not because we don’t accord them special status (and, really, the whole notion of an apostolic blessing is dependent upon them having special status (as is any understanding of Christ as the Only Begotten)). As to consensual and service-oriented, could you describe those a bit further. Thanks
I have not been commenting for a while, but I have been reading closely through the email notifications. I would say that I appreciate the answers and explanations SilverRain has provided and although they didn’t necessarily go down my line of every question, I think it gave me a better understanding of the “conservative” view point here.
But I still can see how “liberals” would conceptualize spirituality and loyalty differently to still make a spiritual justification for advocating for change. Notwithstanding that many folks may speak in terms of secular means, secular concepts, etc., I don’t think that this negates or precludes any possible spiritual motivation.
:To me, it gets back down to the fact that the “liberals” are different than disaffected and exmormons. Even if some “liberals” may become exmormons, there is a shift that has to occur. For however much “conservatives” and “liberals” appear to be talking at odds, in some ways, “liberals” and “exmormons” are talking at odds too — because for the latter group, 4-7 are not off the table, so exmormons often will not understand why the liberals insist upon staying. My answer is that they stay precisely because they are faithful. But from the discussion, it seems like the real issue is that faith and spirituality is expressed and conceptualized very differently between the groups.
If I had to change anything in the arguments in my above comments, I probably would make the sort of change that Alison made in comment 76
To this point, I feel like some of the “percentage” comments that SilverRain has brought up don’t necessarily make sense. For example, from comment 56:
or from 43
The percentage discussion doesn’t make sense to me because it seems to describe access/sensitivity/awareness of the Spirit/revelation/God’s will as if it is fungible. In other words, as long as they meet a certain threshhold (49%, say), then God can reach them on any issue and fix stuff.
But I like Alison’s point that “God’s flow of information resides almost exclusively in the space where an authoritative source asks the question,” with the underlying point being that the authoritative sources don’t necessarily have similar time/resources/information/awareness/personal experience on certain issues.
With this modification, one could say that a leader is 49% or 99% with God, but that will not by itself be enough, because if the leader isn’t attuned on one particular issue, the other issues cannot “spill over”.
I basically think that “liberals” and “conservatives” have different views on what support must entail. For example, it seems to me that publicizing personal experiences that the authorities may not have had would be considered as supporting, because fundamentally, these folks are staying in the church. I see a lot of “liberal” rhetoric that would answer the question of “God must have called him for a reason” with a narrative that we are all situated to challenge each other and grow with each other. Not that God calls leaders solely so that they can teach us or direct us, but that God calls leaders so that *both sides can learn and be directed*. (It seems to me that an appeal to servant leadership should be amenable to the idea of learning going both ways.)
But maybe, if we stray from the percentage talk and talk about domains, then we hit SilverRain’s talk in 43 about the leaders going astray. If we say that women’s issues are a separate domain about which the leaders could conceivably lack sufficient personal experience, etc., would advocacy for change here be tantamount to saying that the leadership of the Church has gone astray from the will in the Lord on this issue?
If someone were saying that or construed to have said that, would that be prima facie apostasy (because saying that the leadership is apostate is by default, apostate.) This raises another question: how can we be sure that Elijah was right? If he was calling the leadership of Israel apostate, couldn’t they have just countered by saying that Elijah was apostate. How are we to know who’s in the right except retroactively (e.g., apparently, Elijah gets scriptures in which he is called prophet. The leadership of Israel didn’t get such great treatment.)
All of this being said (and I apologize that this is such a long comment)…I can see why the line for “conservatives” would be going *public*. I’m not super up to speed on everything Darius Gray has said, but I at least like the factoid that the way you can tell a conservative, faithful advocate for change is because you don’t know their names (at least, not for that reason). That seems like a good distinguishing factor.
I actually like a lot about your article. And you would be wrong to assume that I am anti-market by any stretch of the imagination. I definitely am not libertarian. My thinking is rooted in institutional economics and the sociology of markets. I think the rules by which markets operate matter and that markets must have rules to function. I am open to a variety of different forms of capitialism with different strengths and weaknesses. I also think that when properly administered the church welfare program is wonder and that once of the best things about Mormonism is its ability to dramatically improve the socio-economic conditions of its adherents. We provide a wonderful social structure for helping create deep change in habits, perspective and social captial neccisary to climb out of poverty. I was really excited when Pres. Monson made care for the poor the official fourth mission of the church, though sadly we haven’t seen many new or broad innitiatives under this banner – especially at the ward and stake levels. I love the the Perpetual Education program as an idea and donated to it until I learned that the church has more money in it then they can spend (and reserves the right to move that money to whatever program they see fit which I am glad they disclosed).
I wil grant some leaps in logic in my response which I wrote quickly and in broad outline. I will however defend that regardless of the intent of hierarchy to be done in a christ-like manner we must deal with the terrestial reality of what structural power and decision rights bring when they are gendered. If there weren’t so much evidence on how the systematic exclusion from women from church governance has harmed the experience of many women in the church in regrettable ways I may even be open to the possibility of the LDS church being magically immune from the need for more balanced power. Sadly though this is clearly not the case.
As to ordination, I actually don’t have an OW profile because I am unsure about whether inclusion into the male priesthood is actually the desirable or Mormon route to the equal inclusion of women in governance. It seems to me that the more doctrinally and historically congruent route would begin with the reestablishment of the RS as a independent quorum independently governed by women with the historic right to call its own leaders, have its own space and control over its own resources. Restore the practice of women blessings which are already in our history. Givent he size and complexity of the LDS church it seems that a female parallel to the Quorum of the 70 and yes the 12 apostles even could be built over time. I think there is a good argument to be made that women should lead their own restoration of priesthesshood. I think that would be signficantly slowed or hindered if women were emeshed in the historically male hierarchy. I think there are many ways we could keep seperate spheres and create equality of governance of the church. In some ways OW is a very moderate, even conservative route toward enfranchising women.
So yes I am not just a charicature of the liberal, OW Mormon. Though I will grant that I can sound like it what have become fairly worn debates on some of these issues.
We have gone the rounds on this before. Look I have absolutely NOTHING against women (or men) that choose to be full time parents or homemakers. In fact, our family has lived that for the past 14 years, by choice. I believe that should be a fully supported choice within society. Absolutely. In fact, I think it would be great if there was more cultural and other support for men to take on that role within our community. What I object to is going back to the time when women were socially and legally funnelled into that role and given few choices or options. That was bad for stay at home moms, and moms employed in the wage economiy (see there, I didn’t say “working moms” because like you I think stay at home mom’s work!). I am against the systematic exclusion of women from achieving in the public spheres of life inside of professions or politics.
I am glad that you have latched onto the more progressive teachings and quotes from our leaders that have encouraged education of women. I think those are wonderful. I hope we expand on those. However, go read the section on “Employment of Mothers Outside the Home” in the current, active “Eternal Marriage Manual of the Church. https://www.lds.org/manual/eternal-marriage-student-manual/mothers-employment-outside-the-home?lang=eng
Go show me where the balance is there? Where is their support for the women we see on the new I am Mormon add campaigns that choose to work with young children at home? We simply have a way to go and I think it is unfair to say they there are not severly mixed messages given to women and girls on this front in our current curricula and teachings. My general summary of it is that the education of girls is absolutely supported and women working in jobs for financial need or before marriage and children is huny dory. However, there is little support socially or from leaders for women who desire a *career* (outside the home). And the reality is that there is a huge swath of ways to contribute to the world that requires a career – a lifelong pursuit in the paid economy and we need women in those spheres for society to function healthly and for my daughters to have full access to those opportunities on par with men. Women should have real and equitable opportunities. That has not historically been the case and it is still sadly not fully the case (though it is getting better!). I a m a huge advocate of creating more family friends work institutions and norms (See Elder Cook’s GC talk two years ago). I think those will benefit women and men alike. I am also a big advocate of market rules which seek to set a reasonable wage floor so families can be financially stable on a single income over a career. This supports both the women that enter the wage economy and families whom desire to have a parent at home. I think such and economy is possible with minimal costs to overall economic growth. I am for mothers being recognized for their economic value inside their own families and to the economy as a whole. I think women that work on raising their children full time should accrue social security for example as their work has huge economic value in helping develop the next generations human capital. But if my daughter chooses to have a family and also be a really good marine biologist I want her to go to a church where she doesn’t feel judged or she has to listen to “Mothers in Zion” shoved down her throat. I also want to raise sons and daughters that are respectful of stay at home parents, recognizing the validity of that choice. I want them feel free and supported in making that choice. In short, I want to see the Mommy Wars in and out of the church to end.
And what I object to is the newer trend when women are being socially and legally funneled into full-time employment and given few choices or options. Which is what I see nowadays.
The church may have a role in pushing one direction in some places, but there are huge pressures going the other way, at least for some of us in some parts of the vineyard.
I am am assuming that you would also object if a middle school career day refused to have a table for full-time parenting? (They allow armed forces recruiters, even though most people only spend 3-4 years in the military.) You would also object if your daughter’s college advisor told her to consider only full-time careers, not options that are more amendable to part-time employment? You realize that your view on social security is what Phyllis Shlafly argued before the US Senate in the early 1980s, to much derision of feminists?
This makes it sound like I am ignoring the bigger picture. Yes, you pointed out a CES manual. But is that course in the mainstream of church experience? I have never taken it, and it has never been offered at our local Institute of Religion. I did take the church’s new marriage enrichment course, and did not see such statements there. General Conference and the Ensign are my main contacts with church teachings. That’s why I rely on them. I may seem ignorant to you, but that is the diet of most LDS around the globe.
If your daughter moved to my ward, she would have no problem being accepted, irregardless of her family choice. I don’t know how many places in the church that would be true, but please let’s not conflate local culture with the church as a whole. When I was given a stake calling, with small children still at home and a demanding job, the stake presidency who set me apart gave me a wonderful blessing that I would be able to juggle all the roles.
“Now, if only we could figure out a reason for women to show up…”
That is one of the most depressing comments I have seen here. Probably because I remember a time where the question did not need to be asked.
I’m sorry for being obtuse. It’s like you are saying men are gigantic babies, so the solution to decreased male attendance is to cater to babies. It’s potentially true, but it still seems like a strange way to run a religion.
Does setting aside positions at elite universities for minorities who are under-represented in higher education seem strange? Then why does setting aside positions at church for men who are under-represented in religion seem strange?
I suppose because there is no history of systemic oppression of men in church or out of it that might prompt me to think that scales require external balancing. The fact that they don’t show doesn’t indicate an unlevel playing field in the way an underrepresentation of minorities at any university might.
My guess is for most people the gender imbalance itself is enough to justify “external balancing.” To me it seems strange to be more concerned about whether the solution to the problem is justified than actually solving the problem.
All of this sounds very, very good to me. So maybe we don’t disagree so much after all.
I think it’s pretty simple, really: maybe we should all stop standing when an Apostle enters the room. Seriously.
From where I’m standing it looks like we’re at a crossroads. Option 1, which is what folks like Alison and others take for granted, is to stop fighting the inevitable, admit that leadership = status and (because leadership = status) admit that we’re disenfranchising women by not ordaining them. Or, as I like to call it, “giving up.”
Option 2 would be to get much more serious about leadership as service within the Church so that it stops becoming about status.
I realize option 2 is unrealistic. It’s also unrealistic that we’ll ever realize Zion. But that’s the job, right? The job is to strive towards the ideal. The ideal of leadership in our Church as set by Christ is one of washing feet. Now, whether or not we also need to have people stop standing is perhaps up for debate, since Christ did have people lay down branches for him when He entered Jerusalem. Maybe, in fact, we’re actually not as far away from leadership-as-service as some scolds and cynics think we are. I don’t really know. What I do know, however, is that I’m not willing to give up and just say “Yes: becoming a leader in the Kingdom of God is just like getting a promotion at work.”
I’m not ready to abandon the principle that the Church is something fundamentally different.
Maybe not. However, I do think some solution like this is actually way more radical than OW especially because n my version equality is achieved when check and balances are spread out across the gendered quorums. So for example, let me continue to officiate in ordinances but give women complete control over ALL the money so that the Q12 has to come to the female Q12 with their budget requests for any program they want to fund. The way you get meaninful equality with seperate roles is making sure those roles work together in a checks and balances system. Revelation would have to be a shared duty as well. So if you are willing to think down this road where men *have to actually give up decision rights and ultimate control of resources to some extent* then I think we agree.
I am sure we fundamentally disagree about the details of how markets operate and should operate, at least from what i gathered from the piece I read. But we can agree that markets are better than centrally planned economies and have a very important place in civil and prosperous society.
How exactly do you imagine a status-less leader behaving that would be different from what we do now? And, how would ordaining women prevent it?
Because there has to be a better solution than catering to the spoiled.
Naismith I flat out reject that women are being funnelled into the work force in any way similar to which they were excluded from careers and economic life in previous years. Completely NOT the same thing. I will agreet hat economic trends are disturbingly making harder and harder for the average family to live on a single income and thus restricting that choice for many families. I think that is a real problem.
No I would have no problem with a middle school booth on full time parenting and radical homemaking which I know you identify with. I am also fine with people choosing education, jobs and career paths with both part-time work and sequencing in mind. I think that is smart and necccesary. In fact, I helped found a community for LDS women to help them navigate these paths with the help of other women mentors and networks. I plan on teaching and counceling both my sons and daughters to take this into serious consideration as they pursue education and careers.
I am glad Phyllis had one good idea and feminism is many perspective place. Some would agree/some would disagree. You paint feminism with far too broad a brush in general. It doesn’t matter in the end because its a political non-starter sadly.
Again I am glad your mental filter is so strong. We would have to an agreed upon methodology for a content study of what you consider “mainstream” LDS sources to see just how that shakes out. And that Eternal Marriage manual is what every student who takes a family prep class in Institute reads. Everyone. I will grant that things are slowly changing at the COB, but very, very slowly. The idea that the LDS church hierarchy is really supportive of women in careers is just not true. They may *tolerate* it a bit more. But they are NOT supportive. The day they let women become full time CES teachers and have kids we can talk. However, I support women having that filter.
Re 100, rah can you please remind me where you live? I can understand that the pressures I see are not what you see. But it doesn’t mean they don’t exist for many women. I am not making it up when i say that my daughters’ university stresses only full-time careers for women, or that my employer does not allow volunteer work to be considered when applying for a job.
No, it is not that I paint feminism with too broad a brush. I’ve taken classes, I understand the big umbrella. But nowadays I tend to focus on feminism as an impetus for action rather than a theory. So when the female provost of a university turns down a faculty senate request to automatically allow a woman to stop the tenure clock for pregnancy, and eliminates part-time enrollment (which was a viable path for at-home parents to return to the workplace) and announces that those decisions were made in the name of feminism, then yes that does color my view and make me more skeptical. And while I certainly can find pro-family feminist thinkers who reflect my views, unfortunately their books are not in the public library or assigned as a campus-wide one book. Whereas GET TO WORK has been.
Your assertion that I have a “mental filter” is interesting. If I said that to a mofeminist, it would be perceived negatively. What I am trying to tell you is that I didn’t filter it out because I never took an eternal marriage class, and it has never been offered at any institute in my local area, neither in my time in college nor in my children’s. Our programs are smaller, most students are recent converts and need grounding in the scriptures, so the classes are always a scripture and mission prep. So overall the messages we get out here may be different. And in that context, encouragement for a mom to be at home for a season is a good thing, because they may not hear that message anywhere else.
I can understand that if the only color of flower where you live is yellow, it could become obnoxious. But if you live in a place with mostly bluebonnets, an occasional yellow flower provides a lovely accent.
Let me address the second question first: it wouldn’t, necessarily. This is why I’m not strongly opposed to female ordination as such. What I am strongly opposed to are the reasons most usually presented (by OW and virtually everyone I’ve listened to) for female ordination. The reasoning is pretty much always couched in the rhetoric of power and rights. That reasoning is something I am strongly opposed to, and I think you’d find that a great many social conservatives are far, far more alarmed at the arguments being deployed in favor of ordaining women than the prospect of ordaining women itself.
As to the first: it’s primarily what you could call a social or cultural change. I think we are too dependent on leaders. I’d like to see less hagiography, less lock-step obedience (that refers to the nature of the obedience, not the amount of it), and less complaining that the leaders haven’t addressed this or that particular exception to a general rule (which is the liberal mirror image of relying too much on leaders). In short: I’d like to see Mormons understand as a people just how distinct Christ-like leadership is from the leadership ideas of the world.
(Same caveat I wrote to Naismith: “the world” doesn’t mean “non-Mormons.” It refers to “the world” as Jesus described the antagonist of the Kingdom of Heaven.)
Thank you all for the participation. Some final thoughts:
First, I want to point out that I did not make “Do you believe in prophets?” one of the themes, even though this is one of the most common things brought up in these discussions (as the comments demonstrate ad nauseum). This is because it’s a red herring, and for multiple reasons. Both sides of the debate believe in our prophets, even if there are a number of differences on what this means pragmatically – which did show up in the post (note: there are more than two differences, and the differences don’t line up evenly in the FF and AA camps). Prophets are not the genesis of everything important that happens within a dispensation, as our own history continually shows (as does every scriptural account we have). Additionally, we’ve never had a dispensation where all had been revealed and perfected. All of us are left to do the hard work of how to take up the gospel in our own complicated, non-cookie cutter lives. Collectively, all of us are engaged in the hard work of women’s issues. This is obviously true for our prophets, but it’s just as true for each of us in our individual wards, families, and lives. The reality of living prophets does not change this fact.
Strategically, ending on the Bonus Round might have been a mistake (I ignored a friend’s suggestion about this before posting). It distracted too many of you from the rest of it, and led to the wolf-in-sheeps-clothing accusations. If I were to re-write it, I would make it Round 5 instead of “Bonus Round,” and state more candidly that I’m anxious for others to articulate the AA side. Because that’s the truth – I really am. I think that an honest and informed and constructive response would be glorious and do much to move the debate forward. But once again, as the comments make clear, in public discussions the goal is rarely to account for all the variables as they stand, but rather to urge in the strongest language possible one’s pre-convictions. I want to point out again, while there were a LOT of repetitions of AA bullet points two and three from the Bonus Round, no one actually articulated a direct response to FF’s claims or pointed us to another source that does take this up. Those of you so deeply disappointed in my inability to articulate an AA response would have been dramatically more effective had you pointed me somewhere rather than merely shaking your heads in pseudo-sadness or lecturing others about how it would just be a waste of time. That’s perhaps a paradigmatic example of failing to constructively engage the arguments.
Another paradigmatic failure to engage the argument is to call into question your interlocutor’s testimony. This happens on both sides. AA claims that FF doesn’t have a testimony and that’s the whole reason why women’s experience in the church is an issue in the first place; and FF claims that AA obviously doesn’t understand or have a testimony of the gospel, because if she or he did, then she or he couldn’t possibly maintain such barbaric interpretations or ignore the genuine suffering of Christ’s sheep. I’m not claiming that nothing important happens in this conversation, just nothing constructive on an intellectual level (which is the sphere that this post and this blog occupies). If the Messiah appeared to President Monson (or Sister Burton) and commanded him (or her) to declare to the Church, “Thus saith the Lord, women are not to be further enfranchised in any manner; wherefore it is my will that all conversations concerning some manner of ordination or change in practices should end,” then maybe the point would be moot, and at that point it would become a tug-of-war over testimony. Right now, it’s not.
While I’m harping on ways to fail to engage the arguments, let me also throw in that reducing a big, complicated, multi-faceted discussion to “Ordain to the MP or not to ordain to the MP, that is the question” is a profound inability to hear what’s going on. And again, this problem plagues both sides (albeit, asymmetrically).
WDJD? (What DID Jesus Do?) is another line of argument with multiple rounds (some of which show up in the comments). I just find it less significant, and didn’t include it in what was already a monster post. Which clearly shows my own biases – in favor of modern day revelation and the liberties we’ve taken (or been given) in this dispensation.
While it’s abundantly clear in the OP, the comments show that I need to mention this point again. So imagine me, up on top of the world podium, jumping up and down while screaming into a megaphone: WOMEN’S ISSUES IN THE CHURCH DO NOT REDUCE TO LIBERALS BELIEVING ALL DIFFERENCE IS EVIL! All of us support certain forms of discrimination. No one’s ranting and raving about gendered bathrooms in our church buildings. The point is – as it always is – that IF WE’RE GOING TO DISCRIMINATE IN A LEGITIMATE MANNER THEN THERE HAS TO BE A JUSTIFICATION. Consequently, the dialectical back and forth above tries to capture the various attempts to challenge and justify current discrimination. Once again, direct revelation would serve (for most of us) as a means of justification for discrimination. But there’s simply no revelation on the matter (and alas, wishing it were so just doesn’t make it so – even when folks proclaim loudly that it does).
I’m absolutely flabbergasted by the hell or high water insistence on creating and maintaining a “spiritual” vs. “secular” distinction in a church whose scripture says, “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual (D&C 29:34).” Obviously our practices, values, and the experiences of our members are spiritual matters. Thinking seriously through them in a rigorous manner—i.e., devoting service with our minds—is also spiritual. Both Joseph and Brigham insisted that if there is truth anywhere—even in hell—we claim it as part of Mormonism. The ad hominem style criticism of a point of reason “sounding like the world” doesn’t hold water.
I know it’s just a footnote, but really, I’d like to repeat footnote #2.
Thank you again for your participation.