A few months ago, I was asked to speak on the topic “How do I support the Priesthood in my home?” I am posting the talk now because the Young Women’s lessons in June are about the Priesthood and Priesthood Keys. Please note that the talk is shorter than usual to allow time for concurrent translation, so it is more of an overview than the carefully structured piece that I prefer. But this is one of the topics that caused me so much uneasiness that I all but stopped blogging for a long period of time. I’ve spent a long time thinking about it, and I am happy to expand on different points in the comments.
It is interesting to me that I was asked to speak about the priesthood.
The exclusion of women from priesthood office, and thus from many of the important decision-making and leadership positions and bodies within the church has long been a concern for me. I find no peace in the current position of the church, and I struggle for personal understanding and to exercise faith in our leaders in this matter.
In this talk, I will not burden you with my discontent. Instead I shall attempt to share truth as I am coming to understand it in the hope of the edification–the upbuilding–of faith for all of us.
So what is the priesthood? And how do I support the priesthood in my home? Which seems to me to be a way of saying, “How do I support my husband, who has been ordained to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods?”
I’ll start in Doctrine and Covenants 84:17, 19-20.
“…Priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years…this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.”
The priesthood is the power of God and authority from God. It is used to heal, bless, comfort and guide. It is used for patriarchal blessings. (My grandfather was a patriarch. The blessing he gave me, my grandmother transcribed and typed.) The priesthood is used to witness baptisms and sealings. And it is used to ordain and to anoint, which may be for the purpose of setting apart a person for an office, such as king (Think of Samuel and David, or Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with oil), for an endowment, or to make a calling and election sure. Anointing is also used in healing. Many, but not all, of these priesthood functions are applicable within the home.
My first question is, “What direct access do I have to this power and authority?”
Through the temple endowment, I am told that I priestess, or that I may become so. And in the temple, women minister to other women, anointing them during the initiatory and guiding them through the rites. This speaks to my priesthood potential and a limited actualization of it.
In church callings, I am given authority over that sphere of influence when I am set apart. Those with priesthood authority over the ward give me a smaller mantle of authority to do that calling. Then I may receive revelation and support as I fulfill that calling.
I also believe that I exercise a similar kind of priesthood authority as I minister to the sisters that I am assigned to visit through the visiting teaching program. Praying with them and for them is an important aspect of that. Then I, acting with authority, may call down the blessings of heaven for the sisters under my care.
And finally, I believe I have some claim to priesthood authority as a mother in the care of my children, especially as I pray for them. I gave each of my babies a private, mother’s blessing, calling on whatever power and authority my faith grants, in the quiet mornings before my husband gave them the public father’s blessing in front of the congregation.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World says, “Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness…fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners…Circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” Since this was given in 1995, we have seen councils in the Church become more inclusive of women’s voices, including some at the highest levels. Sisters who serve as auxiliary presidents are encouraged to speak up in ward council meetings, although no one can argue that the Relief Society President is the equal of the bishop in a ward. Fortunately, this principle is easier to implement in the home than it is in the institutional church.
President Russell M. Nelson stated this explicitly in his October 2015 address “A Plea to My Sisters.”
My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils. We need each married sister to speak as “a contributing and full partner”10 as you unite with your husband in governing your family. Married or single, you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God. We brethren cannot duplicate your unique influence.
In my family, I need to act as an equal partner. To defer to my husband in all things is NOT to act as an equal. In fact, that would create a situation that encourages unrighteous dominion, to the spiritual, emotional, and physical detriment of everyone within our family.
It is unclear how one person can preside and still be an equal partner–there is a paradox, a tension within that description. But such paradoxes are common within the world of Christian faith. They call us to wrestle with the ideas, to work out our own understanding of what God expects of of us. The Proclamation points out the need for individual adaptation. As we come to understand how to apply these principles in our own lives, we must remember that our personal application is not a universal standard, so we should not compare our family to other families, and especially not condemn any family that is struggling to follow Christ in love and righteousness.
In the end, I should strive to live to be worthy to receive and exercise the priesthood, just as my husband does. I should use great respect as I fulfill the obligations laid on my by those with priesthood authority, including my callings and visiting teaching. I pray, study, and seek revelation for myself and on behalf of my family, especially for my children. As I do this, I am supporting the priesthood in my home, by recognizing how I have access to it and working to be an equal partner with my husband.
Rachel, thank you for your thoughts. As you wrestle with this issue, have you formed any opinions on the historicity of a male-only priesthood body? When I think about the issue, my thoughts always immediately jump to Deborah the Prophetess in the Book of Judges.
Separately, what, if any, feedback/pushback did you get on your sermon from your ward membership and leadership?
There are certainly paradoxes in Christian faith. It started in the garden of Eden when a choice had to be made between two commandments.
Northern Virginia, the talk was well received. You must imagine me giving it, one carefully enunciated sentence or phrase at a time, with the Relief Society president standing next to me, reading the English text over my shoulder and translating on the fly (not a easy task). But the pacing is good: it allows time for each little idea to sink in, with a moment for thought, before the next line comes.
The most humbling was the response from one of the brothers in the congregation. He is from Africa (unfortunately, I cannot remember which country), and only encountered the church’s history with blacks and the priesthood after his conversion. It was a hard thing for him. He appreciated an honest talk that was troubled, struggling to understand, that didn’t ignore problems or hurts, glossing over them as though they had never existed. Too often, he said, members in the church speak as though they already know everything and there are no problems, so when you do learn of something problematic, you feel alone and silenced. My talk was a revelation of my own wrestling and uncertainty. That combined with my presence at church and willingness to serve, opened up space for hope and community.
And I was grateful that I was able to point him to good work on blacks and the priesthood by Darius Gray, Margaret Blair Young, and Russell Stevenson, as well as the Gospel topic essays. He speaks English well, so he is able to access these materials.
“Its unclear how one person can preside and still be equal partners” – This is a rather western way of looking at leadership, where in corporations and such one person is definitely “above” another. But a Bishop in a ward isn’t “above” anyone, he just has a role that allows him to direct and some other functions, but that certainly doesn’t mean God views him as better than others in the ward, nor that he is more righteous etc. Equality in role != equality in value.
Northern Virginia: Prophets kind of had different roles in the old testament (see Bible Dictionary) and Deborah did not have the priesthood, which was restricted to only males in only the tribe of Levi, and everyone else excluded. This would not change Deborah’s being called to minister or any other aspects of the OT prophet role though.
Bobdaduck, I think that’s right, but I think the main issue with presiding is what exactly it means. Even acknowledging that the western view of hierarchies as tied to value is problematic, I think we’d all say that in terms of power there is a difference. That is the Bishop can do many things I can’t without getting permission from the Bishop. But what does that mean in a marriage relation?
As a practical matter I think how LDS conceive of leadership in the home tends to fairly closely track how our broad cultural peers do. So when a fairly hierarchal Victorian model with clear gender roles dominated, most Mormons adopted it. Now that at least among western college educated families things are much more egalitarian that tends to be the Mormon model as well. (Which isn’t to say the older models don’t persist among some) However the very fact we tend to adopt our culture’s view of leadership in the home and roles and spheres of influence suggests we don’t really have a religious view here. This in turn makes people question the presentation in the temple in particular (which seems highly influenced by some of Paul’s more controversial writings especially in 1 Corinthians) Are these merely non-essential trappings much like many of the masonic elements removed in the early 90’s? It’s hard to say without revelation.
Virginia, I think it’s hard to say. Again the Judaism we are exposed to largely arises during the return from the exile when the Jews had been heavily exposed to Babylonian and then Hellenistic views. Many scholars strongly think the pre-exilic views both within the temple but more general in social terms were much more open to the feminine – especially the divine feminine. Exactly what that means isn’t clear since many aspects of broad Canaanite religion were most definitely problematic. But it clearly has bearing on how pre-exilic priesthood functions and the role of prophetesses. Most pre-exilic prophets seem to come from outside the main hierarchy – although again perhaps things are more complicated in reality. As I mentioned in the other thread there are hints of competing priesthoods – perhaps closer to our distinction between Melchezedek and Aaronic Priesthoods. The school of the prophets with Elijah and company are mysterious and in many ways likely largely redacted out of the scriptures as they were formed around 200 BC.
Again though, without clear revelation it’s hard to say much. It’s dangerous to simply pick and choose based upon what we might like to be true of pre-exilic Israel.
Bobdaduck, I have often heard the argument/explanation that when we use the term “equal,” we are actually referring to equal value rather than actual equality. I find this argument problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is that it is used to reinforce imbalanced power structures (and usually by those who are privileged within those power structures).
Let me provide an example: American slavery. Clearly, there was no equality between the slaves and the owners. However, both were equally important for the system to function well. In fact, one might argue that the slaves were incredible, accomplishing so much within that system, and actually stronger than the owners. (Not only that, but the Bible provides justification for slavery through examples and whatnot, if we choose to interpret such passages as justification.)
Now, I would never claim that my status as a woman in the church is in any way comparable to the horrors endured by slaves. The example is extreme, but I hope effective in highlighting the limitations of the “equally important” argument. As much as I’ve tried, I have been unable to resolve the conflict between being stuck on the bottom rung of a hierarchical structure while simultaneously being an equal partner. Equally valued /= Any semblance of equal opportunity, power, authority, voice, status, etc.
Because your talk was so well-researched, I’d imagine you’d be interested in a small clarification: the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods are conferred on men, and those men are then ordained to an office within the particular priesthood. Men are not ordained to the Priesthood.
While this may be a distinction without a difference, when someone uses these terms accurately, it adds weight to what they are saying.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!!
Rachel, what a brave and beautiful talk. Thank you.
bobdaduck, I would hesitate to make any assertions about how Israelite religion functioned in the late second millenium B.C. Yes, I’m willing to bet a modern day prophet has made that assertion, but I wouldn’t take that assertion as concrete proof of anything (not that I don’t believe in modern day revelation, but this gets a bit far afield from the types of issues that modern day prophets tend to receive revelation on, Joseph Smith’s lectures to his family on Nephite culture notwithstanding).
As Anonymous pointed out (is that you, Clark?), our understanding of pre-exhile Israel (in the largest sense of the word “Israel”) is extremely clouded by the various competing views of the Jehovist, Elohist, Deuteronomist and Priestly sources who many (including me) believe wrote/transcribed/copied what became the Hebrew Bible. Who’s to say that Deborah and Anna weren’t holders of some sort of female priesthood for an Israelite people who recognized and worshiped Heavenly Mother? It would certainly make the pervasiveness of images (mainly figurines) and references to Asherah (as the wife of El or Yahweh ) in the Northern kingdom make a lot more sense.
Ok, maybe not Anna, as the Jews were apparently very monotheistic by the time of Christ. But then why call her a prophetess?
thor, thank you for the clarification. To be more accurate, I should have written “My husband has been ordained to offices within the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods” or that “The Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods have been conferred upon my husband,” or some combination of the two. This does point to the way that we are generally sloppy in how we use the word priesthood: it has several different meanings that we switch between in casual conversation and which we often carelessly conflate.
The thought about presiding / equal partners came up in my research for a mother’s day talk I just gave a couple weeks ago too. I felt inspired to look at the roles as illustrated by Adam & Eve. One of the consequences from the fall was that Adam was to “rule over” his wife — which should probably be translated “preside”, but regardless.. I think it’s instructive that to look at how their actual relationship is modeled for us. That may be what was expressed, but the model that Adam and Eve present is somewhat different from what most people have taken that phrase to mean.
For example, when God comes to speak to them after they have partaken of the fruit, he speaks first to Adam. I think that is significant. But then he speak directly to Eve, and she speaks directly back to Him.. I think that’s also significant. Adam doesn’t answer for his wife, nor does God speak to him to ask him about why she made her choice. Indeed, we see through the whole experience the very important and critical role of Eve. Without her, obviously the story of mankind is a pretty short one.. and just as it is “not good for man to be alone” so I assume it is also not good for woman to be alone. We are meant to be together. Adam and Eve do everything together. They discussed and made their monumental decision to partake together (really with Eve leading the way on that one), they were expelled together, and they were constantly together thereafter. Adam was unwilling to let Eve suffer the consequence without him, nor was he willing to stay in the garden alone.
We also see them discussing their fall together & have instruction from them both in the book of Moses on what the fall meant. They worked together, although with different roles. But certainly Eve helped in the fields and with raising crops, and I’m certain that Adam helped with the children. They seem to me to be a beautiful example of what it means to preside & have an equal partnership.
Virginia, whoops. Yeah that was me. There’s a bug in either WP or one of the plugins where sometimes if you’re logged in (for say writing a post) that you’re comments show up as anonymous. It’s really annoying. Especially if you comment and don’t notice. My apologies.
I should add that the very meaning of priesthood is a bit up in the air, as that talk by Elder Oaks in conference a few years back noted. So when a Relief Society president operates she’s clearly working with priesthood keys. Likewise in the temple women undergo a priestly initiation very similar to what Leviticus describes for the High Priest. Also as Elder Oaks notes the RS was intended as an adjunct to the priesthood. Some speculate this parallels adoptive masonry to royal arch masonry although I don’t think a direct connection was ever established.
I can’t wait for the day when we stop referring to the Relief Society as auxiliary or adjunct to the priesthood.
Tomw, thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate the partnership that we can see/imagine in Adam and Eve’s relationship.
I assume you find God speaking to Eve directly as evidence that women should have a direct relationship with God. Is that so? If so, what do you think it means when that direct speech to Eve stops? I also hope you might further explain the significance you find in the fact that God speaks to Adam first.
Clark, interesting point. If I take Elder Oaks to his logical conclusion (and maybe I’m misunderstanding him), it would seem that ordination is largely superfluous except as the conduit through which assignments are made as it would be the assignment, not the ordination that passes on the authority to act. If I’m acting under the direction of one who has been ordained, then why do I personally need to be ordained other than that I as a man am under condemnation for not taking upon me the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood? Could a woman bless and pass the sacrament if directed to do so by the bishop?
Someone might make an obvious reference to administering blessings to the sick, but the Doctrine and Covenants and our history make clear that the gift of healing was not tied up with conferment of the priesthood. I feel for Elder Oaks. His talk indicates he’s trying to explain our current doctrines in a way that sympathizes with changing opinions on female leadership. It’s not an easy circle to square.
Tomw, I’m curious how you interpret the difference whose law men versus women covenant to obey. They’re not the same, and it doesn’t imply equal partnership.
Get a job. (I am not just joking either).
History: I knew my grandparents very well. I was there at their house almost every day and I knew a lot about most of their siblings who numbered in the double digits on both sides. Not exactly a random sample with great statistical power but a thick slice of life.Their gender roles were extremely traditional as would be expected for people born in Utah in the 1890’s. I know they were all generally quite happy with their lives and treated each other with love and respect.
As for my parents generation, still with large families? Not so good for some.They were raised one way but “times were a changin’ ” and they didn’t, not very much. A mixed bag but mostly things turned out pretty good for most of them.
My siblings and cousins? Times really had changed. It is hard to summarize but just look across the bloggernacle on the subject and it pretty much reflects it.
My children and their generation? They don’t care (with a few exceptions). They do as they please. This issue is over for them. Over. The LDS church has little to say to them if they don’t already agree. Defining their gender roles is an issue the LDS church already lost. (In the face of all that YW indoctrination). They are so skillful at filtering out the parts they wish not to accept. Not to forget, too many of their peers have left and they have a low threshold for doing the same (if they haven’t already).
Let me give you a glimpse of the next stage. A close relative recently married a lapsed Catholic. He does report that his mother baptized him as a baby. Into the Holy Roman Catholic church! And I suspect the Priest about had a cow and decades later it doesn’t matter.
Why get a job: The LDS church leaders have a lot to say about relationships between men and women. But at the end of the sabbath day, we go home and the next day we have to go to work. How this is divided up depends upon one thing, employment under the bondage of another institution and who has it and how much money do they make. Everything else dominoes off of this A husband with too demanding of a job and the wife has to take up the slack at home. If both spouses work then the work at home has to be divided. If not enough income is generated, both become desperate and will do almost anything it takes to make ends meet. We all find ourselves somewhere in this matrix and even if we managed to say on the family farm, that has become an agribusiness and the customer is the task master of all small business owners.
The LDS church leadership wants to keep women in the home for a variety of reasons. At some level they truly believe this is best for the children. But they made scarcely a squawk when the men all left the home/family farm and marched off to work in the factory. That deprived the children of half of parental interaction. Ask an Amish person about this to understand our hypocrisy.
But the real reason is that the over-organized and inefficient LDS ward will not function without a huge amount of female labor. This comes in two ways: women doing callings and more importantly, women doing the housework and domestic responsibilities while the men do their callings. And this because of the ugly lie that family comes first. It really doesn’t. Church callings come before family almost every time. Giving women very much real authority in the LDS church is going to upset this exploitative arrangement. Women are never going to get around being pregnant for 9 months and that is enough of a crack in the wall to let in the light of reality.
Imagine a bishop shortening bishopric meeting so he can go home to do the dishes and spank junior and get the children ready for church. Not going to impress the stake president or the ward when it doesn’t function as expected. Now imagine a busy cardiologist as a bishop and his device goes off at the beginning of bishopric meeting. He has to rush to the hospital to save a person’s life. (The person is around 67 years old and will die within 5 years and is already older than his father or grandfather when they died.) Those around him are expected to take up the slack, and more of them are women than men. Oh, I say with pride, my bishop is a cardiologist (salvaging lives). And another says, my bishop is a house husband (building character in children) ? What the heck?
When women work at jobs outside the home, it forces the men to share more equally in domestic duties and it forces them both to better evaluate how much time they can give to church callings.This might take an entire generation because many men still don’t step up to domestic duty. But sons of working women will, their mothers will teach them to do it, if not their fathers too. And it will ultimately force the priesthood to start to lead the church into a more viable future regardless of the gender of the priesthood leaders; instead of hanging onto an increasingly unworkable model stuck in the past.
The best support a woman can give the priesthood is your genuine opinion and perhaps even greater is your sincere efforts to do what you believe is right. It might not pay dividends immediately, but it will in the end. Elder Nelson (quoted above) opens the pandora’s box.
Footnotes: Sister Whipple’s excellent talk is well thought out. But obviously I discount some of it. For example women and men don’t need the priesthood to act in God’s name. Everything we do on this earth is done in the name of the God who created us and is done by His willingness to let us live another minute. It is only within the hollow halls of the LDS church that this priesthood counts for anything and only that which we collectively give it. And you don’t need the priesthood to do any lawful thing you desire in your own home. (And this priesthood didn’t continue in all generations of the church, it doesn’t continue in the majority of the LDS church today, who don’t pay tithing (you can’t exercise your priesthood in the ward without a temple recommend) and yoohoo, we had an 1800 year long apostasy! But I’m not convinced of that either so I will cease arguing against myself.)
Equal partner in marriage seems to be a bit of an over simplification. My wife is blessed with many talents far in excess of mine and she takes charge of those responsibilities related to them while I do the things I do best.This only makes sense and it is anything but equal. We have spheres of responsibility and conflict in many areas and after over 30 years we have sort of come to some kind of an agreement/truce, often in childish unfair ways. I have learned this: To the extend a husband even tries to boss his wife around is directly related to the amount of conflict he will ultimately face one way or another and the same goes for the wife bossing the husband around. You have to figure these things out within the marriage and please each other with decisions acceptable to both. Some of the things the LDS church teaches is helpful for some; and much of what it teaches is not helpful for not a few.
Anon, yes I certainly believe that women can / should have a personal & direct relationship to God. This is illustrated by the fact that God spoke directly to both Adam and then to Eve. Eve is one of his beloved daughters, perfectly matched to Adam in terms of her status & nobility in pre-Earth life. She was chose to become the first woman & mother of all, as he was chosen to be the first man. God speaks to her as a daughter, as he speaks to Adam as his son.
But I also presume that when we stand at final judgment to give an accounting for our lives, and our family, our responsibility.. much like in the Garden, I presume that God will first ask me for an accounting because I preside in the home. Then he will ask my wife (at least that’s how I imagine it). That may offend our modern western sensibilities, but I feel there is something real and unavoidable about the responsibility to preside. We are both responsilble, but I guess the way I see it (and I’m not sure I can say this w/o sounding sexist?), the ultimate responsibility to make sure that my family is doing what they should rests with me. If we’re not having FHE, or family prayer, etc.. who is that going to come down on? I’m sure both of us will bear responsibility but ultimately it will land on me.
Also I think we need to be careful to include the whole phrase “preside in love and righteousness”.. we can’t leave out those other couple of words without getting into a whole mess of problems. We could think about the wording of the first covenant in the temple for the women / men in connection with this (and that was changed a while back to clarify that a woman is under no obligation to hearken to counsel from her husband if he’s not hearkening to God).
I’m not saying I have any real answers – I would like to have the doctrine be “men and women both preside”. But as it doesn’t say that, God must have a reason for setting it up this way. As much as we would like to soften it, I still think that ultimately there’s a reason. Maybe it will never make sense in this life.
I do think that Adam and Eve provide a wonderful model (better than others in the scriptures), of a husband and wife equal in value, in importance.. and of a prophet / husband presiding in love. I also think it’s significant that Christ appears first to Mary after his resurrection.. I wish we had more details about their relationship.
Also Anonymous: “Equally valued /= Any semblance of equal opportunity, power, authority, voice, status” – I’m not sure what place any of those have in the teachings of Christ and the whole “he who is greatest let him be your servant” kind of thing. Anything else is transient. If you’re looking at the church leadership structure as “advancement”, you do not understand the economy of heaven. I’m sure you understand the assertion that “God views all callings as equal”, but again, western thought often keeps us from really internalizing this view.
Northern Virginia: If you’re going to pick and choose what to believe about what the old testament says, then sure, there’s no ground for argument. I’d say that the scripture was pretty clear that the priesthood was restricted to Levite men,
Tomw: I like those thoughts. I’ve always respected people who look for archetypes for understanding.
Mike — I know bishops who cut short meetings so they can spend time with family. I know stake leaders who have shortened meetings so everyone can be in the home. I know bishoprics who hold their babies through Sacrament Meeting — my father was one of them. In fact, my mother tells me I attended bishopric meetings for the first three years of my life because Dad was trying to lessen any burden she felt. As a leader, I have been in a meeting where a stake leader stood up and told an Area Seventy that he had no right to add another meeting to his already busy schedule and claimed his calling as Patriarch in the home as being more important than any other church calling. The Area Seventy nodded and respected the position. When I was an Elder’s Quorum president, I gave a very long-winded bishop a time limit for ward council meetings, and at the end of the time I walked out to go home to put my children to bed with a story and prayers. The following meeting, half the council walked out with me. Yes, there are men who put their families first. We just don’t get too much attention.
bobdaduck, if you take that position, then do you also take the position that the Nephites didn’t have the priesthood until Christ ordained his apostles in the New World? The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the original group were not Levites.
Not Cougar, we don’t know what tribe Zoram was associated with. According to Erastus Snow the lost 116 pages said Ishmael was Ephraim and that Ishmael’s sons all married Lehi’s daughters. If that’s accurate (and it’s hard to know) then Zoram’s the only place for other tribes. However I think it more likely we’re dealing with the Sons of Moses type situation. There’s Jewish tradition that the Sons of Moses were associated with the northern tribes. In Judges 18:30 we read of the sons of Moses associated with Dan until the conquest on the northern tribes – although it there is condemning them with idolatry. I should note that some see these not as a rival priesthood but as Levites.
But I agree it’s pretty clear there’s a different conception of priesthood among the Nephites than the Levitical Priesthood as codified in the post-exilic period. Alma 12-14 can’t be missed neither can Lehi’s and Nephi’s willingness to make sacrifice.
Bobduck, while the OT in the form we have it limits things to the Levites, remember that is the scriptures as compiled in 200 BC and not as they proceeded from the mouth of the prophets. Nephi’s vision makes very clear the scriptures are missing a lot. Whole books mentioned in the Book of Mormon are missing. So I think we have to be cautious especially given the references to the sons of Moses in both the OT and D&C 84. There are scholars who think the priesthood only being open to Levites is actually an innovation of the exile and opposed by the Deuteronomist writers.
Virginia, I think there are parts of Elder Oak’s talk that highlight big gaps in our understanding of priesthood. The ordination to the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood versus the particular offices in each isn’t really clarified. The history of that development is interesting too. My guess is that as a practical matter most of what matters are the keys and certain offices have keys others don’t. The question then becomes that since originally the Relief Society was far more independent than after the correlation period, what does that mean if the Relief Society set up leaders on their own and not via the Bishop? I’m not saying the current system is wrong as I suspect the changes were inspired. But it does suggest more independence is quite possible in the future. As I’ve been at pains to note though, what counts are the revelations on structure as given to the current Apostles. But I suspect there’s no theological reason that the Relief Society couldn’t be set up more akin to the Elders Quorum. I’m open to being wrong though.
Given what’s been revealed or taught, passing the sacrament doesn’t require priesthood although administering it does. If you stop and think about it the deacons don’t really do anything different than we do when we pass it to the person on the pew beside us. It’s more a responsibility than key. The priests are the ones utilizing the priesthood and there’s no indication women can be priests of that sort. (Again anything is up for grab with God so I’m not trying to limit him – just note what possibilities are in our texts) I’ve often thought that without requiring big changes we could have young women doing things like usher the doors during the sacrament and help with the passing and preparation. Just not the administration. But again, even if that’s allowed as possibilities I think it’d still require a clear revelation to allow it.
I’m not sure Elder Oaks is trying to explain our practice in terms of our culture. I think he makes some really good points about how we confuse keys with priesthood and with offices. It’s an amazingly important talk. However much of it repeats what he’d said in a similar talk in the early 90’s. I think we’ve reified priesthood over the past few decades in ways that can be misleading. But clearly some things need further revelation to clarify. I suspect given the recent news that Pres. Monson won’t be with us much longer. Elder Nelson or Oaks will likely be the next prophet and perhaps will give us some more clarity on such matters. Elder Nelson is in good health but well into his 90’s already. It’s hard for me to think of Oaks as old but he’s well into his 80’s now.
Pete I actually think the discussion of the Relief Society as auxiliary or adjunct is important. I understand why some see it as problematic and suggesting less importance. I’m not sure that’s a fair way to interpret the origin of the terms. Joseph’s somewhat mysterious comment about turning the key over to them is I think explained by Elder Oaks. Yet Joseph was very clear (and this is emphasized in the Daughters in My Kingdom page on lds.org) that it was organized “under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.” So to be an auxiliary or adjunct to the priesthood isn’t devaluing it but tying it explicitly to priesthood.
FWIW. The passage in Genesis 3:16 that, among other things, states that the husband would “rule over” the wife, was among the things removed from the LDS temple ceremony in the early 1990s. The endowment no longer states that the man should “rule over” or even “preside”. Is that significant? I like to think so.
I like Elder Tom Perry’s approach that husband and wife are not president and vice president in the home, but co-presidents. And I like President Hunter’s approach as well: “A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. … The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership.” To me that means that the husband and wife jointly preside as full partners. See https://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/06/counseling-together-in-marriage?lang=eng
Knowing that bishoprics sometimes call people to talk about subjects they feel will enhance your faith or allow you to teach yourself something they perceive is your blind spot….I bet your bishop didn’t see your talk coming and was internally face-palming.
Thanks, Mortimer. If it were the case that my Provo bishop had assigned me this topic, I’m pretty sure he would have known what he letting us all in for. My branch president in Ghent had much less interaction with me over a much shorter period of time, so I’m inclined to chalk it up to inspiration or coincidence.
Some years ago I started to “tweak” the full-time missionaries (in the smallest way) when they came to visit: At the end of a meal and message they would always ask me, the FATHER: “Who would you like to give the closing prayer?” I often would turn to my wife and ask her who she would like to give the closing prayer. I enjoyed making it clear that I wasn’t “in charge” of the praying in our home, any more than my wife was. However, by asking my wife to give the prayer, I was in fact still taking the lead. Because I identified my wife as the prayer-chooser, I was still the grand poohbah in our home, and she was simply filling an assignment. I spoke to my wife about it, and now when they ask me to choose someone for the prayer, by agreement with my wife, I hesitate for 10 or 15 seconds and then either of us can choose someone. It might tweak the Elders just a bit to ask me to choose a prayer-giver and have my wife jump in and do it.
This is but the smallest example of the fact that our church is profoundly sexist, at its very roots. There are hundreds of similar instances where we give deference to men over women, and usually don’t even notice it. I’m not saying that our church is misogynist. I hope we are not. But sexist? Deeply.
“In my family, I need to act as an equal partner. To defer to my husband in all things is NOT to act as an equal. In fact, that would create a situation that encourages unrighteous dominion, to the spiritual, emotional, and physical detriment of everyone within our family.”
Can’t be emphasized enough. If the proclamation means anything, it means this.
thor’s point of order is well-taken as to the current practice in the church, but that’s not necessarily absolute. The distinction between conferring the priesthood and being ordained to an office in it is a relatively recent distinction. It was Joseph F. Smith that really pushed it, but it didn’t become binding policy until David O. McKay, I think. WVS has an old BCC post that explains this. https://bycommonconsent.com/2012/09/25/your-october-conference-prep-textual-origins-of-lds-priesthood-organization-part-xv-priesthood-ordination-praxis/
So what, exactly, is going on in the temple when women wear the robes of the priesthood and are told they’re now prepared to officiate in the ordinances? Is this just women ‘enjoying the blessings and power of the priesthood’, not a conferral? Are they receiving power, but not authority? What is the point of having power with no authority to use it? Does the qualifier of women being called priestesses ‘to your husbands’ suggest a different or lesser priesthood? It’s like nailing jello to the wall.
In the Gospel Topics essay, it’s also phrased this way.
Then see the footnote. I don’t think it’s very clear, considering that the accounts of what he said are based on later recollections.
I take my hat off to you and bow in respect. I am warmed that some bishops and church leaders try to push back towards some balance when it comes to time with their families. I haven’t seen this and wonder how common or rare it might be. But what about the related issue- of denying capable women real influence and expecting them to have, not just tolerance, but respect for those doing it to them?
A question for you; Assume you are my bishop over a decade ago. The rest of this is not hypothetical but a real event. We had a bunch of particularly challenged and undisciplined priests and no deacons or teachers. They demonstrated week after week that the passing of the sacrament was quite beyond them. They mixed up their little routes and skipped people and dumped trays over, etc. They wore ill-fitting, disheveled cloths and seldom washed or combed their mopish hair. Our ward practice was to pass sacrament into the foyers. One rather distractable lad would go on out into the parking lot to pass the sacrament. Eventually the day came when he got lost and after about 15 uncomfortable minutes both priests at the table decided to go looking for him. Since he was also quite lazy and it was hot he had not wandered far into the woods. (During a Utah winter he might have frozen to death while passing the sacrament).
We had another bunch of YM on the rolls with a different set of problems and slight variations of a common history. A single minority woman with children living in government housing is given some hope by LDS missionaries and gets baptized. Unfortunately the lesson plan is not a very effective treatment for crack cocaine addiction and does little to resolve chronic unemployment that underlies the practice of prostitution. These women soon slip into inactivity and former habits.
The primary does not have the resources to hound these children to church every week. But when their boys turn 12, suddenly the 10 men in the YM organization supervising only a handful of boys did. They visited these young men in the housing projects and took them to the nearest -affle house for a free breakfast and gave them a white shirt with a tie and took them to church.The boys had nothing else to do at that time. (This works at age 12 but is rarely sustainable).
These young men were sexually active by the age of being deacons and some were starting to use or distribute drugs. They were well-practiced in the arts of lying to adults especially those in authority positions. Most had witnessed their mothers in the very act of plying their age old trade and the frequent beatings by their pimps. They spoke the language of the street which is shockingly vulgar and their desperate poverty was the excuse for their perpetual thievery although their vandalism had a less clear explanation.
The YW included a group of 7 girls of age 12 which constituted half of all the YW in the ward with the most YW in the stake. Most of them came from good families and were generally growing and developing normally by LDS standards. A few years earlier there were 8 of them but at age 10, Monique was strangled to death. Her divorced father and convert to Mormonism was the primary suspect at the time but with insufficient evidence to prosecute. (Years later an older teenage girl will admit to doing it with a shoe string as a show of gang loyalty and because Monique had witnessed a drug transaction and was thought too high of a risk at that age not to tattle).
The YW had a lesson on respecting the priesthood given by the bishopric counselor similar to the topic of this blog. My rather sassy 12 year old daughter demanded to know why they had to respect the priesthood when Tyrone held the priesthood and he was using crack cocaine? Probably had some of it in his pocket while passing the sacrament today.
This had an especially snarky bite to it. Because my daughter liked to play this game with Tyrone in church during Sunday school. She brought a baggie full of flour and sat behind him and quietly sprinkled it into his thick curly hair. Then at the opportune moment she whacked him in the head creating a huge cloud of flour dust.Tyrone claimed he had many dust allergies and a form of Torettes syndrome that caused him to break into uncontrollable profanities when excited. Tyrone actually was enjoying this juvenile game (otherwise he would have beaten the s**t out of my daughter) but it became a topic of discussion and deep concern at ward counsel. We had to put a stop to these loud outbreaks of profanity every week disturbing other classes almost on on cue and get these kids under control.
The bishopric counselor just lost it and grabbed my daughter and slapped her in the face a couple of times and screamed in her face, you have got to learn to respect the priesthood! She kicked him in the groin, yanked loose from his grip and ran out of the church building. I am not questioning whether she deserved it or not, she probably did. But I was not happy that he was “walking in my shoes.” It is my duty to discipline my children and slap them if needed, not the priesthood.
The next week my daughter was so disgusted with the sacrament proceedings that instead of going to Sunday school, she and her posse of 7 girls marched into the bishop’s office and demanded that he ordain them to the priesthood and to the office of a deacon right this minute! They would pass the sacrament with the precision of a drill team and they would not dress like drunk bums who looked like they had just been thrown out of a bar into the gutter. The poor long-suffering bishop didn’t know what to do. He had me pulled out of Sunday school and told me to handle it since my daughter was clearly the ring leader, he had scheduled interviews to keep.
I gathered the nearly rioting girls into a room and told them I agreed with them. And I suggested that they sit quietly in a circle facing outward and I would go around the middle of the circle and place my hands on their heads and ordain each of them to the priesthood as they desired.
And now going back to the hypothetical…. Let us assume for the sake of discussion that I actually did. What would you do as the bishop, my friend Bruce, if you were faced with this situation? Because it almost happened and I was going to do it; I was so frustrated with the way the youth programs functioned, especially the young women.
Where are your loyalties when it comes to a decision between your daughter and the church? It was utter nonsense that these group of girls were not far more suited for the duties of a deacon than the rag-tag pack of misfits doing it. It might have worked, having the boys and girls pass the sacrament together, and maybe get those boys somewhat in line. My daughter is the kind who would tell Tyrone to leave his cocaine home if he wanted to be part of her posse trusted with passing the sacrament.
Back to real history, the reason you did not read about this in the newspaper is because my daughter blurted out, wait a minute it can’t be this easy. And she was the first one to ask, what are the consequences if we do this? She was displaying a level of leadership that transcended mine or even that of the bishopric. When are we going to start to look honestly at the consequences of our traditions and policies??? (Which only requires the maturity of a 12 year old.)
I happened to have had a piece of chalk in my pocket and we made a list of consequences on the board:
They would never let them actually pass the sacrament
or do anything else
Create a big disturbance in the news
Further retrench the higher leaders;
A couple of them still wanted to go to BYU (they didn’t go) and that would be jeopardized.
And get this one, they feared at age 12 of not being able to find a decent husband if they were known as the gag of 7 little girls who demanded and were given the priesthood at age 12. (No repentance allowed).
I was saddened, not that they concluded to withdraw their demand, but at the subtle tyranny they live under in the church. And I was disguised when the bishop reported that word got back to him through the parents of the 12 year old girls what I had done and he congratulated me for my skillful handling of the situation. Doesn’t he know, never bluff with teenagers? They will often call you on it and it sends precisely the wrong message. Apparently not.
Perhaps not as dramatic and definitely more complex, but a variation of this little melodrama is reenacted every week at the LDS church when our struggling wards exclude on average half of the talent in the ward from the most influential positions because of gender. Except it isn’t just about teenage tricks like sprinkling flour and making dust clouds. We are floundering as a church in too many wards as never before and we need to rally every resource and act decisively and intelligently if we expect to avoid irrelevancy.
Also, given the editing of Eliza Snow’s RS minutes that George A Smith and Brigham Young approved, Joseph’s original intent (as the founding members of the Relief Society understood it) was either removed or altered.
The words auxiliary and adjunct typically mean secondary or supplementary, not integral or essential. If the original intent was that Relief Society (and priestesses) are to be an order of the Priesthood, then let’s drop those descriptors.
You still don’t quite get it right :)
You are not in charge of your home when the missionaries ask you to ask your wife to ask someone to pray. The missionaries are taking charge then putting you under their charge while pretending that you are in charge. They don’t do this thoughtfully, but by long habit and practice. Notice you cannot easily refuse them without incurring some shame or discomfort.
As they take charge, you as a home teacher do this every month. You pretend that the father is in charge while you take charge and then delegate to him and in an important matter, not something trivial like picking up the newspaper on the porch. And further if he was actually in charge he would invite you to come visit him, not wait for your call and them quietly groan (not always) when you want to come visit him at the end of the month or any other time.The father is never really in charge during home teaching.
If you were in charge you would decide without prompting to have or not have a prayer, to sing or not sing a song, to play or not play a game of poker, or anything else with the missionaries as your guests going along with your leadership or refusing if they found it objectable enough.
As an experiment next time a missionary or a home teacher asks you to call on someone to pray, say: “I would rather we not pray at this time” and watch the response. You would then better display your authority by contradicting them and they will conclude you are an atheist heathen.
My wife and I have this little power struggle over this very issue. Since her conversion to Evangelical Christianity she wants me to take more control in the marriage and preside over her more as she sees the Bible teaching. This in the face of a bishop who told me to divorce her if she didn’t renounce her conversion (to Christ not a church), that would snap her testimony back into shape. So she expects me to take charge and pick someone to pray over the food.
It has been my opinion for over 30 years that in my house the person who cooks the food gets to ask the person to pray. This has a humorous rational basis, the cook best knows how much praying the food really needs and might factor that into the choice. This gets ridiculous at times since now our children are gone. She has started to honor my choice when we are alone but will revert back to her desire for me to preside when there is company. So I go along with it and ask her to pray since she really likes to pray and can’t very well call on herself to pray.
Wait a minute, who told me that? Actually whoever is in charge can call on themselves to pray.
The church is so subtle yet effective in how they control and take charge and continually remind us who is in charge.
Tomw- I need to point out that after Eve covenants to “hearken” she no longer speaks. Heavenly Father doesn’t address her directly anymore after that point, either. The equality of communication they enjoyed before “the fall” is gone. We see equality in the garden, but in the lone and dreary world Eve is silent and Adam communicates for both of them.
I will attempt to give a reply from my head and from my heart. Not knowing any more about the ward or branch you were in other than what you have put in your post, I can only go by what you have shared. Please don’t take insult at anything I say as none of it is meant in that way.
My first thought was: where were the leaders who should have been teaching and training those young men? Were there any young men’s leaders or quorum advisers teaching and training? From what you have shared, there was a definite lack in that regard. I am idly wondering what the bishop, who is the president of the Aaronic priesthood in the ward, was doing while watching this sort of Sacrament administration. From what you have shared, I am thinking there was no real teaching going on; no real leadership; no worthiness interviews or assistance to better themselves. I can only assume.
My second thought was: Home Teachers; where were the Home Teachers? This thought got followed up with the memory of living in a major city in the Eastern U.S. where law enforcement literally would not allow me into neighborhoods where families on my home teaching route lived because, as the police put it, I would not come out alive. We actually ended up having to assign home teaching and visiting teaching routes by color and racial heritage because of the danger to the home teacher or visiting teacher should he or she not be acceptable to the gangs who controlled those areas. It was a loose-loose situation. It broke my heart more than once.
Third: I am not qualified to address the background of poverty, drugs, and crime that you describe. My mind understands that a child grows up feeling as if Life is totally against them. My heart cries out for them, which is why I have gotten involved in organizations that try to help.
Fourth: the bishopric member who smacked your daughter – totally out of line unless she had gotten physical with him first, then he had the right to only defend himself. And let me make a statement here: There is a difference between honoring “the priesthood” and honoring “a priesthood bearer.” When we talk about the White House, we like to say we respect “the office” but not always the person sitting behind the desk. I have always honored and reverenced the Authority that God shares with mankind . . . but meanwhile, there are one or two priesthood leaders who have felt my wrath when they stepped out of line and expected me to step out of line with them or obediently follow them like a mindless herd member. To me, it would disrespect “the priesthood” to allow a priesthood leader to do wrong and hold my tongue.
Fifth: I respect the guts and courage it took for your daughter and her posse to march into the bishop’s office – mainly because I have done the same thing in the past, an open Handbook of Instructions in my hands. (I was the elder’s quorum president.) My wife, as Relief Society president, has also marched into the same bishop’s office and read the man the riot act. And when we had a tragic death in our family, our Visiting Teachers marched on the bishop’s office during a priesthood correlation meeting and read the priesthood leaders the riot act on the topic of showing compassion and kindness towards myself, as not a single one of them except the bishop had even acknowledged the loss (both their husbands were in that meeting, and they gave me quite the account.) So, I am no stranger to members marching into the bishop’s office. My thought was: if the girls marched in and outlined the reasons those boys were not worthy of functioning within the priesthood, what did the bishop do about it other than ask you to deal with the girls? What did he do to help and/or discipline the boys?
Sixth: your remark about living under “subtle tyranny” at church: I have lived in one of those wards. I spent four and a half years in one of those wards. It’s the ward where all the marching into the bishop’s office I outlined in the previous paragraph occurred. My temple recommend interviews with the stake president during those four and half years were long as I outlined how hard I was trying to sustain the ward priesthood leaders. We had a stake president who listened, thanked my efforts, and then turned around and tried to handle the situations. My father, who was a member of succeeding bishoprics for over 30 years, taught us to not be afraid to tell a priesthood leader when he’s wrong – just do it with kindness, gentleness, and with the Spirit. He taught us that gently correcting him was part of our sustaining him in his calling. I have always tried to be gentle and sometimes succeeded.
Seventh: You ask what I would do. Again, I can only go on what you have told me. If I were bishop, I would teach and train those boys. I would teach and train the quorum advisers and young men leaders. I would be contacting the church social services to offer as much assistance and help to the boys and to their parents as would be possible. I would be calling home teachers who could survive the trip into the neighborhoods and mentor the youth. I would be asking for assistance from the stake level. I would have the quorum leaders and the Relief Society leaders assisting the parents in finding employment and finding a way out of the situations they are in.
Now, what would I have done about you and your daughter? I would commend you for your love and concern while reminding you that although you had the authority to confer the priesthood, you don’t have the keys; the bishop does. If you’d have carried out that ordination you would have been up for discipline. And, the ordination would have been completely invalid and they still would not have had the priesthood. If you’d have carried it out, you would have taught your daughter a terrible, terrible lesson you would have regretted – it being that God makes the rules, not us.
I know the frustration of clean, worthy girls having put “put up” with stuff such as you have described, because in the ward we lived in where we were all marching on the bishop’s office, my daughter was the Laurel class president. She would come home from church spitting mad, and it would take an afternoon of calm discussion to make her human again. I would emphasize that she wasn’t mad at “the priesthood”; she was mad at “the leader.” Today, as a Primary president, she’s learned how to handle “the leader” so that “the priesthood” blesses her Primary.
I also have a son who is a medically-retired veteran who can only function in the world with the help of a service dog. The stake presidency decided they didn’t like dogs in the building and threatened my son and his dog. This father came unglued! My letters to the First Presidency helped formulate the current policy of service animals in church buildings. I respected the office of the stake president by not tearing his arms off while writing to the First Presidency and letting them deal with the situation.
You ask where my loyalties are when it comes to a decision between my daughter and the church. My loyalties are – First: to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its covenants and commandments; Second: to the priesthood and my calling as a patriarch in my home (which includes my daughter); Third: to the leaders who are trying to administer the programs of the church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established to help me with these three things.
Now for some personal thoughts and feelings meant for all readers and not just Mike. My father, who spent most of his life in bishoprics, including as a bishop, taught his children that a bishop cannot function without a Relief Society president. He told us: “A bishop can survive without counselors, but he’s dead in the water without a woman called of God to council and advise him concerning the women and children in the ward.” I grew up being taught this. I grew up watching my father as a bishop not make a move until he had counseled with the women leaders as he did the men leaders, and this was decades before many others were doing so. As an adult, I see very plainly that those leaders who actively listen to and council with the sisters are the leaders who succeed. As the church has put more emphasis on the bishop listening to the sisters in recent years, my father has smiled and said: “They’re catching up with me!”
I for one acknowledge that many, many women and young women in the church could probably run the church better than a lot of the men. Anyone who has been a member of the church as long as I have (I am in my 60’s) know this. But we are not the ones to decide if and when to ordain women to the priesthood. God will make that decision – after all, it’s His priesthood. Mortal life is a test to see if we will live by His rules; not how well we can make up our own rules. Until a revelation is announced by the prophet and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, there is little to discuss. God has His purposes and reasons, and He has given men and women slightly different missions, purposes, and challenges – two parallel paths to achieve the same eternal goal; two parallel paths that, when fulfilled His way, complement and assist each other. Until we have fulfilled those missions, purposes, and challenges to His satisfaction (not ours), we cannot expect Him to change his program to satisfy us.
Mike that sounds like an exceedingly dysfunctional ward with many problems. If someone at church struck one of my little girls I’d be calling the police and I can guarantee they’d be released shortly. It’s unfortunate there are wards like that. I’m frankly shocked the Stake President has let it remain in that form. I’ve lived in neighborhoods like what you describe. Thankfully the wards were not like you describe and most of my converts remain active in the church after seeing great change. Some people were, as best I could find out, trapped by the drugs and life and were unable to escape. (I remember rescuing one recently baptized member from a crack house)
Regarding the prayer issue, I don’t think it’s a power issue as you suggest. Just trying to be respectful. Some don’t do it well. I usually just ask in a vague way who they would like to pray rather than ask the husband. It’s their home but if you don’t know how they do things if you get explicit you’re apt to offend. I understand why some look to the dad. But there’s no real good way to do it given the variety in our culture. Given the difficulty I think we should cut poor young missionaries some slack.
Pete, I didn’t mean to imply that webpage was perfect history. Just that it was significant that it was a page put up by the church on these issues.
Thank you for your thoughtful and compassionate reply. I have been feeling a little bit guilty for unloading all of that, especially since it is over a decade old. When does “the truth will prevail” cross over the line into something else if the truth be ugly, I don’t know. Your comments make it worth it.
To answer some of your questions: I did not paint a complete picture in spite of being so windy. A small number of the ward leaders were mature and experienced. A larger number were younger, less experienced and also transient (which is another problem). I would say they were trying and maybe doing as best as could be expected but there was also definitely room for improvement. More women involved would have doubled the number of mature people at the bishopric level. They made mistakes on the side of excessive zeal generally. Over-zeal makes bad youth even worse. Sugar-coating is another problem that makes all other problems disappear, sort of. I can only wonder how more female leadership might affect these problems.
The root of the problems for the merely undisciplined priests began in the home with inept or too busy fathers and little problems grow into bigger ones. And there also lies the solution, but out of the control of the ward leaders. The problems of the youth converted only to the few basic gospel principles in missionary lessons (if that) without resolving the deep complex problems of growing up in the inner city are beyond me. The missionaries do what they are trained to do. The missionary department drives the shallow sales tactics that result in lots of baptisms and poor retention and that is another issue. I don’t know about the home teaching (I was the EQP) but generally it doesn’t work in my experience.
For the youth programs to work, we need a majority of youth with their acts pretty much together helping each other be better and helping a minority of troubled youth overcome serious problems. When we have 90% of the youth with serious problems, the youth programs are flipped and then allow space for the problems to be compounded. I am concerned about a claim made by a GA that we are losing 70% of our youth and if true then where do we go? Cancel youth programs we can’t make work?
I cry too when I see these youth with little hope, either in or out of the church. I ride public transportation every day with them and they also scare me. One of the issues that nobody in the church will touch with a ten foot pole is the idea of contamination. Our ward is probably no less dysfunctional than the other wards in our stake. The stakes in the suburbs are lily- white with more typical youth and our youth are not welcome. They make excuses; if my daughter shows up there with one decent friend (and keeps her mouth shut), they turn their heads. When she brings more than a couple or three from a clearly different backgrounds, they are told- sorry this activity for youth of this stake only. Go home.
Hypothetically you may cry for Tyrone and all those like him. But he will make you cry in other ways. For instance, do you want your daughter dating him when she is going through a rebellious stage? And convincing her to adopt his values (or lack thereof) and then you will be raising his children while she is in drug rehab? Do you want your high school children in a public school with 50% of the students bused in from the inner city? (In my case our children wanted to be there and the parental threat was, if you don’t perform you are going to be put into the private schools). Or do you move to the suburbs like most people?
I agree that slapping a kid at church is a bad idea and today I would call the police. My daughter is a runt, maybe 60 pounds at age 12; all bark and no bite. (Except she got others to do the biting). I didn’t do anything about it then because I knew she half deserved some discipline and the guy was an attorney. I don’t think it would have been as much of a problem if a female member of the bishopric slapped her. (Is that sexist or what?) But mostly because of my own dark past experience. Without getting into another long story, as a young recently married immature man in the military, a few YM did some things at MIA to a few YW and instead of calling the police, the father of one of the YW and I took the culprits out into a swamp and….(delete) .
I agree with your loyalty/priority list. I think the major place we might part ways is the understanding of the concept: God makes the rules not us. For most Mormons, God communes to the prophet and through the church/priesthood hierarchy, to us. For me God speaks directly to me. I have trouble understanding Him. But my various experiences in life cause me to distrust the LDS church leaders. I don’t think God speaks to them very clearly either. Now, for me it isn’t a test to see if I follow God’s rules, not make up my own. Now I feel like I have to write the test myself under the influence of the Spirit and then still get it right. And I feel like I am flunking the test. My only hope is that someone else comes along and gives me some (well, a lot) of extra points on the test, that would be my brother (not the one in the bishopric in Utah) but maybe the One who lived in Galilee a while ago?
OK, honestly it gets worse. (please don’t kick me off the blog for this) I am becoming convinced that Mormon exclusivity is not correct; that other churches have just as much if not MORE favor with God. This based on the results I see in the lives of the people who live around me and in the way their churches function. I used to believe we Mormons were actually better than other people to the extent that we lived the gospel. Because we had a better gospel. Today, I think we are too often not as good as other people and sometimes because of the way we live the gospel. And it isn’t really the gospel centered on Christ. Obedience to faltering leaders is only one example. And this has profound wide-reaching consequences. I will not be obedient any more unless it makes sense to me and feels right by the Spirit. Too often it doesn’t.
I am not satisfied with waiting on the prophets to lead when it seems they are either not leading or leading us astray. That leaves two choices. Trying to be a small (or large-unlikely) part of bringing about changes (but how?), or leaving. Physically, or just shut up and be flaky. (Flaky Mormon casserole, served not just at the ward linger-longer, but in most every relationship across the ward).
The daughter in question grew and developed and achieved in ways beyond my highest expectations.She has had such a positive influence on so many of her friends. Also, straight A’s at an ivy league college, 99%tile on the LSAT, Rather she became a professional classical musician (“I want to make people happy not sad”) and is the marketing director at a small orchestra. God has led her tiny ridiculous team to raise over $30 million in a few short years to build a new concert hall. (Companies have offered her salaries in the mid six figure range). Classical music has usually been considered to be white folk’s music. But they are using it as a bridge over racial division in a place with about a 50/50 racial split and severe historic problems.
She never had a Mormon boy ask her out on a single date. Not once. And she is seriously hot in appearance. She doesn’t fit the mold. At one point she told me she really wanted a family and if she was unmarried at age 30, she was going to the doctor and having artifical insemination. Following the path God opened up to her led to a place where the LDS church is very weak and weird with no single’s ward. All of the LDS singles there with any get-up-and-go already got up and left. Those remaining live at home well past age 30, work part-time entry level jobs if at all and spent more hours on netflix than she does at work. She watched some of the members of the old posse marry far below their social status in order to go to the temple and now find themselves as the bread-winners, not exactly the Molly Mormon mold.
A few weeks ago she married the most wonderful guy I could image. He loves and almost worships her and is such a nice person. He is a doctor, boot-strapped up from a small town in the rural South, works hard and saved and invested wisely and has enough to retire at age 34. He is building them a million dollar house, no debt.The only questionable characteristic is that he is unaffiliated with religion. I am convinced that a LDS ward at its best could convert him, with her help. But it isn’t happening any time soon. She currently takes the LDS faith less seriously than I do.
I feel that an LDS ward at its best is going to have to make a place for people like her, or they will not convert top-quality people like her husband and will not keep her children. It is not enough to treat women like you describe above.That was a big step in the right direction. But it needs to go further. She might well-be by far the most capable person in the room sitting in ward counsel and if so, she needs to take/be given the lead and take the ward beyond anywhere it has gone before. Crucial to her particular ability to do this is her long involvement as a musician, paid to play, at so many other churches (at times almost every week) since she was 4 years old. (Her bishop while in college once claimed she was not coming to church enough. She replied she had attended over 20 different churches in the past 6 months, how was that not enough?) We pay a price for not putting the most capable people in charge. I don’t think that is the Lord’s way.
But a darker voice says something else. Why religion? If a person like her husband can have the level of integrity and compassion and devotion that he has without any religious influence at all then what is the point? Perhaps he is an exception and the rest of us do need religion. But what kind of doctrine is that? I do not look forward to conversations with unborn grandchildren on this subject, if my coronaries hold out that long. (Neither will they if I can’t keep it short!)
Sorry, this ran off and got too long again. Thank you for your indulgence.
Clark: i agree about the praying issue. It is not serious for me. Just amusing.
Mike, I can but say that’s not my experience anywhere I’ve lived. I’d strongly suggest moving. Perhaps being in a good ward would change your views on some of the other issues too.
Clark, what about all of the other members in that ward? They cannot all move, can they?
I have observed that the missionaries are becoming less selective in whom they baptize. I guess a body is a body. It has been done before with baseball baptisms.
RW, I don’t know enough about the ward to say anything. It just doesn’t match my experiences even living in highly crime ridden inner cities. I’d hope that if it is that dysfunctional the Stake President would merge it with a stronger ward. But since I’m not there and don’t know the reality of the situation I can’t say much.
You are correct about moving, but about 15 years too late. My wife moved, spiritually, she found another church in 2003. Unless that changes I will face a dilemma every week, what to do on Sunday morning. For the time I stubbornly refuse to let 200 year old sectarian religious divisions separate us on Sunday morning. I attend her church in exchange for her doing the same for me. The down side is: first her meetings are right during SS and RS/PH, so I have very little social interaction. Second, I am weekly comparing and honestly we are habitual losers. The further down side is that I can’t resist tearing her church to shreds and so we bicker and fight about religion all the time. Otherwise, we get along better than most, except on this one little topic and we are both religious fanatics.
The ward has changed and many people have moved away. If you wait long enough (RW) the ward moves. I sat there in Sacrament meeting and counted not more than 10 people I even know any more. They split it about 5 years ago and both halves are dwindling. I guess if it is bad enough shrinking is an improvement.
We don’t have hardly any youth to torment (or torment us). One of the wards had only one YM when split; we had jokes about the Young Man’s Presidency, instead of the Young Men’s Presidency. Then he went inactive and we had the No Young Men’s Presidency. I think they have roared back to about 3 or 4 active now. Not enough to do the sacrament, zero in fact last week (holiday).
Another thing that happens is once your children are gone they put you out to pasture and ignore you, which can be a great blessing. (Unless you are gunning for the big callings.) Then you never hear about these shenanigans. Apathy, irrelevance, hollow sweetness, and boredom reign supreme and are reported to soften bitter memories.
The solution to these problems is not organizational. It is far deeper. It sounds trite and too simple: People need to repent, let Christ heal their wickedness, forgive and live the gospel of Jesus Christ, not the pride-filled damning gospel of the handbook or whatever you want to call it. That goes for me and it goes for the leaders at every level.
What this ward needs is more like a revival than some administrative fix.
I was going to stop but this event just came to mind. A few years ago our Stake President and a visiting Q70 spoke. The Q70 opened it up for questions. A woman, sole survivor of the inactivity of all of her children and husband read a longish question (not unlike some of my comments above except a bit shorter) about how the church so failed in helping her teach her children to live the gospel and what to do now. The visiting Q70 turned the question over to the stake president. He gave a 20 minute stock sermon on faith- repentance- baptism/ sacrament- the gift of the Holy Ghost. He is black and he was reverting to his days as a Baptist preacher while the visiting Q70 seemed to squirm. I don’t think he was accustomed to hearing such strong doctrine laced with cayenne pepper. It sounded so insensitive and patronizing.
Then his tone changed. He took off his glasses and said: I am gonna get real with you sister. Then he admitted that all of his 6 children, now adults “were not making good choices.” He and his wife went out on the porch one night to look at the stars. They prayed about their children and explained how grateful they were for the Lord sending their children to them and how they had fed them and housed them and educated them and loved them and did the best they could to teach them the gospel and to live it. But they had failed and were tired and out of ideas. So, suddenly throwing his hands up towards the stars he shouted, we give them back to You! To You, the Shepard of lost sheep!
That was his advice, he sat down. The visiting Q70 remarked: my oh my oh my, where do I begin to correct all the false doctrine and the more he spoke the more his rebuttal fell flat on me. So that is what I am trying to do to my ward, give it back to the Lord.
The internet, that is another thing. The concern is that if I am right about Mormon exclusivity (or the lack thereof) the Lord well might damn us to the dust bin of history if we do not bring forth the fruits of repentance. And I find that a bitter pill to swallow.