Monday, March 31, 2014

Why There Shouldn't Be an Argument About Women's Ordination

For about a year now, I have "come out" as a woman who believes women should be ordained to the priesthood.

Since then, I have been called apostate by those who barely know anything more about me than my first and last name. I've been accused of following satan by people who I wouldn't even consider good enough friends to chat with them in a grocery store. I've even had my beliefs called abhorrent by extended family members.

Luckily, the people who really know and care about me remain unfazed at my position, and have even become my biggest advocates and supporters. People like my dad, who had nearly graduated from law school before women were allowed to pray in sacrament meeting, will chat with me on the regular about how women's future in the church is expanding, without once calling me to repentance. I'm lucky enough to have fabulous ward leadership who realize that the church isn't limited to the structure that it currently has. And most importantly, I married the best person in the world and he is always there to rant and rave with me, and he even stood in line with me for tickets to the priesthood session last October. Seriously. Help me find a flaw in that boy.

So while I understand that there will be differing opinions on the topic, debating the issue with people who don't really know me outside of my online persona has been frustrating. To say the least. Mainly because I think any Facebook comment that is longer than a couple paragraphs (and don't even get me started on the impassable wall of text that doesn't get broken into paragraphs) is not only unwieldy, but tends to make one look rather insane.

To fix that, I decided to write up my rebuttals to some of the common "arguments" I have heard from people on Facebook so that I can just refer them to this link. Or you, if that is how you got here.

"Women don't need the priesthood, they have motherhood."

This is, by far, the most popular "come-back" people have about women's ordination. Which surprises me, since it is also one of the most illogical.

Now don't get me wrong, I know motherhood is great. You might not think I know that because I have been married nearly three years and don't have any children. Also, I'm in law school which must mean I'm one of those dreaded "career women." I truly believe that your family situation (babies, career, etc.) should be a decision between you, your spouse, and the Lord. That being said, Jason and I have been "trying" to have kids for over two and a half years now. Boom, roasted.

But the reason why this argument is so illogical is that fathers have fatherhood and the priesthood. Which is why having the priesthood wouldn't detract from motherhood, but add to it. To say otherwise is to demean men's role in the family. And since I don't believe Heavenly Mother's role is more important than Heavenly Father's, I think They would want us to learn co-parenting while we are here on earth. You can read more about my position on that here.

"The Church can't change doctrine, only policy."

This one always makes me sigh. I'm not exactly sure when this doctrine/policy distinction came about, but I think it is damaging and completely in conflict with the 9th Article of Faith. In case it has been a while since you were in primary, here it is:

 We believe all that God has arevealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet breveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

If you think that "many great and important things" can only be policy, then I would have to say that is an unnecessary limit on God's power.

"Women and men are different, but equal."

Yes. Women and men are different. But does that difference necessarily preclude them from the priesthood? People of different races are different, but that doesn't mean that our church doesn't benefit from people of all backgrounds having the priesthood.

The church even came out with some wonderful information about the revelation that extended the priesthood to all worthy males. You can read here about how the previous policy was likely limited by the prejudices of our mortality. To believe that our leaders make mistakes is not only in line with the teachings of President Uchtdorf, but resonates with our broader understanding that God is perfect, and humans are flawed.

With that in mind, it is easy to believe that God might not see the priesthood as inherently male, but this policy is a vestige of a culture that has repressed women for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In just the last hundred years, women could not vote, could not own property, could not complain when her husband beat her, could not prosecute a man who raped her, could not go to college, could not get a job if she were married, and could not do so many other things that we take for granted today.

And when feminists called for these things to change, it was often other women who said these limits were necessary to womanhood. They would say, "It is not feminine to be disobedient to her husband when he feels the need to physically discipline her. It is not feminine to desire to vote because her husband can vote for her. It is not feminine to go to college because the only proper atmosphere for a woman is at home. To give women these powers would be to desecrate the God-given differences between men and women, and--of course--denigrate the family."

What we know now, is that giving women these rights has not only empowered women to be better mothers and family members, but has magnified the gifts unique to women. It is because of these differences that we need women bishops, women mission presidents, women apostles, and women prophets.

Until very recently, women weren't able to speak or pray in sacrament meeting or general conference, there were no prominent pictures of our current female church leaders displayed in church buildings, and there was no general conference session just for women every six months.  But these things have changed, showing us that our leaders are trying to fix some of the vestiges of a patriarchal culture.

Who knows what women will take for granted in 50 years. Perhaps it will be allowing women to hold clerical callings in the church, to act as a witness for ordinances in the temple, to take part in the blessing of their children, or even to hold the priesthood.

"If you understood the Gospel, you would know women's ordination isn't necessary."

This argument is awesome because it not only doesn't make sense, but instead of an insult to my intelligence/testimony, it is actually a compliment. You'll see why in a little bit.

First, I would just like to lay some groundwork for my position in the gospel. I have been to church nearly every Sunday of my entire life, I went to EFY five (yes, FIVE!) years, graduated from BYU with all the religion requirements, studied the Old and New Testament in Israel, am endowed, have done a pretty good job at weekly temple trips, and do my very best at morning and evening prayer/scripture study.

Not that these things will guarantee an understanding of the gospel. They won't. But, the best thing about the gospel is that it is designed to be simple. To bring it back to the Articles of Faith again:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Sure, repentance is a topic that can get into pretty deep waters, and faith is something that can be pretty stratified, but the best part about the gospel is that we have the Holy Ghost to fill in some gaps. Everyone has some aspect of the gospel that they don't fully understand. And if you think you don't, you just haven't given enough thought to some hard topics. But luckily, we have great examples in the scriptures of going to God directly with your questions and pleading for answers. Where would Joseph Smith be without James 1:5? Moses without going to the top of Sinai? Or Enos if he didn't wrestle before God?

In general conference, we learn that this kind of earnest answer-seeking is an essential part of eternal progression, and thus, the gospel:

“We cannot find Enos-like faith without our own wrestle before God in prayer. I testify that the reward is worth the effort. … I promise that if you do these things sincerely and unceasingly, the words Christ spoke to His disciples will be fulfilled in your life: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’"

And another promise from the Savior:

 6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

To me, it's pretty plain that we aren't meant to "understand" everything about the gospel. These gaps in our understanding are essential for our growth as individuals and as a church. So instead of insulting me, saying that I don't understand the gospel is just telling me that I'm closer to getting further light and knowledge. Or maybe already received some.

"I'm a woman and I don't even want the priesthood."

Since I have waxed long on some of the other answers, I will keep this one brief. Some men don't want the priesthood, does that mean all men should be precluded from it? The desire of some does not a barrier to others make.

"Women already have access to the priesthood."

God, in His infinite wisdom, has set up the church in a way that women and men can have access to a worthy priesthood leader when they need it. However, for a woman to request a blessing from a home teacher who might live miles and miles away in the middle of the night might be too much of an imposition to make of someone she might barely know.

And even if women without the priesthood in their homes have all the access they need to the priesthood, this ignores the fact that some of the blessings of the priesthood are found in the act of administering it.

Although I have listened to many testimony meetings where men testified of the blessings they have felt by being able to hold the priesthood, I think I will echo Paul's advice when he says:

to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to agive than to receive.

"It is sinful to ask for power and authority."

To ask for more knowledge is not only not sinful, but it is completely fundamental to our restored gospel. And to desire an ordinance of the gospel--specifically the ordination of the priesthood--is quite possibly the most righteous desire anyone can have. When a twelve year old boy is excited about being ordained a deacon, or preparing to receive the Melchizedek priesthood, we laud that behavior. Should it be any different for the women?

Furthermore, to plead with the leaders of the church for further revelation on this topic is even less threatening to the structure of the church. But when there have been multiple times in our history where the leaders of our church have received revelation that makes sweeping, fundamental changes, I cannot understand why some people get so threatened by the pleading.

I truly believe that every person on this earth was given certain gifts and experiences so that they can help advance God's plan, even if just in a small way. For me, I went through years of wondering how a God I know and love would create a church that seems to waste so many of the talents and gifts of women through leadership and full involvement in the Church.

But I have a deep-seated knowledge that this is God's church. No matter what I can't understand, I have not been able to deny that fact. And since this is God's church, I have a fervent hope that our church will continue to progress toward a zion-like community.

And messages like this from Bruce R. McConkie fan the fire of hope and remind me that I'm just where God wants me to be:

"I would like to say something about the new revelation relative to the priesthood going to those of all nations and races. “He [meaning Christ, who is the Lord God] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).

"These words have now taken on a new meaning. We have caught a new vision of their true significance. This also applies to a great number of other passages in the revelations. Since the Lord gave this revelation on the priesthood, our understanding of many passages has expanded. Many of us never imagined or supposed that they had the extensive and broad meaning that they do have.

"...We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.

"It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the Gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the Gentiles."

I feel so blessed to be a part of a church that is attuned to the changing church, and adjusting to our needs. Thank you for reading this post, and please remember to be open to the Spirit, and to treat your brothers and sisters--no matter what they believe--with the love and respect Christ has for them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

10 Years and Still Standing

The more time passes, the more I'm surprised by the little things I remember about my mom.

Just a few days ago I was making an Oreo pie crust and desecrating the cookies by opening them in half and scraping out whatever synthetic byproduct it is that Nabisco calls "creme filling." While committing that unholy deed I had an almost visceral memory of my mom--someone who rarely succumbed to any sugar, much less the Nabisco kind--doing the same thing. Twisting open each cookie, using the flat end of a butter knife, and plopping the filling out into the sink.

Or like when I open my little red jewelry bags that she got me just a few days before she died. Sometimes, while searching for an elusive pair for my earring, I think about that day. It was a Monday and we went into this little boutique on University Avenue, that has long since gone out of business, as we were waiting for our table at the Bombay House. I chose out a couple tops and while I was in the dressing room my mom decided I needed this set of three beaded, red bags. The shirts have long-since gone to DI due to puberty and peasant frocks going out of style, but the bags are still a perfect fit.

Even though these memories are still very real, they have grown uber stale. I know them all by heart. I can predict which things are going to remind me of her unique way of putting on lipstick, or which people will make me recall the way she turned her head and slapped her thigh when she laughed really hard, but I can never change those memories. They are just on a repeating loop in my subconscious. Reminding me each time that I won't ever have new stories about my mom. 

No matter how hard I scratch, I will never uncover something new in those memories. In fact, not only will I not discover something new, but that bank of memories will just slowly get smaller and smaller; the continuous loop running shorter and shorter. Even with the agile mind of a 24 year old I can't how it would smell when I would burrow into her shirt and cry. Or exactly what her big, black purse looked like. Was the zipper silver? And there was a big pocket in front--or were there two on each side?

While I ache for those memories I know I have already forgotten, I want even more for my mom to know me as the person I am today. Now that I know we would have more to talk about than ever, I'm stuck having this one-sided conversation. Or worse, I try to make up her responses by patching together memories to answer my hypotheticals. Either way, I end up feeling cheated and wondering if it would have been better if I had never known her. Easier to deal if I didn't know how infinitely cool she was. 

But, like the amazing movie About Time reminded me, "we're all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride." Every one of us is a time traveler and, like it or not, time has one speed: forward. As much as I would love to spend one more week with my mom body surfing at Hukilau beach, Smithsonian hopping on the mall, or even cuddling up with a new book and a warm bed, I just cannot. The only thing I can do is a live a life she would be proud of. And I can't do that if I am not unequivocally in the present.

 So here I am. Living. Moving forward.

We've all got reasons we wish we could go back and travel upstream to fix a mistake or revisit the good old days, but the more we focus on the past, the more we'll miss the ride. And memories don't taste nearly as good as the actual experience.

Before I give one last toast to the present, allow me one last bit of nostalgia. Just for today. In the first few seconds of this video you'll hear Emma ask a question that I still ask to this day (but with a little different vocabulary) and I like my dad's answer. I really hope it's true.