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.


Becca said...

Hey Alex!! I just wanted to say that I've followed you're "coming out" :) from the time you started writing about it on your blog and Facebook. Even though I don't know you a lot now, you were my childhood basically and I know you! I probably know you more than I know any of my other friends.

Anyway with that being said, because I know you so well I've really ponder the things you've said. I don't think you're apostate or following satan or abhorrent. I know that you have a testimony and I know that you are trying to follow the spirit and gain more knowledge. Oh and the whole law school not being able to get pregnant thing... That made me laugh!! Boom!!! Haha. )Youre sure a good writer. I am not.) You're right some people don't know you :).

I guess you are probably the first person to really open my eyes and start pondering these questions. It wasn't something I had really taken a lot of time to think about. I can't say I've really come to any definitive conclusions for myself. I'm still, slowly, working through them and pondering them. But I can say that I continue to learn that we all have different strengths for a reason. And I really believe that there are some people in the church who feel very discriminated against and there are others who don't. And both are okay feelings. Both are real feelings. As long as people stay open minded and show love and continue to do their part to follow Heavenly Father, Christ, the Spirit, and the prophet we will all be okay.

Anyway, there is my four paragraph ramble that you don't like much! Haha:). I mostly just wanted to say that I love you and I know you're a good person and I know that your mom, above all, would be so so sooooo proud of you!!! For this and for so many other things

You're an example to me. Maybe one day we can email back and forth about some of this. It's still kind of a lot for me to grasp sometimes :). Love you!!!!

Alison Arntsen said...

just want to echo the comment above. thanks for putting yourself out there when you probably knew the backlash could get ugly. you opened the door to me asking questions and getting my own revelation and solidifying my own been beliefs/testimony in this area, which has also a sensitive one for me.

you're an awesome example to me of standing up for what you believe in and not giving in to the more negative discussions going on around this topic. good on you.

Anonymous said...

(Something went wrong with my comment, so if it ends up posting twice, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to look like an idiot!)

This is a really great post. You have always been and still are one of my heroes. You are always so respectful of people on all sides of the ordination topic, and it really really pisses me off that others accuse you and other outspoken advocates of being "satanic" or sinful. So offensive and un-Christlike, honestly. Anyway, just wanted to tell you I love you and admire you so much.

JORDYN said...

Ugh my stupid phone. That last comment was from me, Jordyn haha