I think that motherhood and priesthood are parallel; I know that many of you don’t. And one argument against my position that I see frequently is that you need the cooperation of the opposite sex (not to mention the blessing of fertility) to be a mother but not to be a priesthood holder. I’ve never found that argument persuasive, but until now, I haven’t been able to articulate why.
Today I observed a teacher of Valiant 11 boys write on the board priesthood functions. And as I looked at his list, I’m thinking: wow, if you weren’t a father, you would never (or rarely) do these: baptize a child, give a baby a name and a blessing, bless a family member, etc. And thus the kernel of my idea: priesthood is largely exercised in the context of fatherhood. (Gee, it doesn’t sound like an incredibly brilliant insight when I put it that way, does it?) Now, my thesis here is still in the trial balloon stage, so I’ll use this post to run it up the flag poll and see if anyone salutes (or just attacks me for mixing metaphors). Let me pre-empt what I imagine will be some of the responses to my idea:
(1) “Yeah, but what about all the ordaining and setting apart that bishops and stake presidents do?” To which I reply: When was the last time you met a bishop or stake president who wasn’t a father? While fatherhood may not be a de jure requirement for these roles, it appears to be a de facto one.
(2) “What about home teachers, etc., who give blessings to their home teach-ees? They aren’t necessarily fathers.” True, but not something that undermines my thesis. I’m not sure if my husband is typical, but over ten years of marriage, I think he’s been asked to give maybe 2 or 3 blessings to home teachees, etc. In other words, he’s used his priesthood outside of the family context with about the same frequency as one of my married-but-childless friends has, if you will, ‘exercised her motherhood’ by babysitting my children.
(3) “What about the Aaronic Priesthood passing the sacrament and such?” Ah, you’ve got me there. Perhaps I should dismiss this as the preparatory priesthood and confine my argument to the Melchizedek priesthood. Or perhaps this is the place to acknowledge my general, ongoing discomfort with the disconnect between the roles YW and YM play in the Church (a discomfort that does not exist for me if we were discussing adult men and women in the Church).
(4) “What about the worthiness issue? You don’t have to be worthy to have a baby, but you do to hold the priesthood.” Maybe we should start thinking about unworthy mothers as exercising unrighteous dominion. While no one interviews you for worthiness before you become a mother, the fact remains that a man could unworthily exercise the priesthood much as a woman could unworthily mother. In other words, both men and women have the same opportunity to decide to worthily or unworthily exercise their stewardship. And, much as a worthy male brings something to the exercise of priesthood that an unworthy one doesn’t, a worthy woman brings something to her mothering that an unworthy one doesn’t. Again, there is no de jure worthiness requirement for motherhood, but there certainly is a de facto one if we are thinking of the kind of motherhood that the Church promotes.
To sum: A worthy male Melchizedek priesthood holder has a roughly equivalent opportunity to exercise his priesthood as a worthy female non-mother has to exercise her motherhood; that is, occassionally a little around the edges, but not very much. Motherhood and (Melchizedek) priesthood are equivalent roles in the Church, in that they are primarily exercised within the nuclear family, meaning that a childless male is about as cut off from the blessings and responsibilities of priesthood as a childless woman is from the blessings and responsibilities of motherhood.
What think ye?