Protecting Women

April 14, 2013 | 91 comments
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RadioWest hosted a discussion about Mormon Women and the Priesthood this week.  It is worth a listen.

Defending the status quo was Jenet Jacob Erickson, identified as a former assistant professor at BYU’s School of Family Life.  Her main argument was that a male-only priesthood frees women from demands that would interfere with their higher calling of mothering and nurturing.

I think this is a very poor argument.

(Sidenote:  if you want to know where I stand on the issue of ordaining women, go read the final paragraph of this post.  I will add that after listening to the RadioWest show, I am less impressed with Kate Kelly’s rhetoric than I expected to be.  I am not unsympathetic to the cause of women’s ordination, but I am pretty turned off by her approach.)

The main flaws with the “a male-only priesthood protects mothers” argument are as follows:

(1) It isn’t true.  I taught early morning seminary when I had a toddler–it took about 20 hours per week, and five of those hours had be at 5:30am.  I’ve babysat a gaggle of young kids for a harried Relief Society President.  I’ve seen the exhaustion on the face of a bishop’s wife.  I’ve heard of visits made by a Relief Society Presidency to a new ward member with a combined total of eleven children in tow.  In short, the current structure of the church does not protect women from service demands that would interfere with their ability to mother. On the other hand, we could imagine calling young moms to be, say, the second counselor in the Sunday School Presidency in order to minimally impact their duties as mothers.  I’d argue that a male-only priesthood is more likely than the alternative to adversely impact mothers, because it increases the likelihood that their husbands will be issued time-consuming callings that will require the mother to have less relief at home:  if we had treated all of the worthy women in the ward as potential holders of callings requiring priesthood, the young father would be that much less likely to get one of those time-consuming callings.  Further,  I’d suggest that if a stake president asked a young mother, “I have a time consuming calling that I can give to you or to your husband.  Which scenario will make you a better mother?” that most women would take the calling and leave the kids with their husbands instead of taking the exhausting “double shift” of parenting and having their husbands take the calling.

(2) If you think historically, you quickly realize that protecting mothers has never been the main consideration in the operation of the church.  Think about polygamy.  Think about calling fathers on missions. Think about sending pioneer families out to colonize.  Think about calling youngish fathers today to bishoprics or to be seminary teachers or pretty much any calling in the Young Men’s organization.  We’ve never prioritized the protection of a mother’s time, energy, and capacity to nurture over the other churchy goals.

(3) This argument makes no sense of what I call the various “strands of priesthood” (see this post).  That is, a desire to protect mothers in their mothering tells us nothing about why a sister missionary can’t baptize her own investigators.  It tells us nothing about why a single 50-something woman can’t be called as a Sunday School President.  It doesn’t even tell us why a mother can’t baptize her own child.  (It takes, like, three minutes–we’d never suggest that spending three minutes voting in a presidential election or watching a cat video on YouTube should not be done by mothers because it would interfere with their need to nurture.)  It also doesn’t explain why a woman who is not a mother or who has grown children cannot perform ordinances or fulfill callings that require the priesthood.  Why is being an assistant ward clerk contraindicated by a woman’s mothering role but being the Primary General President is not?  What is it about passing the sacrament that would interfere with a mother’s nurturing duties?

(4) A second historical dimension:  this desire to protect mothers tells us nothing about what Joseph Smith meant when he said he would make the Relief Society into a kingdom of priests.  It does not explain why 19th century Mormon women could give healing blessings but 21st century Mormon women cannot.  It does not explain why women could not speak in General Conference for 15 decades or pray in General Conference for 18 decades. It does not explain why the church used to teach “male-dominant marriage” but now teaches that husbands and wives should be equal in marriage (see here). In other words, it does not help us understand the pattern of change and continuity regarding women’s roles that we have seen.  Unless you can explain why giving a healing blessing to her children would have interfered with a mother’s ability to nurture her children in 2013 but did not interfere with that ability in 1876 (see here, page 2), the explanatory power of “a male-only priesthood protects women” is not able to do the work that it needs to do.  (And it isn’t appropriate to get into on a blog, but it certainly has no explanatory power to help us understand why things happen in the temple the way that they do.)

(5) If it were true that we wanted to structure the church so as to protect mothers from outside duties so they could better nurture their children, shouldn’t we drastically cut back on women’s involvement in the church?  Forbid them from teaching Gospel Doctrine and Institute?  Ban them from going to the temple? Keep them off the ward council?  Out of the ward choir?  Eliminate visiting teaching?  You can quickly see how the “a male-only priesthood protects mothers” rhetoric smacks into the “but women are listened to and serve a lot and run their own organization and have a huge and important role in the church” apologetic.  You can’t have it both ways.

—–

The Church got very little grief for banning men of African descent from the priesthood for the first 100 or so years of that policy.  It was only later, when society had changed, that people (both in and out of the church) started questioning the policy.  Similarly, the fact that women do not hold the priesthood was not something that the LDS Church had to spend much time justifying for most of its history.  Now that the issue is back in the limelight, it looks to me like the defenders of the current policy are cobbling together ad hoc rationalizations (see here for more of this) that do not hold water when examined closely (sorry to mix metaphors there) and are likely to, in the future, be just as embarrassing to us as the “folk doctrine” regarding the previous priesthood restriction.  As someone who vacillates between thinking that a male-only priesthood is a sensible, divine plan and/or a sexist cultural artifact, I’d like to see those who would defend the status quo either step up their game (=make better arguments) or refuse to play ball (=simply admit that we don’t know why things are the way they are).  But I suspect that positions like those taken by Jenet Jacob Erickson are not only not going to convince anyone who wasn’t already convinced, but are likely to become part of the speculative baggage that leads to 2 out of 3 women who leave the church citing gender issues as the main reason (citation here).  (In other words, I wonder how many of those women would not have left the church if we had a male-only priesthood  but no speculative rationales:  did the lack of priesthood by itself lead to their leaving, or did the illogical explanations lead to their leaving?)  My fear is that these half-baked rationales for why women don’t hold the priesthood will drive more women out of the Church.

Let me add, though, that I credit Jenet Jacob Erickson for pushing the idea that mothering is important and we should protect a woman’s ability to do her best at it.  There is room to do a better job as a church of protecting mothers and this is indeed a worthwhile goal.  I wish that we didn’t see young fathers called to enormously demanding callings. (This seems to be an issue that is very much on the radar for some local leaders but ignored by others.)  I wish that we provided the kinds of services that would make it easier for mothers to nurture their children.  (This might involve anything from play groups to baby-sitting coops to daytime Relief Society Meetings and Institute classes to help for mothers who are ill to Girls’ Nights Out to more flexible visiting teaching to better facilities for nursing mothers to parenting classes, etc.)  But I just don’t think that this desire to protect mothers has anything at all  to do with a male-only priesthood.

91 Responses to Protecting Women

  1. Kevin Barney on April 14, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Outstanding post, Julie.

  2. Katie Blakesley on April 14, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Thanks for the heads up about the Radio West show. And thanks for an excellent post.

  3. Nathaniel Givens on April 14, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I never understand arguments that take the form “If the situation isn’t perfect, then all arguments against making it worse are invalid.”

    Logically, this argument is obviously unsound, but I suppose the intuition they appeal to is that if the purported rationale were genuine, the situation would be perfect. Clearly, however, that’s not the case. Human institutions are never perfect. So the fact that Mormon mothers (and fathers) are sometimes subject to onerous callings that interfere with their ability to be good parents and spouses doesn’t imply that we should just stop caring about trying to balance the need to have callings done with the needs of parents and spouses to be there for their families. Nor does the fact that the welfare of Mormon mothers has not been universally placed above every other possible consideration doesn’t mean that it ought to cease to be a consideration at all.

    People who advance arguments of this form also seem to scrupulously avoid the fact that there are always two possible responses. On the one hand, we can just abandon every principle that isn’t perfectly instantiated in a human institution. (Which, put plainly, sounds about as reasonable as it really is.) Alternatively, we could make reforms to implement it better.

    In this case, maybe young parents shouldn’t be given onerous callings whenever possible. Maybe the church should work harder to protect mothers. I’m certainly on board with both of these arguments. I’m not sure it needs to go in the handbook, but I definitely think any bishop who assigns a mother of small children to the nursery probably needs a reality check.

    (This addresses only the first two points, and I realize that.)

    On an different note: I’m constantly puzzled by the complaint that a woman “can’t baptize her own child”. A man can’t gestate his. If the axiomatic quest is to have women do everything that men currently do in a quest for equality, then we should be looking for ways to get men to gestate or lactate (or as close as we can come, given the science available). The fact that this idea is not even mentioned, that it will be greeted with incredulity and derision, dramatically undercuts the credibility of the idea that equality is the motivating factor in this movement.

    This isn’t a positive argument against women getting the priesthood, of course. I’m not attempting to make that argument here. But if God create men and women and gave women certain abilities through biology that men do not have, and then chose to gave men certain abilities through he priesthood that women don’t have, how is this necessarily unfair? If we’re going to talk about equality, but restrict it only to institutions and not to biology, then that arbitrary distinction needs to be defended rather than assumed.

  4. Alison Moore Smith on April 14, 2013 at 9:43 am

    I’d say it took 30+ hours per week when I was RS president — with small children. I don’t remember being “protected” from the work.

    A good friend of ours was the stake executive secretary. His wife — with babies at home –, literally did 80% of the work that calling entailed because SHE was home when it needed to be done. The stake pres knew it and even suggested it. I asked him why it was for her to do the work but not OK for her to have the calling. Crickets. I guess it “protected” her motherhood. : P

  5. Alison Moore Smith on April 14, 2013 at 9:46 am

    P.S. Nathaniel, women can’t donate sperm last time I checked. Oh, and Im adopted, so my mom wasn’t gestating either.

  6. lulubelle on April 14, 2013 at 10:00 am

    An excelled post, Julie. Thank you.

    Nathaniel: Not sure I understand your comment. It seems to me you’re saying that certain callings require a penis because… only biologically speaking, those with a penis can do a particular job… Preventing women from serving to their full capacity in the church under the guise that it’s because women are/get to be mothers is just absurd.

  7. Clean Cut on April 14, 2013 at 10:32 am

    The world is a better place because of you Julie Smith. This is a masterpiece of critical thinking and so needed in the broader conversation.

  8. Cynthia L. on April 14, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Here you go, Nathaniel: Problem solved!

  9. ZD Eve on April 14, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Thank you, Julie. Nailed it. I particularly appreciate your point about the dangers of speculation, which in an age of rapid media cycling, becomes folk doctrine in the blink of a Bott interview with the Washington Post.

    As others have said, it never ceases to fascinate me that we invoke the protection of women only when we’re protecting the status quo. No one had a shred of interest in protecting me from anything when I spent the last five months of my second pregnancy getting up and down from the floor as a nursery worker. My current RS president has three small children. I imagine she’d look considerably less harried if she had the priesthood and could be second counselor in the Sunday school presidency, my personal dream calling.

  10. jader3rd on April 14, 2013 at 10:46 am

    An ideal Scout Master is a High Priest with a truck who needs to prove that he’s still young. Yet, by the time most men reach the age of High Priest, they’re already burnt out on Scouting.

  11. Brad Kramer on April 14, 2013 at 11:03 am

    ” I’m constantly puzzled by the complaint that a woman “can’t baptize her own child”. A man can’t gestate his. If the axiomatic quest is to have women do everything that men currently do in a quest for equality, then we should be looking for ways to get men to gestate or lactate (or as close as we can come, given the science available). The fact that this idea is not even mentioned, that it will be greeted with incredulity and derision, dramatically undercuts the credibility of the idea that equality is the motivating factor in this movement.”

    I’m constantly puzzled by the quest to make social equality the equivalent of biological sameness. Is there a cultural prohibition against male gestation? Women _can_ baptize their own children. They aren’t allowed to.

  12. Robert C. on April 14, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Nice post, Julie.

    Excellent points, Nathaniel.

    Brad, I read Nathaniel differently, as raising the question, “Might biological difference have some relevance for our understanding of social roles and relations?” I think this is an interesting and productive question, and I haven’t seen it addressed very well in discussions on gender and the priesthood….

  13. Kristine on April 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    “Might biological difference have some relevance for our understanding of social roles and relations?”

    Yes, it tells us that for the approximately 15% of her life a woman is potentially gestating or lactating, she should be encouraged and supported in those tasks. And maybe given Social Security quarters for the work she’s doing that is going to pay dividends to the people who aren’t doing it.

    The End.

  14. meems on April 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful post, Julie. I always love everything you write. I really appreciate this excellent piece and agree with what you say.

  15. Julie M. Smith on April 14, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Nathaniel, I’m not sure I understand what you are saying, but I’m going to take a stab at it and I’ll ask you to correct me where I am wrong.

    (1) I think you are saying that just because a male-only priesthood doesn’t _perfectly_ protect mothers from too much work doesn’t mean that it isn’t _helpful_ in protecting mothers. I agree with you that this is a theoretical possibility and we should not get rid of _helpful_ things just because they are not _perfect_. But as I explain in my post, a male-only priesthood actually _exacerbates_ the problems of mothers, because a man with 4 teeny kids is called to be in a bishopric instead of a woman with 4 grown kids because she doesn’t have the priesthood. In short: a male-only priesthood more often than not makes things _worse_ for mothers in the church. I don’t need it to be a perfect solution to be valid–I would just need it to help instead of exacerbate the problem.

    I’m not sure if you listened to the RadioWest show, but you may need to hear the protection argument being made before my response to it makes any sense.

    (2) You don’t like my “women can’t baptize” argument. I’m not one who is going to picket General Conference and demand that mothers be allowed to baptize their own children. I actually have very positive feelings about the idea that my husband blessed and baptized our children; it does seem to be a nice complement to the mothering jobs that I did that only I could do. My only reason for mentioning the issue here is that the argument that a male-only priesthood protects mothers starts to sound absurd when you think about the fact that baptizing a child takes three minutes. I grant that there may very well be divinely-inspired, very, very, very good reasons for only permitting a father to baptize his children, but protecting the mother from undue work is just not one of them.

    I think it would be useful to have more discussion of a male-only priesthood in relation to the fact that we have female-only roles in pregnancy and lactation. I do think that one of the best arguments that I have heard for a male-only priesthood is that there is otherwise no male-only role in the family, but having a father bonded to his family is a very good thing. As I explore in my “strands of priesthood post,” however, giving a father a male-only role doesn’t have an inherent bearing on whether women can be in the SS presidency. Oddly, where the male-only role would be most appropriate–in the home–we’ve seen that role radically changed to become far more gender neutral in the church in the last few decades.

  16. Cynthia L. on April 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm
  17. Doug G. on April 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    As an EQ President for a ward struggling to meet its goals, or even to find worthy priesthood enough to call as teachers and counselors in my quorum, it would be a blessing to have access to the women of our ward. I know our attendance, contribution, and home teaching would double overnight. For that matter I would be happy to serve under a woman Presidency. The time for change is now.

  18. Robert C. on April 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Yes, Kristine (#13), but this particular 15% of the woman’s/mother’s life is a pretty crucial time, both for the child’s development and for the woman’s career. So, I’d a like a little more elaboration regarding the encouragement and support you have in mind, before “ending” discussion of these important considerations of gender relations, family support, economic pressures, etc.

    Would, for example, the kind of encouragement and support you have in mind be extended to stay-at-home fathers, in an effort to get men more involved in family roles (esp. in light of the frequent practical need of prioritizing one parent’s career path, in two-parent households)? If so, how? If not, why not?

    I guess I’m partial to the idea that priesthood roles in the Church are a reflection of society’s traditional labor division between work inside vs. outside the home (i.e., nurturing vs. bread-winning)—a division that I think originated largely for reasons pertaining to biological difference. As this traditional division has changed, and work inside and outside the home continues to change in ways that are more amenable to the blurring of sex- and gender-based divisions, I suspect changes in Church practices and policies will continue follow. Moreover, I suspect that, at least in the long run, the main concern of Church leaders will be with regard to family dynamics: will the many benefits of in-sourced parental care (and the manner in which gender-segregated youth programs aid in this effort) really be safeguarded as gender-based labor divisions collapse? Inasmuch as a positive answer to this question can be convincingly affirmed, I suspect changes will be expedited….

  19. mikecherez on April 14, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I personally think the middle approach is the right one rather than the ones advocated by Kate and Jenet. Let’s discuss smaller but significant and meaningful changes in how we treat women and what their role is in the church before jumping to ordination.

    One of my primary reasons for saying that is that I am not sure the priesthood is what most LDS women want. I do think most LDS women would welcome other changes like being in the SS presidency, praying in GC, being involved in certain circles and so forth. If that is the case and most women or at least a large percentage of women do not want the priesthood, I would hesitate to embrace the idea at least on a church-wide scale.

  20. Kristine on April 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    “I guess I’m partial to the idea that priesthood roles in the Church are a reflection of society’s traditional labor division between work inside vs. outside the home…”

    Ah, the foolish traditions of their fathers argument ;)

  21. Kristine on April 14, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Also, as Julie has convincingly argued, the division of labor in the church actually UNDERMINES women’s work in the home, rather than somehow benignly mirroring the biologically-determined ideal you have in mind.

  22. Nancy Ross on April 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I think that women in the church report that they do not want the priesthood because they have been taught all of their lives that they should not want it, that they should be submissive to their husband and/or priesthood leaders, and that if they do want it, they are crazy liberal feminists who are the enemies of the church. I think we forget that.

  23. Dave on April 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Nice post, Julie. Of course the Church employs “half-baked rationales.” Lacking fully-baked rationales (that would be theology, which doesn’t happen within the formal boundaries of the Church), we’re better off to retreat to unbaked rationales, such as this: “Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.” At least that makes it easier to change the puzzling practice at some point.

  24. mikecherez on April 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Nancy,

    I think that is being a little harsh. My wife doesn’t want the priesthood and is a convert of only a few years and was never taught any of those things. My mother is in a similar boat. While I am sure that some women say they don’t want it for reasons you mention, I think you have to be honest and say that many women do not want it because they do not want it or do not feel they need it and feel perfectly content and satisfied with their role. That isn’t an argument against female ordination, I think it just accurately describes the true feelings of a large group of women in the church.

  25. Dave K on April 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Excellent Julie.

  26. Sam Brunson on April 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Kristine, I think you’re misreading Robert. I believe he’s saying that he believes the the historical, not normative, basis of the gendered structure of priesthood lies in traditional gender spheres. And I think that’s hard to disagree with (given that there’s no revelatory basis of which I’m aware). The rest of his comment suggests the possibility of change as society changes.

    And I agree, Julie: the Church doesn’t appear to have spent a lot of time, historically, thinking about the gendered divisions. Which is why most of the defenses I’ve heard seem ad hoc and unconvincing—they seem designed to defend the status quo after we know what the status quo is, rather than provide an explanation that could have existed ex ante.

  27. Nathaniel Givens on April 14, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Julie-

    Nathaniel, I’m not sure I understand what you are saying, but I’m going to take a stab at it and I’ll ask you to correct me where I am wrong.

    I think you got the gist of it really well. I’m even willing to go so far as to say that if a male-only priesthood means calling young fathers to be bishop, then a male-only priesthood is doing the opposite of protecting women / mothers / motherhood.

    The problem is that if a male-only priesthood means calling young fathers to be bishop, than a male/female priesthood will mean sometimes calling young fathers to be bishop and sometimes calling young mothers to be bishop. How is that an improvement?

    I gather that the argument is that if you have more potential bishops you can spread the assignment around, but this just highlights the fact that calling women itself doesn’t solve anything. The problem is that young parents (either gender) ought not to be in the bishopric. Why not just skip to the part of the solution that is an actual solution and implement that? I don’t believe that the Church is so desperate for local leaders that we couldn’t enact this given the present priesthood pool.

    If protection is the goal, male/female priesthood is neither necessary nor sufficient to the solution.

    My only reason for mentioning the issue here is that the argument that a male-only priesthood protects mothers starts to sound absurd when you think about the fact that baptizing a child takes three minutes.

    My point here was primarily that if we’re going to talk about how the male-only priesthood limits women, we should also talk about how biology limits men. That’s not necessarily the case in a purely secular debate, but since we believe that the Church and our bodies were created by the same God, we can’t take it for granted that biological and institutional gender differences can be compartmentalized. To do so denies the possibility that gender equality exists only in a synthesis of all relevant factors. Can we rule that possibility out? Without debate? Without even mentioning it?

    As secondary, and much smaller point, is that the priesthood is not offered a la carte. The three-minute baptism comes with strings attached.

  28. Nathaniel Givens on April 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Sam-

    And I agree, Julie: the Church doesn’t appear to have spent a lot of time, historically, thinking about the gendered divisions. Which is why most of the defenses I’ve heard seem ad hoc and unconvincing—they seem designed to defend the status quo after we know what the status quo is, rather than provide an explanation that could have existed ex ante.

    I actually agree quite strongly with this, but I would offer the counterpoint that a lot of the other side also hasn’t thought about the issue very much either, at least not in an authentically Mormon context. To me it seems as though the majority of the argument for women getting the priesthood is merely to transplant secular gender politics into a Mormon paradigm without adequately thinking through the translation.

    I think both sides are fumbling through this. And that, honestly, is to me the best part of the discussion. A lot of our most valuable social institutions were never invented and not necessarily even discovered. They just sort of evolved. And frequently we do no understand their value until they are challenged.

    I know it will only exacerbate the political tensions below the surface of this discussion, but a truly great example of this is F. A. Hayek’s “Use of Knowledge in Society”. Markets had been around in some fashion or other throughout human history, but only when central planning during World War II seemed to put the survival of markets at risk did we get a scholar who was able to discover and articulate what it was that markets had actually been doing that whole time.

    Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s (almost) gone.

  29. Kristine on April 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    “calling women itself doesn’t solve anything.”

    Yes, it does! It gets them out of the house, allows them to use (and consecrate) talents that get stagnant in the phase of motherhood that involves mostly hard manual labor, and lets fathers have more time with their children.

  30. Nathaniel Givens on April 14, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Kristine-

    On the one hand, you make a very valid point. I know that when my wife was at home with our very young children (newborn and 2-year old, for example) she was often desperate for more adult interaction. However, I am quite sure that if someone had called her to be bishop at that point she would have lost her mind (because she has told me) and, furthermore, it would have bankrupted our family because we couldn’t have afforded daycare or for me to give up my job.

    This is why there’s a danger that sometimes the calls for women to have the priesthood will seem starkly out of touch with many in the church who don’t live comfortable upper-middle class lifestyles. In those cases, financial survival takes precedence of extra-curricular self-actualization.

    It is also a fact that the priesthood is already too frequently abused and misunderstood by men who haven’t read and understood D&C 121. Expanding the priesthood to women under the argument that it will “get them out of the house” or allow them to reach personal fulfillment or whatever would only compound and solidify that mistake. The priesthood does not exist for the benefit of those who hold it. It exists for the benefit of those they serve with it.

    I’m actually quite open to the idea of women having the priesthood, but I see no basis whatsoever for giving them the priesthood for any argument of that type.

  31. Brad Kramer on April 14, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Female ordination no more mandates that young, financially struggling mothers be called as bishops than male priesthood mandates that young, financially struggling fathers be called as bishops. Bishop callings never occur with no regard to the life circumstances of the candidate’s family and career.

  32. Julie M. Smith on April 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Let me say that your use of “extra-curricular self-actualization” and “personal fulfillment” is off-base to the point of being ugly in my book. I hope you don’t think that that is what efforts to ordain women are about. Most of what I am hearing from advocates of women’s ordination is that they think the church would be a better place if everyone could use their gifts to bless people and if the YW weren’t leaving in droves because they don’t get why they should be limited by their gender. And if we weren’t spending time making up post hoc folk doctrine to explain why women’s don’t have the priesthood. I haven’t heard anyone say they think it would be “fun” or “fulfilling.”

    You point to a real issue re class/wealth/leisure in the church related to ability to take on callings, but that is _not_ just about women.

    ” I don’t believe that the Church is so desperate for local leaders that we couldn’t enact this given the present priesthood pool.”

    I don’t know where you live or have lived, but in my experience, this is in fact usually the case.

  33. Kristine on April 14, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Also, anyone who thinks that bishops spend more time on church work than RS presidents or YW leaders is sadly mistaken.

  34. Nathaniel Givens on April 14, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Julie-

    Let me say that your use of “extra-curricular self-actualization” and “personal fulfillment” is off-base to the point of being ugly in my book. I hope you don’t think that that is what efforts to ordain women are about.

    I apologize for offending. I certainly don’t think that that is what the effort is about for most people most of the time. I do think that it is a danger at times, however.

    You point to a real issue re class/wealth/leisure in the church related to ability to take on callings, but that is _not_ just about women.

    I agree with that.

    I don’t know where you live or have lived, but in my experience, this is in fact usually the case.

    I’d be interested to know if there are any objective measures for this.

  35. Nathaniel Givens on April 14, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Kristine-

    Also, anyone who thinks that bishops spend more time on church work than RS presidents or YW leaders is sadly mistaken.

    FWIW, I don’t think that at all. But if women held the priesthood, then they would be subject to callings as RS presidents, YW leaders *and* bishops, etc. The problem is not that I think that being a bishop or EQP is more stressful, it’s that you’re doubling the number of highly-stressful, time-consuming callings that could be issued to women.

  36. Nathaniel Givens on April 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Brad-

    Female ordination no more mandates that young, financially struggling mothers be called as bishops than male priesthood mandates that young, financially struggling fathers be called as bishops

    That’s pretty much exactly what I said. Do young, financially struggling fathers get called sometimes? Now young, financially struggling mother could also be called. Add to that the fact that, in Mormon society, men tend to earn more than women, and the costs of switching parent roles could be enormous. It would be significantly more costly (on average) for a woman to be called than a man, but on the other hand if women were technically allowed to be bishops, but men were systematically called at a higher rate, I imagine many would be less than satisfied.

    Bishop callings never occur with no regard to the life circumstances of the candidate’s family and career.

    I don’t share your faith in the inerrancy of callings.

  37. Carole on April 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    The statistic that 2 out of 3 women who leave the church cite gender issues is a little misleading. The paper linked to in the OP gets that number from this survey:

    http://www.whymormonsquestion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Survey-Results_Understanding-Mormon-Disbelief-Mar20121.pdf

    The survey specifically selected for people who have lost their faith in the LDS church, which is not necessarily the same thing as leaving the church. Some people may lose faith and stay in the church; others may leave the church without losing faith.

    The survey sample was recruited through social media and LDS-themed blogs, and the report notes that the sample is not necessarily representative of all church members who lose their faith (for example, people who filled out the survey are more likely to spend a lot of time on blogs like this one where gender issues are discussed).

    This isn’t to say the survey results aren’t interesting or useful – but they really can’t tell you what proportion of the women who leave the church are leaving because of gender issues. It wouldn’t surprised me if the proportion was high, but I don’t believe it’s as high as 63 percent.

  38. Naismith on April 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Julie, I appreciated the analysis. I am ambivalent on the subject of female ordination. As far as the seminary calling, I suspect thou dost protest a bit too much? At least, all my friends who had babies while serving in seminary were offered and even encouraged to step down. Those that stayed did it for their own sanity. I don’t think it is quite fair to say that they force young moms into such positions.

    As far as Kristine’s #33, I guess I am sadly mistaken. My husband and I served as bishop and RS pres of the same ward, and his was about twice the time sink. Mine was only about 20-30 hours a week. Part of it was that a YW leader or RS president serves the ward members, whereas a bishop serves all the people within the ward boundaries, including the 90% or whatever who are not members of the church. The welfare issues associated with those folks were a major time and money sink, since there were many times that he could not give church money for something according to policy, so we gave our money to the cause.

    Also, bishops get asked to marry and bury people a lot, but if it isn’t a ward member, the RS may not get involved. And I didn’t show up at inconvenient baptisms of male converts, although we never missed a female convert.

    But of course a lot of those issues depend on the nature of your ward, how far they are from the temple, bishop’s storehouse, etc.

  39. mikecherez on April 14, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Carole,

    I think you bring up some good points. This is not necessarily an accurate sampling of those who have left the church. A woman who left the church because of gender issues is probably much more likely to be hanging around the bloggernacle voicing her views and being aware of this survey than a woman that stopped attending and believing because she moved away to college and never connected with her new ward.

  40. Julie M. Smith on April 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Carole, thank you for that information. I admit that I had not dug into that number any more deeply than the source to which I linked. I agree with you that there appear to be some questions over the validity of the number. But even if only, say, 10% of people leave the church over gender issues, we’re likely to increase the number by promulgating folk doctrine and that’s still a problem, even if not such a numerically large one, and we should still be leaving the 99 to go after the 1 and all that.

    Naismith, I _loved_ teaching seminary and institute and it helped keep me sane while parenting tiny children. (FWIW, I already had the toddler when I was called and was asked to teach Institute with 1, 2, and 3 kids. On another occasion, I turned down an opportunity to teach seminary because I was planning on having #4.) I’m just making the point that current church policy is not designed to protect young mothers from large callings nor does it have the effect of protecting them from large callings. In my case, the calling was a good thing and I’m grateful the church did _not_ have a policy of “protecting” me from it.

  41. mikecherez on April 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Julie,

    It seems that a major concern of yours is creating “folk doctrine” that will only make the situation worse for the church as well as encourage more people to leave in the future. I don’t disagree with that. But what is the answer then? Isn’t it going by what the leadership of the church has to say on the topic? It seems that we are all safest when quoting from a talk like the one Elder Ballard gave last week instead of postulating our own reasons for the current structure of the priesthood. Frankly that is the only real reason I can give at this time: because God revealed it that way.

  42. Brad Kramer on April 14, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    ” I don’t share your faith in the inerrancy of callings.”

    Hand to God, Nathaniel, I have no ungodly idea what you’re talking about.

  43. Julie M. Smith on April 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    mikecherez, as I said in the original post, I’m not sure if the better course is to develop more convincing responses to the issue or to simply admit that we don’t know. Thinking about the issue historically, we are less likely to be embarrassed in the future by “we don’t know” but we are also less likely to convince people to defend the status quo by using “we don’t know.”

  44. Cynthia L. on April 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Raising my hand to second the anecdotal experiences of wards calling young fathers with small children happening often and in precisely those wards where there was really nobody else available to call. So I do not agree with Nathaniel that ordaining women would make it equally likely that young mothers with small children would be called. Instead it would broaden the pool of available people so that we could have much better odds* of finding someone qualified who does not have small children. (* Twice as likely, if not more, since older adult women have higher activity rates than men.)

    Also, Nathaniel, I know the Zelophehad’s Daughters post is satirical, but I think it makes an extremely good and extremely relevant argument related to what you’ve been saying here. Care to comment?

  45. Nathaniel Givens on April 14, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Also, Nathaniel, I know the Zelophehad’s Daughters post is satirical, but I think it makes an extremely good and extremely relevant argument related to what you’ve been saying here. Care to comment?

    I actually came across that on my own earlier. My reaction is that I thought it could have been an incredibly cool thought experiment but ended up a flimsy straw man instead.

  46. Jax on April 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Julie,

    Good post. There has been a bit of commenting about the gender-roles and the family and I was wondering how that aspect played out in your mind. It’s been touched on a bit without anyone mentioning the Family Proclamation to the World and its prophetic delineation of gender roles. Any thoughts?

    Kristine:

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I don’t think you liked Julie B. Beck’s GC talk “Mothers Who Know” where she paints the ideal mother as someone at home with her kids teaching, nurturing, leading, … I don’t see “It gets her out of the house…” (#29) as a real high priority for the church to try to accomplish given those “ideal” roles also spelled out in the Family Proclamation.

    @anyone who thinks their talents are wasting away. Go out and bless people then! Go to your Bishop and tell him, “I think I can help bless the lives of ________. ” or ask him, “I have a few free hours each week, who can I go visit?” He’ll be thrilled to have a volunteer to help. Don’t waste away waiting for inspiration from him to call you to help; if you feel you can do something then THAT is the inspiration that you should! You don’t need a priesthood calling/blessing/ordination/setting apart to bless people and use your skills… just go do it!

  47. sba on April 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Can anyone point me to a source on relative defection rates among our YM and YW?

  48. Kristine on April 14, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Jax, let me saw off that limb for you (sorry!): http://bycommonconsent.com/2007/10/07/why-i-liked-sister-becks-talk-mostly/

  49. Brad Kramer on April 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    “… ended up a flimsy straw man instead.”

    Care to elaborate?

  50. Julie M. Smith on April 14, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Jax, that’s a huge question. Can you narrow it down a little?

  51. sba on April 14, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Nathaniel, most employed men can’t do a whole lot of bishoping during business hours either. If I were bishop instead of my husband, I suspect our workdays would look pretty much as they do now; and then I would be the one gone evenings and weekends. The major practical consequences for our family would be more baseball and a dirtier house.

  52. Jax on April 15, 2013 at 1:12 am

    @Kristine… glad you cut that limb. It was a good post. If you felt that way then, why do you now say that getting women out of the house is an admirable goal? I wish I knew the reference but it seems I recently (sometime after the Beck GC talk) heard another talk saying that LDS women need to reject the idea that women need to find time to escape and have time to themselves… Obviously a paraphrase, but that is the message I got from 1-2 lines of the talk. Thoughts?

    @ Julie M Smith: that was a big topic, sorry. Your thoughts though on the fact that the church has given prophetic counsel on gender-roles at all? Why can’t “male-only priesthood” be an extension of those gender roles? I know there is no scripture stating that, and no GC talk that I can think of, but still it could just be that easy; that God has said “men will recieve the priesthood and women will not”. Would such a comment be acceptable to you and/or others?

    @SBA A dirtier house in exchange for more baseball sounds alright to me :)

  53. Aaron on April 15, 2013 at 2:07 am

    Thank you Julie,
    This is a truly impressive piece of analysis. It’s great strength, as I read it, is not as advocacy for women’s ordination, but as solid deconstruction of a specific argument against ordination. Of course people can counter with “we should just accept what God has given” or or “but women get to have babies and men don’t”, but that seems like a dissatisfying sidestep of the argument you make so well. Not that there can be no valid reason for male-only priesthood, only that this one doesn’t work. Reading through the comments, I don’t see much of a counter. Some priesthood callings require an enormous amount of time? Really, that’s it? So the Lord would be compelled to extend the calling of Bishop to young mothers that don’t have the time to devote to it? Church leaders, whether through inspiration or policy, could not possibly deal with this potential problem (remember, some of them would have themselves been young mothers once)? There would be a financial burden because fathers would have to leave their careers to stay at home so their wife could serve in their new calling? Since when is it church practice to extend callings that require parents to quit their jobs or otherwise become unable to support themselves? Regardless of the extent that direct revelation plays in extending callings, availability and resources of the individual and family should always be taken into account. Where that is not the case, correction is needed. If such correction is beyond the reach of both heaven and earth, then the same arguments would say that neither men nor women should hold the priesthood. Give it to the kids! But only during the summer, because right now mine have homework.

  54. Mossbloom on April 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

    I have a friend who was called to be bishop at a really terrible time for him. He was a father of young children and was in a pretty demanding military career. But he was willing to serve. A year or two later, he was chosen to go on a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Rather than release him, the Stake Presidency decided to keep him on in his role and let the counselors pick up the slack. It was so ridiculous. One of his counselors ended up volunteering to go on the deployment in his place so that he could continue serving. This wasn’t even a tiny little ward where there were no other worthy priesthood holders. It was such a bizarre situation. So, yeah, sometimes those in charge make really terrible decisions without consideration for the life circumstances of those involved.

    Anyway, that was just a bizarre example and I really don’t think that overworked young mothers would be at the top of the list for potential bishops. But honestly, it would be much better for our family if I was called to be bishop rather than my husband at this point in our lives (I would much rather neither of us were called). I am currently a SAHM and while it would be overwhelming, I would rather sacrifice what free time I have than to have my husband gone. He is already away from his kids from before they are awake to 6:00 in the evening. So he gets two hours with them on weekdays. When he has demanding callings, that precious time is split further and even weekend time disappears. When my dad was called as a bishop when I was a teen, I never saw him. I am mothering my kids all morning and afternoon. I can afford to spend my evenings and weekends focused on church duties without hurting my relationship with them. My husband can’t. I know I totally don’t represent the majority of SAHMs, but I just think we need to focus a little more on protecting fatherhood.

  55. Kristine on April 15, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Jax, because every single measure of mental health improves, and abuse and mental illness decline when caregivers have other roles for several hours a week. Even women with jobs they hate score better on tests for depression than women with no job outside the home.

  56. Kristine on April 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

    (which is to say, I guess, that I just disagree with whoever says women don’t need time to themselves–my experience and that of pretty much every mother I know and all the social science data I’ve seen is more compelling to me than a couple of lines of a general conference talk)

  57. Julie M. Smith on April 15, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Jax writes,

    “Your thoughts though on the fact that the church has given prophetic counsel on gender-roles at all? Why can’t “male-only priesthood” be an extension of those gender roles? I know there is no scripture stating that, and no GC talk that I can think of, but still it could just be that easy; that God has said “men will recieve the priesthood and women will not”. Would such a comment be acceptable to you and/or others?”

    My thought is that it is not at all clear to me whether

    prophetic counsel (on this topic) = an expression of the will of God

    or

    prophetic counsel (on this topic) = an expression of deeply embedded norms that are cultural but not divine

    or a mix of both.

    And this is all complicated by the fact that “the priesthood” is not one thing, but a whole host of things, from authority to perform rituals to permission to hold certain callings to ability to pray in General Conference (but not any more!). So, even if we grant that “a male-only priesthood” is the will of God, which parts? Apparently not the ability to give healing blessings . . . depending on which century you are in . . .

  58. Naismith on April 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I wish the exact point in the radio discussion where it said “protect” had been referenced…I listened for a while and did not pick that up. But anyway…

    It is not clear what is meant by “status quo.” Is it a system in which women aren’t ordained to priesthood offices per se but are valued as full and equal partners in marriage, have as much say in church workings as any human through effective use of councils, and have many opportunities for leadership and service? Or is it (as is often posited) a system in which women are second-class citizens whose voices are never heard, that promotes a 1950s mentality, and will only treat women equally once they have the priesthood?

    I reject the latter, because my experience has been along the lines of the first. But a lot of folks have good reasons for seeing it as the latter. It does make it hard to have a conversation when we don’t know what is actually being discussed.

    I would never give “protecting women” as a rationale for male-only priesthood. But “giving men something unique that they bring to the family” is how I see the current system benefiting many families. (Although I could see different benefits if that changed.) And there is a track record of men disengaging in some churches once women begin serving in leadership, so I can understand the concern.

    I also think a major issue is that the church doesn’t want to do anything that distracts women from having babies. Not that anyone should have more than they are able or should–we are all entitled to revelation on such personal matters. But my biggest contribution to the church and society was having five children. Not serving as Relief Society president.

    And yeah, while childbearing might be only 15% of a woman’s life span, it was over 50% of my life at the time I birthed our last child. And the health issues from those pregnancies emerged years later, having a permanent impact even after I was past that season of life, so I can’t wave it away quite so easily.

  59. Sonny on April 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Fantastic post, Julie.

    As seems to always be the case, your analysis is sound and fair.

  60. ZD Eve on April 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    “I wish I knew the reference but it seems I recently (sometime after the Beck GC talk) heard another talk saying that LDS women need to reject the idea that women need to find time to escape and have time to themselves… Obviously a paraphrase, but that is the message I got from 1-2 lines of the talk. Thoughts?”

    Jax, in this 2008 talk, given just a few months after Sister Beck’s famous address, Elder Ballard says quite the opposite:

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/daughters-of-god?lang=eng

  61. BeachMama on April 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    “We’d never suggest that three minutes…watching a cat video on YouTube should not be done by mothers because it will interfere with their need to nurture.”

    Well. If having the priesthood (or a busy church calling) is gonna interfere with my cat video watching time, then you can just count me out!

    ;)

  62. Mtnmarty on April 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I’ve read several comments that say Julie is a voice of reason, so I will put my questions to her since I’m looking for a reasonable answer.

    As I read all of these posts about mormon feminists and about women and the priesthood, the question that keeps coming back to me is “why, now?”

    Feminism has been a major force in the United States for generations. Various denominations have ordained females over the past few decades. Women have institutionalized rights in the workplace and in politics. What is the reason that women being ordained in the LDS church is coming up now, in 2013?

    Why has it either become “safe” as a topic or why are people more willing to take risks in bringing it up and pressuring for it?

    I don’t have any great ideas myself, but my own read of the zeitgeist is that the changes in the church’s approach on gay rights and Obama defeating Romney provides something of an undercurrent of failure and rejection of the Mormon patriarchy. They are now political losers and losers invite challenge.

    I doubt very many on either side of the issue will agree with my assessment but I do think a certain percentage on each side of the issue are open to the idea. Something in the world has just changed, there’s no other way to put it, and that something is carrying its effects over to the LDS church. I don’t think feminism is a homegrown LDS issue. Feminism is a world-historical force making its way through a religion not known for its support of feminism. I find it completely fascinating. That’s question one, “why now?”

    The second question is about what feminism is. This question occurred to me after listening to R. Hancock on Mormon stories. He equated feminism with people who desire equality for women. I suspect he adopted that position rhetorically in trying to oppose certain goals of feminism, but I don’t think its correct. I think the goals of feminists make much more sense if they are interpreted as raising the power and status of women rather than promoting equality.

    So, it is my position that feminists would be happy with a new priesthood (say the Matriarchal priesthood) that trumped the old Priesthoods and that only women could have it. As long as this Priesthood had real power, the inequality of the matter wouldn’t be a large concern. Say, the matriarchal YW’s budget was 10 times the scout budget or that the matriarchs called the male leaders. Wouldn’t feminists support this?

    My goal in asking this question is not to propose this as a way of arguing against feminism but merely to get around all the “biological differences” arguments. How do arguments change if we accept biological differences but draw the conclusion that they mean women should have more power than they do now? Isn’t that some of what is happening under representative government when women have longer life spans and so become the majority of votes? Aren’t we seeing biological differences supporting political differences?

  63. Julie M. Smith on April 15, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Mtnmarty,

    Thanks for your questions. My best guess is that we won’t have a good answer for the “why now?” for another decade, when the dust has settled. But I suspect the following are playing a role:

    –social media: giving a microphone to those who didn’t have one, helping like-minded people discover that they aren’t the only one out there who thinks like they do, disseminating ideas, making “Wear Pants to Church Day” possible, etc.

    –the fact that no one is (as far as I have heard) subject to church discipline seems to be influencing others to speak out.

    –the “success” of “Let Women Pray” (I realize LDS PR said this effort was unrelated, but my sense is that most people don’t believe that) in getting a woman to pray in GC will further embolden activists.

    –the new YW curriculum and reduced age and increased leadership for sister missionaries has made significant change seem possible.

    –it may be generational. People my age–people who grew up with Margaret Thatcher on TV constantly and didn’t think that a woman couldn’t/shouldn’t be in charge–are now bishops, etc., and it seems kind of incongruous to a lot of us that Mormon women couldn’t pray in GC or whatever.

    As to your second question, it is a great one. There’s a post at BCC up now exploring it, and I’ve heard others entertain the idea of a “female priesthood.” For me, I don’t see any value in separating men and women and I suspect that a parallel female line would just reinforce the ickiest bits of gender essentialism. That said, it might also have some big benefits in terms of constructing gender in the church (for both men and women) in positive and counter-cultural ways, and would certainly be an improvement over the complete shut-out of women from ritual, administrative, etc., roles in the church now.

  64. Ziff on April 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Stellar response, Julie.

    Also, I think Cynthia’s point in #44 bears repeating. If women were ordained, the most likely outcome would be much *less* stress for families with young children. A vast army of women whose children are older or out of the house or who have no children would become eligible to serve in bishoprics and other time consuming callings, and *both* young mothers and young fathers would be called less often to such callings.

  65. Frank Pellett on April 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I don’t think opening the Priesthood to women, doubling the number of potential leaders, would reduce the number of those with young families being called to heavy positions. Right now, Mission Presidents aren’t limited to retirees, and that pool includes almost all men in the Church. That’s a pretty big pool, even if missionaries aren’t allowed to swim.

    (please feel free to contradict from some handbook, my experience is only from my own MP’s family, and that was 20 years ago)

  66. Mtnmarty on April 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Prediction is a side issue to the “rightness or wrongness” of it, but in terms of prediction, I think its a very different thing if this is a greater voice to an existing minority of supporters or if it is driven by a broad generational shift.

    My point about the fact that feminism has been around for generations is that in some ways the people remaining active in the church are made up of people who have, for the most part, consciously rejected feminism. A part of me thinks that if the church is not serving feminist women, then they will leave and the problem will be solved. The women remaining will be the women for whom feminism is not a significant force or is even a negative force. Men have not necessarily been through this same process. I don’t think feminist men have been under quite the same selection pressure, absent a feminist wife or mother. I don’t really trust the survey data but this would be consistent with the fact that many fewer mormon women profess interest in women receiving the priesthood compared to mormon men (the 10% vs. 50% statistic).

    I’m just having a hard time seeing changes in the role of women in the Priesthood that don’t weaken the church’s commitment to strong sex role dimorphism. The Proclamation on the Family is strongly gender essentialist. ( I don’t know what the meaning of pre-mortal gender is, but whatever it is, it must be pretty essential to get mentioned.)

    I’m not saying impossible to change or that it shouldn’t be changed, I’m just saying it seems like a pretty extreme change in course that is not matched up very well with the group of people that have chosen to remain in the church.

    I also think that what feminism means to people varies strongly based on class. Yes, I’m being patriarchal but it seems to me that at the lower end of the economic spectrum women would do a lot better with a strong male priesthood holder than getting the Priesthood themselves.

    I would be much more supportive of the change if I could be convinced that my daughter’s and daughter-in-laws would have more children if they held the priesthood. Something on the order of the following argument. Without change some percentage will leave the church over gender issues, but with the Priesthood they may stay. Furthermore, if women get he priesthood, the church will keep its commitment to large families and more women will have large families because women will restructure the support for childbearing in a way that families will reverse the trend towards smaller families.

    What are your predictions for this? Will giving women the Priesthood accelerate the trend to smaller families, slow the drop or reverse it and return to large families?

    Thanks.

  67. Aaron on April 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    “…if the church is not serving feminist women, then they will leave and the problem will be solved. The women remaining will be the women for whom feminism is not a significant force…”

    Alas, there is evidence that the set of feminists is not a closed one, and some speculation that new ones might be continually and spontaneously produced from small female children.

  68. Naismith on April 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    “…the church will keep its commitment to large families…”

    The church does not have a commitment to large families. The church has a commitment to families having as many children as the mom and dad agree is right for them, through prayer and divine guidance. For various families, this may mean 10 or 1 or no children.

  69. Petra on April 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    “Say, the matriarchal YW’s budget was 10 times the scout budget or that the matriarchs called the male leaders. Wouldn’t feminists support this?”

    I can’t speak for all feminists here, but I absolutely wouldn’t support this, as giving one group a larger budget than another or putting one group automatically in charge of another solely on the basis of sex is still sexism, regardless of who the favored group is.

    (I might support a female-only priesthood depending on the construction and implementation, though most versions of the idea make me break out in gender essentialist hives, but that’s very different from a female-only priesthood where women are put in privileged positions over men simply by virtue of being women.)

    “I think the goals of feminists make much more sense if they are interpreted as raising the power and status of women rather than promoting equality.”

    I see my goal and the goals of feminism as promoting equality, but in a world where women are systematically disempowered and disenfranchised relative to men, raising the power and status of women one path by which we may get to equality.

  70. hello on April 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I have had a career that could easily occupy all of my time. In the past it wasn’t usual for me to work 12 hour days and many weekends. While carrying a heavy work commitment I have had, from time to time, “heavy” church callings.(YM President, Bishop for example.) On occasion I have resented my callings and wondered why I was chosen when I am already so busy. However, the attention that I have had to pay to my callings has helped me keep my feet planted in normal day-to-day life, and have helped me be a better parent. For example, when I was YM President, my son was in YM program so that when I was working on that calling, and going on outings I was happy to know that these efforts were also father/son time. To accomplish that I had to aggresive “protect” my schedule against Mutual activites on Tuesday night. If not for my calling, I probably would have just worked more, and spent less time with my ward and more to the point spent even less time with my children.

    Today, I am not as busy as I used to be at work, and I have a fairly un-demanding church calling. I will enjoy that for now.

    For my wife, she has held almost every leadership position that a woman typicall could have: RS President, Primary President, YW President, Stake YW President, Stake Camp Leader. Professionally, she is now very busy, working the kind of hours that I used to, managing a large research facility. Today her calling is accompanyist for the ward choir. I believe that because she is perceived (correctly) as being busy that she seems to have slipped out of the pool of “desirable for callings” list. It is possible that because she is a professional woman (which she doesn’t parade) she is informally black-listed because she is now outside of the mold of home-maker Mormon mommy. I recently reminded her that with her leadership experience that she would likely be in a position of leadership in the church right now if she were a male. She, of course, is glad to avoid such things because she is busy enough. But wouldn’t a hefty church calling help her keep her life in balance, just as my callings did for me? Why was my busy career an invitation to pile on, while for my wife it is a reason of lay off?

  71. Mtnmarty on April 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Naismith,

    The Proclamation on the family states “We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”

    Unless, the church is not committed to the commandments, then at a minimum the church is committed to families that average at least 2.05 children. Multiply is ambiguous but often when people say “multiply” they mean grow rather than multiply by 1 and keep the population the same.

    Nevertheless, I will concede and revise my wording from “commitment to” to “historical practice of.”

  72. Mtnmarty on April 16, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Petra,

    Why the name feminist rather than anti-sexist, non-sexist or gender-equality supporter?

    Why does the feminist agenda not highlight improving male mortality in the USA to female levels, or increasing male college participation to female levels? There are many components of human flourishing were males are doing worse than females, but they are not considered feminist issues. Say, the unequal population of the inmate population. Why is equalizing the rate of incarceration or execution not a feminist issue?

    Your goal may be equality but feminism seems biased towards improving things for women rather than supporting some gender-neutral type of equality.

  73. Mtnmarty on April 16, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Aaron,

    Ok, I’m willing to let the minor age proto-feminists leave the church too, but I realize that I’m something of a permissive parent and not typical of LDS families.

  74. Naismith on April 16, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    “Unless, the church is not committed to the commandments, then at a minimum the church is committed to families that average at least 2.05 children.”

    I think the church is committed to the commandments, and most especially the importance of following the path that the Lord has for each of us. A larger number of children is not inherently better. For example, Ardeth Kapp and her husband could easily have adopted when they realized that they couldn’t have biological children. They felt that was not what the Lord had in mind for them. Yet the church did not reject them as being uncommitted to the commandments. She was general YW president, he was called as a mission president and temple president.

    We should not, and the church does not, try to tell people how many children they should have.

  75. mtnmarty on April 16, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I agree that the church doesn’t tell individuals how many children to have.

    But what explanation do you have for why the proclamation lists multiplying and replenishing the earth as a commandment, if not to tell people, in general, to have more than zero children?

    It may just be a semantic difference between us. Does the church “tell people” to dress modestly? If not, then we have a semantic difference. If so, doesn’t the commandment to multiply carry as much weight as the commandment to dress modestly?

  76. Aaron on April 17, 2013 at 12:31 am

    I don’t see how the two directives could possibly carry equal weight, because I suspect that dressing modestly might actually lead to having fewer children.

  77. Mtnmarty on April 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I don’t know Aaron, burkas don’t seem to have that effect.

  78. Aaron on April 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    I didn’t say it was the only factor…

  79. Naismith on April 17, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    “But what explanation do you have for why the proclamation lists multiplying and replenishing the earth as a commandment, if not to tell people, in general, to have more than zero children?”

    I thought they were affirming the Biblical notion of having children in marriage. Not telling anyone to have any number of children.

    That is far more than a semantic difference to me.

    I do understand that many of us, in the process of seeking the Lord’s guidance in how we should have our families, may end up with more children than the average of whatever nation we live in. But that is a side-effect of following the revelation, not a matter of “church commitment to large families.” I think I would be damned if I had more children than we should have.

  80. Mtnmarty on April 17, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Ok, since it is more than a semantic difference, I’m curious about what it means for something to be a commandment. I’ve often heard at church we should keep the commandments. Loving our neighbors as ourselves is a commandment. Keeping the sabbath day holy is a commandment, having no other gods before him is a commandment. The proclamation says that the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is still in force. Its biblical but its ongoing and applicable.

    What does making something a commandment do, if it isn’t telling people what they should do? Would you say the church shouldn’t tell people to love their neighbor? Or that they shouldn’t tell people to keep the law of chastity. I’m not saying its a sin for every person if they don’t have children. I’m saying that, in general, by stating that biblical passage is a commandment, they are telling people they should have children.

    How how about this, “the church continuing to publish that it is a current commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.”

  81. Justin Snyder on April 18, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Gordon B. Hinckley, prior President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said:

    “Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program. Women have a very prominent place in this Church. Men hold the priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women’s organization in the world… They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world…

    “The men hold the priesthood, yes. But my wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise.”

    122.

    Justin Snyder on April 18, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Once again, when a prophet speaks with the influence of the Holy Ghost, it is God’s will. President Hinkley, a recent prophet, explained why women don’t have the priesthood. To defy that counsel is to defy what the Lord has chosen. Do you trust the Lord or don’t you? Remember, the Lord doesn’t make mistakes. He knows what is best. Are you going to trust him or are you going to continue to bother him about the matter? Remember when Joseph Smith didn’t like the answer given him about the 118 pages of manuscript translated from the Golden plates? Joseph continued to bother the Lord and it ended up causing trouble. However, God and Christ knew Joseph’s weakness far ahead of time and prepared a second set of plates. Please, accept God’s will regarding the priesthood. He has chosen men to hold that for the blessing of others. Accept it and embrace it. Work on your own spiritual progress and trust in the Lord. To do otherwise is to let the influence of the devil take control of your life.

  82. Julie M. Smith on April 18, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Justin Snyder, you might find the following posts interesting:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2013/01/on-complaining/

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2007/06/how-to-dissent-like-a-general-authority/

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2005/11/sunday-school-lesson-42-2/

    I’d also like to remind you that pretty much every revelation in the restoration–from the First Vision to the Word of Wisdom to OD-2–happened because someone asked a question.

  83. Dave on April 18, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Justin, your (implied) criticism of LDS leaders for changing the priesthood in 1978, rather than following your advice to “accept God’s will regarding the priesthood,” just doesn’t make sense. You obviously haven’t really thought things through very clearly. Did God make a mistake, which He corrected in 1978? Or did we fallible humans running His church make a mistake, which was finally corrected in 1978?

  84. Justin Snyder on April 18, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Dave,

    Neither Dave. God gives line upon line precept on precept. He gives it to individuals that way and he also gives it to groups of people that way. God blesses as we learn his will. The priesthood is ultimately designed for all men for the blessing of all mankind. However, when men stray, he will refuse the blessing. He cannot reward evil with blessings. To do so is contrary to the laws of eternity and being a God. Therefore, God didn’t make a mistake. He simply won’t give priviledges to men until he finds sufficient worthiness. It’s HIS decision, not ours. If we try to make it ours without his direction by the Holy Ghost, then we are in error. So, it’s not about making a mistake and then correcting that mistake. That’s where you look at it all wrong Dave. It’s about becoming unworthy to receive it and then worthy again. Like it or not, it’s God who determines when things are done. As you know, God cursed many people with a skin of blackness. That is something he is aware of for reasons he knows. When he decides to remove curses or award blessings/priviledges, then and only then will they come. Many in this world look at the LDS church as just men like any other religion, who make decisions at their own will. Unfortunately that is an error. The LDS church is not managed on a whim. It is careful prayer and consideration. Just because men on earth may not understand the decision of the LDS church, does not mean it’s a mistake. The Lord knows more than us all. What appears to be a mistake to us is often because of our poor lack of judgement and our lack of knowledge. God knows all and never makes a judgement that is wrong. When people in the LDS church accept that, then they will begin to trust God. Put your whole trust in him and the Holy Ghost will guide you.

  85. Justin Snyder on April 18, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Dave,

    Oh and one more thing. My statement never criticized LDS leaders. If that is what you thought, then you misread or misunderstand what I said. You should read it again in that case and try to get what I was really saying. Nowhere did I criticize the church for anything to do with the Priesthood. That was YOU interpreting my statement in error.

  86. Justin Snyder on April 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Julie,

    You should note that complaining with the Lord is not good if it is for unrighteous reasons. For instance, Joseph Smith kept complaining/bothering the Lord for the permission to let others view the 118 pages of the manuscript. That ultimately lead to corruption and loss of power to translate. If we complain and bother the Lord when he has already made his decision, he may grant the request, but to our own condemnation. He granted it to Joseph Smith and it lead to corruption. However, since that document was sooooo important and sacred, the Lord had provided a way years and years earlier to prepare for Joseph and Martin’s mistake. That is why he instructed Nephi to create another set of plates or another record. The Lord in his eternal wisdom can see the earth from start to finish. He knows what all of us will do. He decided to intervene and prepare a way for the mistake of Joseph Smith/Martin Harris to be overcome. So, lesson is that complaining is not necessarily good. If a child complains that he wants a knife, but you know he will cut himself with it, are you going to give it to him? Probably not. If he continues to complain will you give it to him? Probably not. The Lord will not change his mind just because we complain. The Lord knows all and HE will decide if what we are complaining about is righteous or whether it is against his will. If it is against his will and he sees fit to not grant it, it won’t be granted NO MATTER HOW MUCH we complain. He simply won’t do it. For instance, do you believe he will change the temple marriages to allow homosexual marriages? NO! Why? Because it is wicked. Though homosexuals in the church don’t understand that and may think that if they complain enough, God will grant it. However the truth is God will NEVER GRANT THAT! Why? Because it goes against eternal principles that cannot change. No children are ever born in worlds if homosexuality is practiced. Homosexuality cannot bear children. God will never grant it. Same with Priesthood. God will not grant that which is against his will, EVEN IF WE COMPLAIN FOR A LONG TIME! IF God grants anything to us, it is something he desires for us, but withheld until we become worthy. The Priesthood was given to Adam, was exercised by Christ and his apostles (all men) on earth. It was John the Baptist, Peter, James and John who restored the priesthood (again all men). The Savior is not a woman. Heavenly mother has never visited earth that we know about. God has chosen men to do the work of the Priesthood. It’s just a fact. Just as men will never carry a baby in the womb. It’s just a fact. If I complained and said I wanted to carry a baby in the womb, because I would feel more apart of my child’s birth and feel better connected, do you think God will grant that? NO! I might think it would bring me to love my child more, I might feel it would better help me understand a woman better. I might think it would make me equal with a woman. However, God will not grant it EVEN IF I COMPLAIN! Same with the Priesthood. He made a decison and his prophet has told us that decision. Now, if you truly have a testimony, you will not fight against God. You will accept it and acknowledge God knows more than you. Remember, if we are not one with God as Christ is, then we are an enemy. No man can serve two masters. Remember that.

  87. stephenchardy on April 19, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Justin Snyder:

    Take a careful reading of the new introduction to the Official Declaration #2, in our D&C:

    “Official Declaration 2
    The Book of Mormon teaches that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.”

    First of all, this explanation on this declaration on the universal application of priesthood availability opens with the idea that all are alike before God, black and white and, did you notice?, male and female. I find it interesting that such a statement is placed in the introduction to a priesthood declaration.

    Also, a careful reading will suggest that the with-holding of the priesthood from those with African ancestry was not initiated by Joseph Smith, and then states that “church leaders believed” that a revelation was necessary. It actually doesn’t say that a revelation was in fact necessary. Just that leaders believed that one was.

    There is no mention that this was an inspired practice, only that it was done without clear explanation. (This statement ignores, sadly, the many racist and misguided statements made by early and more recent church leaders about Africans.) It simply says that it was done. For me, this suggests that the practice of not allowing Africans to hold the priesthood was not based on a God-given revelation, but was a cultural practice which God corrected… only after church leaders brought it to Him. And church leaders brought it before him for a number of reasons, including the total confusion about race identity in places like Brazil, and because the church was becoming more and more identified as an inherently racist organization.

    For me, I see all sorts of similarities and applications to women holding the priesthood, and look forward to the day when that might happen. I have never heard a convincing argument against it, and this introduction to Official Declaration 2 leaves the door open to that happening.

  88. Dave on April 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Justin (#85), no, the problem is not with my reading of your comment. The problem is you don’t understand how contradictory your statements are. Or perhaps you are simply a troll making arguments intended to make LDS positions look bad.

    You don’t seem to grasp that your advice to “accept God’s will regarding the priesthood” is inconsistent with the actions of LDS leaders, who spent a lot of time asking God to change his will regarding the priesthood. That’s the way to frame it if you think God changes His mind about things. Otherwise LDS leaders spent a lot of time asking God to change the minds of LDS leaders, which is the alternative explanation for why the LDS priesthood policy changed in 1978. No matter how you slice it, your view doesn’t make much sense. And QUIT SHOUTING, it is rude and obnoxious.

  89. Dave on April 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Just a reminder to all commenters (including those named Justin) that while the comment section to this weblog is a forum open to all visitors, we do have comment policies to maintain civil discussion. Like NO SHOUTING (which you are still doing). Like not calling the righteousness of other commenters into question just because they disagree with you. Here are the policies. Read them and follow them, in particular items 3 and 8.

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/comment-policies/

  90. Steve Smith on April 21, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Justin, it is almost as if you are some sort of modern Danite, or an inquisitionist Mormon on a campaign to shout down those who disagree with your rather narrow-minded, ultra-conservative point of view (which I doubt many of the brethren would even agree with) and label many other active Mormons who are in good standing with the LDS church as insidious infidels who are betraying the cause. Ease up.

  91. Rene' on September 15, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Obviously I am joining this discussion months after it was originally begun. I happened upon it while researching and studying for a lesson I am to deliver today in Relief Society. The lesson is #17 in the study of the prophet Lorenzo Snow. The lesson is titled “Priesthood-”for the Salvation of the Human Family”. I do not live in Utah therefor the contention that is headline news in Zion does not make our broadcasts. If it wasn’t for my friend who lives in Draper, Utah, I would have never known about this current feminist movement. I had never even noticed growing up in Illinois and Washington and being a convert, that women didn’t pray in GC. My mother, in 1970, wore a pantsuit to church. We were attending a ward in Naperville, Illinois. Dallin Oaks was in the Stake Presidency. Needless to say, she was highly encouraged to not do that again. She continued for a while but then complied. I joined the US Navy after high school, not something most 18 year old LDS girls were encouraged to do. My family includes many members who served in WW2 including my mother’s two oldest sisters. Since we don’t have the pioneer heritage many things that are “cultural” to the church and not doctrinal had not been implanted in our beliefs. I believe I have been blessed with a discerning spirit. I feel in my gut when something is “off”. As I became an adult, started my family, and began to serve in various callings, many beliefs became “uncomfortable”. They are not to this day anything that would question my testimony, but I believe I am sensitive to information or practices that our revelatory and those that come from human opinions. An example of that would be the nonsense that was going around a few years ago about women not wearing denim to church. The denim jumper was practically a uniform for some women at church. This was not doctrine. I loved your reference to “folk doctrine” as I hear and see this a lot in our church. I have gotten more then my share of startled looks when I question beliefs that cannot be traced. I am grateful for my desire to “search, ponder, and pray” and this desire brought me to this discussion. I too have struggled with our roles. Being asked to teach about the Priesthood in Relief Society, men attending “Time Out for Women,” President Hinckley’s quote about the Relief Society being, “the largest women’s organization in the world… They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board.” This organization is in fact lead my men, there are no “dues” or any application process and can hardly be considered a true women’s organization. I’m ok with that though. If this brings happiness to many, then so be it. I have however struggled with many feelings concerning our roles as mothers and fathers. These feelings began as a young 21 year old experiencing the temple ceremony for the first time. Some of the narrative created that, “What what?” thought bubble in my brain. Over the years some of the ways doctrine was stated have been changed. This was comforting to me. I still struggled with the “Adam and Eve” thing until I read Dr. Valerie Hudson Cassler’s article entitled, “I am a Mormon Because I am a Feminist”. I would encourage all to read her words. She answers most of the questions that have been brought up in this dialog. Her explanation of the Priesthood power and the role as women has given me great peace. http://mormonscholarstestify.org/1718/valerie-hudson-cassler. I am satisfied with this explanation of why the men have the priesthood and women do not. I do however think it is a FABULOUS idea that women take more roles as members of councils and authority in the church. This can be done easily without disrupting the priesthood gift. Don’t get me started on YW’s budget and scouting!

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