I think one thing is obvious: the Church has decided that having men explain why women should be content without the priesthood just isn’t going to work–the word “mansplaining” is just too easy to reach for in those situations. That’s why, I suspect, Jessica Moody has been the Church’s official responder for media inquiries related to feminist issues this week. Perhaps this is already a feminist victory, since the raising of these issues has placed the three general presidents and Sister Moody into positions of speaking authoritatively for the Church in ways that, otherwise, probably would not have happened. It should also be abundantly clear that the “pants, prayers, and priesthood” movement has the ears of Church leaders. And, instead of excommunicating them, they are responding to their concerns.
It seems that the Church will be answering the “why don’t women hold the priesthood” question with two answers: (1) women have a lot of power in the church without it, as evidenced by their roles on councils, and (2) women and men are meant to be complementary, not identical.
So they emphasized their roles on the councils that they sit on. But the emphasis on the Church Education System board in this video feels kind of forced when women have no representation on so many other councils; if it is so very important for women’s voices to be heard in councils, as they say that it is, then why aren’t there women in bishoprics, stake presidencies, stake high councils, disciplinary councils, and the quorum of the Twelve? Further, there is a bit of a disconnect between the “complementarianism” argument and the “but we’re on a lot of important councils” argument: how and why is it that being a mother (=the standard complement to priesthood) makes it impossible to serve on a stake high council but is congruent with serving on the church education system council? And what does “being listened to really well on councils” have to do with not being able to baptize one’s own child?
I hope no one is surprised that the answers offered in this video–complementarianism, the honor in which women are held, the seriousness with which women’s voices are taken in councils, the accessibility of priesthood blessings to all people–will not help anyone who has qualms about the current priesthood ban to sleep better at night. I wish they had stuck with “we don’t know” when asked why women don’t hold the priesthood. The answers that were given feel like self-contradictory ad hoc rationales to me. I will say this: if the Church is going to take the complementarianism route, they need to develop the argument more. As I argued here, when we separate the “strands of priesthood,” the complementarian reasoning doesn’t address any disparities that exist, except for “in the home,” and it doesn’t do anything to address the needs and realities of women who are not currently mothers.
But, I don’t want to kvetch too much about one video. The existence of the video is perhaps more important than the specific arguments made in it. In the last few months, we’ve seen a radical change in the YW program, a radical change in women’s missionary service, we’re supposed to see a woman pray in Conference tomorrow, and–this just in–missionary leadership now formally includes sister missionaries and the mission president’s wife. Let’s take a moment and enjoy the fact that the cause of Mormon feminism has enjoyed more progress in the past six months than the past sixty years. One almost senses a trajectory that will, someday, mean that all of this will be behind us.