“I want to do it.” Priesthood, Care, and a Little Girl.

March 4, 2014 | 60 comments
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It was the day before the first day of school. That meant is was time for the annual “back-to-school” father’s blessings. This has been a tradition in our house, as it is with many families. However, that year felt a little different. Todd, my oldest , was starting middle school. Geneva, my youngest, was starting full-day Kindergarten. It is a year of transition.

Shem, the new 4th grader, went first. I will not go into the details of the blessings themselves, but I love the intimacy of such blessings. I love the feel of their hair as I place my hands up their head. My hands on their head often reminds me of how little they really still are.

Geneva was next. A year before we were very nervous about her education. However, her speech had improved greatly and we now feel that she is ready to conquer Kindergarten…and the world.

After I said “amen,” Geneva jumped up. Beaming, she said, “I want to do it.”

Geneva (8) at Huntington Beach

Geneva (8) at Huntington Beach

She was standing by the chair…ready to assist in the blessing of her brother Todd.

And she was pumped and ready to go. She had seen people at church during the setting apart of presidencies. Once a president or counselor is set apart, they join in with the circle for the next blessing. Geneva was ready to do the same.

Or maybe she has been reading Stapley and Wright and she knew that girls have done this laying-on-of-hands-thing before.

My first reaction was one of pride. Pride in my bold little girl. She was ready to jump into the good work.

Now, Geneva is a feminist in training. That is for sure. She already thinks that Kristine Haglund and Tracy McKay are awesome. She is also a strong willed and determine little one.

Geneva loves the limelight and the blessings were taking place on center stage. She does love praying. Our morning family prayers are officially her responsibility. Nobody else is allow to offer that prayer and it has been that way for years now . While my boys might groan when asked to pray, Geneva might be disappointed when she is not picked (as a result…she gets picked a lot),

I briefly thought about letting her join in the circle. However, I did not want Todd’s blessing to be about Geneva. I explained to her that Daddy would give Todd the blessing. Not because she is a girl, but because everyone was getting a special blessing from Dad and now was Todd’s turn.

I did not tell her that girls don’t give blessings. They don’t much anymore, but that was not the message I wanted to send. I do not let my young boys join in blessings, yet they someday will. My oldest, Todd (13) is now a deacon and will become a teacher when he turns 14 next month. Shem (11) is turning 12 on Thursday.  This past Sunday, we attended a special fireside just for him (he is the only 11-year-old boy in the ward) that introduced him to deacon’s quorum and the Aaronic Priesthood.

Buy what about Geneva? She will be keenly aware of being left out. I will also be aware of her exclusion. It already pains me to think of it. It may pain me more than it does her. Also, I know as a social scientist that the symbolic messages sent by such exclusions are real. Even if my wife and I teach her an egalitarian approach to religion, the messages of inequality will be stuck in her head.

More important than  protecting her, I want her to flourish. She plans on being a dentist when she grows up, but I do not think any of us are fully aware of the great things she will accomplish or the ways that she will influence the world around her. Does this require the priesthood? No. I do not think anyone needs the priesthood to flourish. But I worry about anything that will make her doubt her potential. Of course, if you have ever met her, you know that she is a confident and strong. Maybe I worry too much.

I have been thinking about these issues in the abstract for a long time. Susan Moller Okin is a political theorist who has heavily influenced me and her arguments heavily shaped my master’s thesis. She argues that feminism is about the full recognition of the human dignity of women. As a feminist father, and more importantly as Geneva’s father, these issues are real to me more than ever..

Geneva feasting on the word.

Geneva feasting on the word.

However, I think my feelings about female ordination have more to do with the feminist ethic of care. The ethic of care is rooted in a concern for those that we have an ethical and emotional connection with and an obligation to care for. . This obligation is rooted in our loving relationship and not out of abstract principal. I can imagine a categorical imperative to care for and protect my children, but that is not why I do it. The ethic of care also rejects the cold impartiality that has come with much of modern moral and political thinking.

For me, this is very much about feeling and not equality. Nor is about 21st century social norms. Such abstractions have little to do with the relationship I have with my daughter.  I do think that exclusion and inequality undermine the prospects of Zion community, let alone Zion families. But this is a matter of lived religious experience and not 21st century norms.

Care, love, community, and family are things valued by both Mormonism and feminism. Likewise, both Mormonism and feminism  reject the hyper-individualism that seems to characterize modernity. I wish we could view both as the great and deep traditions that they are, rather than as the straw men (or women) that we set them up to be.

A movement that is based on these shared horizons, rather than one of struggle amidst a clash of cultures, is what I am hoping and looking for. I am still looking. Not for me. I am happy being the cranky gadfly. But I hope for it for Geneva, Shem, and Todd.

Note: This is an updated and expanded version of a post I wrote for FPR back in 2012.

60 Responses to “I want to do it.” Priesthood, Care, and a Little Girl.

  1. Russell Arben Fox on March 4, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Care, love, community, and family are things valued by both Mormonism and feminism. Likewise, both Mormonism and feminism reject the hyper-individualism that seems to characterize modernity. I wish we could view both as the great and deep traditions that they are, rather than as the straw men (or women) that we set them up to be.

    Well said, Chris–very well said. The best of Mormonism overlaps with the best of feminism, and anyone who thinks otherwise has, I can’t help but think, a rather blinkered and limited view of both.

  2. ji on March 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    In the old days, only sons of Levi could be ordained priests, and only ordained priests could offer sacrifice. Yet Saul, a son of Benjamin, offered a sacrifice, ad apparently erred in doing so. Should Samuel have ordained Saul and other non-Levites to the priesthood, so that anyone wanting to offer sacrifice could do so? Was God unfair or unkind to restrict the priesthood to the sons of Levi in the old days?

    I think God and the Church fully recognize of the human dignity of women.

  3. Tracy M on March 4, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    I love how you handled the blessing with her, including her exuberance to help after the fact, and I love the same quote RAF picked out. And tell Geneva I love her, too- she’s awesome.

  4. john f. on March 4, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I love that picture of Geneva “feasting on the word”! It reminds me of a time that I came in to say goodnight to my then 9 year old daughter and she was sitting musing on 2 Nephi 8:11-12 which she had just read. “Isn’t this lovely?”, she said to me as she showed me the verses. I was stunned. Where do these kids come from? Light years ahead of where I was at 9.

  5. wreddyornot on March 4, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Very nice posting, Chris. I support your view and wishes.

    We don’t live in days of old, ji. Their context is not ours. God is not unfair; men have been and often still are, often for lack of inquiry, understanding, compassion, and sensitivity.

  6. James Olsen on March 4, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing your family’s experiences Chris. As a father of five little girls – every one of them little feminists – I relate very much to your concerns and expressed desires. My oldest girl asked when she was five, “I know Jesus is God’s Beloved Son. But who is God’s Beloved Daughter?” Our hearts gushed, and of course I wanted to say “You are!” but doing so would only highlight the disparity. Such a profound question – I still don’t have the answer.

  7. Howard on March 4, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    For me, this is very much about feeling and not equality. Nor is about 21st century social norms. Such abstractions have little to do with the relationship I have with my daughter. I do think that exclusion and inequality undermine the prospects of Zion community…

    Beautifully conceived and articulated!

    Without cultural clash? A wonderful pipe dream. The clash has already begun and it was a necessary one.

    Great post Chris!

  8. Chris Henrichsen on March 4, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Russell: Thanks! I think we may be too quick to dismiss or demean ideas, concepts, or schools of thought that we are uncomfortable with. Our society and culture are harmed by it as a result.

    ji: “Was God unfair or unkind to restrict the priesthood to the sons of Levi in the old days?”
    I honestly do not see much of a connection between what we call the priesthood and what is found in the Old Testament. For me, the Old Testament Levites is as much of an abstraction, and similarly useless, as things such as abstract equality or 21st century norms.

    Tracy: Thanks. I was glad at the time that I was in a good place. It could have been handled badly had I not been paying attention. It also helped that I recognized it right away. I am not always as perceptive…unfortunately.

  9. Chris Henrichsen on March 4, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    john f.: There is indeed hope for the future! :)

    James: I am shocked at time by how perceptive they are of such things. I think we can try to hope they do not notice…but we know them better than that. They notice everything!

    She has had good teachers and leaders. She loves activities days and the like. So Geneva is loving her church experience.

  10. Chris Henrichsen on March 4, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Howard: Like all wars, the culture war has more casualties than real victors. It also has plenty of groups and individuals profiting from it. I blog and write for a living (not my blogging here). I can relate to the desire to exploit those tensions and conflicts. I have done it…and likely will again. But that is why I like the ethic of care. I puts those things that matter first. It is our children. It is our communities. It is not “truth.” It is not “equality.” Heck, it is not even “priesthood.” Those things can be helpful and useful, but only to the extent that they benefit our children and our communities.

  11. Howard on March 4, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Chris wrote: Like all wars, the culture war has more casualties than real victors. I can understand you distaste for it but this is a poor analogy and I offer the civil rights movement as evidence. How do you envision it coming about without clash?

  12. Chris Henrichsen on March 4, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    The civil rights movement was a movement against the nation-state. That is not a cultural war.

  13. Howard on March 4, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Silly me to think it involved a cultural clash.

  14. jennifer Rueben on March 4, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    This is daddy’s turn was the perfect answer but I still don’t understand the concept that LDS women do not give blessings- I have personally been blessed by any wonderful strong women in my years in the church- true they do not follow the format of the priesthood laying their hands on my head or even the more public setting apart but no blessing given by a priesthood member even touched me or addressed my needs as those sister’s who blessed me with their arms folded. What is more important the words that touch the soul or the public venue of the formal setting apart? I pray for more sisters that “bless” other sisters and their own family . I am not overly concerned for the “rites” that might be missing in these blessing.

  15. rah on March 4, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Jennifer,

    No one should discount a good prayer. I still find it sad that we have taken away from women the legitimated practice of laying on of hands and blessing as our foremothers in the church had. And it was sad that it was taken away precisely because the leaders didn’t want any confusion about who had the official authority to ‘act’ in God’s name. I would imagine that if the church came out and restored these privileges to women that you would be happy and excited to exercise them. I hope one day they give those back and much, much more. We need to continue the work of the restoration.

  16. Nathaniel Givens on March 5, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Chris-

    This piece, and others like it, make me profoundly sad.

    I worry that to some degree we are inadvertently setting our children up for more heartbreak and disappointment then is strictly necessary. Is it possible that a “feminist-in-training” will be more hurt when she learns she cannot pass the sacrament than might be strictly necessary if her parents have (1) withheld that discussion and (2) in the interim passed on to her implicit expectations that things would be otherwise?

    If the Church does not change its policies on priesthood (or at least does not change them soon), then how much will any innate pain these policies cause be magnified unnecessarily, and what will the spiritual costs be to the rising generation of driving a wedge between them and the Church?

    It just seems to me that there’s a risk of betting too much of our children’s future on our own correctness about the Church’s need to reform. Shifting the rhetoric from terms like “equality” to a term like “care” has the appearance of moderation, but in practice it does the opposite. What possible raw materials does it leave our children with which to construct a faithful, happy testimony for as long as the Church’s position doesn’t change, if they see a male-only priesthood on one side of the issue and elemental compassion on the other side? Are we setting them up to have to pick between the Church and compassion?

    I understand that, from within the paradigm that assumes the male-only priesthood is wrong, this conflict is not the fault of the parent, but of the Church for having the wrong policy. If male-only priesthood is wrong, then this whole conversation is moot because the conflict is inevitable. But what if it turns out that a male-only priesthood is eternally correct? In that case, we run the risk of exacerbating the trials our children will face based on our own incorrect notions. This is why it seems like a dangerous gamble to me.

    I understand that there’s the opposite question: how will we prepare our children for the possibility that it is incorrect. I can’t imagine my children growing to adulthood without being familiar with the basic concepts by which they could rationalize that position if the Church’s policy changed, however. (After all: it can be justified based merely on “care” which is a universal value.)

    So, from my perspective, there is a tragically dangerous imbalance, and it’s our kids who might end up paying for it. Unlike their parents, they will not have an initial grounding in testimony uncomplicated by major criticisms of the Church at a fundamental level.

    Are we doing the right thing?

  17. Jared vdH on March 5, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Also, the argument about the Levites only having the priesthood back in the day is weak anyway. While Saul is chastised for performing a ritual burnt offering, the reason Samuel chastises him is not clear in the scriptures. It could be because he didn’t have the priesthood, or it could have been that he was not authorized for that particular ordinance at the time.

    The lineage of Samuel himself isn’t entirely clear, he may not have even been a Levite, but he obviously held the priesthood. David is is suggested in the psalms as a “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” but it’s also not certain those references are specifically to him or to Christ. Solomon dedicated the original temple, something which today we would consider absolutely tied to the priesthood, and he definitely was not a Levite. The lineage of Elijah and Elisha aren’t given, but they are often used as examples of exemplary Melchizedek priesthood holders.

    From our modern eyes we may be expecting or interpreting a hierarchical church structure similar to what we have today. However just looking at the examples given in scripture, the form and structure of the church was different in basically every different dispensation. Perhaps the Levites in reality were largely limited to the tabernacle/temple and the office of High Priest, while there was other priesthood active outside of the temple grounds. The Old Testament certainly doesn’t preclude this possibility.

  18. Jared vdH on March 5, 2014 at 10:53 am

    In other words, using the Old Testament as an example of an exclusionary priesthood is a bad idea. Especially since there are examples of women in the New Testament being associated with specific priesthood offices, and examples in modern church history of women at least holding priesthood sufficient to give blessings of healing, which at the present day is now limited to Melchizedek priesthood holders, all of which are male.

  19. Josh Smith on March 5, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Chris, thank you for the thoughtful post. This line sums up my stance better than I could have written it:

    A movement that is based on these shared horizons, rather than one of struggle amidst a clash of cultures, is what I am hoping and looking for. I am still looking. Not for me. I am happy being the cranky gadfly. But I hope for it for Geneva, Shem, and Todd.

    I feel similarly about raising my own children. Thanks for taking the time to post.

  20. Josh Smith on March 5, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Nathaniel (#16): I could lecture my children (11, 9, 6, and 3) until I was blue in the face about “fairness” and “equity.” It’s time wasted. Children have their own notions of fairness pre-wired. It does not matter what the parent says.

    Q: Why does [11-year old] get a medium and I get a small?

    Dad (smiling): Because I love her more. (Bwa-ha-ha)

    (Capuchin monkeys also just “get” fairness. Search youtube for “capuchin monkeys reject unequal pay.”)

  21. Nathaniel Givens on March 5, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Josh-

    I could lecture my children (11, 9, 6, and 3) until I was blue in the face about “fairness” and “equity.” It’s time wasted. Children have their own notions of fairness pre-wired. It does not matter what the parent says.

    I agree that lecturing children doesn’t do much good, and that what we say in terms of explicit teaching might not be that important. But what does that have to do with how we teach our children?

    The reality is that kids do learn from their parents. Just an off-the-cuff example:

    While a fifth of U.S. teens (21%) say they are “more liberal” than their parents and 7% say “more conservative,” 7 in 10 teens (71%) say their social and political ideology is about the same as mom and dad’s.

    Do you think 71% of teens have the same views as their parents because they got lectured? Nope, but they were obviously taught nonetheless.

    Our kids marked ability to tune out what we want to teach them doesn’t absolve us of what they do, in fact, learn under our roofs.

  22. Hedgehog on March 5, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Nathaniel, a favourite choice of activity song in our Primary has long been ‘follow the prophet’, because the kids love following the child who picked the song around the room, sometimes at quite a speed. I’m not so sure that your apparent suggestion that girls are prevented from being ‘prophet’, on the basis that a girl can never become president of the church would do much for the song’s popularity. I could see it rapidly falling out of favour. But perhaps that would be a good thing?

  23. Chris Henrichsen on March 5, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Nathaniel,

    My focus on “care” is as much my rejection of Ordain Women as a movement as it is an expression on unease about male-only priesthood. My wife is not in favor of female ordination at all. The priesthood session event last General Conference sealed her opposition to OW.

    My daughter is not really a “feminist-in-training” in that we are not really doing anything overt to train her in any school of social thinking. Though she has met important Mormon feminist thinkers are part of my travels. Of course, she thinks of Tracy and Kristine as very nice people, but mostly remembers Kristine’s daughter playing with her and giving her attention when we visiting Boston two years ago.

    I am not too worried about the Church messing up my children any more than I might mess them up. It is convenient sometimes to blame the Church, but it is families that impact children.

    I do not view the issue as one of wrong or right. It is more a practical matter or a matter of utility.

    ” Unlike their parents, they will not have an initial grounding in testimony uncomplicated by major criticisms of the Church at a fundamental level.”

    My kids grow up in a household where they NEVER miss church…even if it involves tracking down a chapel in the middle of nowhere while we are on the road. We have daily scripture study and daily prayer…thing I did have growing up.

    The Mormon religious experience is not a perfect one. It is ours, but it is not perfect. My children are excited about going to BYU (against my Ute sensibilities) and all three are going on mission (or so they tell me quite often).

  24. SL on March 5, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    There is a difference between teaching children to openly oppose church policy versus teaching them that the church is fallible and that it does in fact change over time.

  25. Howard on March 5, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    So, we now have a broad range of opinion positions regarding women in the church from don’t change a thing to OW. Even those who believe change is desirable disagree about how to do it. Why so many? In the absence of strong leadership it is human nature for new leaders to emerge. It is within the church’s power to stop the speculation but so far they are allowing the discussion to continue.

  26. Nathaniel Givens on March 5, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Chris-

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I tried to word my own concerns in a way that didn’t come across as targeting you specifically because that was in no way my intention. Your comments just reminded me of similar comments I’ve read elsewhere about the disappointment young girls face when realizing they can’t (for now, at least) use the priesthood in the ways that young men can. I’m worried that, in general, some aspects of adult discourse and attitudes may be exacerbating that issue, but I only wanted to raise the general question, not in any way personalize it to your family or mine. (FTR – Your family is definitely way more hardcore about attendance than mine is.)

    Thanks, again, for your thoughtful voice in the last few posts. I’ve appreciated them.

  27. Chris Henrichsen on March 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Nathaniel, I did not take it as personal attack or anything like that. Of course, I am using my family as an illustration in the original post and in my response to you. That is always tricky. Thanks to you and the T&S gang for letting me share these few posts. It has been fun.

  28. James Olsen on March 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Nathaniel – raising kids is a tricky affair, and trying to raise them to be happy, “well adjusted,” virtuous, faithful kids is even trickier. And yes, parents matter – and unlike what I think you said above, I think what parents say explicitly matters a great deal, especially when it’s coupled with practice (whether we want to or not, we all have at least vague rational justifications for our behaviors, and what parents say in terms of justification matters). I also think there are lots of ways we can set our kids up for failure or for exacerbated harms. One of the primary and very conspicuous ways is to ignore the problems/challenges/obstacles.

    The problem with your criticism, as I see it, is that it assumes there’s a better alternative than to raising strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters. Or else it assumes that there is and should be a strong compartmentalization in our lives, where we think, feel, and talk radically differently in our different contexts: at church/home vs. everywhere else. But neither of these are the case. And if we raise strong, confident, intelligent, and loving daughters today, in today’s world, with the norms of equality and opportunities for fulfillment being what they are (and hallelujah, we can all agree that whatever problems we continue to face, including recently developed problems, we’ve come a long and miraculous way on equality in last century), our daughters will inevitably face a major obstacle vis-a-vis church discourse and practice (and ordination is only one aspect, and in my mind not the primary aspect).

    There’s a lot I think we can do to ameliorate the situation, there’s a lot we can do to help them experience divinity and recognize the tremendous good of our heritage in this dispensation, but burying our head in the sand ain’t one of them.

  29. Howard on March 5, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    …our daughters will inevitably face a major obstacle vis-a-vis church… Indeed, our daughters will face the issues being asserted by Mormon feminists today if they aren’t soon resolved.

    It’s a mistake to assume humankind is fixed at an O.T. level or an 1830 level or a Utah-centric or a 1950s level of enlightenment. Humankind continues to become more enlightened. Slavery often mentioned in the scriptures has reached the point that every nation on earth outlaws it. Shall we oppose that based on scripture?

  30. Alison Moore Smith on March 5, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    …the symbolic messages sent by such exclusions are real. Even if my wife and I teach her an egalitarian approach to religion, the messages of inequality will be stuck in her head.

    Chris, bless your heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope to meet Geneva one day. :)

  31. Nathaniel Givens on March 6, 2014 at 7:08 am

    James-

    The problem with your criticism, as I see it, is that it assumes there’s a better alternative than to raising strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters.

    If you think I’m suggesting something other than raising strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters then we have a failure of communication. In fact, the inability to conceive of people who raise strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters and embrace the idea of a male-only priesthood is pretty much the root of the problem I’m outlining.

    For the sake of argument, let’s just imagine that it’s possible for strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters to co-exist with a male-only priesthood because both the confident women and the male-only priesthood are ordained of God (hypothetically speaking). Let’s call this Scenario B. Scenario A, on the other hand, is the scenario where a male-only priesthood is ultimately incompatible with strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters. (I’m not saying that it’s literally impossible for in Scenario A for women to be strong, confident, intelligent and loving, but rather that those women would naturally be opposed to a male only priesthood. The two concepts would exist in irreconcilable tension.)

    Now I agree with what you’ve said (“if we raise strong, confident, intelligent, and loving daughters today, in today’s world, with the norms of equality and opportunities for fulfillment being what they are… our daughters will inevitably face a major obstacle vis-a-vis church discourse and practice.”) That’s basically a restatement of one of the last paragraphs in my original comment (#16).

    This means that (in the event of Scenario A), my strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters (well, I’ve only got the one so far) will have ample access to concepts, assumptions, and arguments that enable them to make sense of their relationship to the Church in Scenario A. If the Church ordains women, this will be compatible with the world’s attitudes towards gender (as you note). If the Church does not, this will be a painful experience but an unavoidable one, and perhaps imagery of Abrahamic sacrifices will be invoked. So Scenario A is taken care of, although the outlook is not necessarily rosy.

    But what about Scenario B? In that case, and let’s further assume that the Church doesn’t ordain women, the truth is that our strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters could build a happy, healthy relationship to the Church because (by our assumption) being a strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughter is compatible with a male-only priesthood. However, unlike the daughters in Scenario A, there is a real risk that they will have pretty much no access to concepts, perspectives, and arguments that will help them build that relationship. They will be impoverished of raw materials.

    This is why I say that we’re taking an awful gamble with our daughters. In Scenario A, no harm done. But in Scenario B, the harm is potentially both severe and unnecessary.

    If you’re so confident in your beliefs vis-a-vis feminism and the priesthood, then perhaps you’ve got nothing to worry about. I know for myself, however, that even though I believe ordaining women is (1) a bad idea (2) unlikely (3) not necessary to have strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters, I do spend time thinking about what might happen in the event that I’m wrong. Specifically, I want to take precautions so that my children don’t suffer for my mistakes and especially not for overconfidence on my part.

    In my case, however, there isn’t a great deal that I have to do because I know perfectly well that my children will encounter all the logical arguments and attitudes commensurate with Scenario A. I am comfortable they will have the raw materials for that case. My job is just to teach them to be open-minded, flexible and independent. (They will also have a mom who has a higher degree than their dad, and lots of other examples of the equality / compassion perspective of Scenario A.)

    In the case of parents who believe in Scenario A, however, I think there is a real risk that their kids won’t really have any substantial, significant access to the raw materials they would need to construct a healthy identity in Scenario B. They might not be getting those materials either from the parents, nor from the larger world. (Perhaps in Utah the culture could fill that gap, but I’m selfishly concerned with those who live outside that region.) In addition, the biggest obstacle to getting those raw materials from the parents is the assumption (which you appeared to lead off with), that the raw materials don’t exist. If someone honestly believes it’s impossible to have strong, confident, intelligent, loving daughters and a male-only priesthood, why would that person be interested in providing arguments and perspectives to validate that invalid proposition?

    Have I successfully outlined my concern for you?

  32. SilverRain on March 6, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I, for one, don’t concern myself overmuch with female ordination because I’m strong and confidant enough to not let my sense of self-worth reside in titles and labels, intelligent enough to know that God’s will will ultimately be manifest one way or the other, patient enough to wait on Him and His servants, and loving enough to allow others to work out their stewardships with God without letting it affect mine.

    Agency isn’t about what others let you do. It’s about what you do with what you have. I prefer to focus on developing what is in my hand. I don’t have a need to grasp after what is still flailing around in the bush.

    And I teach my daughters the same.

  33. Howard on March 6, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Nathaniel,
    The issue is one of awareness. The brethren were unaware of their bias regarding blacks, yet blacks depended on them to open the gate to priesthood and temple creating a much bigger problem for blacks than for the brethern. The brethren are similarly unaware of their bias regarding women and I offer “forgetting” to invite women to pray at GC for a mere 182 years as evidence of that lack of awareness. Women must depend on men for many gospel and church issues and interactions. A natural offset to this insensitivity is the inclusion of women at all levels of the church and that will require priesthood.

    The second issue of awareness is with women themselves having been indoctrinated to the patrarichy system. Just because newly freed slaves in their insecurity and ignorance didn’t want to leave the plantation doesn’t mean they should not have been freed. My 10 year old daughter IS aware of gender bias, she also has enough self esteem to understand she is not one down due to gender and I do not want gender one downness or traditional gender roles to be taught to her by an institution that lags in awareness due to defending tradition or egocentricity. If there is some God given reason for this backwardness let it be clearly revealed.

  34. Naismith on March 6, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    If women do not share your views, then we must be insecure and ignorant? That rhetoric comes across as very misogynistic and insulting towards women.

    I loved the OPs explanation, because it was about some things being for dad to do. Since children, at least those with younger siblings, already know that there are things only mom can do, like breastfeed, it does not seem strange to them that dad would also have some things he does.

    The church teaches gender differences, yes. That does not automatically make it one-downness. And because the church teaches equal partnership in marriage, those teachings are radically different from the 1950s when Father Knew Best; I am not sure it even fits the “traditional” label because of that key and profound difference.

    I truly understand that indoctrination can be a problem. When my fourth child was a toddler, I was in a playgroup with a half-dozen moms, all non-LDS, who felt a sense of failure because they were at home full-time for a season since they could not find childcare that they felt was adequate or a best fit for for their particular child. They all had careers (to which they have mostly returned now that those kidlets are in college) and had been indoctrinated that they should not take time off and would only be equal to their husbands if they earned a paycheck. They suffered greatly from that indoctrination, in feeling lack of self-esteem because they were “not working.” They never had the great role models that I did at BYU. They loved to hear about our church’s teachings about the vital role that mothers play in things that really matter.

    I feel like I had more choices in my life, not fewer, because the church had encouraged me to get an education and presented full-time parenthood as a legitimate option.

    And I can assure you that it takes a heck of a lot of strength, confidence and intelligence to maintain a part-time or intermittent career in the face of pressures to be “normal” and be employed full-time.

  35. Alison Moore Smith on March 6, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    SilverRain, I sincerely found your comment incredibly condescending.

    Chris, as you know, I am extremely conservative. I don’t think gender concerns fall on the liberal/conservative spectrum and I think it’s mistaken to frame it that way. (Check out Chicks on the Right. Do they seem all subservient and docile to you?)

    Nathaniel:

    s it possible that a “feminist-in-training” will be more hurt when she learns she cannot pass the sacrament than might be strictly necessary if her parents have (1) withheld that discussion and (2) in the interim passed on to her implicit expectations that things would be otherwise?

    I’ve told this story before, but here you go:

    When I was FOUR (in 1968 — before I went to any school at all), I stood outside the font and watched my dad baptize my sister. I felt very bad that my mom was excluded and turned to her and said, “Mom, when I get baptized I want Dad to baptize me, but I want YOU to confirm me.”

    She leaned over and explained that Dad would do both and a bit of policy.

    When the boy who had bullied me for seven years (and was still bullying me) was ordained a deacon — and I realized I would never be ordained, just because I was a girl — it put a dagger in my heart.

    My mother was born in 1925. While she was more educated than most women in her generation (BS in econ (NOT home econ)) and some graduate work, she was a VERY tradition, domestic, stay-at-home mom. (She was a fabulous seamstress, an amazing cook, and an immaculate housekeeper. Right now I am wearing one of the sweaters she knitted for me about 30 years ago. But she read books instead of doing most crafts.)

    She NEVER, EVER had a THOUGHT about feminist issues except to think they were strange and that she did NOT understand the view. She LOVED to be the “woman behind the man,” even LOVED ironing his white shirts for bishopric meeting. (She ironed everything that wasn’t nailed down.) She LOVED the traditional roles.

    My dad was a math professor. Not traditional in the sense that he never did the demanding, where’s-my-dinner, bring-me-my-slippers thing quite common in his generation. But he was the sole breadwinner. One who came home from work (and sometimes night classes to pay for our music lessons) and walked into the kitchen and made the salad for dinner. And vacuumed on Saturday. And pretty much felt that if my mom was working, he should be working, too. And then they’d sit down and relax together.

    And he NEVER questioned the patriarchal structure. (It was actually only when I was in my 30s that he told me he really thought women would probably get the priesthood some day, but that he didn’t worry about it.)

    Add to that the fact that I grew up almost exclusively in Utah County. 98% of my high school was LDS. None of my friends or leaders or teachers EVER questioned the status quo in my presence. Many of my “gang” served missions. Almost all my friends married in the temple and are still active members today. Most have been leaders.

    We had the “why the church opposed the ERA” booklet on the end table in the living room for casual reading. (No, seriously.)

    If this hasn’t gone on long enough, please just understand if there was ANY “training” going on, it was NOT remotely feminist in nature. And still, when I was FOUR this was an issue to me because it was so obvious and so painful and, frankly, mostly completely nonsensical.

    And you know what? I haven’t trained my daughters to be feminists either. I didn’t WANT it to be an issue with them, like it’s been with me. I wanted them to be like my mother and my sister. Smart, educated, faithful, and totally content with the whole thing. It’s EASIER!

    For decades I just shut up about it and toed the party line. And smiled a lot and gave the pat answers that I had been given. And then guess what? My daughters started asking questions. Such as:

    • Why are almost all the General Conference speaker men?
    • Why do the boys get so many cool scout badges and campouts.
    • Why do the boys get so many special things to do.
    • Why do boys STILL get to go on missions younger than girls (particularly when girls are almost universally considered more mature).
    • And during the solemn assembly, when the sustaining by group went on and on and on with one male group after another until one of my young girls — the most excited to be part of the great moment — turned to me and, totally exasperated, asked, “Are they EVER going to get to the GIRLS???”

    Like Geneva, who just wanted to be part of the awesomeness of blessing someone.

    Unlike MY youth, my daughters see equality almost everywhere else, at least to a great extent. They have had female doctors and dentists and professors and even seen them run for president. (But, no, I am NOT ready for Hillary!) They see possibilities all around that just weren’t very visible in my generation and were almost non-existent in my mother’s.

    I suspect your children are small so you may not have dealt with this yet. But it won’t be about whether or not YOU chose a particular path of indoctrination (it’s all indoctrination). Even if your daughters do NOT have an inherent yearning to be part of God’s “quorum” as I did — and you have no control over that — they WILL see the disparity all around them.

  36. Chris Henrichsen on March 6, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    “Chris, as you know, I am extremely conservative. I don’t think gender concerns fall on the liberal/conservative spectrum and I think it’s mistaken to frame it that way.”

    Did I do that?

  37. Howard on March 6, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    If women do not share your views, then we must be insecure and ignorant?. No, not at all I was just conserving words with the slave anology. Like the young woman, old woman optical illusion, some people see it quickly and easily and some do not. If you only see one you are ignorant of the other, are you not?

    The church teaches gender differences, yes. That does not automatically make it one-downness.. I agree, gender difference does not equal onedownness. But in practice male only leadership results in overlooking women and putting them in a submissive place requiring male oversight making women subject to male bias and male ignorance and given LDS gender segregation LDS men generally have little indepth knowledge of women who are not family members yet they are called to be their leaders. In short, a broad crossection of women need a voice at all levels of the church including the top. Since LDS leadership = priesthood, women will need ordination in order to have that voice.

  38. mtnmarty on March 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Mormonism and Feminism both seem like they make the burdens individual and the recipients social. Hyper-individuality where the burdens are social and the recipients individual seems like a better deal. But that’s just my ultra, meta, hyper-individuality talking.

  39. mtnmarty on March 6, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Teaching that God is arbitrary and capricious seems the safest approach to what may happen. Keeps the expectations appropriately low.

  40. Josh Smith on March 6, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    After reading Alison’s comment (#35), my capuchin monkey comment above (#20) looks pretty stupid.

    Since Alison said it better, I’ll just repeat her point:


    Even if your daughters do NOT have an inherent yearning to be part of God’s “quorum” as I did — and you have no control over that — they WILL see the disparity all around them.

    One of my concerns in raising daughters in the Mormon church is the disparity in how men and women are treated. I’m very familiar with the rhetoric used by church leadership and many faithful LDS women in attempting to justify the different treatment. The rationales seem to work for many, but I’m completely unpersuaded.

    Why not just treat men and women the same at the institutional level (all are able to participate equally in ordinances and leadership) and let individuals work out their own personal lives (who runs the home and who earns the bread)?

  41. SilverRain on March 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Sorry, Alison, but I was merely offering a different perspective in response to the intimation that “strong, confident, intelligent and loving” women are by definition going to have a problem with male-only priesthood. That could be considered pretty condescending, too.

    We could bicker forever about who was condescending first, but I also don’t believe in throwing around ad hominems every time I feel my paradigm challenged by someone else’s. You finding my perspective condescending says a lot more about your insecurity than it does about my intentions.

    Seriously, how am I supposed to respond to that? *LOL* “I’m sorry you felt condescended to”?

  42. SilverRain on March 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    After posting, I thought better. I was trying to find a kind response, couldn’t find one, and let my irritation get the better of me. I’d’ve been better off just not responding at all, which I usually do in such cases. I think that it was you, who I generally respect, threw me off balance.

    I know full well I often fail my best intentions. And for that, I can apologize with a full heart.

  43. Frank Pellett on March 6, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Josh Smith – Why treat both men and women like men? Why is what has been done by men in the institution or society treated as the ultimate destination for women as well? You speak of disparity; a lack of equality in status. That which I and others see is not disparity, but of a parity that does not require one side of the pair to assume that which has been given to the other side.

  44. Naismith on March 6, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    “…some people see it quickly and easily and some do not. If you only see one you are ignorant of the other, are you not?”

    No, I am not ignorant. I am probably more versed in feminist theory than a lot of feminists, because of college classes and my involvement with non-LDS women’s groups. I appreciate the pain caused to some people by the status quo, both men and women.

    But I view this issue as having a cost-benefit like anything else in life. If a change is made (and I am totally neutral on the issue of female ordination; whatever the church decides is fine with me), there will be benefits but there will be costs as well. And undoubtedly other people will then be in pain for different reasons.

    I can see some benefits to the current system and costs of moving to a more gender-neutral (NOT necessarily more egalitarian) system because I live far from Utah, am employed by a gender-neutral/male-normative organization, and have experienced that it is not always quite the panacea that some hope for. I’ve had the benefits of our current LDS system pointed out to me by admiring non-members.

    Is it really so impossible that a person might see it all, and yet still find value in the status quo?

    “But in practice male only leadership results in overlooking women and putting them in a submissive place requiring male oversight making women subject to male bias….Since LDS leadership = priesthood, women will need ordination in order to have that voice.”

    Again, I am sure that my professional experience colors this view, but I have had a lot of female supervisors. I didn’t find a huge positive difference from their leadership. Indeed, women directors were often the most judgmental about criticizing my desire for a part-time schedule and chiding me that my family really didn’t need me so much and I was setting a bad example for students. So I am not sure that female leadership would be better, as much as I am sure the church needs servant leadership and humble discipleship, irregardless of gender.

    And it is not all as subservient as this makes out. I’ve had various church callings where men reported to me, from family history to public affairs to Primary presidency. Did you see the recent testimony at the UN by Sharon Eubank, director of Humanitarian Services and LDS Charities, who I am guessing has men underneath her? One interesting thing she noted was that humanitarian services missionaries serve as couples–a man can’t serve alone. We have friends currently serving that kind of mission and since she has the medical skills, he makes appointments and handles paperwork.

    A while back my husband and I were at the hospital visiting a sister. Without warning him, I said that I knew she’d been administered to by priesthood, but liked having prayers from sisters. So I put my hand on her shoulder and prayed for her. My husband meekly said amen at the end, and did not try to stop me and claim, “Let me, I can do a better job because I have the priesthood!” (Although I appreciate that there might be LDS men who might do that, and thus women who are discouraged.)

  45. Howard on March 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Is it really so impossible that a person might see it all, and yet still find value in the status quo?. Of course not! This assumes something I haven’t asserted nor do I believe it.

    The issue isn’t about female supervisors treating women better or worse than male supervisors, it’s more about considering the breadth of female perspective at the top of the church, not the assumed one-model-fits-all 1950s idea of the female perspective held by consertitive elderly Utah-centric status quo defending men and their wives that currently brings pain and suffering to a lot of marginalized LDS women. It’s about making room for them in the pews so they are comfortable sitting there too.

  46. Jessica on March 7, 2014 at 11:34 am

    This sentence from the comments really resonates with me

    “If there is some God given reason for this backwardness let it be clearly revealed.”

    I also want to say that I completely disagree with the earlier comment that said children should understand that some things are only for dad’s since breastfeeding is only for moms. Come on.

    My husband is better at opening jars. This is part of his divine nature….greater upper body strength. Therefore men should always hold the camera and only women should be given the privilege of being in photographs with their children.

    There is just no logical connection. You can gestate and lactate so I get to lead and decide and preside and bless and baptize.

    “If there is some God given reason for this backwardness let it be clearly revealed.”

  47. Naismith on March 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    “…the assumed one-model-fits-all 1950s idea of the female perspective held by consertitive elderly Utah-centric status quo defending men…”

    Which of these are you talking about? Elder Scott, who grew up in with inactive parents in Washington DC and who waited for his wife to serve her mission, and now provides a great example of how single men can contribute? Elder Bednar who grew up in a part-member home in California? Elder Oaks, raised by a single mother, who encouraged his wife June to finish college even though she had little children, and who supported her in returning to BYU summers when they were living in Chicago? President Uchtdorf, who was raised far from Utah?

    Elder Holland might qualify as a 1950s-guy based on vintage, but he has been very supportive of equal partnership and vocal in respecting new trends in parenting styles. In the 2008 Worldwide Leadership he said, “You’re taking me back to the proclamation, which speaks of being equal partners. We don’t just say, ‘You’re going to be the only nurturer, and I’m going to be the only one that’s concerned about the money or whatever.’ There will be ebbing and flowing. There’s a balance here. We’ve got to be in this together. We’ve got to share in this…..And I pay tribute to my boys, who do better than I ever did about changing diapers and taking the children out during church.”

    There are a lot of legitimate criticisms of church leadership, but having their heads mired in the 1950s does not seem like one of them that sticks. I have no interest in living in a Father Knows Best world, which is why the church teachings of equal partnership in marriage attracted me.

  48. mtnmarty on March 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Heads no, but from the neck down the clothes are pretty old-fashioned. The 1950′s might even be a bit generous, a skinny tie and skinny-leg pants would be very 1950′s and an improvement.

  49. Howard on March 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    The individual histories are not the issue, one does not rise in the church by challenging the status quo, the church remains stuck in a 1950s model.

  50. Leonard R on March 13, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Probably too late to the conversation, but I had a recent experience regarding “raising our children’s expectations”. In that they have their own, and the imbalance is noticed without us raising them, something I had already witness in my daughter (perhaps accentuated by her having a twin brother).

    However, this last September, it was my four year old son.

    Like Chris, I was giving my children their blessings. I gave blessings to all five (even the one not yet in school).

    After the first child’s blessing, we announced who’s turn was next.From then on, after each blessing, my four year old loudly proclaimed who’s turn was next. “G’s turn!”, “My turn!”, “H’s turn!”.

    After the last child, you could see he was itching to say who was next. I gave my wife a blessing (for a variety of reasons), so “Mommy’s turn!” rang out.

    Of course that only left me, so when I finished my wife’s blessing, my four year old loudly proclaimed, “Daddy’s turn!” and he looked at his mom, as if expecting her to give Daddy a blessing.

    Of course, there would be no blessing for Daddy.

    My wife did pray for me, and did ask that I would be blessed in my new position at work. I deeply appreciate the prayer and do not doubt the efficacy of the prayer.

    But I couldn’t help but feel the mild confusion in my four year olds eyes. There I was, the father, able to bless my children and my wife with the priesthood.

    Yet there was my wife – their mother – powerless to do the same.

    I take priesthood blessings seriously. I appreciate those I received from my father growing up. I appreciate those I am able to give. I believe it is important and powerful. And

    But it did not alter the imbalance,

    And it reminds me now of the recent meme on FMH about “The priesthood is the power of God, unless a woman wants it.” We talk about how important the priesthood is, yet when the situations arise where a woman cannot use it, we suddenly make it no big deal, because the prayer of faith is just as powerful.

    And I can’t shake the feeling that we want to have it both ways.

    Vitally important, except when the gender imbalance is manifest, then of no importance at all….

  51. ji on March 13, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I think God’s plan is so wonderful and so complete. In the old days, priesthood was only in one man, and then in one family — then, as the population grew, priesthood was only in one tribe — and now, priesthood is available to every man. Every man can be a priest to his own family. How wonderful it is! That’s my perspective.

    I want to give thanks for the blessings we do have, rather than complain about the blessings we don’t have. This is a real lesson I have taught in my family.

    I heard a brother say once that, at his wife’s suggestion, he made a point of asking his home teachers for a blessing. This was so the children could see him setting an example of asking for a blessing when he needed one. That’s a good lesson, too.

  52. Smith on April 2, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    If you shelter a daughter from anything that might make her feel excluded while raising her then how will she know how to deal with similar situations as an adult when you are not around to protect her?

    Is it really healthy to teach a daughter that she deserves to be included in everything?

  53. Chris Henrichsen on April 2, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    “Is it really healthy to teach a daughter that she deserves to be included in everything?”

    I don’t…and go to hell you self-righteous twit.

  54. Josh Smith on April 2, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Chris,

    I’ve wanted to say that a few times at church. Just out of curiosity, how did it feel? I mean, I won’t do it at church. I’ll be good. But how did it feel to write it?

  55. Smith on April 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    #53 Chris Henrichsen said: “…and go to hell you self-righteous twit.”

    It seems as though you want me to go to hell because of the sin of “self-righteous twit” rather than I should find repentance. Tell me Chris, do you find the sin of being a “self-righteous twit” any worse than telling somebody to go to hell . Are not these two sins more or less the same?

    Do you not realize that when you tell somebody to go to hell you are telling then to abstain from the redeeming power of God and specifically telling them to not repent which directly contradicts God’s will?

    Christ does not want me, or anybody else, to go to hell. Satan wants everybody to go to hell. So what does that say about people who tell other people to go to hell?

  56. Chris Henrichsen on April 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Did I ever say it was a sin? Uh, no.

    “Do you not realize that when you tell somebody to go to hell you are telling then to abstain from the redeeming power of God and specifically telling them to not repent which directly contradicts God’s will?”

    Actually it is more like giving you the middle-finger. Spelling that out would get me in more trouble because it would involve the f-bomb.. If I did spell that out…I would actually not be inviting you to have sex with yourself. They are all expressions of contempt. I have never met a literalist when it came to swearing and obscenity. I can only imagine how literal you are in your approach to scripture.

    “So what does that say about people who tell other people to go to hell?”

    Yeah, I totally stand by #53. Though twit might have been too generous.

    This is why I do not belong at classy venues like T&S.

    I hope y’all enjoy conference.

  57. Cameron N. on April 3, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing such a personal story Chris. In spite of the challenges endured by opening your soul to the world, it has built empathy and done more good things in the hearts of many people. God bless.

  58. Smith on April 4, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    #56 It is agreed then that your actions are contemptuous and lack class. But don’t you find that swearing and obscenity are a result of a persons utter lack of ability to respond with relevance and/or wit? I would hope that your communication skills had evolved beyond simple boilerplate adolescent obscenity.

  59. Martin James on April 4, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Smith,

    i find swearing to be a time saver as much as anything.

  60. Cameron N. on April 5, 2014 at 2:25 am

    There is plenty of wit on and relevance these forums, Smith. They need more charity.

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