When Civil Disobedience Isn’t

March 22, 2014 | 45 comments
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(Disobedient, that is.)

As you may have noticed, the recent discussions about Ordain Women and related projects such as Wear Pants to Church Day have generated a complicated set of responses, many of them very critical. We saw critics labeling these women apostates or “dumb feminist bitches.” A few outliers even threatened violence against organizers.

These harsh reactions start from a baseline that women who want to wear pants to church, or attend General Priesthood Meeting, or even (gasp) be ordained to the Priesthood, are obviously disobeying a core gospel principle, by disagreeing with existing church policy and culture. They are sometimes cast as protesters taking a stand through civil disobedience, in a way that violates Mormon norms.

But is disagreement really wrong? Is this really disobedience?

There is of course a great tradition of Civil Disobedience in Civil Rights activism, and it has generally involved public rulebreaking. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks clearly broke laws. And these were invidious and evil laws, absolutely; but it was also clear that sitting at that Woolworth’s counter or that bus seat meant breaking a law. Hence the name, civil disobedience.

But the women of PANTS were not actually breaking any rules. It was not Rob-a-Bank Day, or even Drink a Latte Day. It was Wear Pants Day, and pants are allowed! How crazy is it that these women endured a massive outpouring of public abuse for doing something that doesn’t break any rules?? Similarly, the women who requested admission to the Priesthood session did not violate any commandment or rule. They weren’t bringing margaritas to Temple Square, they were asking to attend a church meeting.

That’s not disobedience because it’s not a violation of any commandment.

It was certainly a grave breach in decorum, though. It was a significant deviation from community norms. And so in a sense, it meant breaking the biggest rule of all: Don’t make the church look bad. (Oh, wait. That one isn’t really a commandment.)

As many observers noted, the real reason for the harsh response was that these women chose to exercise voice in a way that deviated from accepted scripts and community norms. For critics, there is a right way to be a Mormon woman, and these women are not acting right.

But are the critics right? Are Mormon women wrong to exercise voice to protest some church policy or cultural tic?

The Doctrine and Covenants openly states that the church is to be governed “by common consent.” (D&C 26:2). The idea of consent is a a core piece of Mormon belief: Church leaders lead because the church members have consented to their leadership. And in fact, we are regularly asked as church members to signal that consent. Publicly.

We’ve grown accustomed to this ritual. But we’ve somehow also latched on to a script where the only allowable answer is “yes” (unless you’re an energetic five year old who accidentally objects). If an adult were to openly object to the sustaining of Thomas S. Monson or Boyd K. Packer — wow. Church members would look sit back in shock and wait for the lightning to strike.

But let’s look at the idea more closely. Is it okay to say no? It has to be! It would be ridiculous to go through the whole process of publicly seeking consent if the only allowable answer were yes. Implicit in the question itself (“do you consent?”) is the option to say, “No.” The whole concept of consent becomes meaningless if there is only one right answer; that direction lies Castro’s Cuba.

So it must be okay to express a lack of consent; if it weren’t okay, then the entire process of asking and receiving consent would be a farce. And if the act of consent is typically a public ritual and signal to the community, then oughtn’t a signal of non-consent follow the same basic rule?

And if that’s the case, then maybe we need to rethink responses to PANTS, or PRAY, or Ordain Women. Because in a world of public consent rituals, acts of Civil Non-Disobedience — like PANTS and PRAY and Priesthood Session and even lobbying for rights — are not only allowed, they are necessary. A right to disagree is deeply embedded in the structure of the church. The ability to say no is what makes consent meaningful, and if public consent is a foundational principle of the church, then church members must also have the option to to publicly express disagreement. Any other configuration would destroy the legitimacy of the entire organization.

And so let’s thank Heaven for those courageous women and men who exercise their voices — as commanded by God — in acts of Civil Non-Disobedience.

45 Responses to When Civil Disobedience Isn’t

  1. thor on March 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    May I call attention to the fact that it is not civil disobedience (or non-disobedience), either. The Church is not a municipality or governmental entity. It is a private organization, to which members are invited to join and are free at any time to leave. I understand your point, but think that too many in these discussions are demanding civil rights from an organization that is not civil in the sense of relating to a municipality.

    Additionally, while the Church is governed “by common consent”, I do not believe doctrine is governed by common consent. Its (feels like) one thing to appoint/call someone to a position, and something different to put the doctrines of the Church at the mercy of a “populous vote.”

    Naturally, the issue seems to be whether the current treatment of females in the Church is doctrinal or merely historical tradition and practice. But who decides what is doctrine and what isn’t? In a church guided by revelation, is it the leaders or the population? Irrespective of differing opinions, it seems like the leaders have drawn the line in the sand recently.

  2. Nathaniel Givens on March 22, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    As many observers noted, the real reason for the harsh response was that these women chose to exercise voice in a way that deviated from accepted scripts and community norms. For critics, there is a right way to be a Mormon woman, and these women are not acting right.

    Let’s break down the OW critics into two camps.

    1. Some folks verbally assaulted OW and its allies. Do we care about their motives? I do not. Inexcusably belligerent and cruel behavior doesn’t stir my curiosity, only my antipathy.

    2. Other folks criticized OW, but without the vicious personal attacks. The motives of these folks may be worth investigating. But, while attributing unsubstantiated, villainous motives to ones adversaries is a rhetorical tactic with a long and glorious history, one should always be skeptical of purported mind-readers.

    In particular, the kind of sweeping “agents of the Patriarchy” explanation for opposition to OW renders the critics into cartoonish villains. Like the stormtroopers from Star Wars they are fun to shoot down and conveniently never score any hits of their own. The perfect adversary.

    But is there a possibility that there might be something other than gender repression animating critics of these particular tactics?

    As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.

    That quote from the Ordain Women website (emphasis added, of course) doesn’t separate between the public eye of other Mormons, and the public of the world in general. Someone could reasonably understand from this that OW intends to pressure the Church via publicly shaming and embarrassing it before the eyes of a world that, especially to conservative Mormons, is already seen as fundamentally hostile. It appears to be an alliance between OW and the non-Mormon community (especially socially liberal groups like the main stream media) on the one hand, and the Church on the other.

    Is that OW’s intention? Is it an accurate representation of the world’s relationship to the Church? It doesn’t really matter. What’s germane to the question of what motivates the critics is what their perceptions might be. If you sincerely want to get in someone’s head to see what’s driving their behavior, you have to actually work with the axioms that they hold. Otherwise you’re just contrasting their conclusions with your assumptions, from which obviously only absurdity can result.

    So, to use Kaimi’s example: It’s one thing to raise your hand and say “no” when asked to sustain a leader. It would be quite another to bring in cameras and journalists when you do, and then hold a press conference outside the chapel afterwards.

  3. Josh Smith on March 22, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    When’s Drink a Latte Day?

  4. Kaimi Wenger on March 22, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Nathaniel, is it wrong to publicly disagree with church leaders? The community is based on a model of consent in which public disagreement is not only allowed, but is explicitly built in to the model. It is our _duty_ to express disagreement. And to do so publicly.

  5. Kaimi Wenger on March 22, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Josh Smith, that would be February 30th. Mark your calendar. General conference of the Latte Day Saints.

  6. Kent Larsen on March 22, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    “Don’t make the church look bad. (Oh, wait. That one isn’t really a commandment.) ”

    Are you sure? Its late and I’m too tired to look it up, but I do think that there has at least been significant counsel that we are not to make the Church look bad. If nothing else, isn’t it something easily extrapolated?

    I do think it is possible to show your support for a move by the Church without making the Church look bad.

  7. Steve on March 22, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Kaimi Wenger #4. I think, yes, it is wrong to publicly disagree with leaders on matters of official policy or doctrine, if it is calling the policy/doctrine definitively wrong. In such cases even if you publicly do not sustain a leader in a sustaining vote or disagree with a decision or policy, resolution should be attempted in private starting at the local level.

  8. SusanS on March 22, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    I just want to be able to wear pants to church without being labeled a supporter of OW or other “radical” groups. Updrafts are cold. I just want to wear a nice pair of dress slacks, but now I can’t without being a pot-stirrer. Thanks, OW. Loads.

  9. RT on March 22, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Nathaniel #2: If the church is doing something that causes it to feel embarrassed or ashamed when put under the public spotlight, then maybe the answer to that is to stop doing whatever causes it to feel embarrassed or ashamed rather than simply removing the spotlight.

    In any case, I don’t see anything inherently unethical or immoral about using public pressure to effect social change. In certain situations, that’s a legitimate approach to take, especially when religious or ideological communities are highly resistant to change. The real question here is the moral validity of the claim of OW that systemic inequality is hindering the progress, health, and flourishing of the church. For if that claim is accurate to any significant degree, then it justifies unusual measures.

  10. Jonathan Green on March 22, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Kaimi, even if we stipulate that there’s a place for publicly expressing dissent, you never get around to discussing what the boundaries on that space might be. Since there are a number of ways that expressing dissent can remove one from full participation or even from membership in the church (by denying the existence of God or refusing to sustain the prophet or rejecting other core teachings, for example), it seems to me that the space for dissent is definitely constrained. So your assertion that there’s a place for dissent really doesn’t tell us much about whether some form of dissent falls within or outside those constraints. Personally, I’m skeptical that ignoring a direct request from the church (if that’s what it comes to) could possibly fall within them.

  11. Josh Smith on March 22, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Feb. 30th? Hmmmm. There obviously needs to be better leadership of the Latte Day Saints. :-)

    Here’s a more thoughtful comment:

    As to those concerned about the church’s reputation … really? The church has a long history of taking care of itself, it has a sizable PR budget, and the Mormon presidential candidate is mostly keeping quiet. The church isn’t even involved in the politics of neighboring states. OW and women in pants (seriously?) are causing absolutely no damage to the church.

    As to OW’s “civil disobedience” … I think a law has to be violated for there to be civil disobedience, or at least violation of a private property interest. I may be completely wrong about this, but the main purpose of OW, or PANTS (really?), may be to effect a change in the individuals involved, not to effect an actual change in the church. That is, maybe OW is a way for a woman to make a public act to speak genuine concerns. Maybe OW has fulfilled its mission even if women are never ordained?

    The individuals involved make a public statement, they cause no harm, they’re sincere, they receive absolutely no remuneration, they are often motivated by a desire to help future generations, and they continue despite public ridicule. What more would one want out of a moral actor? Seriously.

    And Susan … just wear the damn pants, or not.

  12. Mike Maxwell on March 22, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    I find it perfectly appropriate for church members to take their requests to church leaders to ask for God’s consideration. I think it is perfectly appropriate for members to talk publicly about their personal pain from not participating in priesthood administration and authority. However, doing that in the form of a public protest puts those leaders in a very difficult position that is, I believe, counterproductive. Those leaders need a position change like this to be understood as coming from God’s revelation, and not be seen as a response to socio-political public pressure and embarrassment.

    I am not clear on why OW is using these public protest methods if they are truly trying to inspire Gods revelation. To me, this is clearly an attempt to apply media pressure on church leaders. Emma did not go out an publicly embarrass Joseph and publish position papers in the Nauvoo Expositor when she asked him to ask for Gods consideration on the use of tobacco and alcohol. These methods leave me wondering whether OW’s agenda is legitimately interested in improving faith experience and promoting God’s will vs. a social resistance movement that is just using the church as just another organization to a promote a fringe pluralism.

  13. Erin on March 22, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    “I just want to wear a nice pair of dress slacks, but now I can’t without being a pot-stirrer. Thanks, OW. Loads.”

    You could wear the pants, and a t-shirt that says “I AM NOT IN ORDAIN WOMEN, NOR AM I A RADICAL. UPDRAFTS ARE COLD.” Then hand out leaflets with your beliefs on them. (Pass-along cards, maybe?) Yep, people will know exactly which side of the street *you* walk on.

    Or don’t wear the shirt. Or the pants. Either way; you know what? *No one will care.*

  14. Mark B. on March 23, 2014 at 12:13 am

    A “massive outpouring of public abuse”? A handful of Internet trolls, and a few non-internet trolls hardly constitute a “massive outpouring.”

    Calling the few who have reacted rudely to the Ordain Women group a “massive outpouring” is rather like calling the “Ordain Women” group a massive outpouring.

  15. Rebecca on March 23, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Amen.

  16. Rebecca on March 23, 2014 at 1:29 am

    That’s amen to the original post and a no vote by raise of my hand to the preceeding comment.

  17. Naismith on March 23, 2014 at 4:11 am

    I agree we do have a duty to question. And if the group was called “Ordain Women?” it would come across as more favorable to many.

    But clearly from the OW website, they are not asking questions; they have already made up their minds about what is best and insist that the church come around. This is the source of the bit in the church’s letter about, “Declaring such an objective to be non-negotiable as you have done….”

    I joined the church because of the teachings on equal partnership in marriage, the radical notion that people did not have to be the same to be equal. So while some women may be leaving the church over gender differences, some may be joining for the same reason. I would make no guess as to the net gain or loss, but please let’s not act as if it is 100% one direction.

    A major issue here seems to be one of individual exercise vs. group actions, and whether that leads to modern-day “ites.” I have not accepted invitations to join other groups that purport to promote the church’s teachings about women, because I don’t want to affiliate with any political group over this.

  18. nhoJ on March 23, 2014 at 6:57 am

    I also AMEN comment #14. The “I’m a victim!, you are being mean!” defense is becoming blatantly overused.

  19. christiankimball on March 23, 2014 at 8:22 am

    I am philosophically aligned with OW but in some disagreement about tactics. (That sentence intended to practice what I preach by trying to expose opinions and biases up front.) But I think the OP misses pretty significant 20th century developments. Think of correlation. Stories of significant pressure for consensus and unanimity even among the 12. The lived reality that a single “no” vote is unheard of (for many) or worthy of comment (for most everyone else). General Authority statements emphasizing “sustaining” as a show of support with no reference or disparaging reference to “sustaining” as a vote. Paucity of “common consent” references (other than in the bloggernacle). I think the Church–top down and bottom up–did move, has moved, very strongly toward a “common consensus” model. One that allows for a certain amount of discussion and debate internally, but insists on a unified front to the public. Not to say that I like it, but rather trivially public dissent is antithetical to a consensus model church.

  20. SWM on March 23, 2014 at 8:34 am

    I don’t think Ordain Women wants to go by common consent of women in the church, though. And as far as the right to say “no” goes,

    “But if the vote had been unfavorable, this would have resulted: The brethren and sisters who were waiting to be admitted into the Church would have closed the door in their own faces, would have cut themselves off from a most precious privilege, would have deprived themselves of the inestimable benefits flowing from the exercise of the gifts and powers possessed by the men divinely commissioned to inaugurate this great Latter-day Work.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1930, pp. 44–46; see also Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 19:118–19.)

    I am absolutely not construing this to mean that all disagreements with Church leaders or doctrine lead to hell. Watch someone think I did. What I’m saying is that this church does not change by making a ruckus. It’s easy to think that being quiet won’t make a difference, but imagine women all over the church feeling led by the Spirit, as many who support female ordination do, that they are called to the priesthood. Now imagine women all over the church bringing it up with priesthood leaders, those leaders bringing it up in councils, and doubt creeping into the minds of many in high places – is it right to deny women the priesthood? Is that really the Lord’s will?

    But from the bottom to the top, Church leaders are going to become more hostile to the idea from what OW is doing. Anyone who supports female ordination should oppose any group that trades whatever goodwill the church as a whole had for it for temporary attention.

  21. European Saint on March 23, 2014 at 9:18 am

    “let’s thank Heaven for those courageous women and men who exercise their voices — as commanded by God — in acts of Civil Non-Disobedience”
    Instead of thanking Heaven for “courageous” women and men who seek to harness media forces and exert public pressure on the GAs to eventually “force” the Church to conform to their own views (which appear shaped to a very large extent by their own political leanings and by certain, heavily secularized interpretations of equality and fairness), should we not instead be thanking Heaven for dedicated, inspired, humble leaders like President Monson, the 1st Presidency and the Q12, who — instead of seeking inspiration from Yale or Harvard, from MSNBC or the Huffington Post — rely upon their personal connection to the Divine to lead the worldwide membership towards exaltation? I am having a hard time believing that Kaimi views LDS leaders as truly inspired/ordained of God/worthy of any type of following whatsoever. This post, like so many others I have seen in recent months, seems instead to scream out the following message: “prophets and apostles are just as infallible as us; therefore their counsel is no more valuable than ours.” Sad state of affairs, my friends. I would not cross the plains with such a “conviction”; would you?

  22. Steve Smith on March 23, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Excellent post, Kaimi.

    “But from the bottom to the top, Church leaders are going to become more hostile to the idea from what OW is doing. Anyone who supports female ordination should oppose any group that trades whatever goodwill the church as a whole had for it for temporary attention.”

    Hmm. Yes, church leaders tend to initially dig in their heels when pressed against, that is the nature of authority. They like to appear as if they are the ones guiding policy; that policy is shaped because of their initiative, not because of outside pressure to act or change. However, church authorities, as do all authorities, know that when people stop following them and they can no longer persuade or coerce them to follow, they no longer have authority. Hence, authorities are receptive to what people over whom they have authority have to say, even if they want to appear as if they are not moved by them. My guess is that OW is just the beginning of a new trend in the LDS church, the demand for increased women’s representation in church. It is a small movement now, but I imagine that it will grow. The LDS leaders are carefully watching what is happening and are hedging their bets as to the best plan of action to deal with this new trend. They don’t want to alienate members who want women to be able to hold the priesthood. They are already crafting policy changes ever so subtly partially in response to what they are saying. Who knows maybe one day the president of the LDS church will pull a Kimball and proclaim revelatory change.

  23. European Saint on March 23, 2014 at 9:42 am

    *fallible, not infallible
    oops
    :)

  24. Casey on March 23, 2014 at 10:35 am

    In my more pessimistic moments I wonder if we ought to simply abandon the fiction that common consent has anything to do with how the church is governed–that whatever it’s supposed to mean the church doesn’t teach it. From the institution’s perspective embracing the old-school Catholic model greatly simplifies its responses to dissent!

  25. Civil D on March 23, 2014 at 11:19 am

    The refusal to give blacks the priesthood turned out to be a false teaching devoid of any approval from God. We learned this last December. So, why not question the denial of priesthood to women? Is the denial to women also against God’s will?

    Sadly, only by forcing the issue to the point where the holy p.r. firms suggest a change, will change come. So, go protest ladies and try to tie it to the racist policies of the past. Maybe after causing enough “trouble” will the p.r. guys get the needed “revelation.”

  26. Amy on March 23, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Re: #12: Mike, true. However, Emma could TALK to Joseph. Women in this church have been trying for decades to talk to the leaders who are in positions to make decisions, to no avail. There is no Red Brick Store where members can come to request things of the prophet. Letters written to Church HQ are returned to members’ SP. Local leaders are unable to make real changes, and are unable to really flow-up the concerns of their members to their superiors. At the end of the day, grabbing headlines is the only way for the Brethren to be made aware that women who feel this way even exist, the only way for their voices to be heard at all.
    I wish it wasn’t that way, but those are the facts on the ground.

  27. annegb on March 23, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I also agree with #14; I have never personally heard anyone disparage them. I HAVE heard many disagree with them. Therein lies the rub. Feelings are so tender that any opinions that counter the OW is seen as rejection unless, I suppose, it’s made in a groveling fashion repeatedly avowing love and respect and caveats. I don’t hear a lot of love from feminists for those of us who, like me, are ambivalent or don’t want the priesthood. I’ve encountered more meanness from feminists than my friends who don’t agree with my more moderate views.

    The gal who joked about not being able to wear pants to church now cracked me up.

    On the flip side, a friend laughingly told me not to wear purple next week to the womens meeting. She don’t know me very well do she? First I hate meetings and talks but second if you tell me not to do something I will do that thing. With bells on. Oh I will wear purple!

  28. Naismith on March 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    The lack of access to general leaders is not entirely true, at least where I live. We’ve had open questions from the congregation to general authorities on numerous occasions over the last few years. One Saturday night session of stake conference with a visiting 70 and AA (most of the evening was Q & A), a stake RS activity at which Elder Christopherson took Q & A for the bulk of time, a regional conference with the general RS president which was also at least half Q & A.

    I can understand the notion of grabbing headlines as a means of communication, but would those headlines be any less effective if ordination was framed as an inquiry rather than order?

    I am not sure that the counsel to leave doctrinal decisions to the prophet is a recent artifact of correlation. It was 1840 when Lorenzo Snow first received the famous couplet about divine nature (“As man now is….). He shared this revelation only with his sister Eliza and then Brigham Young.

    “President Young listened with interest to his recital, and then said: ‘Brother Snow, that is a new doctrine; if true, it has been revealed to you for your own private information, and will be taught in due time by the Prophet to the Church; till then I advise you to lay it upon the shelf and say no more about it.’ Elder Snow took this wise counsel, and [several years later] it was Brigham Young himself who came to him and told him that what had been revealed to him was true, for the Prophet had just been teaching it to the people” (Orson F. Whitney, “Lives of Our Leaders—The Apostles: Lorenzo Snow,” Juvenile Instructor, Jan. 1, 1900, 3–4 as quoted atlds.org, the doctrine-and-covenants-and-church-history-seminary-teacher-resource-manual Lesson 28).

    Thus I can imagine that some women have received revelation that women will be ordained. But I do not see OW following in Pres. Snow’s footsteps and waiting until it is taught by the Prophet to the Church.

  29. Josh Smith on March 23, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    annegb (#27):

    I would wear purple if I could get away with it. Me? I’m stuck with …

    wearing terrible shirts and growing more fat,
    And eating three pounds of sausages at a go,

    Hehe.

    All of those who poopoo the wearing of purple to women’s conference have obviously never worn purple. If only I could join in.

  30. Steve Smith on March 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    #21, yes, because the OW movement is motivated by Yale, Harvard, and MSNBC, so true. And, also, you’re right, when the prophet speaks the thinking has been done/debate IS over. How dare Kaimi validate critical thinking and disagreement with God’s infallible chosen ones. The church leaders have continually emphasized their infallibility in word and have never disagreed with each other. Oh wait…

  31. European Saint on March 23, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    #30, Thank you for your testimony, Steve Smith.

  32. Steve Smith on March 23, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    No, ES, thank you for your testimony. There is simply not enough hero worship and talk of the pernicious influence of evil liberal universities and media outlets among today’s LDS. We certainly need more people who are holier than the rest to question those heathen liberal LDS peoples’ convictions and hypothetical plain-crossing commitments.

  33. annegb on March 23, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    I blame Modern Family….and The Walking Dead.

  34. Cameron N on March 24, 2014 at 12:44 am

    I suspect that most church leaders would disagree with this interpretation of ‘common consent’ and what it means. I suspect they see it more as an opportunity to covenant to sustain each other in callings, and an opportunity to accept the Lord’s will. It’s not voting and likely not democratic in any way.

  35. J. Max Wilson on March 24, 2014 at 8:44 am

    For what it is worth, here is my contrary view:

    Watchmen on the Tower: On The Limits of Prophetic Fallibility

    http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/watchmen-on-the-tower-on-the-limits-of-prophetic-fallibility/

    ‘For all of these reasons, many orthodox members of the church sense that often the way in which prophetic fallibility is invoked is an attack on their faith even if they don’t know exactly how or they are not able to articulate it in the detail presented here. Because it IS often used as an implicit attack on their faith: not because they necessarily believe that the prophets are infallible, but because they believe, with good reason, that the adjective “prophetic” puts real limits on the word “fallibility”.’

  36. annegb on March 24, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I spoke to two members of my RS presidency yesterday and both eloquently (without vitriole towards those who disagree) stated their firm personal belief in the patriarchial order and the traditional roles of men and women. They choose the status quo. Neither said the prophet was infallible. It’s a way of life they feel good about and prefer. Both mentioned needed progress in the way women have been marginalized. They gave quiet reasoned opinions. I submit that women (outside of my crazy approach) who disagree with OW are not weak or deluded or sheep blindly upholding tradition. Again I would like to hear more the same conciliatory respectful rhetoric toward women who don’t want the priesthood that feminists want to hear. That almost apologetic “I love my sisters in OW, they are saints, but I disagree” is wearing thin on me. Why can’t they assume the goodness in those who don’t want the priesthood? Consideration seems to only go one way. That being said, were OW to get their way I submit most women would say “hell,no I have enough to do” and there might be a few hundred female priesthood holders. The gist of my conversation was my friends’ conclusion that women who want the priesthood are being foolish. Call that vitriole if you want. Crap. I might be arguing that on the wrong blog. Oh well.

  37. Nate Oman on March 24, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Kaimi: For what it’s worth, I don’t think that it is wrong to disagree with Church leaders, including to disagree publicly. I do think that evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is wrong, which suggests that how one disagrees is very important. I also think that sustaining leaders means that we should not disagree in ways that is likely to inhibit their ability to perform their callings. All of these judgements are going to be fuzzy and contestable, which is why I think that your focus on obedience and formal rules is mistaken. One needn’t point to a formal rule to legitimately conclude that some way of disagreeing with leaders is improper. Your framing of the issue strikes me as creating a false dichotomy and trivializing what is actually a difficult judgment call.

  38. Martin James on March 24, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I agree with Nate that it is a judgment call. One important aspect, in my opinion, of that judgment is organizing as a group as a way of expressing “No.” What is acceptable for an individual and what is acceptable for a group may differ.

    I also think that the church is trying to find its way to a less univocal understanding of the proper future of women’s role in the church. However, the ordination of women is such a theologically and institutionally significant thing that creating that space (and opinions differ on how explicit and authoritative the church’s position is) has raised the stakes for both sides.

    Whatever one’s opinion OW has created a very significant wedge issue. Its obvious, its binary, its significant and its easy to communicate. One either ordains women or one does not.

  39. Kaimi Wenger on March 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Huh, Nate? I’m not saying that all disagreement is perfectly fine. I _am_ saying that the counter position — that any disagreement is necessarily apostate — is obviously wrong.

  40. Dave on March 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Think of the reactions that non-LDS visitors have when the observe an LDS sustaining vote — it looks like a North Korean election. That’s probably not fair, but a little public disagreement goes a long way toward rebutting the idea that Mormons vote (and think) in unison. Suppressing any visible dissent works in the opposite direction.

  41. Chris on March 25, 2014 at 12:00 am

    It’s interesting to note a footnote to Doctrine and Covenants 26:2 is Mosiah 29:26

  42. Naismith on March 25, 2014 at 9:45 am

    “Its obvious, its binary, its significant and its easy to communicate.”

    This is true. and is exactly my problem. I don’t think the issues around ordination for LDS women *are* binary. Our church teachings actually represent a third way, that is not the gender-neutral same-equal promoted by many contemporary feminists, nor is it the 1950s man-on-top view either. It is about equal partnership in marriage and women contributing in different ways. It is about women using priesthood power through their setting-apart blessings to callings. It is about LDS women doing things (serving missions, speaking in meetings) that would require ordination in other faith traditions.

    And yes, it is becoming a wedge issue, that threatens to turn us into “ites.” While others attributed the comment from SusanS as a joke, I am not sure it is. At the time of the first PANTS day, it was very common for women in my ward to wear pants, including members of the RS presidency and a gospel doctrine teacher. Now it is not common at all. Perhaps it is imbued with meaning as SusanS suggests.

  43. Josh Smith on March 25, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Naismith (17, 28, 42):

    Just a quick note that you’re softening my heathen heart. Often we hammer out a comment on a blog and we’re not sure if others read it. My inclination is to side with those who advocate for the ordination of women. Then I read your comments and it softens my opinions a bit. You certainly represent your views well. Thank you for taking the time to post.

  44. Michael Umphrey on March 26, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Opinions vary. I think I’ll follow the leaders….

  45. Nate Oman on March 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Kaimi: I understood you to be suggesting that because there is no commandment not to disagree that disagreement cannot be disobedience and hence cannot be wrong.