A (Partial) Response to Brother Otterson

May 29, 2014 | 62 comments
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There is a lot that could be said about Michael Otterson’s recent open letter. I think it does a lot to heal the immense pain and anger that many people—especially those who do not support Ordain Women–have felt in recent weeks as a result of how Church PR has (mis)handled Ordain Women. So thank you, Brother Otterson. There are a few places where I think it falls short of the mark, however; this post pushes back at just one statement:

(First, my standard disclaimer: I do not support Ordain Women. You can listen to me natter on at length about that here.)

Brother Otterson writes, “I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised.”

This approach is not, in my opinion, a good way for Mormons to argue against ordaining women for the following reasons:

  1. It assumes that the practice during Jesus’ mortal ministry and what was done in the early days of the Restoration are the sole determinants of modern LDS practice. But that is not true in a church that believes in continuing revelation. We could point to all sorts of issues where the practice of the modern church differs from that of Jesus’ mortal ministry or Joseph Smith’s time.
  2. Joseph Smith taught that women were organized as “kingdoms of priests” during Paul’s day. I suppose that could have been an innovation in Paul’s day, but it just as easily could have originated in Jesus’ day. So it seems excessively speculative for Mormons to argue that “Christ did not ordain women,” given this teaching from Joseph Smith, especially since he announced an intention to create the same organization in his day.
  3. Speaking specifically of women’s issues, the modern LDS church does all sorts of things that we have no evidence for from Jesus’ day, such as sending out female missionaries or authorizing women to teach in church, lead organizations, participate in the endowment, and pray publicly. If our sole standard is what we have evidence for Jesus doing, then we shouldn’t be permitting women to do any of these things.
  4. Jesus did not ordain anyone who wasn’t an adult, but we ordain twelve-year-old boys. Jesus didn’t ordain anyone who was well-educated, but we do. Jesus didn’t ordain anyone of Asian ancestry, but we do. Jesus almost certainly didn’t ordain anyone with decent teeth, good hygiene, who was over 5-5, or who didn’t keep kosher, but we do. I’m being a little flippant here, but it is not clear to me why we would feel free to depart from his precedent on these factors, but not on gender. (The determination of which factors do or do not limit ordination is obviously the realm of modern revelation and not to be found anywhere within the text itself.)
  5. It is not clear whether Jesus’ (apparent) lack of female ordinations represent an eternal principle or cultural expediency or temporary policy. Given (1) Joseph Smith’s statements about kingdoms of female priests, (2) Elder Oaks’ recent statement about women officiating in priesthood ordinances in the temple and using priesthood power and authority outside of the temple, (3) that women in biblical times were prophetesses (and perhaps apostles and deacons, but that is debatable), and (4) the revealed expansion of priesthood ordination to men of African descent, I think it is excessively speculative to conclude that Jesus’ non-ordination represents an eternal principle.
  6. The statement “a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised” is ambiguous and, therefore, problematic. I think what he meant to say is that Church leaders do not feel free to change the current policy based on their own beliefs or the desires of others. (This is a perfectly reasonable statement.) But his words could also be interpreted to mean that the ban on ordaining woman cannot ever change, which is not correct per President Hinckley (see below).

So I don’t think arguing against women’s ordination based on Jesus’ mortal ministry, or his New World ministry, or the first days of the Restoration, is the best argument. In fact, in addressing these issues, church leaders have taken a very different—and, to my mind, a far more satisfying—approach. Elder Oaks has taught that “even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.” In other words, it would take a revelation in order to give priesthood keys/offices to women. (Elder Oaks also, I think, did important work on expanding the view of most church members to consider the idea that women do hold and exercise priesthood power and authority. His teachings have already resulted in an enormous shift in how the relationship of women to the priesthood is taught.) Similarly, President Hinckley was asked, “Is it possible that the rules [on female ordination] could change in the future as the rules are on Blacks?” He responded, “He could change them yes. If He were to change them that’s the only way it would happen.” In other words, Jesus’ practice or the practice in Joseph Smith’s day isn’t the point; the point is that a change to current practice is entirely possible—despite what did or did not happen in Jesus’ time–and would only happen based on revelation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

62 Responses to A (Partial) Response to Brother Otterson

  1. Dave on May 29, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    More generally, the fact that Otterson and PA felt a need to respond and did, in fact, respond seems like a very positive sign. That’s not a conversation with OW but it is at least a conversation with a forum (LDS blogs) where there has been a fair amount of support for OW and lengthy discussion of the whole issue. In fact, blogs seem like the only place (apart from closed Facebook groups) where such a discussion is occurring.

  2. Mike C on May 29, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    I enjoyed your thoughtful response, Julie.

  3. Ziff on May 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Great response, Julie!

  4. hkobeal on May 29, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Nice response, Julie.

  5. Aaron Brown on May 29, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Superb analysis, Julie. Thank you.

  6. amycartwright on May 29, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Very thoughtful response, Julie. I have had many of these same conversations with people where I have pointed out many things we do that Jesus did not do. It seems that people do not understand that there are many arbitrary lines that we draw and gender seems to be one of the most stubborn ones for us to overcome.

  7. Nathan Whilk on May 29, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    “It assumes that the practice during Jesus’ mortal ministry and what was done in the early days of the Restoration are the sole determinants of modern LDS practice.”

    No, it does not. The (first) comma in the last sentence you (partially) quote is followed by “that”, not by “therefore” or by “so that”. In the original letter, that complete sentence is of the form “We only know that P, Q, and R.” There is no more reason to conclude that the sentence is asserting that “P implies Q” than that it is asserting that “P implies R”.

  8. Ray on May 29, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Very good break down of that concept, Julie – but Nathan is correct. He listed three things “we only know”, and they were linked in such a way that does not tie a modern decision solely to what appears to be the case in Jesus’ time. He didn’t say it can’t change; he said the current leaders “today” view it as a doctrinal issue that can’t be “compromised”.

    I know that probably sounds like splitting hairs to lots of people, but it’s an important thing – since it actually does leave the door open to the possibility of change through future revelation outside of today. Most people won’t read it that way, I know, but I think he chose his words very carefully.

  9. DQ on May 29, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Ah, but do you support Br. Otterson? I’m curious if Nephi would have felt Sam’s support if during one of their trials he stood by and said, “You know Laman and Lemual have a point.”

    The questions you ask are certainly good ones to think about. But isolating one sentence from his letter and expounding on it with eight or nine paragraphs isn’t exactly piling on; however, it sure wouldn’t be what I’d consider supporting someone who was trying to defuse a difficult situation already rife with commentary, questions, misunderstandings, etc.

    We wouldn’t want him to think he has the philopshical high ground and just leave the debate at that. Even though, through our debate the ultimate reality of ordination won’t change. Better to get the last word in and let him know his reasoning isn’t so air tight now that he’s entered the discussion. After, in the world of online debate if winning isn’t everything, poking holes in the other’s argument certainly is.

  10. Ray on May 29, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    DQ, that has never been Julie’s focus – never. It’s one of the things I admire most about her – and I admire a lot.

  11. Rachel Whipple on May 30, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Thank you, Julie. And DQ, what would it mean to “support Br. Otterson?” Are all paid church employees automatically to be given our support when do offer a sustaining vote for church officers in general conference?

  12. Karla on May 30, 2014 at 12:39 am

    I always appreciate your insights, Julie, and this was a particularly helpful post. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  13. Orwell on May 30, 2014 at 1:48 am

    I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised […].

    Wait, so we know some of the reasons? I’d like to know what he thinks those are.

    Also, Nathan and Ray, it seems to me that the pronoun “this” subverts your interpretation. See what happens if we replace it with the most logical antecedent:

    I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this [Christ not ordaining women] as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised […].

    So, Julie’s reading is not at all unreasonable.

    Sure, there might be some ambiguity as to what “this” refers to, but if we’re going to argue that Bro. Otterson wasn’t being as precise as he could have been, then there’s no point in scrutinizing the sentence structure to begin with.

  14. Ray on May 30, 2014 at 2:26 am

    Orwell, we are reading the passage the exact same way, linguistically, but reaching different conclusions. I respect that, since English doesn’t always lend itself to easy interpretative consensus, but I still don’t see the statement as closing the door to a change in the future.

  15. Cynthia L. on May 30, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Thanks, Julie.

  16. John C. on May 30, 2014 at 3:04 am

    DQ,
    I’m fascinated by your question. Why do you believe that Julie or anyone has some sort of moral obligation to support Br. Otterson?

  17. Hellmut on May 30, 2014 at 4:09 am

    We do not know who Jesus ordained or did not ordain. The gospels certainly do not report any ordinations.

    Of course, ordinations by Jesus are an essential element in the Mormon origin myth. But even the Mormon origin myth merely establishes a line of authority but not who Jesus ordained or did not ordain.

  18. ji on May 30, 2014 at 5:21 am

    I appreciate the letter — I hope it is helpful to men and women of goodwill in understanding the difficulty a Christian or a Christian organization faces when assaulted in un-Christian ways. Jesus said to turn the other cheek, and to love one’s persecutors. That’s hard doctrine. I appreciate the Church’s patience and forbearance and kindness in this matter.

  19. ji on May 30, 2014 at 6:04 am

    Here’s a thought — I have read numerous times in the bloggernacle a hope that someone in Salt Lake City would read some bloggernacle postings. Congratulations! The church (or at least its PR office) has officially recognized the bloggernacle. Yet somehow I haven’t sensed any sense of celebration yet from those who have wanted official recognition.

  20. Tim on May 30, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Julie,

    Love your writing. One minor quibble:

    I suspect (could be wrong) that Brother Otterson might object to the idea that his comment was meant as “argument against ordaining women” (i.e., “Jesus didn’t; therefore we shouldn’t”).

    I read it as more of an argument against the idea that we can understand this issue by making arguments.

    On the other hand, I think that maybe you are using “arguing against ordaining women” as a shorthand for “arguing that we would show deference to church leaders on the issue of ordaining women” and if this is the case I have no objection to your point or to anything else in your post. I just object to the shorthand. A lot of people use it, I know, but it really tends to muddy the thinking and make people feel misunderstood.

    On the other side, “arguing that the church should ordain women” is different from “arguing that we should ask the church to consider women’s ordination” or “arguing that there would be benefits to ordaining women”. People care about the distinctions, so one has to be careful about lumping them together.

    Another minor quibble (which doesn’t affect your larger point): if you google the issue, you’ll find that a lot of people think that the apostles of Jesus were probably young teens. Purely speculative of course.

  21. Dave K on May 30, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Thanks for this Julie. You will not be surprised that I largely agree. For me, the underlying issue is whether the creation/organization/restoration is complete or not. Quite often I hear the sentiment among members that “God created/organized this so it must be as He wants it.” Examples include (i) only women bear children so God must have intended for women to have a unique bond with children (accepted by most members today); different races are found on different continents so God must have wanted to keep the races separate (accepted by most members 100 years ago; rejected by most members today); (ii) the church organization stems from God so He must have intended to exclude women from priesthood ordination (accepted by most members today, though I’d love to see new poll numbers). My gut reaction to this sentiment is “No! The creation/organization/restoration is not finished. If it were, why I am spending so much time at church? Just because something ‘is’ does not mean it is how God intends it to be, much less how He will always intend it to be. His creative work is far from finished.”

    As for Elder Oaks’ discourse (which I do believe will become something of a touchstone), may I offer a somewhat different take? In my reading, Elder Oaks set the bar for female ordination to be higher than “a revelation.” He expressly said that the FP/Q12 do not have keys to make this change, just as they do not have keys to resurrect people. I take this to mean that Oaks does not believe the FP/Q12 could simply get a revelation to ordain women. Rather, they would need to have messengers come and bestow additional keys (think Kirtland Temple; D&C 110). The brethren have no more authority to seek a revelation to ordain women than they do to seek a revelation to begin resurrecting people. It’s simply not within their call. If someone with keys to ordain women (Peter, Eve, Mary, Asherah?) comes to the COB and gives them then we can have a discussion, but until then our hands are tied.

    Why does Oaks believe this? I’m not sure. Nothing in the scriptural or historical record suggests that the restored priesthood keys came with a male-only clause. My best guess is that Oaks’ understanding is tied to the temple endowment in which men are placed as intermediaries between God and women in the priesthood chain of authority. Yes, women are told in the temple that they can be priestesses, but only priestesses to their husband, not to God. I believe Oaks thinks that additional keys would be required to alter that order. The current order allows women to work within the priesthood, but only through the direction of men. If women are truly to be “co-presidents” in church organization (to use Elder Perry’s phrase), additional authority and keys will need to be given. At least that’s the best explanation I can come up with.

  22. John Mansfield on May 30, 2014 at 8:28 am

    “”We do not know who Jesus ordained or did not ordain. The gospels certainly do not report any ordinations.”

    Mark 3:14 says “he ordained twelve,” and the following verses name them.

  23. hellmut on May 30, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Actually, Mark 3:14 reports that Jesus appointed twelve people to disseminate his message and to drive out demons. It is a leap to interprete that as an ordination to the priesthood. The text invokes neither concept.

  24. Julie M. Smith on May 30, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Nathan Whilk and Ray (and also Tim, I think), I see how the unusual syntax of the second sentence could lead you to that conclusion. But in the larger context of his essay, this statement occurs in a section refuting the idea that PR/the Church has not acted in a Christlike manner in response to OW (what he calls “criticism #3″). And in that context, I think it is pretty clear that his words link Jesus’ ordination practice to the church’s–to show that, from his perspective, PR/the Church has done precisely what Jesus would have done. (I disagree with this argument for several reasons, but that is beyond the scope of this post.)

    DQ asks, “Ah, but do you support Br. Otterson?”

    I’ve never been asked to sustain Brother Otterson (which feeds into a grave concern I have regarding the role of the Newsroom, but that’s a topic for another post), but if I were asked to, I would. However, I do not believe that “supporting” or “sustaining” someone means offering unthinking consent to everything they do/say. His argument in this section of his blog post is weaker than it should be and, as I have shown above, in tension with what actual church leaders have recently taught, so I think we support others by helping them refine their arguments and teach what prophets have taught. Had my stake president taught this over the pulpit, I would have prayed about whether to let it go or to meet with him privately to express my concerns. Brother Otterson presented this argument in a blog post, so I felt that another blog post was the most appropriate venue in which to respond. I consider that an act of support for the work that he is doing regarding, as he puts it, “the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue.”

  25. Julie M. Smith on May 30, 2014 at 8:45 am

    (Also, I unthinkingly used the term “African-American” in the original post when I meant, obviously, “African.” I corrected it.)

  26. Clean Cut on May 30, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Thank you, Julie. Sincerely. My Mormon world is a better place because of you.

  27. Russell Arben Fox on May 30, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Excellent, Julie; really excellent.

  28. Julie M. Smith on May 30, 2014 at 9:18 am
  29. DavidG on May 30, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Why doesn’t president monson simply ask god? Joseph Smith was very quick to ask for a revelation when Hiram Page said he too was receiving messages from a magic stone, and as a result, we got D&C 28.

  30. Kevin Van Auker on May 30, 2014 at 9:21 am

    DQ on May 29, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Ah, but do you support Br. Otterson? I’m curious if Nephi would have felt Sam’s support if during one of their trials he stood by and said, “You know Laman and Lemual have a point.”
    ================
    Br. Otterson is not a prophet, he does not have the authority to receive revelation for the Church. He is not Nephi.

    He is not someone that we have raised the right hand for, he is not a general authority.

    Similarly, the members of OW are not Laman and Lemuel.

    Not only is Otterson not a GA, but Brigham Young taught that even if he was, our own critical thought is expected:

    “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way.” Those who are grounded, rooted, and established will not withhold their supportive influence from Church leaders. Neither will the faithful be deceived, as President Brigham Young promised: “I will say to my brethren and sisters, Were your faith concentrated upon the proper object, your confidence unshaken, your lives pure and holy, every one fulfilling the duties of his or her calling according to the Priesthood and capacity bestowed upon you, you would be filled with the Holy Ghost, and it would be as impossible for any man to deceive and lead you to destruction as for a feather to remain unconsumed in the midst of intense heat.”

  31. Xenophon on May 30, 2014 at 10:55 am

    “Jesus didn’t ordain anyone who was well-educated, but we do.” Paul wasn’t well educated? OW seems to be arguing against a divinely decreed pattern, whereas Otterson is simply standing by that divinely decreed pattern. What is the real underlying issue here? What gives rise to the whole Otterson vs. OW/Bloggernacle conversation? What is the real cause of this “immense pain and anger” to which the author alludes? The author does not fully approve of Otterson’s approach. What does she therefore recommend?

  32. Ray on May 30, 2014 at 11:09 am

    “I think it is pretty clear that his words link Jesus’ ordination practice to the church’s.”

    I agree, Julie – but I see the choice of words as keeping the door open for a possible OD3, as you mention in the Patheos article to which you linked.

    I think the brethren don’t want to make a change out of a feeling of being pressured to “compromise” (which I respect greatly, as a principle), which is what they feel would be happening without a revelation to make such a fundamental change. It’s interesting that the ONLY type of discussion he listed that they won’t have is one that involves “non-negotiable demands” that insist on “compromise”. An OD2-like revelation is very, very different. Gaining it might or might not be just as difficult and time-consuming as OD2 (if it were to happen), but it would not be seen as having arisen from demands to compromise and, I believe, would be accepted by the leadership.

  33. Ray on May 30, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Julie, I also should say clearly that I agree that basing something completely off of what we have in ancient scripture (even one as central to our faith as the Bible) is tricky and always ought to be done with hesitancy. We have the “as far as it is translated correctly” caveat within Mormonism, but, specific to this issue, we also have the fact that the narratives were written after the fact and exclusively from a male perspective – with one clear case (Paul) where the teachings about women have been jettisoned openly and unapologetically.

    If the justifications for the Priesthood ban teach us nothing else, they ought to teach us that.

  34. John C. on May 30, 2014 at 11:59 am

    ji,
    I’m surprised anyone listens to me. I’d be very surprised if the Brethren did. And possibly a little disappointed; if they can’t find a better source than me…

  35. Rand Bateman on May 30, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    With all of the things there are to be done to move the gospel forward – is it really a valuable use of time to split hairs over grammar. When the Lord wants the Church to ordain women, I am sure he will let the Prophet know. Playing gotcha with language is routine in litigation – it should not be within the Church

  36. C. W. on May 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I think one of the many significant things that Michael Otterson clarifies is that all Public Affairs statements are approved by the First Presidency and or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. So, those criticizing this five page letter need to ensure they understand exactly who they are ultimately criticizing. This is absolutely ESSENTIAL to note and something that is an inconvenient truth for those who are not accepting the letter and undermining its content. This letter reflects the vies of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In previous letters, Otterson and other spokespeople have said time and again yet somehow it always gets “missed” and “misunderstood”. I sincerely hope that Times and Seasons remembers this moving forward.

    Directly from the Otterson letter:
    “First, it’s important to understand that the Public Affairs Department of the Church does not freelance. For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply unthinkable, as anyone who has ever worked for the Church will attest.
    As managing director of the Public Affairs Department, I work under the direct supervision of two members of the Twelve apostles, two members of the Presidency of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishop, and alongside a remarkable and devoted staff of men and women.
    This group of senior General Authorities often refers matters of particular importance to other councils of men and women leaders, to the full Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and to the First Presidency for further discussion or decision.”

  37. C.W. on May 30, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Also, I needed to mention something brought up by others:

    It seems to me critics of the Public Affairs department are really grasping at straws, coming up with any excuse they can to still say they follow the Brethren while continuing to murmur. And they pretend that they are not murmuring about the Church and its leaders — they are just complaining about the PA department.

    News flash: the Public Affairs department reflects the will of the Brethren. It is simply a modern-day vehicle for the Brethren to lessen their already huge work load.

    An attack on the Public Affairs department — which was created and is still overseen by the Brethren — is an attack on the Church itself. As Pres. Uchtdorf would say, “stop it!”

  38. MDearest on May 30, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    I’m too busy irl right now to do more than observe this, but I found your response to Otterson’s letter generous to him and satisfying to me, and worth my time to read. Thank you.

  39. RMM on May 30, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    “An attack on the Public Affairs department — which was created and is still overseen by the Brethren — is an attack on the Church itself.”

    On the other hand, Br Otterson signed the letter and put it on a variety of forums where moderated but fairly open discussion occurs regularly.

    Putting the letter here and at BCC and M* and other blogs allows a variety of active and engaged and intelligent members to express their honest opinions about the place of women in the Church without fearing social reprisal within their immediate communities.

    If the Church didn’t want the content of the letter to be discussed and debated, they’d put it under the name of the Church and over the signatures of the First Presidency and have it read over the pulpit in sacrament meeting.

    So by criticizing the discussion that is taking place here and elsewhere, aren’t you criticizing Brother Otterson, and by extension, the Church, C.W?

  40. Ray on May 30, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    To build on RMM’s comment a bit:

    I believe the Church leadership wants to get honest and open input about the letter, without fear of reprisal – and they understand that the only way to do that right now is to send the letter to the major Mormon blogs. I think they want to know better how people who participate in online forums will respond to the letter, and I think it’s an honest attempt at understanding – NOT any other negative motivation. I think they recognize, Bro. Otterson’s ideal advice notwithstanding, that many people can’t talk right now with local leaders about this, so they are giving those members a chance to express themselves in a way that the leadership can “hear”.

    More than anything else, I am glad the letter was released to the blogs and not just posted on lds.org.

  41. Ray on May 30, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    That should have read, “The *best* way to (address it) right now is to send the letter to the major Mormon blogs” – with the attendant respect and acknowledgment that entails.

    PA could have been FAR more impersonal and posted it at lds.org. I appreciate that Bro. Otterson didn’t do that.

  42. hellmut on May 30, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    ‘An attack on the Public Affairs department — which was created and is still overseen by the Brethren — is an attack on the Church itself. As Pres. Uchtdorf would say, “stop it!” ‘

    I don’t know what Dieter Uchtdorf would say but I do know that Jesus attacked the religious authorities of his age. So C.W.’s demands that we do not follow Jesus, I am afraid.

  43. Thom Duncan on May 30, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    To say that this or that teaching or doctrine in the church is unassailable flies in the face of what is truly the foundation of Mormonism: continuing revelation. Prior to 1976, it was widely believed and taught the the Blacks couldn’t receive the priesthood until sometime in the Millennium, if at all. What changed that teaching? Revelation? Polygamy was once touted as God’s form of marriage, and the concept of “one man/one woman” was routinely belittled in Brigham Young’s day. And what changed it? Revelation.

    Joseph taught that Mormons don’t have a fixed creed that can change whenever God wants it to, for whatever reason he deems necessary. Tradition and creeds are what, according to other Mormon teachings, caused the Great Apostasy.

  44. Rand Bateman on May 30, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    The key is “when God wants it to” not when we want it to. I want the Prophet listening to God , not being distracted by those who want to change God’s mind.

  45. Zack on May 30, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    If Jesus ordained anyone, they were ALL of Asian ancestry, given that Jerusalem, Nazareth, etc. are in Asia.

  46. Jax on May 30, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I have no problem with the Letter from Otterson, nor with Julie’s response. The quibbling over symantics seems to be rather beneath most of us. I think his letter and the Elder Oak’s talk seem to make it clear that the church is listening; actively trying to understand the thoughts and feelings of its members and is trying to address them. They feel/think/know that they cannot ordain women because they don’t have the authority to do that. I’m fine with that and the explanations given.

    Those of you asking, “why doesn’t TSM just ask God?” must be joking, right? You don’t think that he as ever asked? Numerous press releases about it, policies about conference security/behaviors, protest areas, news reports, questions at Stake Conferences, and all the other items initiated by church HQ and you don’t think that kneeling at his bed some night he hasn’t at least asked? Not even once? That seems really far fetched to me. I think you are just upset that the answer given isn’t the one you want.

    I liked the post Julie. Thanks!

  47. Rich on May 30, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    “You don’t think that he as ever asked?”
    How would anyone know? Until we hear, “I asked, and the answer was no”, there remains uncertainty. Seems simple enough. Why all the assumptive obfuscation instead?

  48. Ms. Jack on May 30, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Overall an excellent analysis, Julie. I’m pleased to see a Mormon using some of the same arguments that Christian egalitarians use when hierarchist evangelicals point out that Jesus did not ordain women as apostles.

  49. Sterling Ashley Ingram on May 31, 2014 at 6:49 am

    When I first heard of OW and their movement from within the ranks of the Church to kick against the leaders, I was confused. I did some homework and I’m no longer confused. Kate Kelly is a paid Washington DC attorney. She travels the world to litigate against the worst thing on earth- men. OW has their own wikipedia page now. Sister Kelly’s name is printed all over the world as the official organizer of a group that stands against the elderly male leaders of the Church who don’t know what they are doing. She is David and in her mind she is twirling her stone around and around and soon she will be heralded by all the anti-Mormons as the giant slayer.

    Has her resume has been enhanced and her pocketbook filled with lucre? In my opinion, the OW group and all who support it are on a strange path. The Church used the apostate word in their letter this week, but many who support this group remain on the rolls of the Church.

    Many of their supporters are members of record who put their name out to the world as being members in good standing. This harms the good name of the Church. I expect anti garbage from non members but with OW having supporters within the Church it seems worse than the normal anti crowd.

    Sister Kelly wrote on her OW blog yesterday, “…we look forward to the day when we can sit down with our leaders and discuss these issues with those we sustain to do God’s work.” Who, I wonder, does she sustain to do God’s work? Sister Kelly, sustaining is more than holding your arm up for three seconds twice a year.

    Sustaining requires that you support the leaders and stand-up for them. You say you want the priesthood. One of the basic duties of those who are ordained is found in D&C 20:54. If you are ordained, the first thing you will need to do is advise all of your followers to repent. The last thing one who sustains the leaders would do is encourage other members to join a group laced with anti-Mormons and broadcast to the world that the Church is wrong and you are right.

    I hope you see the light and stop dragging good members away from the Church. I hope you stop dragging the Church’s good name down into the mud. I hope you return any money you have made from your seemingly litigious quest.

  50. JAHS on May 31, 2014 at 11:40 am

    There’s nothing wrong with women privately considering the idea about someday being ordained to the priesthood, or even writing letters to church leaders about the possibility of it happening. However, Ordain Women crossed the line on the road to apostasy when they organized themselves into a formal group and began to publicly speak out on the subject; bringing unwanted critical world attention to the so-called inequalities they perceive are in the church and making statements such as the following one found on the Ordain Women website:

    “it is clear that Mormon women must be ordained in order to be full and equal participants in their Church.”
    “We call for the ordination of women and their full integration into the governance of the Church”
    “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.”
    “Ordain Women will make a public statement continuing our unequivocal call for complete equality and the ordination of Mormon women.”
    “I truly believe that God wants us all to equally share the burdens and blessings of the priesthood. The ordination of women would put us all on equal spiritual footing with our brethren, and nothing less will suffice.”

    No one will regard these statement as only asking leaders to ask God about ordination. They will come across as demands for it; giving the appearance to the rest of the church and the world that they are telling God and church leaders what to do. Organized public declarations and attitudes like this can have a negative effect on the three-fold mission of the church. In my opinion it does not “safeguard the purity, integrity, and good name of the Church”.

    The Church Public Affairs department made the following statement in the recent letter:
    “No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion.”

    This is not just the public affairs administrator saying this, it is the same as if the Church leaders themselves have said this as mentioned in the letter:
    “For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply unthinkable, as anyone who has ever worked for the Church will attest.”

    Does Ordain Women thinks they are lying about this?

    It’s time to stop the public demonstrations. I think both the church leaders and God have heard the requests. It’s time to leave it in God’s hands to both consider and answer the question in His own time.

  51. Julie M. Smith on May 31, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    “There’s nothing wrong with women . . . writing letters to church leaders about the possibility of it happening.”

    Actually, that isn’t OK, either:

    https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/selected-church-policies#21.1.24

  52. JAHS on May 31, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Julie: The instruction doesn’t say they can’t write to church leaders it only states that it is better to handle things locally and follow the proper chain of authority. It also says:

    “In most cases, correspondence from members to General Authorities will be referred back to their local leaders. Stake presidents who need clarification about doctrinal or other Church matters may write in behalf of their members to the First Presidency.”

    Therefore the message can still get from the local member to the First Presidency through their Stake President.
    My point still stands that the message has been received (and has been received for at least the past 40 years or more). So far God has not changed the doctrine. If it is really that important and the time is right He will do so in His own time; not at a time when we think it should be.

  53. amycartwright on May 31, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    JAHS, to be honest, your comments reflect misunderstanding in how difficult it is for women to bring these matters to the attention of local leaders and therefore leaders within the upper hierarchy of the church. As someone who has attempted these conversations at the local level, the only thing that comes about is that I’m branded as lacking faith and that beyond that, their hands are tied. They cannot do anything to create any tangible, structural difference. This isn’t an issue of “so-called inequality” in the Church. This isn’t an issue of my feelings. There are some tangible problems at play here, ones that can only be remedied by the institutional church. The line of communication to take one’s concerns to that hierarchy can be stopped anywhere along the chain upwards and usually is. As someone who is very invested in this conversation and decided I would try to do things “the established way,” it went nowhere. I’m still attempting and it’s going nowhere. Why? Because again, all that comes into question is my faithfulness, not the legitimacy of my questions or concerns. My leaders have even stated, “well yes, that makes sense…but we must have faith…” Do Not Pass Go.

    Women can only work through what men perceive to be legitimate concerns. That, in itself, is problematic.

  54. JAHS on May 31, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    amycartwright: I understand what you are saying but like I said, church leaders and God are already aware of these concerns and have been for decades. Apparently God has simply not yet given the answer that these few women want to hear. All I know is that organized public demonstrations is not the proper way to do it.

  55. amycartwright on May 31, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I somewhat agree with that, JAHS. I do recall that when Jesus spoke with the woman of Caanan, there were a number of “no” answers before he was able to see that she had enough faith to keep asking. After she had proven her desire and her great faith, he responded that he would, indeed, grant the desires of her heart. Which is to say, there’s a line to be walked here and some would accuse those who continue to ask to be falling into a sort of Martin Harris category. Others would suggest they are as the woman of Caanan. In the end, I think it has more to do with what is in the heart of the supplicants and that can only be determined by the supplicants themselves.

  56. Rand Bateman on June 3, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I think the sentence “I think it does a lot to heal the immense pain and anger that many people—especially those who do not support Ordain Women–have felt in recent weeks as a result of how Church PR has (mis)handled Ordain Women.” says an awful lot. If the Church’s response has caused you immense pain and anger – I think you should evaluate your perspective. I often do not understand the Church’s position on issues, but if it caused me immense pain and anger I would have to evaluate what voices I was listening to. As for the example of the woman of Caanan, she addressed her concerns directly to Christ. I do not recall that she held a press conference, or protested or tried to rush a meeting because she felt excluded. She was very deferential to Christ and thus He was amazed by her faith. I think if she had protested, etc., the outcome would have been very different.

  57. Kristine A on June 3, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    We’ve got a long slog a head of us, ladies, based on these comments..

    “”It is important for everyone to be a feminist . . . Only when men learn to recognize misogyny will we be able to rid the world of it. Not all men are part of the problem, but, yes, all men must be part of the solution,” The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow writes in his latest piece…..”

  58. Julie M. Smith on June 3, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    ADMIN NOTE: Comments calling other people’s testimony into question have been removed. Comments responding to those comments have also been removed (not because they were themselves problematic, but because with the original problematic comment removed, they no longer made sense).

  59. Ray on June 3, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Julie, I respect that – so please delete #49 and then this one. (Sorry, I don’t have an email address to ask privately.)

  60. Rand Bateman on June 3, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    I do not see where the misogyny comes in? If one believes that each of us has divinely appointed roles – is that misogyny? Sorry, I have four older sisters and four daughters. Each is exceptionally accomplished but none wants the priesthood as they believe they are fulfilling their divinely appointed role – which is every bit as important as the priesthood. There collective response is – we do not need it.

    If a women feels inadequate without the priesthood I think that she does not fully understand Heavenly Father’s plan.

    After hearing the talks in conference I do not see how anyone would believe that the Church wants the issue debated. To be blunt, how you or I feel about the issue is really of little relevance. What is relevant is Heavenly Father’s view of the issue. It is my belief that he expresses those feelings through the Prophet. If he wants to change the way things are done – I am sure President Monson or his successor will speak his will. Until then, why agitate and try and cast the Church in a bad light?

  61. Kristine A on June 4, 2014 at 12:35 am

    Because I just met with my bishop over these issues, he told me I have a lot of good and valid questions, and he said any time we see an injustice we are morally obligated to speak up. I do not feel inadequate without the priesthood, and that characterization shows a lack of understanding of the issues at a fundamental level.

    My divinely appointed role was to be sent here as a child of God with unique talents and abilities and to use those to build the Kingdom of God. Please, for the love of all things holy, can we begin to see that we are Women of God, not because of a divine role, but because of our characters. Your understanding of conference talks is always the 100% correct interpretation for every single living soul on the planet? Because I’ll tell you what, for me, Elder Oaks’ talk produced more questions than answers.

  62. Rand Bateman on June 4, 2014 at 12:55 am

    My understanding of conference is never 100% correct. I agree that we are children of God, each with unique talents. I strive to use the talents I have and admire the talents of others. I also try not to covet what others have, but rather appreciate those talents that I am blessed with. I have friends who have various gifts of the spirit that I lack. Would I like to have those gifts – yes. Am I willing to see injustice because they have gifts I do not? – no.

    While my characterization may show “a lack of understanding” of your issues at a fundamental level – the ultimate issue at a fundamental level is whether we chose to follow the Brethren or not. I also chose to believe that we have a divine role – whether we chose to take on that role is up to us.

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