Thursday, April 4, 2013

Women and the priesthood

Well, it's almost general conference eve, which can mean only one thing — we'll soon know if women are going to pray in general conference.

This has been a big deal in Utah the last several months, spurred on by the architects of the pants to church movement. However, the closer we get to general conference, the more praying by a chica is eclipsed by women who want the priesthood. Newspapers in Utah love this sort of stuff — like, seriously love it. You put "LDS" coupled with "{insert something controversial here}"in a headline and the crazy clicking commenters go nuts. It's yellow journalism gold.

And of course I read the comments, because that's where the drama, the emotion, the insanity is. There are the comments you'd expect — these women clearly don't believe in the gospel and should leave the church; blacks once couldn't have the priesthood and that changed, so why can't get this; next thing you know they'll want to be able to work too — you know, typical stuff. But there are a few that, interestingly, mirror this email I got after my column last week, in which I referenced women seeking the priesthood:

I was at one time a substitute teacher for my county. There was one teacher that stood out like non other.  She had a glow about her, what I called the Mormon face.  Just out of curiosity I ask her if she by change  was a Mormon.  She replied, "I am but with an R in front of it. I  realized she was in the Reorganized Church of LDS.  She was so pleasant, we became good friends at school and both of us could easily talk to each other about our personal religions (although I often wondered if she was trying to convert me or me her). She told me that her husband was what we would consider the Stake President, my husband was the Bishop.

One day she became very excited to see me. She told me her church was now giving women the priesthood.  She was going to be the first woman to receive it in her church and she begged me to come. This was a meritorious moment in her life.  I struggle with what to do. She was a good friend, we had shared so many feeling with each other. If she was getting baptized I would have gone. I have been to Catholic and Jewish ceremonies, why not this?  I forced myself to come up with the answer and the only thing that came to my mind was, that I respect our men who are worthy to have the Priesthood. I've seen the miracles my husband had done, and I respected the idea of the handing down of the Priesthood to men. I also wondered if our LDS Church ever changed their minds about it- It would make me appear outdated. School was out for the summer and I received a beautiful invitation to attend the ceremony. Luckily, I had a serious need to be somewhere else, and I expressed my apology.

School restarted and I was anxious to talk to my friend about her new church experiences as a priesthood holder. I was quite shocked when I saw her. There was not a bit of radiance to her face and I wondered if her husband had died. I asked her how she liked having the priesthood. She turned to me and said, "Don't ever let your church give the Priesthood to women." She was a strong woman and I was completely shocked by her answer. I was dying to know why.  She continued to explain, "Now that we are part of the priesthood, we do all the work. We women are better at doing  just about everything, so the women have now taken over all the duties and we have very little attendance from the men. Also a sister in the ward was made my husband's councilor and I hate that he is always in these long meetings with her and other women. All in all it's a mess and I hate it."
My question is this: Is the only reason LDS men are good because they hold the priesthood? Do people honestly believe that, if they did not have the priesthood or did not exclusively have the priesthood, that no man would go on a mission, bless and pass the sacrament, do his home teaching and otherwise love and serve others? Is the only reason men do any sort of work in the church is because that work is a priesthood duty and no one else can do it?

Is it just me, or is that an incredibly offensive assumption?

I know I come across as something of a man-hater sometimes (I'm pretty sure that's only true in dating situations), but I just cannot believe this. I know a lot of really good men who do the right thing because it's the right thing. Yes, in church callings it frequently coincides with priesthood responsibilities, but that doesn't make it a causal relationship. I simply cannot accept the assumption that my mission president, had his wife also held the priesthood, would have sat back and let her do all the work, or that my neighbor, the most faithful home teacher I've ever had, would be sitting on his couch watching sports instead of visiting us if it wasn't a responsibility that he had to report.

And we are seriously underestimating men if this is the prevailing belief.

As for women holding the priesthood, I don't know that I have a yay or nay opinion, but I do sympathize with the women who want it. First and foremost, the priesthood is the power of God to do his work on the earth. Wanting that can hardly be a wicked thing. And yes, change frequently happens, even in God's church, because people ask about it. Members and prophets alike asked for years for blacks to be given the priesthood. That was not unrighteous. And I understand how women can feel less equal in the church — not in the temple, perhaps, and not in the gospel, but in the church. I understand it even more as the responses have hit them — go start your own church, you're not temple worthy, we're separate but equal, you don't understand the church, why would you want to be bishop. This isn't right. These people feel something is wrong. They need to be validated. They need to be listened to. You don't need to agree with them, and the church doesn't even need to change, but the way they feel is not inappropriate just because someone else has never felt that way. This cannot be the way of God's people. After all, if there is no room in God's church for questioning, it should be empty of all faithful people.

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