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Women and The Priesthood

June 3, 2011

If I were to give a one sentence answer as to why women don’t have the priesthood in our church, it would be, “I don’t know.”  And I’m OK with, “I don’t know.”

I believe my church knows a lot of things, but there are plenty of things we don’t know and have yet to discover.  I think we get into trouble as we try to explain what we don’t know and we’re better off simply admitting that we don’t know. 

I have faith that God has good reasons for the way things are.  I also understand why some women might feel bad that they don’t have the priesthood.  But it bothers me that as men try to reassure us that we are just as valued as they are, they come up with possible explanations that imply we are superior to them.

When I attended a singles ward in Provo years ago, I was sitting in Gospel Doctrine when a member of our bishopric blurted out, “Let’s face it!  Women are better than men!  If it weren’t for the priesthood, we would be good for nothing.  Women are more spiritual …….”  He continued for quite some time as he explained the many ways women are supposedly better than men.  My roommate and I looked at each other and our jaws dropped.  Neither of us had ever heard such an opinion.  Some of the young men in the room looked rather dismayed and others nodded in agreement.

As I grew up in the church, I never felt the need for anyone to explain why boys had the priesthood and we didn’t.  As I read the scriptures, it was clear that Jesus chose men as His apostles.  It was also clear that He highly valued women.  As boys advanced in the priesthood, becoming Deacons, Teachers, and Priests, I felt genuinely happy for them.  I have no memories of feeling left out.  (I am not saying other women should feel the same.  This is just my experience.)

As I spoke with some friends, several of them felt that girls needed some sort of rite of passage too, suggesting that maybe girls could pass the sacrament because that wasn’t a priesthood ordinance.  I disagree with this.  I see the whole event – the breaking, blessing, and passing of the sacrament as representing the Lord as if He were here to administer it to us.  In our church, when we do temple work on behalf of the dead, women are proxies for women and men are proxies for men.  It makes sense to me that men would represent Jesus.  For the sake of time, multiple men pass it to the congregation.

If the church were to invent a ritual for the girls to be a part of, it really wouldn’t have any meaning for me as it would just be an effort to soothe our fragile feelings.  Though we don’t have the same duties, I don’t feel unequal to the men in our church. 

I grew up in a home with a father who no longer believed in God and a mother who took us to church by herself, drove us to activities in Primary and Mutual, and to early morning seminary.  She shared her testimony with her children and through her example, we all developed strong testimonies of our own.  I saw every day the power and influence that a woman has.

I knew that both boys and girls were given the gift of the Holy Ghost and that we were just as capable of receiving revelation.  I heard the words of women almost every Sunday at the pulpit and in our classrooms.  Our church leaders give women the responsibility of preaching the Gospel to our congregations knowing they receive inspiration just like men do.

The purpose of the priesthood is not to glorify those who hold it, but to serve the Lord.  This is the same with callings.  I’m the Primary pianist in our ward.  Why am I not the Relief Society president or Gospel Doctrine teacher?  Is it because I’m not capable?  No.  It’s because Heavenly Father called me where I’m meant to be for whatever reason.  Why have I never been choir director with all of my musical experience?  People have told me that I should be the choir director.  But God hasn’t called me to it.  Someone else has been chosen to grow and serve in that area.  I have no problem with that because it’s not about me. 

As a wife and mother, the priesthood is a joy to me.  After I carried our first son for 9 months and went through the amazing (yet extremely painful) experience of childbirth, my husband had no idea how much he would delight in watching me bond with our baby and was in awe of the power I had to create, deliver, and sustain life with my body.  It was a crack-up to see how enthused he was to change all of our son’s diapers the week he was in the hospital.  When it was time for our son to be blessed, I absolutely loved the fact that my husband had something so special to do for our son that I couldn’t do.

I love not asking our children, “Who do you want to baptize you?  Mommy or Daddy?”

I love the experience of my husband laying his hands on my head and giving me a blessing of comfort or healing.  I love to hear him bless our children. 

I have run into a few men who foolishly believe that the priesthood makes them superior, more spiritual, more knowledgeable, wiser, better able to make decisions, etc., but thankfully they are in the minority and I’m not married to one of them.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t given these guys a healthy dose of grief though.  Haha!  Sexists love being chastized by women.  Ah, the look on their faces when they realize I’m not going to lap up every word they say ……

But I suppose that would be another post.  I have successfully rambled and would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2011 1:34 pm

    A beautiful, well written and insightful post, thank you MorningStar!

    You know, I think I can guess where that bishop got his opinion (or maybe it’s not really his opinion, but an attempt at validating the sisters?). There have been quite a few General Conference talks about women (one in particular in the last one) that talk about how great and wonderful LDS women are, and some of these talks praise particular talents.

    However, I think the overall message is that, generally, women tend to be better at certain things that men are. The implication is that men tend to be better at other things. This isn’t a new revelation, even science shows this consistently, although the differences are almost never very large.

    I think the problem comes from putting a numerical value on a difference. Humans like to compare and categorise everything and everyone.

  2. June 7, 2011 11:18 pm

    I think I neglected to thank you for your very nice comment. :) We had a discussion at Mormon Dialogue a while back and I remember a non-member watching in disbelief as some men complained about women always being put on a pedastal. It was eye opening for them because they were under the assumption that men had it so good in the church, but they felt like they are always being told all the ways they need to do better while we’re told how great we are. One of the most interesting conversations, I think.

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