Yup. The time has come, sayeth the Bryce. For those of you who haven’t known (and I imagine this includes most of you), there’s been a bit of a movement (primarily in Utah) pushing for women to get the priesthood in the Mormon faith. (Yes, folks–this is another religion post. Move along if you aren’t interested. I’ll understand. I’m not even going to bother making some of this understandable to non-Mormons. It would take too much time to put it all in its proper context, and I’m a busy guy. Sorry.) Specifically, there’s a group of women who tried to attend priesthood conference last October who are trying again this go around. They were turned away at the door before, and they’ve been asked to hold their protest in a designated protest area this time–something they don’t want to do, as they don’t view themselves as protestors. The church issued a letter in response to the movement, and I’m more than a little curious to see what the fallout is when they try to get in to priesthood session again.
What’s the point of having a blog that touches on Mormonism from time to time if I let something like this pass by? I mean, that’s what they invented feet and mouths for, right?
So. Women and the priesthood. First off, let me say that I personally have nothing against women getting the priesthood. If the prophet came out tomorrow and said “Women can have the priesthood,” I wouldn’t have a crisis of faith. I’d also like to note that I don’t believe my particular opinion will have much of an influence one way or the other. So I’m going to just side-step the whole “should they/shouldn’t they” question. That’s up to God, not me.
That said, I think the more important question isn’t “should women have the priesthood,” but rather “why do some women want it”? I mean, there hasn’t been a big movement by men to join the ranks of the Relief Society. You don’t see men lining up to try and get into the Women’s Conference. (Or do you? Maybe some guys go all the time–I have no idea.) Frankly, a lot of the time it’s a struggle just to get the men to show up for the meetings they’re supposed to attend. I’d be surprised if many are chomping at the bit to go to more of them.
But of course, that’s kind of a cute answer, and one that misses the point. The fact is, some women feel like they’re being marginalized in the church. Are they? I would have to say that–in my experience–they are. Sometimes. I’ve heard comments that put women down. I’ve seen them ignored in meetings. Not as part of policy, but as part of an individual’s actions. (Then again, any church that has millions of members is bound to have some bone heads who do stupid things–even bone heads in leadership positions. Changing church policy as an attempt to eliminate the bone heads is a futile effort. Because bone heads.)
It’s hard to deal in big generalities. “Ordain women.” That comes with so many different facets, how in the world can you cover it in a blog post? But I came across this site that delineates some of the way women feel marginalized. Check it out, then come back here.
You back? Okay. As I look over this list, I have to say I agree with quite a few things. “Encourage partnership in marriage and eliminate the idea that husbands preside over their wives”? If I ever tried to pull the “I preside” trump card on Denisa, she’d backhand me so hard I’d be cross-eyed for a year. And it would be a deserved backhand. Marriage is a partnership, and I can find a whole slew of quotes to back me up on that, as well as very specific consequences about what should happen to men who try to pull the “I preside” card themselves.
Some other commentary by yours truly on items that stood out to me on the list:
- Parity between Young Men’s and Young Women’s organizations–Seems like a no-brainer to me. I imagine it’s already in place in many wards and stakes, and if it isn’t, why in the world isn’t it? A personal peeve of mine is how much money we dump into Scouting and Scout Camp compared to how we handle Girl’s Camp. Girl’s Camp is church run and emphasizes Gospel principles. My understanding is it costs significantly less than Scout Camp. If we were spending something like $300 per young woman who attends Girl’s Camp, then I retract that generalization, but something tells me we’re not. I have yet to have someone adequately justify to me why this is.
- Balance the stories of men and boys in church publications with those of women and girls–Another no-brainer. Might require stepping outside the easy stories to find examples of courageous women doing awesome things, but let’s face it: courageous women have been doing awesome things for just as long as men have been doing them. They just don’t get written down and put on a pedestal as much. Working toward parity should be a goal.
- Have women speak and pray in General Conference in equal proportion to men–This would obviously be harder to do, there being so many more men up on that stand each conference. Unless that changed, I see no way for this one to be accomplished. (And I’m not arguing that should change.)
- Use gender-inclusive language–No brainer. Being inclusive instead of exclusive costs nothing, and if it can help people feel more accepted, then why not do it?
- Both genders are equally responsible for sexual behavior–I completely agree. The sooner we stop trying to foist responsibility for chaste thoughts on anyone other than the individual having those thoughts, the better. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think men and women should both put some clothes on, stop taking provocative pictures, etc. I do think it’s important young women realize what sort of an effect the way they dress can have on young men–but young men aren’t helpless to look elsewhere, think clean thoughts, and stay morally clean all on their lonesomes.
- Examining each calling to see if it could be filled by men or women–All in favor of this, too. Sunday school president? Heads of administrative departments? University presidents? This is a discussion that could and should happen. THAT SAID, one potential issue I see that could come up relates to mixed-gender presidencies. As a former Elders Quorum President, I know how much time I spent with my presidency, planning and talking and serving others. If you exchanged one of my councilors with his wife? I’m not sure how comfortable that would make me. (I realize equality isn’t all about comfort, but hear me out.) I believe you’d see an uptick in broken marriages if you start mixing genders in presidencies. Why? Because that’s an awful lot of extra time you’d be spending with someone other than your spouse. I do my best to limit my one-on-one time with any female who’s not my wife. Not because I think I’m just irresistible or that I have no self control, but because that’s just a generally good practice to have to avoid putting myself in any situations I don’t want to end up in. I love my wife, and I’d like to continue loving her and only her. Taking myself “off the market” as best I can is a great way to continue to be in that situation.
- Change seminary teacher hiring practices–Another one that seems like a no brainer to me. Maybe I don’t fully understand the implications.
- Have young women and young men serve missions for the same length of time and at the same time of their lives–I see no reason why this can’t happen, though again–I realize I’m not God, and there might be some excellent reasons why not.
- Call young women as district leaders or zone leaders or assistants to the president–Another thing I’m in favor of. Being a DL, ZL, or AP involved no laying on of hands. No priesthood keys. No nothing other than a phone call from the president. I was talking to the sisters in my ward the other day, and I asked them what “Sister Trainer Leaders” did, and they said they helped train sisters and helped them with “emotional issues.” I about blew my top, but I stayed quiet. There are fantastic sister missionaries out there who would be superb leaders. They are capable of much more than helping with emotional issues. (And why is it Sisters need particular help with “emotional issues” and Elders don’t? Grr.)
The issues I didn’t particularly call out, I don’t feel qualified to speak about. They touch on doctrinal things that go beyond this blog. I think for me, the bottom line is that if this Gospel is being implemented correctly, then women shouldn’t feel marginalized. I’m not debating the fact that some do–I’m saying that some practices could be refined to make sure we’re staying in line with where the Gospel already is.
That said, I can’t help but feel the way these women are going about it at this point is going to eventually work against them, even though I understand why they continue to do it. They did this “please let us into Priesthood session” last time, and it got results. Changes were made–changes cited in the church letter sent in response to them this time. As long as their actions resulted in positive change, why would they see any need to stop them? Unfortunately, I could easily see this turning into a situation where some are excommunicated, which would be a shame.
But enough of what I think. What I’m really curious about is what you all think. Please keep it respectful, and don’t make me delete any comments. I’ve got friends who are firmly on either side of this issue, and I’d like us to have a good conversation. Ready? Set? Go!