A response to The Style of Being: Mormon Feminism and Being Snarky

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A couple of days ago, I shared a link on my Facebook page from Feminist Mormon Housewives on becoming heretics and the pain that comes from being outside the box of cultural Mormonism.

As part of the discussion that ensued, a link from The Style of Being was shared. I started to write a response and it turned out that I had a lot to say on the topic.

I am not a member of Ordain Women and I have not appreciated all of their actions. After much study and prayer, I do not know how I feel about women’s ordination. However, I do know that OW isn’t the bogey man that cultural Mormonism makes them out to be.

Here’s my response to Mormon Feminism and Being Snarky

Men and Women are NOT THE SAME…

This is true. But women and women are not the same. Neither are men and men.

If I look at each of my girlfriends, I see a few places where we overlap – we all love each other, for example – and many, many places where we differ. Some of us are driven, headstrong, stubborn and unforgiving of the things that stand in our way. Others are more inclined to “float” through life and are content with what life brings them. All of us have our soft spots and our hard spots. Not one of us is the same as another.

More than that, how are we defining things that are traditionally female? Compassion? Love? Gentility? Easy going? What would you call “female” attributes?

My husband and I often joke that I make a better man and he makes a better woman, based purely on stereotypical roles.

My husband is naturally more compassionate than I am when it comes to someone being injured. He gets a headache or damages his hand or something and I’m like “Well, take some Tylenol and get over it.” On the other hand, when I fell and hurt my wrist and scrapped up my leg, he took care of me for a couple of days before he started to be annoyed with me.

He tends to be more patient, easier going, more inclined to follow, softer than I am. Those are wonderful attributes and I strive to emulate them in many places.

With that kind of background, I have to wonder: how would you define “what makes [you] inherently female”?

Lastly, OW uses a grammatical imperative. That’s their goal. However, they are not telling anyone else what to think. They are telling members of their organization – people who are exercising their right to freedom of association – to gather around a common ideal. They are expressing their opinion that women’s ordination is the only way to fix the gender inequalities in the church. They also claim to be asking the questions: Can women be ordained? And why can’t women be ordained? We can disagree about methods, but it is your interpretation that they are telling women what to think, not necessarily reality.

Priesthood Responsibilities Are Designed to Grow Good Men

Absolutely we need man and woman together. We do complement each other. Of course women cannot do it all. I could never manage two jobs and a child without my husband there with me. We support each other. But what his role is and what my role is are defined by us in concert with God. Right now, my role is to be the primary breadwinner. I currently have more earning potential than he does and it’s helping keep us out of crippling debt. Meanwhile, he is the SAH parent. He’s actually pretty good at it too. And Monkey needs her dad. She needs her mom but she also needs her dad.

Also, while my husband stinks at housework (pretty sure Priesthood is not going to fix that) he is generally, as I stated above, the kinder, softer one and more inclined to follow instead of fight. Soooo… maybe I need the Priesthood responsibilities to teach me skills my husband is already good at.

And, really, I don’t understand how blessing and passing the sacrament or serving in leadership roles is “tailored to [the men’s] needs.” These are positions that are pretty generic across the church and many women could benefit from them as well as men.

Yes, western women do tend to do “everything”. Some of this is because when women work outside of the home, they still find or make time to keep the house and see their children (working moms do more housework and more childcare than their working fathers counterparts). This doesn’t mean that men are slacking or that they are being pushed out by women. Men and women just make different choices. Doing “everything” is a choice women make. Everyone should feel like they can choose how to spend their time. A strong man is not going to be pushed out by a woman. Our goal should be to have strong men to complement strong women, not weak women to pacify weak men. Limiting the priesthood to men only simply because we are afraid men “need” the priesthood to be spiritually equal to women undercuts men and unfairly punishes women.

The Priesthood is Not a Status Symbol, Yo

Yes, I know this. This statement is at best misinformed and faulty. Wanting the priesthood does not mean wanting some kind of status symbol. It means wanting the equal treatment that is incredibly difficult to achieve without ordination to priesthood office.

When Kate Kelly says that equality can be measured, she’s not talking about something theoretical. She’s talking about necessity of having men and women as part of the church.

If one Sunday, no men showed up for church, Sacrament meeting literally could not be held. If no women showed up, meetings could go on as scheduled (there might be some scrambling in the primary, but otherwise everything would function as normal).

Moreover, priesthood ordination does lead to more influence within the church. Factually, there are very few roles that allow women to influence the direction of the church. I’m not talking doctrine here; I’m talking culture and, especially, policy.

On the ward level, there’s an appearance of near equality. Wards have the Bishop and the RS President, the Sunday School President and the Primary President, the Young Men and Young Women Presidents. However, only the bishopric is allowed to actually extend callings, and a bishop can turn down a RSP’s request (and it is a request; she has no real authority to do anything but ask) for a certain teacher, counselor, etc. Additionally, you have the EQP, which is really more the RSP’s equivalent, and the HP Group Leader. Men outnumber women in leadership positions at the ward level almost two to one. Also, while the Primary President is traditionally filled by a woman, it does not have to be, while the Sunday School President is specifically a male-only position.

When you get to the stake level, that equality of administration lessens. There’s the Stake President and the Stake auxiliary presidencies. There is no Stake EQP and the HP President is the Stake President. However, there are 12 high counselors (which is a priesthood function). There are five men for every one woman in stake leadership (unless you are counting auxiliary counselors which evens the numbers to 2.5 men for every one woman; better but auxiliary counselors have significantly less authority than the high counselors and usually only the presidents are part of ward and stake counsels).

There are no female equivalents to Area Authority 70, General 70 or the Quorum of the 12. We do not even know who the women who serve on the auxiliary general boards are.

Even if we assume for a minute that this is how Jesus Christ wants His church to be run, we still need to address the more policy and cultural elements of Mormon inequality. How many women are involved in the curriculum writing committee (CWC)? I don’t know.

However, Chieko Okazaki did shed a little bit of light on this process:

I was the education counselor, so I worked with one of the men on the curriculum committee. We wanted to change the manual so that it brought up modern-day problems that women have to face and focus on how to implement some of the gospel doctrines and principles in dealing with the problem.

I had written a general outline, and the Relief Society presidency approved it. So I talked about it to a man on the Curriculum Committee. He went to his boss, and the boss said, “We don’t

need a new manual for the Relief Society.” “Why don’t we need a new manual?” “We already are writing a manual for them.”

So he came back and told me that a new manual was already being prepared. I asked what it was, and he said, “Well, it’s the manual on Harold B. Lee.” It was the first one in that series of teachings of the Church presidents. I asked, “Why are they writing a manual for us on Harold B. Lee?” He didn’t know.

I told the presidency, so we went and asked the Curriculum Committee, “What is this all about?” They said, “Well, we’re already almost finished with the first book.” We said, “You’re almost finished with the first book, and you didn’t tell us that you were doing this? Why is this is the first time we have heard about it? Chieko has been writing an outline in relation to what women need.” So I asked, “Who is writing this manual?” It turned out to be five men, and the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Society would have the same lessons.

I asked, “Why aren’t the women included in this?”

The RSP was significantly shut out of the process.

There is ONE book that is an official church publication addressing the heritage of the Relief Society. In the first three chapters, Women are mentioned or talked about 1.3 times as frequently as men, but men are quoted twice as often as women. In a book about the Relief Society. If you remove the scriptural references (quotes from the scriptures and scriptural references to women), the ratio of women to men references becomes about equal while the number of men to women quotes stays about the same.

This is not a doctrinal, but a cultural/policy issue which has many ways of being addressed, but ordaining women is certainly one of them. I don’t know that it’s the best solution, but it is probably the quickest.

Lastly, the idea that if women were ordained there would be no need for men in the church is completely ridiculous. Maybe men could spend more time with their families if their wives were administering in the church. We could have YW pass the sacrament as well (that may not be needed everywhere in the Mormon Bubble, but it absolutely has been an issue in some of the wards I’ve lived in). Some branches could become wards and some groups that cannot be branches due to lack of priesthood leadership due to a lack of active men could become branches.

Same Destination – Same Airline – Different Carry-on Luggage

Since we are supposed to become like our Godly parents, it would be really great if we actually knew anything about our Heavenly Mother. Or what “eternal gender roles” look like. Also, my husband can totally have little-m motherhood. He can be pregnant and carry a baby for 9-10 months. Let me tell you what, I am not a fan of pregnancy at all. Once “those little rugrats” are earthside, they need both mother AND father. Studies show that an absentee father is extremely detrimental to child development and healthy adulthood. Fatherhood deserves a lot more respect than we give it.

Priesthood has no other equivalent, as far as we know, and it is not a gender role.

Trust in the Lord with all Thine Heart

Well, yes, of course. I haven’t spoken to one member of OW who has not come to their opinion on female ordination other than through study and prayer. This is not often an easy decision to make. It marks you as an “unbeliever” in the eyes of many. However, many of these women, our sisters, are trusting God who is directing them to be part of this. “We” assume that because they are different, they are not following God. This is silly and judgmental and hurtful. The history of the church shows revelation often comes from the top down in response to a request from the bottom up.

You may not like how the questions are being asked. I agree that tone is important. It is unfortunate that much of the tone of this entire discussion has been set by people who have not taken time to study and pray about the issue (I am not referring to OW). Labeling someone an apostate for not asking a question the “right” way is asinine. It perpetuates a negative tone.

We don’t know why women are not ordained. Full Stop.

It is simply how the Lord put it, maybe period, maybe for now, but any other reason is not true. We have a responsibility to seek after truth. We have a responsibility to ask difficult questions. We have a responsibility to not get stuck in the Mormon Box, to study and pray about this and many other topics. We have a responsibility to not believe what the media says, what the church PR department says, or what OW says without knowing as much as we can about the entire situation, praying about it when we begin our study and then praying about it after our study and listening and following whatever the Holy Ghost tells us. THAT is trusting in the Lord. THAT is not relying on the arm of flesh.

The Restoration continues. We believe that God will yet reveal many great and important truths pertaining to the kingdom of God. We must ready ourselves to accept whatever that is. It may be ordaining women.

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5 responses »

  1. This was my response to the blog Mormom Feminism and Being Snarky. (I actually have snark in it too)

    Priesthood is not a gender role.

    For the love of all that is pure and holy, for love of all that is actually true and how things are, for the love of all men and women, for the bajillionth time Motherhood is equal and complimentary to Fatherhood. So those rugrats on the carpet? Women don’t spontaneously reproduce on their own accord, he helped conceive with his manhood and his fatherhood, not his priesthood. Bam no inequality yo. Do I need to draw you a chart? When did people get so stupid as to suggest that Priesthood had an equal? let alone that it is a woman’s body?

    The Priesthood does not have an equal. It is the authority of God after all. I am not sure what that means for women’s ordination, their eventual exaltation, and how it fits into doctrine.

    Some other things priesthood is not, is an equalizer, something to make men better like women naturally are (sexist much?), something men need to be “schooled” in to become more like God, and all that other benevolent bullshit. it is not doctrine, it is common Mormon culture, and you don’t see anyone telling you to get out of the Church for preaching falsely.

    Stop with the Priesthood is a male gender role. It is not. Even the very definition of Priesthood does not mention gender “The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of our Heavenly Father. Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and earth. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children. He gives worthy priesthood holders authority to administer ordinances of salvation. All of Heavenly Father’s children can qualify to receive these ordinances and access the power and blessings of the priesthood.” And as we saw in the most recent address from E. Oaks, it is for and used by everyone. If it were really so gendered, women would not have it, and they do, just not the keys.

    We don’t know why women are not ordained. Full Stop. It is simply how the Lord put it, maybe period, maybe for now, but any other reason is not true. It is not as cut and dry as anyone tries to say it is. There have been several prophets who taught that women could and/or should be ordained to the Priesthood. Even Ally Isom said female ordination was not against our doctrine in her interview with Doug while on errand for the Church. So don’t pretend anyone is in apostasy for suggesting women could or should be ordained.

    Though while I am talking about such asinine things, “Can a group of people who admittedly oppose the doctrine, to the point of launching a media campaign, really consider themselves as being ‘within’ the church? And as mormons, we truly believe that the church is operated by Christ himself, in a person-to-person link with latter day prophets. So yes, opposition to doctrine is opposition to God, according to our own beliefs.”

    I suggest you take a a quick history and doctrinal lesson.
    Prophets are fallible. The End. So they are very capable of making some mistakes that people, even Mormons, can see the error in, and be 100% correct about, even if the Prophet himself was wrong about.

    1885: LDS Church publicly condemns and releases Bishop John Sharp for renouncing polygamy.
    1890: LDS Church renounces polygamy.

    1942: LDS Church excommunicates Helmuth Huebner, who had been arrested for opposing Hitler and was awaiting execution.
    1946: Hübener is posthumously reinstated with the note, “excommunicated by mistake.”

    1977: LDS Church excommunicates Byron Merchant and Douglas A. Wallace for opposing LDS ban on Blacks receiving the priesthood.
    1978: LDS discontinues ban on Blacks receiving the priesthood.

    And don’t “Lord timing” that either, God is unchanging. The intelligence, understanding, and traditions of his prophets are, so they can be in error. And they have been in error before. Error does not need to constitute leading astray.

    The more we teach the notion that the prophet can do no wrong, the more we force people out of the Church for recognizing the truth, for Prophets can do wrong, so you are setting them with a model that teaches fallibility means falsehood. And that is leading people out of God’s church, and that is apostasy.

    When you can teach divine calling amidst fallibility if you teach the truth of mortality “…imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.” -Jeffrey Holland

    And lastly, how dare you blame feminism for the wrongs in the world? Do you not know what feminism is? Or isn’t? Or do you not understand statistics? Violence? anything remotely relating to power structures? I guess that makes sense. Because those who internalize sexism of course have the most self doubt.

    Equality is not about sameness. Feminism is not about making women like men. I can’t believe you actually fell victim to that drivel of lies. What other lies are you falling victim to?

    The truth is out there. You can find it. It may mean questioning tradition, ” D&C 93:39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.” and ” Mosiah 26:1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.” It is up to us to figure out which are the righteous traditions and which are the wicked traditions.

    Sexism is not righteous.

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