Dear Guy in Your Thinking Place,
You don’t know me, but I read with interest your recent blog post postulating several theories for why women don’t have the Priesthood in Mormonism. I have thought long and hard about your ideas and I have some questions.
In your example of a boy being sad because he’s too small to play football, you describe an individual who, due to his physical differences and inadequacies, is left out of something. So, my first question is: Do you believe that women, as a group, lack some capacity or ability to hold the Priesthood? If you do, then I should probably stop writing. But if you do not, then I can only wonder why you would compare an individual’s sadness at not being well suited for something to an entire category of people being systematically excluded from something.
Next, you claim that “in our search to understand equality and God, we have to consider what the Priesthood gives, and what the absence of the Priesthood gives as well.” So, my question is: Are we better off with more than half of our people not fully participating? And as a follow-up, I would also ask: Are members better off in branches because there aren’t enough Priesthood holding men in a ward area? Are men better off carrying the burden and responsibilities of Priesthood to bring about the kingdom of God without the equal yoking of women to help them? I don’t think we are. The absence of Priesthood gives us nothing.
When you discuss the current view of the Priesthood you present a quick history of who has and has not held the Priesthood keys. I’m going to assume that you don’t believe women are, collectively, in a state of apostasy and so that can’t be why we are excluded from Priesthood authority. Having made that statement, I thank you for pointing out that the trend over history—both ancient and recent—has been a move from exclusion to expansion; the ability to hold Priesthood authority has expanded from Jew to Gentiles, from adult men to 12-year-old boys, from a racial exclusion to equal access regardless of color. So my question is as follows: Wouldn’t expansion of Priesthood authority for women be the next logical step? The idea that the expansion should stop now does not square with history, and it runs contrary to the promises in the 9th Article of Faith.
In your attempt to address the Motherhood = Priesthood argument that is so often rendered, you call it “apples and oranges to refute this statement by comparing childbirth to blessing a child because it takes the hardest part of being a mother (the low point) and compares it to a baby’s blessing (the high point) of the Priesthood.” First, let me say that I have been heavily involved in this debate for almost five years and I have never heard anyone refute the Motherhood = Priesthood equivalency with that argument. And it’s unfortunate that you focus on this because the bone of contention with the equivalency isn’t the high/low comparison; it is that comparing Motherhood to Priesthood is like apples and Oldsmobiles. My question to you is: Do you believe that fatherhood is important? I only ask because for most people, motherhood is equal to fatherhood. Priesthood, on the other hand, is a holy authority. The false equivalency of Priesthood = Motherhood diminishes fathers and their role. It also ignores the very real fact that motherhood is not available to all worthy women, while Priesthood is available to all worthy men, including boys as young as 12.
You then claim to wrestle with the “deeper question” of creation itself. I refuse to engage in biological assumptions about either sex and I will not romanticize the experiences women have during sex or childbirth, as they are unique and personal to each of us. It is true that we cannot know why we were created the way we were. But I will address your argument that because women and men are created to look different, that difference justifies the exclusion of women from Priesthood. That argument is fundamentally flawed and extremely dangerous. I can’t help but wonder: Do you truly not know the many ways this line of thinking has lead to the subjugation of countless groups throughout history? That we are endowed with different physical characteristics is no reason to assume innate emotional or intellectual capacities. I refuse to accept the idea that because I was created in the image of a Heavenly Mother, that somehow renders me less worthy of authority.
Finally, let’s discuss your idea that “not having the Priesthood gives women a tremendous opportunity – an opportunity to exercise their agency to act and change the world through love. While God needs agents who respond to duty, He needs those who respond to and carry love far more.” It is dismissive of the very real, very difficult women do in the service of their callings to say that we do not act in a sense of duty. And this statement leads me to my final questions: Do you think so little of men that you believe they require coercion to love and serve? and Do you think so little of women’s contributions to “authoritative direction” that we can be easily cast aside to demonstrate a nearly invisible distinction between love and duty?
So, Guy in Your Thinking Place, I applaud you for thinking about the question of women and the Priesthood. I hope many other guys in many other thinking places are wrestling with the very same topic. But I hope you will look at the questions I have asked you and sincerely wrestle with them because they get to the heart of the matter. And when you’re ready, we will be happy to share your profile at www.ordainwomen.org.
Woman in Her Pondering Spot