It’s no secret that for two years now, Ordain Women has been seeking priesthood ordination for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are a couple arguments that we constantly hear to “prove” why seeking the priesthood isn’t just wrong, but completely unnecessary. Let’s take a closer look.
The Ruby Slippers Fallacy
Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: She wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy goes through an amazing journey in order to return home only to discover at the end that she had the power within her all along, if only she had known! Some have argued similar things to us – saying we’ve already got priesthood power, we just don’t understand the gospel! Or we’re told that priesthood power “makes flowers grow, rain to fall, gravity to work” – it’s all around us so why do we need to look for it?
The second idea is simply erroneous – while we have been taught that it is through priesthood that God created the world, this is not a key or power that is available to mortals. Moreover, the scriptures have countless examples that make it quite clear that priesthood is something that needs to be conferred upon you, not something that everyone gets by simply existing within God’s creation.
The first idea does have some truth to it – women are promised in the endowment that we will be priestesses. However, the endowment is not what members of Ordain Women are seeking. We are looking for the power and authority to participate in priesthood ordinances and leadership structure outside of the temple, for both endowed and non-endowed members, the same ordinances that men can participate in whether or not they are endowed. Saying we have the power within us does not mean that we can baptize our children or help pass the sacrament. It is not a case of misunderstanding; it is a clear case of not having the same access and permission as men do.
The Motherhood Fallacy
The second and more common argument is that women have priesthood power because they gestate babies, or that women do not need the priesthood because they gestate babies. It’s true that many females can bear children while men cannot. The comparison, however, falls apart when you examine it more closely.
Using the first variation of this argument, one could argue that if women hold the priesthood by gestating babies, then animals do as well. This picture shows a sheep named Big Texas who recently had a lamb. Does Big Texas hold the priesthood?
Another thing to consider is the fact that many women all over the world, regardless of their nationality, belief system, or righteousness, have the potential to bear children. Do pregnant women in the distant corners of the world who have never heard of Jesus Christ have claim to His priesthood? Belle Gunness bore at least 4 children, and was a serial killer who murdered 25-30 people, including some of the children she gave birth to. Did she hold the priesthood?
Finally, there are the myriad problems with fertility and pregnancy. The comparison simply falls apart. In order to righteously become pregnant, an adult woman must be married and she and her husband must both be free from medical problems that cause infertility. In order to be ordained to the priesthood, a boy simply must turn 12. If childbearing is women’s equivalent to priesthood, where does that leave women who suffer from infertility, who cling to righteousness but can never become pregnant on their own? Where does it leave young girls who are too young to become pregnant, women who are unmarried, and post-menopausal women who can no longer become pregnant?
Pregnancy and childbirth can be a beautiful, transformative experience. However, this experience is not comparable to priesthood. Exercising the priesthood is a conscious effort; gestating a child is an unconscious biological process. One can choose to see the power of God in this process, but that also means that the power of God is behind preeclampsia, stillbirths, hyperemesis, congenital defects, gestational diabetes, and all the other complications that often accompany pregnancy. Actual priesthood ordinances are not life-threatening or unpredictable like pregnancy is, and you always know when you are participating in a priesthood ordinance, while pregnancy can be unknown even up to the point of birth.
Pregnancy is not priesthood. It is not a substitute for priesthood. It is, in fact entirely different, and should not be used as reasoning for women to not participate in the ordinances and leadership structure of our church.
Ordain Women is seeking ordination to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods in the Church, the same as men. These have very distinct definitions in the Bible dictionary and ordination to these priesthoods are distinct events with their own rituals and records kept. They are not inherently bestowed upon all members of the church simply for existing. Ordination to these priesthoods, and only these priesthoods, make members eligible to perform priesthood ordinances outside the temple and give members access to the leadership structure of the church. Please stop trying to feed us misdirections and substitutions. We know what we want, and no, what you are trying to feed us is not the priesthood we seek.