There is a movement now asking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to ordain women to the priesthood. The idea is that this would lead to “greater equality” by adding female leadership to the Church. There are a few questions those on both sides should ask themselves and a few things both sides need to realize to be realistic on what this topic is really about and before any changes should be or not be made.
The will of the Lord vs the will of the people
The idea of petitioning the Church to make this change is as rational as petitioning the Church to let men carry and give birth to babies. It’s not that the priesthood is a male right that women could never have. The issue is that the movements pushing and rejecting this issue seems to forget that it is the Lord that sets up the Church and who does what in it. He set up the creation, He organized the religion. Yes, the leaders of the Church can and do make policy without asking for a new revelation before doing every little thing. But, larger changes like this would require revelation and always have. (See Acts 10.)
When Joseph Smith set up the Relief Society it was more exclusive – not every woman was permitted to join. At one point Smith stated that “he was going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day— as in Paul’s day” but this never happened. (Romans 16: 1-2 talks about Phobe, the female Deacon that brought Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome.) It maybe that was good for then and women should get the priesthood now. But, it is the Lord that directed Smith to set up the Relief Society and it should be the Lord that allows women to receive the priesthood – not a petition. Some things are policy, and policy can be changed by the Brethren. Others are not and must be taken to the Lord. It is irrelevant what men and women want, and it seems both sides have forgotten this in their arguments, based on interviews and articles popping up on the web.
Looking at their Facebook page, the Ordain Women group claims that they are “Mormon women seeking equality and ordination to the priesthood.” They further state that,
“Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormon women to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”
Likewise, when interviewed President Linda K. Burton, president of the Relief Society, stated that
“I don’t think women are after the authority; I think they’re after the blessings and are happy that they can access the blessings and power of the priesthood. There are a few that would like both. But most of the women, I think, in the Church are happy to have all the blessings. That’s what matters most to them, and it doesn’t matter who holds that umbrella. They’re happy to let someone else hold the umbrella because we have different complementary roles and are happy with that.”
Public opinion is not, nor should it be, how things work. What both sides should be looking for on this issue is revelation from God, not just a pass or fail from the brethren or the wishes of the members.
What does the Lord want and why is no one asking Him?
The thing that is bothersome at closer examination is that no one is looking at making men equal to women. Should men start going to Women’s Conference? Should men be admitted to the Relief Society? It was wonderful that women have their own organization to care for each other back when women had less rights and were seen more like property, existing solely to care to the needs of the men and to bring babies into the world. Perhaps in this new modern world, men and women have identical needs and the “separate but equal” roles should be abandoned and we should disband the Relief Society all together. Who is to say, other than the Lord?
Most members are likely all for a new revelation declaring the Lord’s will on the matter at this point anyway. It has been talked about for decades. When will we hear the voice of the Lord on the matter? I would argue the Joseph Smith would have gone to the Lord and printed His will by now. Add to the D&C – that’s what it is there for. There is no reason a religion that is based on revelation should wait for generations to make changes. Remember the chastisement of the brother of Jared.
“And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.” – Ether 2: 14
The Brother of Jared’s people were left without direction because he didn’t pray to the Lord. Of all the Book of Mormon stories, this is the one we should understand best. When Joseph Smith wanted to know what to do, he added to the D&C. The reality is that it doesn’t matter if the majority of women want it or not, it is the Lord’s decision and not man’s. Any woman, or man, quick to say “women need it” or “women don’t need it” does not get the issue. The real question should be, “what does the Lord want?” Let’s look to the Lord for revelation and settle this question.
The real question behind the questions and expectation of the answers
There is another thing to ponder in doing this and it is the second thing members should be looking at, the personal level of the question. Those opposed to females gaining the priesthood should ask themselves, what if the Lord says yes? But they are not alone. The question LDS feminists should ask themselves is, what if there is a revelation and it says to keep the status quo?
Members on both sides need to be sure of their testimonies fist off and foremost. Are we asking for what the Lord wants when we take side or are we just looking to convert the Lord – have Him simply tell us what we want to hear? We should be looking to do what is right in all matters, not just what is convenient (keeping the status quo) or what is politically correct (changing for the sake of change).
No one bothered to ask the Lord what he wanted when it came to “blacks” and the priesthood until the 1970’s and we found out we were wrong in our policies. Let’s not make that mistake again.
Regardless of the outcome, the results may not change anything
Speaking of “blacks” and the priesthood, look at what giving blacks the priesthood did for them. Organizationally, nothing. It is wonderful that the Church finally changed its policy to reflect the will of the Lord, and it has certainly blessed the lives of people – men and women – all over the world. Yet, the chances of seeing a “black” Prophet/President of the Church at this point are still zero. We would likely see as many women General Authorities in forty to fifty years as we see black General Authorities now. This makes the feminist point of view moot.
Yet there is another point to the feminist argument, and a valid one at that – why aren’t men looking up to the women? Or at least, what aren’t women feeling that men are taking them seriously? Women are in leadership positions, they speak in General Conference. Are men taking these women with a grain of salt? This is a personal question each man should answer and has nothing to do with the priesthood. It has to do with the lack of understanding some men (and women) have with the organization of the Church. If all leadership are called of God, then all leadership are equally worth our ears when they speak, regardless of gender.
In addition, women are not using the priesthood powers they do have. When was the last time anyone saw a woman lay hands on the sick?
“The Church teaches that a woman may lay hands upon the head of a sick child and ask the Lord to bless it, in the case when those holding the priesthood cannot be present. A man might under such conditions invite his wife to lay hands with him in blessing their sick child. This would be merely to exercise her faith and not because of any inherent right to lay on hands. A woman would have no authority to anoint or seal a blessing, and where elders can be called in, that would be the proper way to have an administration performed.” – Joseph Feilding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 3 – Chapter 9 “Patriarchs, Blessings, and Administrations: Law of Patriarchal Lineage
In this chapter Smith states that women do not have the priesthood, it is their faith that allows them to lay on hands. I would argue that women DO in fact have the priesthood, but not they keys of laying on hands using the Melchizedek priesthood. They are not ordained with the Aaronic nor the Melchizedek, but yet may still use priesthood power.
It is also interesting to note that the same chapter quotes Joseph F. Smith as stating that;
“A wife does not hold the priesthood with her husband, but she enjoys the benefits thereof with him; and if she is requested to lay hands on the sick with him, or with any other officer holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, she may do so with perfect propriety.”
The non-member perspective
On a final note, there is one group of people that has been left out – non-members. To be blunt, those that are offering opinions outside the religion should mind their own business. If they truly care, they can be baptized, receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and get to doing the Lord’s work. What we do is not easy to understand without having faith in Christ, having repented for sins and received of the saving ordinances. Without the knowledge of Christ, our very organisation should be irrelevant along with all the things these women are wanting to do. Without remittance of sins, who are they to cast the first stone? Without the Holy Ghost they will not be able to pray for guidance and revelation on what to do in these matters. Therefore, their opinions are unwarranted and unnecessary. This is why our scriptures ask us not to interfere with other faiths (Articles of Faith 1: 11); without a harmony of beliefs we will never come into agreement on these or many other matters.
The questions to this issue are simple, why do we chose the sides we do, or sides at all for that matter? What does the Lord want? And, what do we really want the Lord to change; feminist’s minds, the role of women, the will of the Lord or our own understand of how the Lord works? If we can answer these with anything reflecting the Hymn “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” then the answers do indeed matter as we will be looking to the Lord for guidance, rather then choosing sides at all. If the answers do not reflect this, then it is time to either rethink priories or move on to another faith that will give members a god that reflects a more human likeness.
The idea that we, as a religion or a Church, should give in to the demands of protesters is simply ludicrous. If people demanded we stop worshiping Christ, should we do it? No. While this is a legitimate topic that should be examined, there is not enough evidence – historical or otherwise – to make a clear determination. Additional new revelation are needed, and once gained would be required to become scripture to ensure the correct path for the Relief Society.