Last week we looked at some of the cool profiles on mormon.org that are part of a new effort to make members real and accessible for potential investigators. And we talked about the difficulties of giving members an open mic on some of the tough questions. This week let’s look at another tough topic: Women and the priesthood.
First of all, here is the phrasing of the question: Why don’t women hold the priesthood in the Mormon Church? How do women lead in the Mormon Church?
The first “answer” was just a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley, and frankly it was the one I liked best, although I worried a smidge about how outsiders might perceive part of it:
“Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. (Here we run the risk of sounding like we are saying “because the Lord, who is a man, told the leaders, who are all men . . .” You get the point). It is part of His program. Women have a very prominent place in this Church. Men hold the priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith (need I say “a man”), called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women’s organization in the world… They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world…
“The men hold the priesthood, yes. But my wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise.” (This is my favorite part of his quote).
Common member answers that I thought would be generally acceptable to outsiders:
- God sets the rules.
- “Well, the quick answer is God’s priesthood, God’s rules. In reading the Holy Bible you can see that the priesthood of God has always been exclusive. I’ve heard lots of speculation on this over the course of my years in the Church, but I still think that the quick answer is only one we know for sure right now.”
- “I have a pretty simple understanding of this question. It’s God’s priesthood. He can give it to, or withhold it from anybody He chooses. If I thought the church was led by men, instead of by God himself, then I might think that they were selfish, or old fashioned, or just wrong. But knowing that the head of the Church is God, I let Him govern His Church any way He so chooses. But from the outside looking in, I know that you might not know that God really is in charge. You might still be suspicious. I can understand that. Still, the true answer is to ask God. If this is truly His church, then we have less objections to Him choosing to run it His way.”
- Priesthood is always restricted.
- “The Lord has throughout the scriptures given different responsibilities to different people, based on all sorts of things.”
- “In the days of Moses, for example, not every man had the priesthood. It is only in our day that every worthy male may be ordained into the priesthood of God.”
- It’s only a matter of time. (This seemed a bit progressive, but the censors didn’t object.)
- “My faith is placed in God, and should He choose to extend priesthood to the women of the church, I’m okay with that idea. It’s His church, His priesthood, and I will follow Him any way He leads.”
- “As to why women do not hold the Priesthood, my answer is it is a matter of the Lord’s timing.”
- Priesthood blessings are for all, and it’s only used for service.
- “The priesthood is used to serve others and perform ordinances of the gospel, the blessings of which are enjoyed by both men and women.”
- “The priesthood power is not a gift or a right but an oath and covenant that a worthy man makes with the Lord. It is not a power for man’s own gain and a man is not better off than a woman because he holds this power. Women and men are entitled to the same blessings and promises when they live righteously.”
- “I have no doubt that I, woman, am as significant to my Heavenly parent as any man. If you understand that the priesthood is all about service, then perhaps you’ll see how this is a vehicle for men to serve God and their fellowman.”
- “The priesthood however, is not to be used to benefit yourself, but to benefit others, such as the sick, or anyone else (family or otherwise) who is in need of a blessing from God.”
- Women hold key leadership positions in the church. Sample comments:
- “There are certain positions that are held by men, and certain others that are only held by women.”
- “There are innumerable opportunities for women to serve and bless the lives of others through their church service. In the church I have always felt important and cherished. I feel that my contributions are appreciated and needed.”
- “Women do lead in the church in many callings, and do a spot on job of it.”
- “The five women in my life are leaders. They know what they want and what they don’t want. When they speak, I know I had better listen. While they do not currently have the Priesthood, they do certainly influence me. So do women who lead the children (the Primary organization) and the women’s organization (the Relief Society) and those who speak or pray or serve in the Lord’s house, the Temple.”
Common members answers that made me nervous:
- Priesthood? No, thanks! I’ve got my hands full with these dishes and dirty diapers, thank you very much!
- “When I read or hear similar questions such as these I want to laugh. To me a question like this is akin to asking for more responsiblity, more accountablity, more work, more angish (sic) etc. . . . I guess my question would be, why would a woman want to hold the priesthood?”
- “Honey, we women have enough to do! Why worry about holding the priesthood too? Just lovingly hold that dear husband of yours and support him as he honors the priesthood.” I think I threw up in my mouth a little on that one.
- “Personally, I would rather lead at home as a mother, than anywhere else.” I have been rendered incapable of speech by that one.
- Men and women are inherently different. Mommies have babies, and daddies do (insert awesome entitled stuff). All right, that’s a very loose paraphrase. But the old “boys and girls are different” routine often strays into sexist stereotypes easily sniffed out by investigators (unless they too are sexist).
- “Just as men have not been appointed to bear children in this life, so women have not been appointed to bear the priesthood.”
- “Men and woman have different responsibilites. The man has the responsibility of holding the priesthood and using those keys given to them (sic) in righteousness. Woman (sic) have another kind of responsibility that of bareing (sic) and rearing children.” Seriously, what is up with the grammar and spell check on mormon.org?? There is clearly no basic editing. (same comment) “Each of us, man and woman have a sacred roll (like the shewbread of the temple?) like our Heavenly Parents that is not talked of much, but is essential just the same.” I’m unclear what it is that is not talked of much. The roles of parents seem talked about a lot. Heavenly Father is talked about a lot. So does this mean that Heavenly Mother is not talked about? If so, there’s subject-verb disagreement in that sentence.
- Women have access through men. This is really close to saying women still get the blessings, but it has the twist of sounding like men take care of women and women are dependent on men.
- “As a woman I have total access to the blessings of the priesthood through my father, husband, bishop, and home teachers. Our home teachers visit my family in our home monthly and look after our well-being.”
- Women lead by example (aka being modest). This one kills me with its irrelevance. How do we go from a question about women and the priesthood to talking about how women should dress? Yet, here we go.
- “Many women in the Mormon Church also lead by setting an example of virtue, and do not follow the tight/low cut/body revealing fashions of this day but instead understand their true beauty is enhanced by their choice to be modest in dress.”
- “Young girls need righteous examples of Christlike women to whom they can look as they try to make good decisions in today’s world. Women who are modest, caring, honest and virtuous lead these girls to Christ.”
- Men need the priesthood because women are better than they are (aka Male Guilt Syndrome).
- “My wife is a remarkable woman, and does all of this without the priesthood. I, however, need the priesthood because I’m not a woman, and would fail miserably without it.”
- “Because men are rather selfish and self-centered by nature, they need extra guidance and teaching to acquire compassion and selflessness. Serving in the priesthood is that schooling process for them. Women, on the other hand, are much more natural in their abilities to love and serve and teach. Priesthood is not required for them to emulate the Savior’s commandment to love one another.”
Here are some things I could possibly say if I were answering this question:
- I don’t know why women don’t. Perhaps that will change at some point in the future. Women do use priesthood power within temples (but it’s not suitable for mormon.org which is primarily focused on a non-LDS audience).
- We have no paid clergy at the ward level, so priesthood is not a career in our church.
- Women hold at least as many leadership positions as men at the ward level, and are probably more influential in these roles. Women speak in church to the congregation every Sunday and teach lessons to adults.
- Our scriptures specifically state that anyone who uses “unrighteous dominion” loses his priesthood power.
What were your reactions to these answers? Did you like some I didn’t like or dislike ones I liked? What would your answer be to that question? Are you motivated to create your own profile yet? Discuss.