There has been a lot of talk recently about women’s issues in the church. I personally have spent much time in thought and prayer about these issues, trying to find where exactly I fall on the continuum.
It seems that every time women become vocal about an issue in the church (wear pants to church day and women praying in conference are recent examples), there is an automatic jump from some to, “You just want the priesthood.” For most women, I don’t think this is true.
That being said, some women do want the priesthood. In fact, there is a recent movement with that exact goal in mind.
When I pray about this, it just doesn’t feel right to me for women to be ordained. Is that the Spirit telling me that it truly is only for men? Is it simply my upbringing in a very traditional LDS family and the inability to see things differently? Am I afraid of having the priesthood and what that might entail? I really don’t know.
All I know is that when I look at the subject logically, I can’t really think of a reason why women shouldn’t have the priesthood. And yet my heart still tells me no.
So, I wanted to lay out some of the arguments briefly here for discussion, and my opinion on those arguments.
- Argument #1: Women don’t need the priesthood because they have motherhood. I have got to be honest, this argument really bothers me. I don’t see the priesthood as the equivalent of motherhood. I see fatherhood as the equivalent of motherhood. What about all the girls from age 12 up who aren’t yet mothers? What about the women who never marry? What about those who never have children? What about those who have raised their children and no longer contribute to their children’s lives on a daily basis? This is a significant number of women in the church and a whole lot of people to disenfranchise. Is it okay that those individuals don’t have the blessing of having the priesthood OR motherhood? And how about a shout out to the great fathers in the church? If we say they need the priesthood to match our mad parenting skills, what is that taking away from them?
- Argument #2: Men need the priesthood to be spiritual, but women are already spiritual by nature. This to me sounds like an excuse to be lazy in our spiritual lives – it’s innate for women to be spiritual and gifted to men via the priesthood? I don’t buy it. I would say there are some people who have an innate spirituality. There are others who aren’t so much spiritual by nature but it’s important to them so they work at it. There are others (both who have the priesthood and who don’t) who simply don’t really care about spirituality. Point being, I think this just varies so much by individual that I don’t buy it. Now, I do think that you could argue that priesthood responsibility does give some men an impetus to develop this part of their life more, just as being called as RS president may encourage a woman to fine tune. I also think this discredits men to a certain extent. Really, are they that sinful and base that they simply cannot develop a spiritual self without having the priesthood?
- Argument #3: Boys need the priesthood to be trained how to be leaders. I can see some point to this, as I think serving in quorum leadership and having “duties” to carry out (Sacrament, home teaching, missionary service, etc.) does helps boys to learn to serve. However, I would also say that our girls also need leadership opportunities in order to learn how to be leaders, and our boys get far more opportunities than our girls do for that.
- Argument #4: Women don’t need the priesthood because they benefit equally from the priesthood. To me, this could be true in a perfect world. However, the world is not perfect. Even as an active LDS women with a priesthood holder in my home for most of my life, there have been times where I have felt that the blessings of the priesthood were inaccessible to me, or at least hard to come by. This can happen in many circumstances, such as when you are single until you are well past the average age, or when your husband is out of town a lot, or when your marriage is struggling and you don’t feel like you can turn to your husband or anyone else really because you don’t want your business aired, or when you just struggle with something really personal and don’t feel like speaking about it with a man, or maybe when you are serving in leadership and don’t feel on the same page with your bishop. A few years ago my husband was in Haiti for a month after the earthquake. During that time, my daughter needed a minor surgery and I wanted her to have a blessing. Our home teacher was out of town and his companion was his 14-year-old son. So, I called an LDS man up the street to see if he would stop by on his way home from work and give her a blessing. He did, and I was grateful. But the priesthood didn’t seem super accessible to me at the time.
- Argument #5: We don’t know the reasons why, only that God ordained men because that is how He wants it. I guess you could say this is where I am right now. I don’t know the reasons. When I look at it logically, it seems to me that women should have the priesthood. When I look at it with spiritual eyes, it just doesn’t feel right. I can’t explain, and I realize that many other women DO see it with their spiritual eyes. I just can’t get there yet.
I am sure you have heard other arguments, or may have come to your own conclusions. Please share.
So, where does this leave me? Well, I don’t think women should be ordained, at least right now. As I’ve stated above, I don’t know why and perhaps someday it will feel more “right” to me.
That is not to say that I don’t think our church could make some relatively small changes in the meantime that would help me and other women to feel a little more a part of the church we love. Below are some suggestions I have seen or have thought of. Again, please share your thoughts as well.
- Young women being assigned as visiting teachers, as their male counterparts are as home teachers.
- Female presidents given expanded counseling roles as part of their callings.
- Women being allowed to serve in callings that have traditionally been held by men but that have no priesthood keys, i.e. clerks, secretaries, and Sunday School presidencies. On the flip side, men could serve in Primary presidencies too. I would love it.
- Women leaders should have a place at the table in important meetings. I am speaking specifically of PEC (which currently RS presidents may be invited to…but there is that catch, “invited”, which some bishops do regularly, some occasionally, and some never). On second thought, why not invite the YW and Primary presidents as well? Combined, these 3 women serve a higher percentage of the ward than the men’s presidencies combined , with the exception of the bishopric. Between all of the children in the ward and all the women age 12 and up, to have this small, occasional voice does not seem fair or adequate. I watched the recent video of the three female general presidents, and I have to say it felt a little patronizing to me. I heard a lot of, “they seek out our opinions” or “they listen to us” or “they value what we say”, but the point is, it’s always at the invitation of a man. So, if you have a less enlightened bishop who doesn’t value women’s opinions – well, your just out of luck there. To me, it kind of just feels like a pat on the head and not a real voice.
- How about the bishop’s wife being more a part of things? (I am not saying this just as a bishop’s wife, I have often thought it before. ) I didn’t realize until recently how difficult it can be on a couple when a man is called as bishop. Suddenly he can talk to you about almost nothing and yet you see the struggles he is having. You may hear a little gossip about him or things that are going on. You see him on his knees in hours of prayer, and yet when you ask what’s up all he says is, “I can’t really talk about it.” Generally, men do not become bishops without a wife who is very capable and spiritual herself. I wouldn’t mind a little more credit in that area by my husband being able to say to me, “yeah, I am needing to make a change in this presidency but I am struggling so much with what is the right thing to do.” Obviously, confidential things are confidential. But those things that aren’t confidential but perhaps somewhat sensitive could use a little female input. The bishop’s wife can be a great resource for that. (Granted, some bishops still tell their wives everything…this I know from experience. Some, like my husband, tell me almost nothing and seek an opinion only occasionally.)
I’m sure I have not even tapped the surface of ways that women can be more involved without being ordained. I would love to hear your thoughts!