Thoughts on the Ordain Women question.

June 18, 2014

What is the doctrine of the Priesthood? Why are women not ordained to offices in the Priesthood organization?

I think I’ve finally sorted out all the particulars in this “Ordain Women” issue.  The underlying problem, I think, is that many, many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Mormons) don’t understand the priesthood.  They don’t know what it is or how it operates. In my observation, this problem is equally likely in males as females and is why the people involved in the Ordain Women movement won’t accept Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ talk on the subject as an answer to their anguish.

First, I’ve considered where these women, who are demanding that the Apostles pray for new inspiration, are coming from. (Do they know the story of Martin Harris and the lost manuscript? He wouldn’t take no for an answer until the Lord was wearied and said, Okay, have it your way…and take the consequences.) I would expect them to report that they have been ignored, belittled or undervalued by local priesthood leaders. They’re hurt and/ or they’re mad.
 I have had the sensation when I’ve been offended by what I perceived as the misbehavior of leaders, that I’d like to retaliate. “Bust that ninny “down” to a scout leader.” I doubt that there are any people in the world that have not run across a domineering, selfish person. BUT then I prayed about it.  I complained mightily in no uncertain terms and was astonished by the answer I received:

Don’t you think I am grieved when people use their position of authority to dominate instead of to bless? Don’t you think I am MOST offended by acting badly in my name? BUT…I still love him. I still want him to learn and do better. If I can love him,(who really is misbehaving) how much easier is it to love you, who are trying hard to do right?

I felt an outpouring of love for my Heavenly Father, from my Heavenly Father and also for the man/men who had offended me. I caught a glimpse of how the Lord saw him and considered for a moment what insecurities caused him to respond to me in the way that he had.

 As Ben Hur says, “I felt his words take the sword out of my hand.” The answer, like it always is, was love.

Back to the point. There will always be chauvinists. Changing the methods of leadership in the Church will not cause one male or female to repent or humble themselves enough to see how they have offended others. Only the chauvinist can decide to make one less of those in the world.

The priesthood, as defined in Church doctrine, is the ability and authorization to act in behalf of Jesus Christ. This is his Church and he has delegated that ability or authorized the righteous to act as he would act were he physically present. He honors those righteous acts and ordinances both in heaven and on earth as though he performed them himself. The promises inherent in a covenant are binding on Him when done by the authority of the Priesthood. But a covenant is only useful or relevant if the person making the covenant, (as in covenanting to be a disciple of Christ through the ordinance of baptism) lives by it. It matters nothing who performed the ceremony if the person receiving it doesn’t make the covenant with God.

So the question is: How would Jesus act? What is it that he charges us, as disciples of Christ, to do? If you answered “Read the scriptures and say your prayers,” you’d be wrong. We are constantly instructed to pray and to study the scriptures every day, not as an end, but as a MEANS to an end.  When we do those things, we feel his Holy Spirit. When we feel inspired, (another word for feeling the Holy Ghost/Spirit) we act on those promptings.  Those promptings will instruct us on how to minister to others. We’ll see whom we need to forgive. The needy, naked, lonely, hurting, will become noticeable to us. We’ll recognize how to best use our time, how to influence others for good. We’ll be motivated to work hard at our responsibilities. The Sermon on the Mount, (as recorded in Matt. 5-7) will become our daily instruction for what to DO, not what to know. We will come unto Christ by degrees as we step toward him.  This mighty change is the WAY we apply his atoning blood to our lives. We accept the Savior by accepting his direction and instruction and then following it.

In Matthew 7:21 Jesus instructs us, “Not everyone that saith unto me “lord, lord” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” That’s what EVERYTHING in the Church is about: Learning to communicate with God so that he can direct us in doing His work.  Only by becoming his disciple, by acting as he would act, do we have part in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  

Do women have less access to inspiration or promptings from the Holy Ghost than men? Of course not. Do we have less responsibility to respond to those promptings when they direct us to bless some  persons’ life? Of course not. Do we have less ability or right to help others understand and feel the indescribable love our Heavenly Father has for EACH of His children? Of course not. Do women have less liability in regard to the charge “Feed my sheep!”? Not by a long shot.

Each month, Mormon women are assigned to visit a few other women in their congregation, (called a ward). We call it “visiting teaching” We are expected to look after their needs and minister to them spiritually and temporally.  We build friendships and share our testimonies of Jesus Christ as we learn to help others. This program is in place, just in case a woman doesn’t have enough opportunity, or notice her responsibility to feed his sheep.When we’re in leadership roles, sometimes we don’t get down to the service element in our callings. So we have our assigned visits to keep “the rubber on the road.” It’s designed to soften our hearts and help us feel gratitude for our blessings. It’s a way of ensuring that each of us can be actively ‘coming to Christ.’

Every active Mormon woman and Mormon man is given an (unpaid) job or calling in the Church. Some of my more demanding “callings” have regularly taken more than 20 hours per week.  I’ve learned to minister wisely to the poor through the welfare program of the Church. I’ve learned to conduct a meeting in a timely way. I’ve learned to delegate and to lead by a leading example. I’ve learned to speak in public without getting nervous. I’ve taught adults and little children and every age in between.  As a seminary teacher, teaching a roomful of teenagers at 6:00 a.m. every school day, I’ve learned diligence and honed my ability to prepare and present meaningful lessons that will interest a tough crowd. (When they were awake enough to engage!) I’ve learned to council and to receive council.  I’ve also had my hurts soothed and my heart softened as I worked with the tiny children in the nursery. I’ve made hundreds of friends. I’ve even had hundreds of opportunities to use my writing talents through responding to a simple request from a priesthood leader.

All of these callings and many others have pushed me outside my comfort zone. They’ve forced me to stretch, to become, to grow and develop. They have given me confidence. All of these are “priesthood assignments.” All of them have been given through men who held the responsibility of directing the work.   

So what is it that the Ordain Women group want?  Ostensibly, they want to be allowed to hold new keys in the organization of the Church. Perhaps they want the right to perform ordinances.  They feel slighted by the restriction on which keys they are allowed to hold.

But women in the Church may hold some keys.  The presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women’s or Primary organizations, are given the keys to her priesthood calling (would ministry be a more precise word?). Men are not allowed to serve in the directing positions in any of those organizations. Women do not hold the “master” key over all priesthood assignments. Those demanding and extremely time-consuming responsibilities are relegated to men.  There is order and design in the Church to prevent inefficient chaos.

So the “Ordain Women” group feel they will have more respect and or honor if they are also allowed to hold the “master keys.”

But nobody is paid for the work they do in the Church.  All this foment is that these women think they want to donate a larger share of their weekly time to doing the Lord’s work.  No, that can’t be it. There is already PLENTY for everyone to do.  If ever I am a little bored, I can call up the women I visit teach and ask them what they need to have done or would like to do. I can minister to the needy or lonely. I can volunteer in a local food bank or . . .or. . . .or.  . . There are always plenty of sheep that need feeding.

So perhaps these ladies want to perform ordinances.  We know that it isn’t gender that prohibits women from administering ordinances like baptism because some of the ordinances in the temple are performed by women.

 I have often pondered the possibility that the act of gestating and giving birth through the blood and water from a woman to give mortal life is an ordinance very closely parallel to other saving ordinances.  It is in a woman’s body to perform the “ordinance” that brings a spirit into a mortal body. It is absolutely necessary to be born in order to return to our Father in Heaven.  An understanding of the holiness of this process, so essential to the children of our Father in Heaven, explains why our bodies are sacred and why sexual behavior is so closely guarded by the laws of God. Bringing forth a child into mortality is a holy sacrament…not a plaything.  The other saving ordinances are left for the men to perform so that they have an equal opportunity in blessing other’s through the power of godliness.  

So what is the doctrine that dictates that women cannot be given the “master keys?”

It is the doctrine of the family.  It has nothing to do with whether women are capable of being bishops and stake presidents. Of course we could.  We are presidents of stake and ward Relief Societies. We know how to run an organization. We know how to delegate. We work hard. We love to serve others because we love the Lord.

 But who is going to care for the children? Who is going to nurture the family? Who is going to take care of the physical work involved in caring for a home? Who is going to comfort the hurting child, council the searching teen, advise the young adult and demonstrate Christian behavior,  if the mother AND father are off doing “administrative Church Work?”

One parent at least needs to be devoting their time to ministering to their family. Why does it need to be the woman in the home instead of the man? Because God has physically, spiritually and emotionally equipped women uniquely for that work. It’s the difference between the effects of estrogen and testosterone. Men naturally protect, defend, and provide, and women naturally nurture, nest, and grow nice, cushiony fat!

 My father was the bishop of our ward through most of my growing up years. Coupling that with lots of hobbies and interests and a willingness to avoid the stress of a large family’s interactions, he was rarely actually in the house with the family. While my mother often also held demanding callings in the Church, hers were mostly callings that didn’t require the  privacy of an office or time away from home.  I’m not excusing my dad for absenting himself. But I recognize that men in demanding leadership callings in the Church need to MAKE time for their families.  It has to be a conscious, diligent effort. When David O McKay said that “No other success can compensate for failure in the home,” he did NOT exclude success in Church service. An absent parent is an absent parent, regardless of the cause.

Ordaining women to additional leadership roles in the Church would diminish the time spent with their families. The family is under “heavy fire” from a wicked world.  The last thing in the world that the Lord is likely to do, is to lower yet another shield and pull women away from the home where they are most needed.

The home is the workshop for heaven.  In the home, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters learn to resolve conflict, love, serve, and work hard. In families we learn about Jesus Christ and we learn to love him and to serve him. My role as a woman, wife, mother and now grandmother is not diminished one iota by what it is not. I can feel my Father in Heaven’s love and do His work and incorporate His will into my daily walk, regardless of the nature of my current calling or the high-ness or low-ness of it.

Jesus said, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matt 23:11-12)

  “But Jesus called them unto him and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; But whosever will be great among you let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matt 20: 25-28. Ironically, the phrase “give his life for the ransom of many” is most relevant to this issue. As women, we give our lives (what is our daily time if not the stuff of our lives?) to benefit others. Like the Savior, we sometimes must sacrifice heavily for the sake of love. Is there a more Christlike behavior than sacrificing our time for the love of our children? The very nature of a mother’s life engenders Christ like attributes. For men, it must be assigned and developed. The Lord has provided myriad ties and links to help men bind themselves to their families, if they desire righteousness.  

Women play an essential role in our Father in Heaven’s plan. Without women caring for and nurturing the foundation of society, progress individually and socially grinds to a stop. Being  “essential” is not a lesser role, any more than the foundation, which is underneath a skyscraper, is less important than the visible part.

To suggest that women’s work nurturing the family, homemaking and building society through positive interactions that promote love of God and love of neighbors is less important than administering ordinances and governing the Church, is to teach false doctrine. It contradicts the doctrine the Savior taught. It employs another ramrod against the structure of the family. And it demeans and belittles the importance and significance of roles of women. The seriousness of the threat this type of thinking poses cannot be overstated.  
The doctrine of the priesthood, (Come, follow me) was revealed by the Savior himself and it available freely to everyone who desires to come unto Christ.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Rocky June 21, 2014 at 2:34 am

    I love the reference that the reason women don't run the church is because of family. Never quite thought of it in that way. All well said, thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Randi Reed June 23, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Well done. I have someone I will be sharing this with right now. Thank you for all your hard work.

  • Reply Anita June 23, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Great comments and insight. I really like how you broke down what possible motivations one might have for wanting the "master keys". It is a basic principle in the church that we don't seek for callings, but let the Lord (through the Holy Spirit) direct who should serve where. The whole idea of aspiring to a certain calling or "key holding" goes against one of the basic principles of discipleship, which is to serve where the Lord wants you to serve. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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