Ordain Women

A group of Mormon women have organized themselves and are actively pursuing priesthood ordination for women in the LDS church. Their group is called Ordain Women.

Twice a year, in April and October, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a general conference. One of the five two-hour-long sessions held over the weekend is specifically for men and young men (12 and older), and is called the Priesthood Session. (There is a General Women's meeting for women and girls (8 and older) held the weekend prior to general conference.) At the October 2013 Priesthood Session, Ordain Women came and peacefully asked for admission (admission was declined). That's when they became a blip on my radar. 

They are planning to do the same thing at the April Priesthood session coming up this Saturday. And while I hadn't thought much about them over the last six months, a couple of weeks ago, the LDS church publicly released the letter they sent to the leaders of Ordain Women asking them to reconsider their plans to try and gain entry into the Priesthood Session because "activist events like this detract from the sacred environment of Temple Square and the harmony sought at General Conference." The letter continues, "If you feel you must come and demonstrate, we ask that you do so in free speech zones adjacent to Temple Square, which have long been established for those wishing to voice differing viewpoints."

After reading the letter, which was also when I found out about OW's April Conference plans, I started thinking about whether or not I support what these women are doing. In October, I was proud of their courage. I was proud of them for being a source of strength for one another in what had been and continues to be a source of pain for some Mormon women. I didn't love how they were doing it in terms of trying to get into the Priesthood Session, BUT I totally get why they chose that time and place. In terms of demonstrations, it makes perfect sense. It's a powerful way to make a point, whether well received or not.
I was especially touched by this photo of Stephanie Lauritzen, who had actually gone to participate with OW on a whim, and was embarrassed that this picture was taken and widely circulated. Regardless of how or why she was there, I was glad to see her face. She is my sister (in the sista-from-anotha-mista kind of way), and that smile and tear did something to my heart. 

After reading the church's letter to OW, and remembering this face, in the last few weeks I've asked myself two things, "Would I have gone in October?" and "If I could, would I show up on Saturday to support this movement?" I feel like my answer to both questions is, "No." Not because I don't want to support these women who are doing something difficult and brave in being strong when their hearts are hurting, but for many of the reasons I couldn't get behind "Wear Pants to Church Day:" I try to avoid groupthink, and [up until a few days ago] I've never felt put out by not having the priesthood.

In terms of becoming part of a group with an agenda - it can't help but create division. Women were so ugly toward women who decided they wanted to wear pants to church because they couldn't understand the gender inequality women were feeling in the church, and women are being ugly to one another about whether or not they think women should hold the priesthood for the same reason. My least favorite attitude is "If you don't like it, leave." I think what I'm trying to say here is easily understood - camps have been set up, trenches are being dug, claws are coming out. 

After "Wear Pants to Church Day," the majority of Mormon women came out saying that not holding the priesthood didn't make them feel unequal to men in the church. I understand this on many levels: women hold leadership positions in the church, they speak and pray in their congregations, co-decision making is encouraged between husband and wife. Women can even stream the Priesthood Session that OW keeps trying to get into. In these ways, women are never put upon or left out. 

For me, I don't feel like not being ordained to the priesthood affects my ability to love or serve or grow closer to God. Ultimately, on a personal level, I don't think it's a matter of haves and have-nots. I don't have it right now, and that's okay. And if tomorrow the church said that women would be ordained to the priesthood, that would be perfectly okay too. Last week, however, something really simple struck me. I can't remember where or how, just a prompting that came in an instant while I was in my kitchen making a meal: "Women cannot be bishops." This thought led to women being unable to be stake presidents, apostles, and the prophet, as well as several other positions in the church. Each of these callings require a certain office in the Priesthood. And because women do not have the priesthood, these roles in the church are closed off to them. This was my lightening bolt. This was the simple answer that firmly declared, as it stands, women are not equal to men in the Mormon church. 

I think I've always thought of ordination to the priesthood more in a "Now I can give priesthood blessings" kind of way. I'd be able to stand in the circle of my children's baby blessings. I've always thought of these things as formalities, so I didn't mind not being able to do them because I've always felt I have the same ability to call on the power of God, despite not holding a Priesthood badge. I didn't mind letting the men in my life handle those special occasions. I still don't, but there's something heart-wrenching when I think of the women I would love to sustain in callings they currently cannot hold. 

I've spent time wondering what ordaining women to the priesthood would look like in the LDS church. What would a bishopric with women and men be like? Temple and mission presidents who are women. A quorum of the twelve apostles with men and women. "Authority" being equally distributed. I like the peace I feel when I imagine these things. This Sunday I was in Seminole, OK attending a service at the Community of Christ. At the end of the service, the congregation was asked to stay while one of its members was administered to. This is what is looked like - 
Her mother is on the left, her sister on the right, and her husband is kneeling by her side.

Being present for this was a blessing in the midst of what I've been pondering. The feeling in the room was gentle and sweet. Ordaining women to the Priesthood created a huge divide in Community of Christ. I hope that, if women are ordained, the Mormon church can learn a lesson from CofC's transition. That we can find ourselves at a point of being understanding and loving and gentle with one another. That kindness and gentleness must be present currently, a tenderness towards all of our sisters' [and brothers'] feelings, even if it's not easy, so that we can love one another through any change that might occur.

1 comment:

  1. I remember the struggle and division that the Community of Christ congregations near where we lived went through over that decision as well as the change in official statements about the Book of Mormon. It was very difficult and the separation was sorrowful. So many good hearts on both sides.

    Your comments make me think about Christ's intercessional prayer, "that they may be one as we are one".

    I believe that that kind of loving, trusting, sharing unity is an essential element of heavenly life. I sense that God moves us slowly towards heaven, like a person carefully moving a flat plate piled with ball bearings, balancing the task of forward movement with the desire to make it possible for as many as possible to stay together in a unity of love and trust.

    It's frustrating for those who see the vision of where they are going and want to move faster. It's terrifying for those who feel like they'll fall off if they move at all.

    And God loves both and is patient with both and understands both the wisdom and folly of both.

    And calls us to do so as well.



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