Thursday, September 26, 2013

LDS Baby Steps?

A few posts ago, I blogged about the Ordain Women movement.  More specifically, how some women in the movement were attempting to try and obtain tickets to the priesthood session of General Conference. They were also going to stand in the ticket line and make the leaders choose either yes or no to let them in.  I thought this was an important step, because Mormon leaders, like political people everywhere, are masters at saying nothing in 5 or 6 paragraphs worth of words.
   Recently, though, the church decided and publicized their decision about letting women into the priesthood session.  This is taken from the Deseret News, Sept 24, 2013.
          The women, who last week formally requested tickets to the Oct. 5 priesthood session, will not be admitted.
“It is the hope of the church that the priesthood session will strengthen the men and young men including fathers and sons, and give them the opportunity to gather and receive instruction related to priesthood duties and responsibilities,” church spokeswoman Ruth Todd said Tuesday in a letter to the group, "much the same way parallel meetings are held for sisters, such as the general Relief Society meeting.
"It’s for these reasons that tickets for the priesthood session are reserved for men and young men and we are unable to honor your request for tickets or admission."
Todd also invited the women to “view the live priesthood session broadcast, as well as the other general conference sessions, on lds.org, The Mormon Channel or BYUtv.”
   The priesthood session has never been broadcast live (at least in America; my husband went on a mission to Portugal, and said that women often went to the Priesthood session, simply because a lot of people traveled pretty far to get to a meetinghouse with satellite).  I honestly don't know why it hasn't been.  Perhaps to keep Mormon women from the topics of priesthood?  But that doesn't make sense, because all of the talks are published in the church's magazine "The Ensign".  I've always thought it was because those who spoke at the Priesthood session (Mormon high-high ups), would say super secret things for only Priesthood holder's ears.  Or at least scathing sermons on being a decent guy.
   I went to lds.org, the church's official website, and browsed some of the recent priesthood session conference talks.  Their titles are: "Stand Strong in Holy Places" "The Power of the Priesthood in the Boy" "Your Sacred Duty to Minister" "Come All Ye Sons of God".  I skimmed most of these, and didn't really read anything different than I'd heard in various classes or talks before.  So I guess it's not men only because of some super-secret doctrine. I have to admit, I'm a bit disappointed.
   My husband suggested that perhaps one reason women aren't allowed is because it's like man-bonding time. There's usually cookies or treats before/after, and the men can socialize.  I told him if socialization was a concern, then Priesthood should have an activity every month like the women's organisation does.
   Anyway, the church has shown what their opinion is on women at the session.  A founder of OW said that she wanted to attend, because she believes women are also potential priesthood holders, and should be allowed the same instruction as non-member men or little boys.  
  The church's opinion, though, has divided women in the OW movement.  Some are angry because the church has blatantly said "NO".  Others are satisfied with the compromise of viewing the session via satellite.  I, personally, am of two minds.  Let me explain.
   I understand, logically, why the church is choosing to attempt a baby-step approach.  (Assuming this is a baby step towards women having the priesthood and not just a head-pat)  The church depends on people's tithes to make money, and if half of the church were to leave, it would be catastrophic.  And about half is what estimators think would leave if women were suddenly allowed full priesthood responsibilities.  Another reason it makes sense to take small steps is because allowing women to hold the priesthood would be a major upheaval in the way the church does things.  So many callings, or opportunities, are only available to men.  Undoing that would take a lot of time, organisation, and suspending of stereotypes.  It would be a massive undertaking.
   On the other hand, I think pointing out that women get their own special meeting and saying "It's just the same!" is a pile of bananas.  First, women aren't allowed to meet without at least 2 members of the priesthood there.  Second, priesthood does not equal motherhood.  Third, the instructions to men and women are way different.  Look, for example, at the list of talks from the most recent General Relief Society Meeting: "Is the Faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ Written in our Hearts?" "Wide Awake to our Duties" "The Lord Has Not Forgotten You" and "The Caregiver". Fourth, I fail to see how handing American women something every LDS woman in the world already has (watching Priesthood session via satellite), is considered a compromise.  Fifth, the tones of Priesthood vs Relief Society meetings are much, much different.
   Where the men's meeting is basically a call to action, women's meetings are about serving, and passive obedience, with a smidgen of doctrine support for the weary.  I think that's fascinating.  Men are taught that Priesthood is a power, and a scared duty.  Women are taught to care for others, to have faith, and fulfill their callings.  Priesthood sessions start with food. Women's sessions start with a service project.
  I fail to see how a church that claims to be the only true church, and has a prophet that has a hotline to God, can sustain such blatant sexism in this day and age.  I think pretty soon there will be a tipping point, and the church will no longer be able to take teeny, tiny baby steps and claim "We listen, see? Progress!"  I think the issue of ordaining women will only get bigger and bigger, until the church has no choice but to issue a directive.  Then we will see how things really are.
   I wouldn't want to be in their shoes, honestly.  If the options are lose people because women want rights, or lose people because they don't want women to have rights, what really is the best option for them?

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