Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ordaining Women and Female-Hate

   One thing that I was passionate about before leaving Mormonism was Ordaining Women. Their mission and profiles of people are up at ordainwomen.org. I encourage you to poke around and see the amazing diversity of women who want gender equality in the LDS church.
   Their current project is trying to gain admittance to the Priesthood Session of General Conference. For those non-LDS, GC is a giant, televised conference where the higher ups in LDS leadership give talks on various gospel subjects. There are 5 sessions. 2 general sessions Saturday, a Priesthood Session (men only) Saturday night, and then 2 sessions on Sunday.  The Priesthood Session is very men only.  It's not even broadcasted online, I suppose for fear women will watch...which is odd, because all of the talks become available in magazines and for streaming later. I wonder if there's stuff that get said that doesn't get printed...I'll have to ask my husband.
   Anyway, the folks at OW are arranging a meetup at Priesthood Session.  Women all over have been trying to get tickets to this session.  As far as I know, none have been successful.  There have been plenty of men willing to give their tickets, but that's not the point.  Women want to be acknowledge and accepted at this meeting.  The interesting thing is that pretty much any man, not just LDS priesthood holder, can attend.  Non-member investigators, boys too young to hold the priesthood, excommunicated guys (I assume).  But no women.  Not even righteous, temple-recommend wielding Relief Society Presidents.  The reason all men are invited is because they are "prospective elders".
   I wish I lived closer to Utah. It would be interesting to see the responses.
   Something happened last conference, in April, that shook a lot of people.  For the first time in LDS history, a woman prayed in a session of GC.  Women had given talks before, but had never actually prayed.  And I just found out that it wasn't until 1970 when women could pray in local meetings at all.  It kind of reminds me of the prohibition against black men receiving the Priesthood until 1978.  I'm not being a bitter ex-MO, but it really seems that sometimes "revelation from God" is always a few years behind civil change.  And of course, I mean civil change in America, because LDS is very white American-centric.
Before we left the church, when I first brought up the subject of Ordaining Women to my husband, he asked why I would want the priesthood.  I told him because in the temple, I wore the same clothes, learned the same signs, made the same covenants as he did.  When Joseph Smith established the Relief Society, he wanted it to be a "Kingdom of Priestesses".  Women were encouraged to use the power of the priesthood for blessing and anointing and healing.  There were Priestesses, Prophetesses, and healers in the Bible.  I had felt comforted by receiving Priesthood blessings from him.  His father isn't a member, and he has no good relationship with a Priesthood holder. I think it's a crime and a pity that I didn't feel comfortable with laying my hands on his head and blessing him.  Can you imagine how much closer that could bring spouses and families? And what about families without Priesthood holders. Why should they be denied blessings due to circumstances perhaps out of their control?
   There's an argument in Mormondom that Priesthood=Motherhood, and that's why women don't need the priesthood.  I think it's a load of bollocks for a few reasons. One, fatherhood=equal to motherhood (at least as much as it can be).  Men don't get the option of either being a father or having the Priesthood.  In fact, fatherhood (in LDS world) is usually synonymous with Priesthood.  Another reason, any worthy (or claiming to be worthy) man can receive the Priesthood. Worthy women can be infertile, or be unable to carry children to term.  Worthy women can remain single-and therefore celibate-forever.  Worthy women can choose not to have children for a myriad of reasons.  Female worthiness means nothing at all in becoming a mother.  How people think motherhood being the female equivalent of Priesthood is beyond me.
   He agreed that women holding the Priesthood would be a good thing.  After all, if Priesthood is the authority to act in God's name, what harm could come from MORE people wielding it?  Wouldn't that just...I don't know...multiply the God power in the world?
   But when I told my mom about my feelings, she acted like I killed her puppy.  Shock, anger, fear...all present in the way she said "Why would women want the Priesthood?"  I explained my reasons, and she still looked at me in horror-and I'm not exaggerating.  This is a woman that raised my sister and I alone until she remarried.  She worked 2 jobs and went to school full time to support us.  She lived through hell in the hands of my dad, and left him.  She is as independent as any woman I know.  And yet she couldn't understand why I felt Mormons need this equality.
   I tried to explain to her what I feel is sexism in the church.  She said she didn't even notice it.  Which confused me, because all through Young Women's, I would come home frustrated that ANOTHER lesson was on "Being a Homemaker" or "Honouring Your Priesthood Authority".  I wanted lessons on budgeting, education, learning how to make informed choices.  Not cutesy stories about how Sister So-and-so realized that she was happiest at home with her 6 children.
   But it seemed the more I tried to tell my mom how I felt, the more she pulled away.  Until finally, I gave up talking to her about that.  And it's not just my mom.  Peculiarly, it's usually not LDS men that have a problem with women being ordained.  It's the women.  Women accuse women who want equality of: trying to be like a man, being power hungry, not being content with what they're given, being ignorant, being selfish, and ignoring the will of God.  I'm not going to get into rebuttals of those arguments (for that, please see this amazing Feminist Mormon Housewife article).  But the general consensus seems to be, at least in the eyes of women, it's those evil FEMINIST women who want the priesthood, and in so doing, want to destroy the family and Mormonism all together.
   The confusing thing is why women are full of such hatred and fear to those with different opinions.  As Mormons, we're taught to "turn the other cheek" and still love and serve those with differing opinions (I suppose with the hope that one day they'll come around to the "right" thinking).  I suppose it's such a radical idea to many of these women that the thought of it is almost overloading, and so they shut down to a point of "NOOOOOO. BAD!"
   I broached the subject of women holding the priesthood in Relief Society, shortly before my exit.  I got some crazy-eyed looks, many comments about how "women already have the most important job-raising and teaching the children", and a lot of disdain and cold shoulders.  Me being the snot that I am, replied with "Oh, so since God hasn't blessed me with children, I have no importance?"  Then I was accused of being bitter.  Perhaps so, but still...how can we be taught that Relief Society is a place to bear one another's burdens and ease the loads, and then tear people down for having differing opinions?  Or are the burdens people are willing to share only the ones that make themselves feel better?
   I feel, at times, the church is full of hypocrites.  As long as you stay within their box, you are loved with "Christlike" love.  But step outside the norm, and people back away like feminism or infertility or homosexuality is contagious. I just don't see how a loving God is pleased with people acting this way.
   Which brings me to my point. If Mormonism is true, and if God is as fair and just as I was taught, then why would he create women with skills and intelligence?  If a woman's role is to stay home and have babies, why give her brains and agency?  Why would a loving, omniscient God create half the population to be subjugated under another?  And most importantly, why is there such fear at the thought of Priesthood equality?  It's not like anybody would be forced to accept the Priesthood. If a woman doesn't want it, she doesn't have to get it.  Just because you are happy where you are, doesn't mean the woman sitting next to you is happy to be there, too.  People (men and women) are different with different needs.  I refuse to believe in a God that doles out responsibilities based on sexual characteristics instead of individuality.


  1. Shortly after we got married my husband and I were asked to speak in sacrament meeting and I delivered a talk about what it means for the priesthood authority to preside over his home. I spent an inordinate amount of time researching and preparing. I argued that the priesthood can only be used to serve others so that women actually derive more direct benefits. I used quotes to suggest that true leadership is not to dominate your will over others but a responsibility to sacrifice your own desires for the sake of harmony. Clearly god did not give priesthood to men because he values women less. It is because women play such a vital role that he desires us to have constant access to each and every blessing of the priesthood. I received many compliments on that talk but inwardly they chaffed. The talk had really been an attempt to mollify my own misgivings but somehow my best arguments still felt hollow and unsatisfying.

    At work one time a non-mormon questioned me on why women were unable to hold church leadership positions. I immediately leaped to the church's defense and started spouting off the complementarian nonsense I'd been spoonfed all my life. The fact that she obviously wasn't buying it was very unsettling.

    To me it makes perfect sense that Mormon women get defensive about female ordination. It would mean that all their life they've chosen to be less than, allowed themselves to be duped. That's a very frightening truth to come to terms with so the hackles come up. In my own experience the more defensive someone is, the more the argument has secretly resonated with her.

    1. Interesting...but you're right. There have been times where I've defended the church. Usually while harboring a fear the the detractor was right. Hmmm.

  2. "But when I told my mom about my feelings, she acted like I killed her puppy. Shock, anger, fear...all present in the way she said "Why would women want the Priesthood?" I explained my reasons, and she still looked at me in horror-and I'm not exaggerating. This is a woman that raised my sister and I alone until she remarried. She worked 2 jobs and went to school full time to support us. She lived through hell in the hands of my dad, and left him. She is as independent as any woman I know. And yet she couldn't understand why I felt Mormons need this equality.
    I tried to explain to her what I feel is sexism in the church. She said she didn't even notice it."

    With a few minor differences, this is exactly how my mom and my oldest sister think. They'll go on about the need for strong, intelligent women, but then turn around and say they'd never vote for a woman president because women are too weak, or whatever. The cognitive dissonance astounds me.

    I find that the church has done an excellent (well, excellent in a bad way) job of conditioning women to rationalize this sexism...you sort of touch on it, but it's the idea that women should feel lucky they don't have to do the "man things". "Oh, being a priest is such a sacrifice, you should feel lucky you, as a woman, don't have to worry about it."

    1. Yes! That's exactly it! The general sense of "aren't you glad that men take care of all that stuff?"
      It makes me wonder, if being a preist is such a sacrifice, then wouldn't sharing that burden make it easier on everyone?