Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why I am becoming uncomfortable with the Ordain Women Movement

When first hearing of the Ordain Women's Movement's desire to attend the General Priesthood session, I was intrigued. While I do not agree with their views, I nonetheless saw them as faithful sisters who had a genuine question to ask our church leaders: could they attend? And could they be viewed as prospective elders? I believed their planned event to be respectful, as they sought no deceptive means of entry and did not intend to carry signs or banners. Most important, I believe in asking questions to God as well as our church leaders to achieve greater clarity and understanding. And from my perspective, I perceived that they were doing just that.

On Tuesday morning, the Church announced its decision regarding the Ordain Women's request. They were denied tickets, but remarkably, our leaders implemented a seminal adjustment: they would allow the General Priesthood session to be broadcast live, and invited these women to watch it, should they choose. For a church that institutes changes at a glacial pace, I was surprised and pleased. I immediately felt the love of our leaders who heard these women's earnest desire and enacted a decision that I think works well as a compromise. 

The Ordain Women Movement then, has received an answer to their posed question. However, the response given by Kate Kelly (the movement's founder) made me wince:

"We will be in the line for standby tickets to the priesthood session on Oct. 5 to demonstrate our continued willingness and desire to attend. We are demonstrating our faith by standing at the door and knocking."

Kelly's statement, I believe, now marks her as a protester (a title that she was ironically trying to eschew in the first place.)  But what makes me uncomfortable is that she considers flouting our church leaders' decision as a sign of faith. And I cannot stand by that. When our church teaches, "Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you," it does not necessarily always mean that we will "receive" the answer that we want. Rather, when auxilary church leaders state their answer (and show a willingness to adjust), I believe that they represent the Lord's voice on earth, giving me reason to hearken. Unfortunately, I don't believe these women's decision to stand in line will help create a spiritual ambiance for an important meeting.

Instead, I believe that the Ordain Women Movement will be more effective if they continue to propagate civil dialogue on this issue. It is obvious that they are smart, faithful women, and I respect their ability to articulate their points. And in return, I pray that disagreeing members will display charitable measures toward their opinions (see my post on toleration). They are, after all, our sisters in the gospel. While I do not support female ordination, I stand behind cultural and institutional changes to help women better understand their divine potential (see this post). I am not sure if all of my envisioned changes will ever be realized. But with the recent lowered mission ages for women, thoughtful conversations on chastity and modesty, and adjustments to the Young Women Program, I believe that I have many reasons to be optimistic.

Perhaps we are not going to have every change we want on our timetable, if ever. But if we believe that this church is led by Christ himself through a prophet and apostles, then let's stand by what they say. And if our received answer to a desire is "no" or "not yet," let us pray for greater faith and understanding--as well as an increased willingness to yield to the Lord's timing.*

*This sentence has been slightly changed to include the phrase "or not yet."

Photo by David McConeghy

21 comments:

  1. Love it. I couldn't agree more. It isn't faith to ask questions and say, "I'm going to keep asking until I get the answer I want". We saw what that did for Martin Harris and Joseph Smith. Your blog is logical, well-thought out, and well-written. Thanks for the great dialogue Sarah!

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  2. My questions is how many of these women are flying from across the country/world to stand in line? Or is this a protest of geographic convenience?

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    1. You've probably seen the news reports by now, but they came from all over. Julia Murphy flew in from Germany. Kate Kelly and several others flew in from the east coast. Others drove in from Idaho, California, and Oregon. Some spent 16+ hours (each way) on trains.

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  3. I had a friend post on facebook about the General Authorities' decision about this subject, and I too, do not support the Ordain Women movement, simply because of my belief in the eternal plan that men and women have different roles-and that is why we are different physically, as well. I posted a response that I was a little sad with this decision because I like the tradition that men have to go to Priesthood session at church with their sons, brothers, grandfathers and fathers together. Many people agreed with me, but then another person remarked about what a blessing it will be for so many men across the world who have to travel for hours to attend at a stake center with satellite. That has put me with a little more comfort with the decision, as I would hope it's not in response to women who feel they are "left out" of the Priesthood, when they should already know they are very much a part of it. Regardless, excellent post, Sarah. I love your blog and I read regularly! Keep it up!

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  4. I like your comment: "what makes me uncomfortable is that she considers flouting our church leaders' decision as a sign of faith." So often in history we have seen people get themselves into more trouble by not taking no for an answer...like Martin Harris. I want these women to be happy. I want them to seek answers the right way; in an open-minded and humble way. Please Read "Eve and the choice made in Eden." We can put to rest our ideas that women are not up to par with men. We do this by loving ourselves and accepting ourselves and being strong and truly understanding our roles and valuable.

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  5. Sarah, this is well thought out and respectfully stated. Not many people can do that and still enter a debate. I applaud you!
    I have one push-back. I recently read this summary of a talk Elder Ballard gave.
    http://www.lds.org/church/news/elder-ballard-speaks-about-the-role-of-women-at-education-week?lang=eng
    He says, "Why are men ordained to the Priesthood offices and not women? When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His church the way He has."
    This quote strikes me as leaving the door open for change and not necessarily saying no to women knocking at the door.

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    1. Jeff! Thank you for your thoughts. I agree with you--we don't know why exactly things are instituted the way they are. For that reason, I have no problem whatsoever with OW continuing to propagate respectful dialogue about their views (I thought what they had been doing up to this point was totally appropriate). What I have a problem with, however, is being told that their request cannot be met, and they are choosing to stand in line anyway. For me personally, I find that disrespectful, especially considering that our leaders are allowing the priesthood session to be more accessible to everyone than ever before.

      I am also disappointed because the OW have said numerous times that this is not a "protest," but at this point, that's exactly what it is. And I don't find a social protest as the correct means for "knocking at the door." Rather, at this point, I see their action as simply attempting to gain media attention. Perhaps one day women will have the priesthood, and if I am supposed to be ordained, so be it. But I have a hard time believing that a protest like this one is going to change things.

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    2. Nicely said. Yes, it is delicate line to walk - knocking but not aggrevating. With civil rights in the US and human rights internationally over the past 60 years, it seems like a lot has been gained in the public sphere via social movement tactics. But translating those tactics to a religious environment is unique. I can see how that can be disrespectful. By using the same tactics, it equates public leadership, like the government, with church leadership.

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    3. Nice thoughts Jeff. I agree with your push back, and your compliment re: respectful position. Fun to see you on here. Sarah, while I disagree with some of your position, I appreciate the civil tone and your willingness (as demonstrated by the asterisks you add to your posts) to change your mind when you hear reasoned perspectives! :)

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    4. All of the doctrines and decisions that God makes and men and women do not understand and the leaders say that God has not revealed why he has done it, coincidentally hurts a minority group and favors white men.

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    5. That quote from Elder Ballard is taken out of context. Here is the full quote:

      "Why are men ordained to priesthood offices and not women? President Gordon B. Hinckley explained that it was the Lord, not man, “who designated that men in His Church should hold the priesthood” and that it was also the Lord who endowed women with “capabilities to round out this great and marvelous organization, which is the Church and kingdom of God” (“Women of the Church,” Ensign, November 1996, 70). When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has."
      http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=2133

      So, really, E. Ballard is saying that the reason why women are not ordained to the priesthood is because God said so. That says to me that the door is not open for interpretation. We may not know why it is the way it is, however, and we may not ever know. We just need to trust in God.

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    6. And I just wanted to clarify: I don't think God is under any obligation to explain "why" he does what he does. He didn't explain to Abraham why he had to sacrifice his son, and yet Abraham went and prepared to do it. Following God's commands without fully knowing why we are doing it is a good indication of our faith.

      So really, the only question that matters is whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's is God's only true church and whether the prophets receive revelation from God.

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  6. I had no idea any of this was even going on!!! As I continue my scholastic education in the health field, I learn more about life that sometimes contradicts my ingrained cultural comfort-ability. This does not decrease my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, through the LDS church, or it's leaders however; stretches my capacity to balance my knowledge/truth with cultural norms. This is because the "Mormon culture" is sometimes a lot different than the "Mormon doctrine!"

    I am also uncomfortable with this "Ordain Women Movement." I am even repulsed at the description of the leader's remarks against the leaders of the church. They clearly do not sustain the Leaders of the church. I know I can be very open with my opinions and not fit the Molly Mormon role but never would I have the nerve to out right oppose spiritual men that I believe and sistain to be prophets of God! I trust them and God enough to be patient in Their decision to change with the times and cultures! I wonder if a face to face with Monson or Iring or Ucktdorf would be rebuking enough for this so called "Ordain Women Movement" leader and her followers... Probably not since she hasn't been rebuked in her personal prayers! It's a crying shame what the world is coming to and those who are like wolves in sheep's clothing!

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  7. I love this blog of yours! I agree, not only in your words, but in your delivery as well! Thank you for being a voice of reason. ;)

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  8. Have you ever gone to the Lord with a sincere question and received an undeniable answer? I am going to guess that you have. Well, this is what has happened for me. Ever since I was a little girl, I have felt uncomfortable with the Church's treatment of women. It started in primary when the boys entered scouts and met more often than us girls did in Activity Days. Then, it got even worse in Young Women's as I was repeatedly told that my worth as a woman in the Church revolved around getting married and having children. I never understood why boys received the priesthood while girls did not.

    Despite all of these feelings, I pressed on. I told myself that I should not be feeling those things. I told myself that I just didn't understand. I told myself that Satan was trying to deceive me. It never occurred to me that perhaps I was having those feelings for a reason.

    In college, I met people who had similar feelings as me. Then, I learned about Feminist Mormon Housewives. There were more people who felt the same as me. I admit, I was really worried that I was falling into some "trap".

    One day, though, the thought crossed my mind that I should pray about these feelings. I cannot describe the way I felt after doing so. It was such a sense of peace and joy like I had never felt before. I knew without a doubt that I needed to participate in these communities.

    Now that Wear Pants to Church Day, Let Women Pray, and Ordain Women have come about, I have had to turn to my Heavenly Father many more times. I knew that I was drawn to each one, but I also knew that I wanted to do what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. Over and over and over again I have received the answer to "speak up".

    Ordain Women is not a protest. Ordain Women is about opening up dialogue between members and Church leaders about the topic of female ordination. Why shouldn't these women stand in line? The Church did not give an answer about female ordination. It only gave an answer about their tickets. It is an act of dedication to show that they care enough about this topic to stand in line knowing that they will most likely be turned away.

    In the end, though, I just want to say that these women are trying to follow what the Lord is telling them to do. We pray about this constantly. I have personally seen miracles when I have prayed about this. When I would pray for hearts to be softened, I would see things happen even though the people had no idea I had prayed for it. I would be there with these women if I lived closer. I feel so strongly about this. I just cannot put into words the way I feel when I pray about it.

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    1. Olivia! It is a relief to know that am not alone! Sometimes I feel so lost in this church. I feel like my entire life has been plotted out for me. How I should treat my husband. How I should raise my children. How to be a proper woman. I am currently in college and I have always had the exact same feelings you have had. I hated Personal Progress because all the activities were about sewing or planning my future. My future family with my future marriage to my future return missionary husband. I felt like my worth was being defined by things like how well I could knit a scarf and how well I could bake. None of the activities lead me to become more independent and actually help me 'progress' as a person but instead how I could progress to be their definition of a 'woman'. I have nothing but respect for these wonderful ladies who are making their opinions known. I want equality. I don't want to be put on some magical or spiritual pedestal in which women are these 'higher' creatures here for a more or less divine purpose then men.

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  9. The response to OW that tickets would not be given was from Church Public Relations, not the First Presidency. These women are not doing anything "non-sustaining." They explicitly say they sustain the General Authorities and know the prophet is God's mouthpiece. Please see their website where they say these things, go into detail about your worries, and read their stories: ordainwomen.org Also, in terms of the Martin Harris analogy: it seems quite different for a friend of the prophet to wear down Joseph Smith personally so he could hold the Gold Plates vs. women with no voices/avenues for speaking to the prophet respectfully and quietly standing in line. I appreciate how you are respectfully approaching this topic. Very thoughtful blog!

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  10. I just wanted to address the question of whether this was a "protest of geographic convenience". Women came from D.C., Oregon, Texas, Arizona, Washington, and Germany! (as well as many other places)

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