Posts Tagged men

My opinion on women’s ordination

I try to avoid the general topics that are going around the Bloggernacle (LDS-themed blogs), but being an outspoken feminist that I am around work, I’ve had a few people want to talk to me about how I see this issue. Also, there’s a possibility my opinion will soon be published elsewhere, and I want to be sure to put what I feel in a full posting, rather than a simplified blurb.

First, as could probably be gleaned from previous postings, I absolutely believe in the existence of two genders, now, in the past life, and in the future. We have both a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father, both working as one, just as the Trinity are one. All of these are working in perfect unity to help bring us back home. Yes, there are sexual ambiguities in some bodies, both in genetics and form, but I don’t believe these exceptions disprove the rule. Even though they are exceptionally hard to quantify, there is a difference between men and women, and only by working together can we hope to accomplish our potential. There is no gender we can do without, at any level of home or society, and our society has been stunted by our suppression and oppression of women that continues to this day.

I will stress, for those who will surely bring it up, that I do not believe that men should only work and women should only be at home with the children. I look forward to being independently wealthy enough that we could both be home (or even in the mission field) to build up our family. I don’t care about success in the world; my focus is in strengthening my marriage and trying to help my children be the best they can be. My working now is a “necessary evil” to help provide the funds needed to do that. And no, independently wealthy isn’t even on the horizon for us right now, but we all have dreams.

As I said, gender differentiation is really hard to quantify. But I do know it exists. We would be better off utilizing both genders together than we are now, making the most of one and insisting that the other would only be useful if fit into the mold of the first. I believe we should have more women finding and working in their interests in the world, but, as with men, the family, even a family of one, should be first. I despair at how rare women are in my field, but we’re drifting from the subject at hand.

I respect and admire many of the women involved in the current Ordain Women movement, and do my best to understand their feelings. I mourn with those who have been hurt by well meaning leaders doing the wrong thing. These are the hazards of a lay clergy, and every effort is being made to both reduce the suffering and teach how these decisions could have been different.

That being said, I do not believe the movement to ask entry to the Priesthood session of General Conference is being done in the best way. The Church does not work by public protest. Some would say that it’s not a protest, but a respectful query. The problem is that when you organize a large group of people to each, individually ask entry when they know they will be denied, it becomes a protest. It’s not signs and yelling and marching; it’s a sit in, without the sitting. To say it’s not disruptive is to ignore this reality.

Some have said that this is the only way to get the attention of Church leaders, doing as Zelophead’s daughters did in Moses’ time. Many changes in the Church have come from simple asking and doing, such as the Word of Wisdom (No tobacco, alcohol, etc.) and all of the Auxiliaries (Young Men, Relief Society, Primary, etc.), then these efforts being taken and moved to the entire church. However, some feel that there is no way to directly petition the leadership now, since the Church has gotten so big. I don’t believe this is strictly true. The leadership is not kept in a cocoon of male only voices, not hearing anything but the same from everyone they come into contact with. The trick is to find and connect with those who do know, and can more directly communicate with, the leaders. Do we think that Emma was the only one tired of cleaning up tobacco? Do we think Zelophead’s daughters (who probably had names, but that’s another issue) were the only women with inheritance issues? Of course not. But these are the ones we hear of, the ones who get credit, simply because they were in a position to ask. That is what Ordain Women is missing, and what they should be concentrating on. You don’t communicate to someone you can’t reach across the room by pulling out a bull horn; you send a message through the people nearby.

I do not believe that women should or will be ordained to the Priesthood. I do not accept that for women to fulfill their potential, they need what helps men toward their potential. I look forward to a different way, a Priestesshood that can only be used by women, that can be used together with the Priesthood and will be more than either could do alone and even more than the sum of what each could do.

My view of how we would get the Priestesshood (which could be completely wrong, and I’d be ok with that), would be for it to come as the Priesthood did, through the laying on of hands by those in authority. This could not be done by the authority of the Priesthood, but by those who we may barely know who had the Priestesshood before. This would be done with a full confirmation that it happened by the General Authorities of the Church, who would introduce the changes that would be needed for the Church to move together with the new Priestesshood. It would not be an easy transition, and I don’t think we’re ready for it, but I look forward to the changes that are continuing to be made to try and prepare us for it.

Men and women working together, taking advantage of what both have to offer, is the only way for all of us to reach our full potential, becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in perfect unity. The hard part will be being patient with our rate of growth and the rate of growth of those around us; to not get discouraged or despair because it seems so far away as to be unattainable. Even if I can hardly see a glimmer of how or when, I know it will happen.

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I am not a feminist ally – I am a feminist

If some of my posts before this haven’t been a clue (or even the links on the page), I consider myself to be a feminist. Not a feminist ally, but a full feminist.

Feminism, to me, is the desire to remove the barriers of opportunity between the sexes, as far as they can be while being constrained by some things biologically. I find that women and men are equally capable in their work, home, and leisure, and while there are some generalized differences, there is also quite a bit of overlap. For example, women are generally shorter than men, but there are men who are shorter than most women and women who are taller than most men. There is only one aspect of gender that I am sure is delineated between the two, and that is in the creation of children.

Feminism (again, to me) is not all about opportunity for women. It is about removing sexism, of any kind, from our society. Feminists have a wide range of views, from those who think men are wholly unnecessary and should be vilified, belittled, and dismissed at any chance, to those who are simply glad for the work that has been done to allow the advantages they have. I fall somewhere in the middle – there has been much good work done, and there is yet much work to do.

Now, to my point. An ally is someone who supports, but is not really active in the cause. Some think that men can only be feminist allies, since they are not discriminated against in our culture as a whole. These people think men should be seen and not heard, relegated to the back of support rallies, brushed aside as “someone who can’t ever really understand”. To me, this should never be the case. Injury is injury, no matter who the perpetrator. Women cannot be absolved of oppressing men because their overall oppression is worse. A kid who beats up other kids is not absolved of it when it is found they are beaten by their parents at home. Two wrongs, nor even an hundred wrongs on one side to one on the other, do not make a right. No one should be a 2nd class citizen. We should be moving forward together, hand in hand.

Have I ever been hurt by sexism? I certainly have. It may not be to the extent of the sexism committed on some (or even many) women, but it is still there. I am a feminist because I want to make sure pains of sexist actions and ideals do not happen to anyone, no matter what their gender. This is my fight.

I am not an ally – I am a feminist, and proud to be so.

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The talk I’d like to hear in General Conference Priesthood Session

Brethren, there have been many times when the instruction to women over this pulpit is to “get all the education you can”. This has been to prepare women for the realities of death, financial strain, and divorce that have been all too common, as well as to fight the stigma of those who have fewer children or delay children for a time to pursue their educational and professional goals. While the instruction is the same, the intentions of this when directed toward men is different.

It is fairly well established that men will seek education to be able to better provide for their families through their professions. While this is a worthwhile goal, this is not the direction needed when I tell you to “get all the education you can”.

Just as death, financial strain, and divorce have been more common among women, it has also been more common among men. If a great need arises, what do you men need to learn to be able to better support your home? It you’re thinking the answer is to simply make more money, you are thinking of this in the wrong direction.

The discipline most needed for additional education in our men is in the home. While you may have done well as a missionary or while away from home at school to take care of yourself, the dynamics change greatly when a family is involved. Eating ramen over the kitchen sink is a far cry from needing to provide healthy food for at least one additional person.

First, do you know how to care for your children? Simple tasks, such as changing diapers, helping the children get ready for bed, and making sure they have clean clothing to wear are basic parts of their care. Do you know how to provide nutritional food for them, get them to and from their school and other activities?

Second, do you know how your household finances are budgeted, beyond simply paying the bills you receive? You need to learn how to shop for food, clothing, and other necessities within the budgetary allowance you have made. You need to know what these necessities are, beyond potatoes and underwear.

Third, do you know how to care for the home itself? While you may know how to maintain the “perfect” lawn, this becomes less important when your floors become a mass of crumbs and stains because you have failed to learn how to maintain the “perfect” floor.

There are many more things that have often become the day-to-day work of your wife, even if she has needed to have work outside the home. You need to have a working knowledge of this work, just as it is important for her to have the education that can help provide an income, if necessary. Just as with the women, the time for the men to begin this learning and application is now, not when circumstances force you to.

Now, be warned, this call for education does not mean you should demand changes, take over, or force your wife to take the time to teach you. It must be approached with supplication and humility. Learn what you can, when you can. Ask to share tasks you would have otherwise left to others. Offer to help, do not demand to be in control.

Above all, learn about the part of your life more important than all others – your family. As a father, your most important contribution to your children is not in how much you can provide for them, it is in how much you can work with your wife in raising and teaching your children so they can go forward with strength into adulthood. The education of both you and your wife are of equal importance, whether it be in schooling, home and family maintenance, or in the Gospel. All of the learning you attain here will be of help to you in the hereafter, but more immediately, it will be a strength to you in the here and now. This I testify, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Doing It Right: Teaching the Men to Be Better Fathers

When a month has five Sundays, the fifth is given to each individual Ward to make a lesson for the adults based on the needs of the people in that Ward.  We’ve had lessons from the Bishopric (who is in charge of the lesson) on food storage, families, and other more general topics such as tithing and temple attendance.  Most of the time, this goes fairly well since the Bishop has a unique perspective on the needs of the Ward he has been called to watch over.  Being mortal, there have also been failures.  I’ve heard of one ward where the Bishop spent time instructing the women (and only the women) on the need to be more sexually available to their husbands.  In our ward, we had something I’ve never seen before – a lesson from the Presidents of the Primary, Young Women’s Organization, and Relief Society (all of whom are women, for those who don’t know) to all the men of the Ward on how they can be better fathers.  This covers a broad spectrum of men, from those not yet married to those with grandchildren.  And, though it was the same lesson to all, I suspect that what was learned was different for each one of us, no matter what our circumstance.

First, we heard from the Primary President.  She is the head of the organization within the Ward that teaches the children to age 12.  First, she quoted The Family: A Proclamation to the World“:

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

Next, she shared some sobering answers to some questions she posed to the children in her care:

How do you know your father loves you?

  • He plays with me
  • He helps me
  • He shows me
  • I don’t know

What are things you want to do with your dad?

  • Go play
  • Hike
  • Spend time

How do you know your dad loves your mom?

  • He does things for her
  • Hugs & Kisses
  • I don’t know

It’s these last answers, “I don’t know,” that are the most sobering.  While we are doing some things right, if some of our children don’t know we love them or their mothers, we’re doing something wrong.  Next, we had the President of the Young Women’s Organization, who has charge over the young women, aged 12-18, in our ward:

What is the greatest mistake in raising a daughter?

  • Not understanding your significance in your daughter’s life

Your daughter sees how her father treats her, her mother, and other women.  Daughters are not limited to your own family – you have influence as Home Teachers and even as friends of the family.  Daughters who feel fathers care have less problems with stress, eating disorders, depression, etc., and more desire for education, independence, and growth.  They make better decisions about sex and how others should treat them.  Daughters see in their father what to expect in future relationships.  Their experiences with Heavenly Father will be a relation of her experiences with her mortal father.

What can a father do?

  • listen without criticism
  • notice her mood
  • be willing to talk 1 on 1
  • spend quality time
  • be there when needed
  • show his love, even when she is not treating him well
  • says and shows his love
  • praises kindness and other good, intrinsic values
  • shares his testimony and talks about his hopes and concerns

A father should be a guardian of virtue.  Do not back away in those times when she is pushing you away.  She may not always listen or make the right choices, but she will appreciate that you cared enough to try, and especially that you care enough to welcome her back with open arms, no matter how old she gets or how much time has passed.

 

We concluded with a few remarks from the Relief Society President, who is over all the women 18 and over.  (She didn’t get much time):

Knowing her fathers love can help carry her through adulthood, and can be an example of the love of her Heavenly Father for her.  Love her mother.  You have ways to effect [your daughters] life in a way no one else can.

 

This concluded with a group of the Young Women singing “If the Savior Were Beside Me”

 

I thought it was a good lesson, all in all.  Full of things to think about and inviting the spirit to help teach more than what was said.  Thinking about it later, though – what if this were a lesson to the women, by the men, on how they could be better mothers?  Would that have been as well received?  I don’t know.  I do know, however, that this felt right, and I’m glad the female Presidents in our ward had a chance to teach the men in a way we would not have usually gotten.

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Feminism and Same Sex Marriage are not compatible

One of the current arguments for Same Sex Marriage (SSM) is that children can be raised just as well by two men or two women as they can by a woman and a man.  It is essentially saying that in matters of parenting, gender does not matter.  This seems to me to be directly contrary to feminism, since if gender did not matter, why should it matter if women are or are not in the same leadership positions as men?  I can understand the attraction of connecting homosexual marriage and feminism; both have a desire to see that everyone is treated equally and fairly.  However, to me, the persual of gay marriage undermines the feminist ideas that women cannot be served just as well by having only male leadership.

In LDS belief, men and women have always been and always will be men and women, respectively.  Your gender, whatever it is, is eternal.  No, this does not answer the state of those who have ambiguous gender, but for the majority it is simple enough – the gender you were born with is the gender you always were and always will be.  Could we be wrong?  Absolutely.  I could get to the next life and find that I really am female, and that would take some getting used to, but I can leave that dilemma for then, rather than worrying about it now.

We do not react to men and women in the same manner, no matter who we are.  If we are in a situation where the gender is ambiguous, we automatically assign one gender or the other until we can determine otherwise.  If we discover we were wrong in our assignment of gender, our reactions to and perceptions of that person change with some difficulty, because we have so closely connected that particular gender to that particular person.  Even in reading this post, you are making different judgements based on both my gender and yours.  Men and women are different.  They have physical, mental, and spiritual attributes that <i>in general</i> conform to their specified gender.  Can these attributes be found outside of the given gender?  Certainly, but as an exception, not as a rule.  Do we know what these differences are?  Very, very rarely.  Even with our instinctual knowledge of the differences between men and women, these differences are very difficult to quantify and define.

Studies show (forgive my lack of links) that there is a difference in the general outcome of raising children in homes with both a mother and father committed to marriage, as opposed to a mother or father alone, two fathers, two mothers, or a mother and father with an unstable marriage.  As children, we look to our fathers and mothers to see how we should react to others of that same gender, which cannot be accomplished as well as a single or same sex parent.  It certainly <i>can</i> be done, but it is not accomplished as easily as it would be in a stable two-parent, two-gender home.

Some of the pains often pointed out by feminists are that it would be more preferable for women to be able to confess to other women (rather than male-only Bishops), pray to their Mother in Heaven who would be able to empathize with women better, and that women leaders would be more sensitive to womens issues.  Men and women are not the same, but they should be treated equally, have equal opportunity for advancement even in those areas where men and women are seperated by those physical, mental, and spiritual differences.  Even though equality of treatment is an important aspect of both feminism and advocating for the LGBTQ amoung us, the loss of gender roles in marriage and parenthood desired in same sex marriage are in direct opposition to feminism – that even though women and men are different, they should both be treated and respected equally.

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My thoughts on polygamy

In the early decades of the Church, one of the practices that came from questions about some of the ancient prophets having more than one wife was the practice of polygyny (one man having more than one wife).  Instruction was received by revelation, and it was practiced by a number of the leaders and others in the Church.  This caused some divisions and also had some strong supporters, both of those within and without the practice.  The Church officially discontinued the practice (leaving those marriages already entered into intact) in 1890.  The Church had to further crack down on those entering into these marriages since then by excommunicating those within polygynous marriages, and continues to do so today.  This is not only to remain compliant with US law, since even in countries where polygynous marriage is acceptable and allowed, the Church does not allow its members to marry polygynously to more than one living woman at a time.

The “living” part is the one catch that still bothers some now.  Since we believe that marriage is eternal, it is possible to be married to more than one person at a time, which is polygamy (one person having more than one spouse).  While there have been scriptures that can be interpreted as saying that polygyny is an absolute must for anyone desiring the highest order of Heaven, as well as statements from Prophets that it must be so, we also have statements from all the modern-day Prophets and scriptures that say that is not so.

 

For me, one of the big definitions of the Celestial Kingdom (the highest level of Heaven) is that you won’t be stuck with someone you don’t want to spend forever with.  That means whatever marriages are entered into here, even those sealed in the Temple, will not be enforced not only if either party has not lived up to their covenants required for this level of Heaven, but if any of the parties involved does not want to be part of it.  People will not be “stuck” with their abusers, nor will they be forced to stay in a polygamous marriage (men or women) if they cannot wholeheartedly love every other person in that marriage.  When the time for the ultimate decision comes (of which there may be many), we will all have the clarity of mind to know exactly who these other people are and how we feel in ourselves about being with them forever.  Also, those who decide to break from their Earthly sealings because of sin (not their own) or other reasons will not be without hope of finding the marriage they can be in for Eternity.  There will not be an “odd man (or woman) out” because they couldn’t find someone.  Being alone, and the path where that leads, will be that person’s choice, without lack of knowledge or need for excuse.

I don’t find polygamy to be inherently problematic in this age.  In the past, it has been used to control women, but it has also been used to give women more freedom.  That was a side effect of marriage in general in the past, there the woman was considered the property of the man, either her husband or father.  I don’t think that is the optimal way to view a marriage, or has ever been, and we are still working to move to a more egalitarian and balanced approach to men and women in general.  I believe that we are capable of polygamous marriage, but only if is directed toward that Celestial ideal.

 

My wife and I actually talked about polygamy on our first date.  (We talked for a number of hours, so it was one of many things we talked about, the list of which would show how odd we are.)  Our take is that we could accept it if it were asked of us, but we would each need individual confirmation of it and specific direction on it from the Prophet.  That personal direction is important to us, and we’ve had many experiences where we’ve done things as a family that we each got individual direction on.  I imagine a number of LDS couples have had to discuss it at some point, because of the possibility of death and remarriage, since we do believe in marriage for Eternity, rather than “til death do you part”.  Could I ever find someone I love as much as I love my beautiful wife?  I don’t know.  I’d rather not find out.  I would hope, however, that if my wife ever passed away (perish the thought) that I would only accept as another wife someone who my wife could also love with all her heart.

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Roles in creation

I’ve been reading some interesting conversations on comparing motherhood, fatherhood, Priesthood, and the current, not-but-kinda-equal-to-Priesthood, Relief Society.  There is the usual argument about Priesthood being equal to motherhood (which I disagreed with in a previous post), but one aspect of this, the roles we are given, struck a chord with me.  What roles do men and women have, in the eternities, that are comparable to the roles we have here on Earth?

In creating children here on Earth, a man’s role is limited to providing half of a blueprint.  The remainder of the work and materials is provided by the woman.  Will this be somewhat the same in the eternities?  No, I do not mean that women will be resigned to baby-making in the eternities, doing nothing but popping out babies like a queen ant.  What I mean is that in organizing worlds, is it possible that while both men and women will be capable of organizing the raw materials of worlds, will the creation of life itself be only possible by women?  Could it be that a man alone could only organize lifeless worlds, and thus needs a woman to create the vast variety that is life?

This is -highly- speculative.  At this time, with all our knowledge of science, we are nowhere near being able to define how life begins or ends.  Aside from obvious systemic errors, we don’t know why there are instances where there are babies born that do not live once they are taken off the life support of their mother, nor why bodies cease to function.  Creating life is so common as to be taken for granted and so mysterious that we cannot find the why of it happening.  There is so very much we have to learn, if we are to become as our Heavenly Parents.  I hope, as I continue that journey after this life (hand in hand with my beautiful wife, of course), I will be able to accept the truths available then and let go of the misconceptions I develop in this life.

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