Posts Tagged priesthood

You’re not a gatekeeper if you don’t hold the key

I’ve come across a few articles recently which have gone back over the idea that men have Priesthood and women have Motherhood. These are trying to make the case that each gender has it’s own sphere and should be content with that. The reasoning used for this comes mainly from Valerie Hudson Casslers’ speech The Two Trees. She brings in information from the Eden story to declare that men are “gatekeepers” of the ordinances required for salvation while women are “gatekeepers” of mortality. She equates this with the two trees mentioned in the Eden story, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve ate the fruit of the second tree and gave to Adam from it, so women are in charge of making mortality. (She also asserts a few things that LDS “believe”, but that’s another post.)

Overall, I think it’s a good speech with some good ideas and thoughts, and while I’m glad for those who have found some measure of peace and understanding through it. However, I find the conclusion of it, the very premise that men are gatekeepers of salvation while women are gatekeepers of mortality, to be overly simplistic and potentially damaging. I know I’ve written on it before, but it needs to be said more often, so people will start to get it.

Making babies is not analogous to Priesthood.

To the point of rebutting Casslers’ analogy, the saving ordinances performed by men with the Priesthood can be done with no input whatsoever by a woman. As far as being a “gatekeeper” for them, the analogy works. Creating mortal bodies, however, cannot be done by a woman alone. Women may stand at the gate, doing the work of guarding and the very nearly all of the work of opening the gate,, but only men have the key. It takes both to open this gate. You can’t call women “gatekeepers” of a gate they have no power to open on their own.

There are also the standard arguments against equating Motherhood and Priesthood, like Motherhood being available to nearly all women while Priesthood is available to fairly few men, and that neither can be the ultimate meaning of a persons’ life, but I’m glad to leave those for other times.

I do think there are many, many wonderful things waiting for us in the future. I may be completely wrong on what they are, but I do know that whatever there is, it will be wondrous for all of us, men and women. I believe we will have the balance that we know exists in our Heavenly Parent’s love for us, but I despair at some of the rationales we develop to try and convince ourselves that we have that balance now.

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A lesson on caring for single sisters

This past Sunday, in the meeting we have of those ordained as an Elder, we had a special topic and teacher for our lesson. The lesson was on how we can better serve as Home Teachers to the single sisters in our ward, taught by one of these single sisters. Home Teaching is a program where the Elders and High Priests of the ward are put into pairs and assigned to met with each family, in their homes, once a month, to share a spiritual message and to try and help the family wherever we can. Usually, Elders aren’t assigned single sisters (by policy, probably because single sisters are perceived to have more need), but since we have 60 in our ward, we’ve all at least one family that consists of a single sister (sometimes with children), rather than a married couple (also sometimes with children).

Our ward may be a bit high on the number of single sisters, but I don’t think it’s all that high. There was a recent New York Times piece on women in the Church, A Growing Role for Mormon Women, that had an interesting infographic, showing the ratios of single men to women of different age groups in the Church. What particularly surprised me was that, while there were more men than women in the under 30 group, each group older than that has progressively more single women than men. Over 60, the ratio of single men to women is up to five women for every man. Some would say that the ratio of 12 men to 10 women under 30 is an indicator that young women are “leaving in droves” over perceived inequality, and that this ratio will continue. I think with the increased numbers of women serving as missionaries the ration will continue to skew younger, it becoming more noticeable earlier that the women who remain in the Church will outnumber the men, even below 30.

I’m kind of conflicted about the numbers of single women in the Church, especially those I see around me. I know they are strong women, many of whom are dealing with impossible circumstances of trying to raise and provide for a family on their own. They do not technically “need” someone else to share the load, but it certainly would make life easier if that were the case. I do not want to ever infer that these women are less than, incomplete people, or anything of the sort, but I do know that beneath it all there is a vulnerability, a need for the Priesthood power only available to men, that they feel in their homes and lives. I don’t think ordination would solve this (even if it may relieve it for some), but some things can only be helped when you can see yourself moving toward that next step of becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in a committed, equally yoked, sealed marriage.

That brings me back to the lesson. The lesson, as I said, was on how we can better serve the single sisters in our ward and was taught by one of these single sisters. She’d done a great amount of work, polling and talking to the single women in our Ward so she could communicate with us the special needs that were there. She’d asked the sisters what the top needs were for Home Teachers. The answers were not terribly surprising, as they tend to apply to all of the families we teach: 1. Show Up, 2. Make an Appointment, 3. Be Consistent.

There were a few comments from the men on how we were needed, especially to help with what I’d refer to as “moving big stuff” (y’know, manly man work) that I wanted to push back against, but I felt that I both couldn’t and shouldn’t. I was there to learn from someone who is one of the women in this group, not to lessen her time to teach by pushing back on this minor misconception. Thankfully, she put in some points that helped put these ideas down. She has her own home, in which she’s done her own yard work, tiled her own kitchen, done her own upkeep. There were also times when she needed an extra hand, like in removing a stump from her yard. She was glad of her Home Teacher who not only got together the people to get the stump out, but went the extra mile of filling in the hole and getting sod to grass the new bald spot. It wasn’t an absolute need, but she was very, very grateful for this service.

She also talked very passionately about the need of having the Priesthood available in times of need. She talked about how we need to build the relationships with those we are assigned to watch over so we’ll be one of the first people they think of when they need help, whatever that help may be. No one is going to call for help someone they barely see once a quarter, not even when something as seemingly simple as a blessing or just a shoulder is needed. These women keenly feel the lack of Priesthood power in their homes, and yet they are still strong in their faith and in the Church.

Priesthood holders are not here to “rescue” these women. We’re not supposed to be swooping in to make everything better. These women are not helpless children. When I attended Young Women’s camp as a Priesthood holder, it was not to be over anyone, to be the “manly man” to keep everyone safe, or to be the body to move the heavy stuff; it was to be simply available when a Priesthood blessing is needed. Yes, this could have been done by any Priesthood holder in the area, but it was important to have someone from each Ward, someone familiar to those being served.

That’s the key, really – familiarity. Knowing those we intend to serve is the only way we really can serve. Familiarity helps remove the broad misconceptions we may have about any group. I hope I can do a better job of being there for the families of every size and shape around me, especially for those I’ve been assigned.

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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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Girls Camp Helper

This year I tried a new experience – volunteering to be one of the two required Priesthood holders for a day and night at Girls Camp.  For those who don’t know, Girls Camp is a week-long retreat for the Young Women of the Ward/Stake, ages 12-18, with their adult leaders and other women asked to help.  Church policy is that each Ward needs 2 Priesthood holders on site at all times during the camp, in case there arises a need for Priesthood blessings for any reason.  I was glad for a chance to help, even in a small way, the women of our ward, so I went ahead and volunteered for a day and a night there at camp.

The planning meeting I was asked to attend went very well.  It was interesting to have the meeting conducted by one of the Laurel Presidents from the Stake – a 17-year-old young woman rather than one of her adult advisors.  They seemed to have everything well planned, though I really had no idea what I was to be doing there.  The camp itself surprised me, as somehow there was a large refuge of beech trees amongst all the scrubland that makes up most of Utah.  I’d wondered idly on my way there if I should have packed sunblock, but it wasn’t really needed.

The problem really came with me.  I’d not been camping in at least 20 years, had never been to a Girls Camp, and though I knew what I should pack.  Aside from a sleeping bag (a canvas tent with cots was provided for the Priesthood at the camp), I’d decided to pack only a spare change of clothes and some pyjamas.  Didn’t even occur to me to ask anyone what I would need.  I think part of the assumption was that the men who had volunteered already knew something about camping.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those who is just glad to help, hopeful someone knows what they are doing, and really had no idea what I was doing.

It started out fairly well.  I helped with odd jobs and mostly stayed out-of-the-way.  I probably should have brought a book for the few times I’d have nothing to do, but it was nice just to be in the outdoors in those times.  The girls even invited me to join in with their tie-dying activity they had between dinner and Family Home Evening (since it was a Monday night).  The talks and songs of the FHE were really cool, as I always enjoy hearing the experiences and learning of the women and get it less often than I’d like.  No, the trouble started when the sun went down.

For those who don’t already know – in the mountains, when its dark, it starts to get cold, even in the Summer.  In my confident planning, I didn’t even bring a jacket.  I spent some time shivering and wondering if I’d freeze to death before being offered a share of a blanket some of the adult sisters were using and the use of a spare jacket the Bishop had left earlier.

Between my arthritic body always acting very adversely to cold, settling in of panic attacks because of my lack of planning, and the added concern over my 2-year-old son who had been taken to the hospital the previous week (they think it was from the fever he had), I couldn’t make it.  I worked out making sure Priesthood would be covered with a member of our Stake Presidency who was there, let the women in charge know that I needed to go and they were still covered, and headed home in tears, feeling a massive amount of personal failure on the mountain roads home.

No one has said anything about it since.  The Young Women still gave me a “thank you” card for coming to help, and it seems to have passed on without any real comment.  I was glad to help with the next youth temple trip, in any way they needed me, and will continue to try to help where I feel I can.

We’ll see how next year goes.  I hope that either my wife will get her dream of being able to go to Girls Camp herself, or I’ll at least be a little more prepared for a night in the mountains than I was this time.

I’m glad they have Girls Camp.  I do wish they had more opportunities for Scout like things for the Young Women for those who would enjoy more time and learning outdoors, but I am glad they at least have Girls Camp.  I think if my Scout Camp experiences would have been as well-organized and directed, I would have enjoyed spending time in the outdoors so much more.

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Believing in Miracles

In the early years of the Church, miracles of healing, prophecy, and tongues seemed rampant.  I believe part of this appearance is due to the closeness of the community and the habit of writing and publishing every prophecy (no matter how widely it applied) to the entire Church.  For example, mission calls are an almost constant occurrence now, but none of them are published in the Doctrine and Covenants or announced over the pulpit at conference.  Miraculous healings are often quietly shared stories as part of a lesson or talk, rather than documented in the now public journals of half the congregation.

I wonder, though, if some other reason may be involved.  As we’ve wandered through the 20th century, with its advances in technology and knowledge about how things work, we’ve simply stopped believing in miracles.  Somewhere along the line, we’ve decided we were too “grown up” to believe that miracles were anything more than just coincidences.  The expectation of a miracle has given way to the belief of “if it’s only by God’s will anyway, why should asking, praying, or giving a blessing make any difference?”  The belief in being a conduit of the power of God has given way to “I’m not really important enough to do those big things.”  Fear also plays into this.  We don’t have records or spread stories of times when miracles did not happen, even when done by people who had been part of a miracle before.  We fear, “what if I try and it doesn’t work – was it God’s will, or was it my own arrogance, pride, or other failure that got in the way?”

What can we do to see an increase in the miracles around us?  What can we do to believe in the gifts we have and the power we’ve been authorized to use?

First, we can remove the incorrect assumption that gifts of the spirit are only made manifest through holders of the Priesthood.  In the scriptures, there is no mention of Priesthood when talking about Gifts of the Spirit (such as healing, prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc.), nor is there mention of Priesthood in the Article of Faith listing some of the Gifts of the spirit we believe in.  Not all gifts are given to all people.  The Priesthood is not the bestowal of spiritual gifts, but the call to perform specific acts and ordinances.  Healing may be done by the power of the Priesthood, but this is not a requirement for using the healing Gift of the Spirit.

Second, we can give the responsibility of the outcome to God.  There is a balance to be found here.  We cannot take the whole responsibility of a miracle happening or not happening on ourselves, but we also cannot just give blessings and expect God’s will is always the same as our will.  We should be striving to listen to the Spirit of God to know when we can be a conduit for a miracle while <i>also</i> accepting whatever the result of the attempt may be.  Yes, it is always according to God’s will, but you do not know that it was not also God’s will that you try, even if the answer would be no.  As we often try to remind our children, “you will never know if you never ask,” sometimes the act of asking is as important as the miracle itself.

Third, we can believe that miracles are continually happening all around us.  None of them may be as immediate or dramatic as we would like them to be, but we have a very limited view on what is happening all around us.  Our drive to work may have been delayed or sped up by a milliseconds difference in the changing of a traffic light, but that millisecond may have been the difference between a safe drive and a bad accident.  How many times have we made a mistake and said to ourselves, “I’m glad no one was there, or I would have caused an accident!”  Even in the gift of healing, we cannot know the effect the use of that gift has had.  Maybe the time the person would remain sick was lessened.  Maybe just the soothing of the Spirit is all that could happen.  No matter what your expectations on effect and timing, you have no way of knowing what the outcome would be, nor of its place in conforming to the will of God.

Last, we can believe that each one of us is important enough to be a conduit for the power of God.  There is nothing commonplace about us – we each are known and beloved children of Heavenly Parents.  We each have the capacity to become like them.  We each have the capacity to be a part of doing whatever is asked of us is moving along their plan for us.  No part is too small, and every person is needed.

What thoughts do you have?  What can we do to bring us back into remembrance of the Gifts of the Spirit that seem too few and far between in this “modern” day and age?

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Excommunication at a Ward level

I’ve come across a bit of a policy in the Church in regards to excommunication, and it is something that bothers me. The idea that Bishops can excommunicate non-priesthood-holding members.  When I came across one story of a young woman who had committed fornication (which is adultery for the unmarried), I thought the Bishop had made a mistake, not knowing the correct policy.  When I came across it a second time, it was pointed out to me that the Bishop can excommunicate members, with a consultation with the Stake President, but that only Priesthood holding men are sent to a court with the full High Council.  I found an article in the Ensign (A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings) that confirmed this.

I understand that the reason for this is that the person with the Priesthood has been given more responsibility and has therefore committed a greater sin, but to me this should be applied to anyone who has been to the Temple and taken out his or her Endowments, as that has included a covenant with God to remain chaste.  I realize that the High Council is busy enough as it is, but excommunication is too important to be left to the impressions of just one person, the Bishop.  I do know that Bishops are given gifts of discernment, but there have also been instances where that power has been abused.  I just think the chance for abuse is much less if the matter must always be put before the entire High Council for any member who has made and violated the Covenants made in the Temple.

There evidently also needs to be some instruction on the difference between fornication and adultery, but that is an entirely different post.  My wife thinks I should pray about this.  Always a good idea, though I’m not meaning this as a slight against the Church, I just see it as a way we can do things better.  It’s what I do.  We can, and thanks to guidance from above, we will be better.

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Equating Motherhood and Priesthood

Being of a somewhat feminist leaning, I was a bit taken aback when one of my 11 year old Primary students brought out an axiom he learned from his mother – “Men get the Priesthood and women get the babies”.  I tried to mitigate this a bit, since he was telling it to one of his female classmates, but to me this is a lot more complex than a simple axiom.

Motherhood does not equal Priesthood.  Yes, there are responsibilities that each entail that cannot (at this time) be done by the other, but to me, there is so much more that makes up men and women beyond these two simple tropes that the axiom is too much of an oversimplification, and potentially damaging.  It may be an easy simplification for children, but certainly more teaching would need to be done to expand both things that are bare facets of what makes up men and women.

Not all women can be mothers, at least not in the strict sense of childbearing and breastfeeding.  Similarly, not all men have the Priesthood.  Yes, all worthy males are given the Priesthood in the Church, but the subset of men with Priesthood in the world is much, much smaller than the subset of women who are mothers.  Neither is the “ultimate calling” of men and women, nor are they adequate definitions of what make men, men and women, women.

Trying to compare the two is not even comparing apples and oranges, as there have been times (and likely will be again) when there have been roles now considered only of the Priesthood that have been also done by women, such as prophesying, healing the sick, etc., and it is impossible (without extensive surgery and technology) for men to bear children.  It’s like comparing apples and ostriches.

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