Reconciling the Priesthood and Women in the Church

Why are women not ordained? Does their lack of ordination make them an oppressed population?

I have been thinking about this topic for some time now, even before I decided to start this blog. I’ve been from one end of the spectrum to the other, puzzling it out in my mind. Before I delve into my thoughts and things that I’ve learned in the past months but especially the past week, let me first say that I don’t know. I don’t know why women do not hold priesthood keys or authority. That being said, let me share what I have learned on this topic, especially in regards to equality.

I should begin by saying that much of what I will say was at least influenced by one or both of two sources, though in some cases they simply put into words what I was already thinking. The first, is my older sister, who has done a lot of research and discussion with the Lord. The other source is a talk given by Sheri Dew at Time Out For Women 2012.

I said before that I do not know why women do not hold priesthood keys or authority. It should be noted that I did not say “the priesthood.” Women have every bit as much access to priesthood power as men, especially those who are endowed. Women are barred from no spiritual gift that men can enjoy. The power of the priesthood is no exception. The only requirement for using this power is that you be righteous. Gender does not matter. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said it this way: “Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness…-in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord.” Despite this truth, many men and women fail to properly recognize it. Men sometimes can feel that they are in a position of superiority, and women sometimes believe them. Not so.

What I say now, I offer as my opinion, and is not Church doctrine. The rest of the priesthood- specifically keys and authority- are meant to help men get to where women already are. Think about this. Why is it that men must hold the priesthood in order to enter the temple, while women need only be worthy to enter? What does that tell us about the role of the priesthood for men? I’ll tell you that for me, priesthood keys and authority have never made feel superior to women. However, they have made feel like I might be able accomplish as much as women. All the women in my life are naturally organized, charitable, and willing to give of their time and talents. They are some of the best people I know. I and I daresay most men, lack these qualities naturally. They can be obtained learned, and one doesn’t necessarily need the priesthood to learn them. However, when I was serving in my home ward in the presidency of the various quorums (understand, I am not tooting my own horn here- these were not positions that I aspired to), I, and my fellow presidency members often were shown what the presidencies of the young women classes were doing. Often I would see these presidencies reaching out to other young women, and loving them. We had a really hard time doing this with our young men. I had a really hard time doing this. I had a hard time caring. I found that by the time I was a priest, I had learned, though not quite enough yet, how to reach out to other young men and… fellowship them. I could at least help them feel wanted, which is more than I could say when I was a deacon. But I did, and still have a long way to go to get to where my female contemporaries were when we were 12.

What I’m saying is that the priesthood is a means for men to learn how to do things and BE things that women inherently are. It forces us to look beyond ourselves, since we can only use it to benefit others. It forces us to learn how to love and how to organize, how to look for the needs of others, and do what we can to help them. Women, you are born with these traits! Yes, they still have to be developed, just as all talents and traits have to be, but it is a gift that you are given. I’m not suggesting that women have it better than men, or that men are victims of some sort. No, men also have their strengths that they are born with. We just need a little more help it our quest to have Christlike love, and achieve exaltation. The priesthood is not to make men better- its to help us be equal with women.

Okay, that all was definitely my opinion, not Church doctrine. I struggled to find the right words there, and none of it was meant to offend anyone. My opinion has been influenced by many people, and I’ve had the above opinion for some time, though my sister and the talk by Sheri Dew helped to put it into words.

Sheri Dew used a quote in her talk that I thought was particularly relevant.

“The blessings of the priesthood are not confined to men alone. These blessings are also poured out upon…all the faithful women of the Church…The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by His sons.” -President Joseph Fielding Smith

I thought that these quotes were excellent and informative. Both of these men who are prophets, seers, and revelators, are prime examples of how the Priesthood of God views women: Equal.

In conclusion, I will reiterate in short terms what I’ve been getting at with this whole post- men and women are equal in God’s eyes, and in the eyes of the Church, and the priesthood is what makes it possible for men to be on equal footing with women.

Trying to Understand Feminism and Patriarchy

To many in the world, “feminism” refers to fanatical women who hate men, who have no sense of humor, and enjoy braiding their leg hair. To many LDS men, any LDS woman who considers herself a feminist wants the priesthood, and wants to wear the pants, preferring the husband to stay at home with the kids. This is sad, and definitely not true of most feminists. On the flip side, you have a culture in most of the world based on a twisted form of patriarchy. Men dominate the world. Fact. Is it right? No. But are all men domineering and power-hungry, wishing to control women and put them in positions of inferiority, viewing them as a commodity instead of as humans? No. Both philosophies at their core are good, and righteous. When put together righteously, patriarchy and feminism compliment and advance each other. A true patriarch recognizes the worth and equality of his wife (and all women), and a true feminist recognizes the worth and equality of her husband (and all men). The clincher here, is that they BOTH recognize their need for the other. My faith teaches me that while salvation is a personal matter, exaltation is family matter, and no one is exalted without their spouse. No one. Therefore, there must be equality in a marriage relationship, or exaltation cannot be realized by either party.

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So, now that you understand where I stand on equality, lets talk about feminism and patriarchy.

Who is a feminist? When I first heard about feminism, I thought to myself that never in a million years would I be, or even be friends with, a feminist. I held the above mentioned assumptions about them, and looked upon the whole movement with a certain degree of disgust. Then my sister asked me a few questions that caught me off guard and left me completely unprepared for her immediate conclusion (which was premeditated). The conversation went something like this:

“Do you think women should have an equal opportunity as men in the workplace?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that men and women working the exact same job with the same credentials should receive the same pay?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that men and women in a marriage relationship are equal partners?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that women should enjoy all the same rights that men do?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that women are born with the same capacity for intellect that men are?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that a woman should have control over her own body?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’re a feminist.”

“…What?”

Needless to say, I’ve revised my thinking somewhat since that time. If you look up the definition of feminism in the dictionary you’ll find something along the lines of, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of women to men.” So, while this is a very simple way of defining it, its true. If you can agree with the above statements, you are a feminist. If you need a little more convincing, this article is great: Yes, You Are.

So whats wrong with being a feminist? Short answer, nothing. In fact, if you believe that men and women should be equal politically, economically and socially, you are one.

That all being said, if you believe in gender equality at all, you subscribe to patriarchy. Now, before you get all up in arms saying that patriarchy is all about male dominance, let me explain what I mean. Patriarchy started with Adam. Eve was his equal. Adam was a patriarch and Eve was a feminist. Neither exercised control over the other. They even made the decision to leave the garden of Eden together, and neither forced the other to stay or go. Patriarchy, in its original, and God-given sense, had nothing to do with male dominance, and had more to do with being a good husband and father. Eve, in her feminism, was also taught how to be a good wife and mother, and together they were united in teaching their children about God, and about life in general. Were they perfect? Of course not. Were their children? No, and some of them were about as far from it as you can get. Thus, patriarchy began to be twisted.

The sad truth today is that we still live in a male-dominated society. The sad truth today is that even within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there are men who think that their priesthood means they have some authority over their wife, or women in general. The sad truth is that men abuse women way more than women abuse men, and the atrocities are countless. Is there a problem with patriarchy today? You bet. There are several problems with it. But those problems have been caused by the world’s definition of patriarchy, not God’s, and not the Church’s either. All people are equal in God’s eyes. He does not care if you are a man or a woman.  He doesn’t care if you’re homosexual or straight.  He doesn’t care if you’re black, white, green, blue, or orange. He favors no one above anyone.

I claim to follow God, and I strive to be like him, just like most people in the church. I believe that to become like God, I have to stop having prejudices. I have the greatest respect for women, and I will even go so far as to say that I am a feminist. But I am not perfect, and I do not love everyone like I should. I’m working on it. As I continue to study the equality of the sexes and then the equality of all human beings, I hope to break down some of my own barriers, and hopefully help anyone willing to listen break down some of theirs.

Hopefully, I’ve answered the question as to what feminism and patriarchy are. Hopefully, I’ve effectively portrayed what they ought to, and can be. I intend to refer to them in their perfect sense, while discussing the flaws that the world has added to them.

If you have anything you would like me address, answer or research, please let me know! I’m still learning, and I always love to learn more!

A man commenting on Feminism, Patriarchy, and trying to reconcile the two.

I’m Posting a disclaimer right off the bat- I am a MAN. I am not claiming to know what it’s like to be a woman, nor trying to tell women anything about themselves, or trying to educate them on feminism. I myself am learning about it as I go, having been introduced to it by my oldest sister. I have had many discussions with her about it, and am in the midst of my own research. My purpose here is not to disparage feminism, and it is not to glorify patriarchy. I have the utmost respect for women, as well as the priesthood. I don’t hold myself above women because I am a priesthood holder. I hold the firm belief that men and women are equal, but not the same. Nor should they be. We are different, and that is the way God intended it. So the purpose of this Blog is to talk about both feminism and patriarchy, and study how they might be reconciled within the framework of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both can exist within the Gospel of Jesus Christ and even build on each other, but both also can be twisted and become something evil. I’m hoping to generate a discussion between men and women so that we can understand each other, and hopefully move toward more equality between men and women.