I cannot express to you how much I would rather be blogging about music right now. But I have some things I really want to say about this issue that I hope can be seen by some people I love, and also people I have yet to meet. I recognize that there will be some terminology or issues discussed that may not be easily comprehended by those who are not of my faith. All are welcome to read on anyway. Feel free to send me a personal message with any questions you may have if you’d like.
Tomorrow night will be the priesthood session of this year’s April LDS General Conference. It is a meeting for men over the age of 12, where they are instructed and inspired by our church’s highest leaders. As many of my fellow Mormons know, there is a group called “Ordain Women” who has been petitioning LDS church leaders to allow not just men, but women to be ordained to the priesthood. These women are organizing a large group to try and gain entrance to the priesthood session, even though they have already been informed by church officials that they will not be admitted.
Let me take a moment to give some background info to people tuning in who may not be familiar with these meetings. The information and inspirational talks given at the priesthood session are not secret. They’ve long been in print online and in magazines very shortly after the event, and now, in places where cable services will carry it, it is even broadcast into homes. Last weekend there was a general women’s meeting of LDS General Conference. This is also an event where we are instructed and inspired by our highest leaders. In years past the church has swapped back and forth at conference time, every six months having either a meeting for adult women, or a meeting for young women aged 12-18. Last Saturday marked the first women’s meeting under the new system, which welcomes all women over the age of 8, every six months. I thought last Saturday’s service was beautiful, empowering, and very inspiring. All day Saturday and Sunday this weekend there are other meetings directed to our whole families. I live in Utah and our family is blessed to be able to watch it on television from home. We love these meetings.
I don’t align myself with the cause of Ordain Women, but I love and admire many women who hold beliefs and convictions that differ from my own. Also, while I don’t aspire to be ordained to the priesthood and don’t believe in petitioning for it, I can relate to some of the other issues that some Mormon women have brought up at times, issues that occasionally arise from a male dominated leadership system carried out by humans, most of which are doing the very best they can; but maybe there are some things that could possibly be fixed, changed, or at least addressed without altering church doctrine. I’ve talked a little about some of these things in a previous blog post you can read here: http://www.cheriecall.com/2013/whos-wearing-the-pants/
What has really got me discouraged and sad right now is all the hostility I see coming from every direction about Ordain Women. Ugly words being hurled back and forth and posted online. Broad assumptions being made about exactly what kind of people the women are on either side. (brainless breeder dummies vs. bra burning man haters) Insensitive jokes or harsh words coming from Mormon men, who might need stay out of this one for a bit. More on that in a moment.
So much of this stuff so very obviously comes from a place of anger, and when you dig deeper, fear. What does everyone fear?
In the whirlwind of the coverage of the Ordain Women cause, many of my LDS sisters feel compelled to state their own convictions about what the priesthood means to them, and the powerful responsibilities they feel they actually do have in their families and church, without needing to be ordained. I have respect for this. I understand why a lot of Mormon women would want to tell the world they are not oppressed, dumb people who don’t have thoughts of their own. That they’re not disgruntled. I agree. All of that makes sense to me. I start getting sad when I feel contention, hostility and fear bubbling up in the statements of good women who originally meant well when they decided to share their feelings about the problems they have with Ordain Women. Name calling starts happening. Broad assumptions are made about the worthiness of the women affiliated with this cause; mean comments about the personalities of women they’ve never met.
Men have jumped into the argument. Although this cause centers around a group of women who want to be accepted into what in so many ways is a men’s organization, ironically, I think most men might want to stay out of the online arguments going on right now. They should definitely proceed with extreme caution. Many don’t realize how many of the angry statements they make, or the insensitive jokes they make, actually add fuel to the fire, and often offend women on both sides.
I want to add a bit of perspective here that might help make more sense of what I mean. In my teens, my mother was single. Freshly divorced. My younger brother and I were still living at home. When we were sick in the middle of the night and my mother wanted to comfort us and help us, the best solution that came to her mind was to see that we could have a priesthood blessing, one with the official healing oils placed on our heads. If she wanted to make this happen, she could either call a man in our neighborhood in the middle of the night to leave his home and come over, or she could call her ex-husband; something that added a lot of awkwardness to an experience that should have been full of light and peace. Many times she opted to just wrap her arms around us and pray. I fervently believe that God heard her prayers directly; that there was no middle man. No messenger was employed to deliver a message from an inferior woman. We all felt the love that God felt for my mom and we knew He wanted to answer her prayers for us. She thinks the Ordain Women movement is misguided. But she can’t deny that there are times in her life when she has wished she could have called upon the powers of the priesthood more easily for us.
Take this power, a power we Mormons consider to be equal to the power Moses used to part the Red Sea. Consider the struggles many women have who do not have the priesthood in their homes. Now think about some of the dumb jokes being made on blogs and on Facebook by a few misguided Mormon men complaining about the women who have had experiences like our family and do equate that with needing to be ordained. Some of these women don’t really need to be the next prophet, they just wish they could anoint their child with consecrated oil. Then they read the jokes about how women should just be happy that they have a baby nursing lounge with recliners, and padded chairs in the Relief Society room. Some men are asking where their lounge is? And why not equip it with ESPN and sodas? (I’ll leave the topic about how infrequently the nursing rooms are cleaned and how ridiculously tiny and smelly they are for another day.) Other men are berating women and even suggesting that men hold a protest of their own against Ordain Women. Hostility by Mormon men toward women, some of which may have already been mistreated by Mormon men, would be a huge mistake. I do need to say here that most of the Mormon men I know are wonderful men, and smart enough to not act like idiots in the midst of these issues. But there are a few who think they are helping things with the counter protests and jokes. What should they say right now instead? Maybe nothing. Especially if they’re not sure.
All of the hostility seems to me to be a gigantic mistake. It serves no one. It certainly does not serve God.
While I have heard complaints from conservative Mormon women who have been personally insulted by women affiliated with the Ordain Women cause, I haven’t seen widespread evidence of it. But it’s out there, so let’s talk for a moment about Ordain Women members who are making fun of mainstream Mormon women who have married young, who don’t have a college degree, or who don’t work outside of the home. (I should mention that some of the Ordain Women members actually could say all of these things about themselves, too. This goes with what I was saying about the mistake of broad assumptions. Let me also say that I consider myself to be relatively conservative on this issue, but I got married older than many of my friends, graduated from college, have a career, and have my own set of convictions that may vary from theirs. We can’t assume all women on either side are exactly the same as each other.) Let’s say that the more liberal women are mocking the conservative women, calling them stupid or spineless. I have a gentle reminder for what I am hoping is a small group of inconsiderate women. If your desires are granted and women are given ordination of the priesthood, there is still no guarantee that you will be called as the next bishop. One of the women you have disrespected may be the very woman who now leads your ward. You will still be sisters in the church and you will need to sustain her. You may both wish you had figured out how to be kinder to each other. That’s all I will say about that.
No matter what happens in all of this, at the end of it all, we truly all will still be brothers and sisters and ought to treat each other with more kindness and respect, even if we disagree.
The members of Ordain Women will march together tomorrow night to the conference center. They say they will do so peacefully. Then they will be turned away. If some of them are not peaceful, that will not be for most of us to deal with or try to fix. It will not help for the rest of us to hold picket signs, yell, and add even more chaos to a night that was meant to be uplifting and peaceful. Not on temple square, and not online.
I ask again, what do we all fear? If we truly believe that God is at the helm, what need have we to be afraid? No one on any side of this argument should feel threatened when we can truly believe that God is leading us and that when we truly follow Him, all will be well.
One of my very favorite scriptures is 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
Love will always be more powerful than fear. Love will always be the answer.
Given my convictions on this, you’ll certainly understand if I fail to post comments that are not based on a foundation of love and understanding.
*Update: I’m writing today to clarify something that seems to have been misunderstood by a few. I do believe that there are men who have valuable insights to share. Insights I actually would very much love to hear. It may not be fair, but I think that men especially need to proceed with extreme caution when they are explaining to women how important it is for them to not have something that men have. Many men try this and end up even offending the women who have always agreed with them. Especially when they try to joke about it. That’s all I am saying. Happy Conference Saturday!