Open Letter to Kate Kelly, Ordain Women, & Questioning Onlookers

One Mormon Woman’s Thoughts on Women and Priesthood

Four women embracing

Warning: This is long, longer than I intended, so may require breaks for gelato, green smoothies, or other chosen interludes…  For your convenience, you can link-jump to any assumption or back to the top of this page.

Dear Kate,

I’ve considered sharing some thoughts with you for several months, and while I initially construed a possible face-to-face discussion, I decided just recently to post some reflections.

As your sister, I’ve listened to your addresses to others regarding Ordain Women. I care about you, about women, and the destiny of women. I care deeply about women’s voices, women’s fair and equitable treatment, their unhindered potential. And actually because I care, I stand opposed to the agenda of Ordain Women.

I honestly thought that you might rescind your calls for ordination after the letter and response you received from the Church, indicating both the doctrinal stance of The Church of Jesus Christ and the leaders’ disposition in regard to your recent initiatives, actions, and requests.

Since you’re now trying to extend your proposed views on ordination, through online venues rhetorically chosen to follow a set of “missionary discussions,” I felt to offer a personal response, not only for you, Hannah, and others leading your organization, but also and especially for the sake of all those who might be confused by many of your writings, conversations, non-sequiturs, and claims of Ordain Women.

Sidenote to Those Looking Over the OW Shoulders, Questioningly

Dear Questioning Onlookers~

Are you one of those looking over the shoulder of Ordain Women trying to figure it out?  It “sounds like” they have some valid points to you but you are not sure; you just don’t know how to make sense of it all?

After all, they say all are alike unto God and shouldn’t that mean then that women should have the priesthood?  That sounds right in terms of how they use the language, but is it?  If the Brethren and the scriptures teach differently, can it be?  How do you dig deeper?

You get caught up in the ideas that they propose about women being ordained to positions so they can speak in the name of the Lord. Does that sound cool?  Do you already have that power? Are they messing with God’s order or as they claim, just asking that “more of it” be restored?

Are you questioning the semantics?  Sorting through? Wondering about the nature of these OW protests?  Yet realizing there can be cultural improvements? Tangled in those threads?

I hope you’ll read on and that something may shed light on one of your questions, at least.

Okay, so back to all…

Dear Kate & Questioning Onlookers,

I hope to speak respectfully and clearly. Of course, I share my own personal views in light of my understanding and study of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness—however modest that may be. The doctrines of the priesthood continue to distill as I, like many, have attempted to wrap my mind around glorious principles and discuss them.

I’m going to separate out the cultural thread because I think the discussion gets convoluted when we combine both the theological and the cultural strands in the same breath. Offenses of doctrine lived (from the slightest abrasion to the most hideous disregard and abuse) are deplorable, as we know. We stand up against those. That said, those do not make the Savior’s doctrines mutable or ineffective. In other words, we don’t need to throw out the doctrinal seatbelts because some individuals culturally or spiritually jaywalk. I’ll reference this more at the end.

[quote_left]Nothing is limiting our fullest access to all spiritual gifts.[/quote_left]

As a 34-year convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I can say this much—I’m continually awestruck by the doctrine—including the beauty and expansiveness of the conception of women, the power of women, the role of women as disciples—that has been restored to the earth. We rise only as high as our conception of ourselves and our power to act. And nowhere on earth is there a clearer conception of who we are and nowhere is there a signature, divine organization for women in which to operate through God’s power and authority, turned on women’s behalf. I feel I, along with every woman of The Church of Jesus Christ, have a divine prescription for unlimited growth and righteous spiritual power, unavailable anywhere else on earth, giving us full access to God’s highest and most glorious blessings, as we conform to His will and purposes. Nothing is in our way of ultimately being in His presence one day; nothing is limiting our fullest access to all spiritual gifts since the gospel has been restored. There’s just no one I’d rather be than a woman in of The Church of Jesus Christ. (And again, that does not mean that there is not room for growth in terms of how we apply those principles, just as there is for how we live the law of charity, or of tithing, or of humility, collectively and individually, which we can address separately.)
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Assumptions of Ordain Women

So, as I’ve listened to you and those leading the Ordain Women movement with you, I’ve garnered four sets of thoughts/assumptions at the core of your beliefs leading you to seek priesthood ordination. These come from your organization’s remarks. I’ll list them here. Up front, I will say that I believe these are erroneous assumptions, and that they build on one another.

  1. You, as leaders of Ordain Women, speak of wanting to be ordained to the priesthood for it is only through that ordination, you contend, that you and other women can share “its blessings and burdens,” and have the same opportunity for “transformation and sanctification” that brethren have who are ordained to offices within the priesthood.
  2. You reference frequently that Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness, envisioned ‘a kingdom of priests,’ which kingdom doesn’t exist because women are not ordained to the office of a priest.  In that sense, you say, and to use Joanna Brooks’ phrase, that means “there’s been an arrested restoration.”
  3. The Church is a patriarchy wherein women are largely excluded.
  4. You conclude that the only real equality—as a result of 1, 2 and 3—is functional equality; that is, that we not only are of equal value and capacity as men (inherent in us) but that we women must do the things men do, have the things men have, including being ordained, though more recently you have said it’s not about “sameness.”

Common Essential Ground: The Priesthood As the Power and Authority to Act in God’s Name

I would like to go back to and just talk with you about “the priesthood” for a minute and address where I think it might help to clarify points of potential misunderstanding. I think that we’re at the point in time when we need to reclaim the right language as we’re discussing the priesthood because some of us, as lay individuals, have used shortcuts in the past that I think can be inadequate and may do a disservice to us in moving forward in our discourse. I’ll clarify how I’m using the word in each case, and then share more on recommendations for language use when I post this. This first part is just to give us a basis for discussion.

The official definition is this:

The priesthood is the authority of God delegated to men on the earth to act in all things for the salvation of mankind (see Spencer W. Kimball, “The Example of Abraham,” Ensign, June 1975, 3). Priesthood is the means whereby the Lord acts through men to save souls (Bednar, The Powers of Heaven).

So, we know, and I believe we agree on this point of doctrine, that the priesthood is God’s power and authority to act in His name and advance His kingdom. This power and authority has been conferred to us through the restoration through John the Baptist, and by Peter James and John and other subsequent conferrals.

Now, can we just re-look at what “priesthood” is, together—and what the process of becoming a queen and priestess, king and priest is—what it is not, and what flows from what it really is, and is not?

[quote_right]God’s power and authority needs to be conferred upon men and women to execute His work. None of His work can occur without that power and authority.[/quote_right]

If the working definition of the priesthood is as just stated, then we know that God’s power and authority needs to be conferred upon men and women to execute His work.  None, none, of His work can occur, in His name, without that power and authority extended, right? Has it been restored? Yes. To whom? Both to men and to women. How?

When the keys of the priesthood were brought back to the earth by John the Baptist, by Peter, James, and John, and others upon Christ’s request and by personal appearance and conferral, God’s authority returned to the earth with all of its powers.  A man held those keys—the prophet.  But as we know, that wasn’t the end of the story: the prophet turned the keys on behalf of women.

Women were given the power and authority—their appropriation of priesthood power, God’s power to act in His behalf, in His name—for their expansive work in saving souls and bringing forth life and doing unlimited good through exercise of faith and agency. We couldn’t exercise God’s power without the authority to do so. In other words, women are equally vested in priesthood power and authority, and our use of that power and authority is different but EQUAL to man’s as co-partners in the work of salvation and redemption. (See also Beginning of Better Days, Deseret Book, 50.) This power is operative in our conversion, in our redemption, and in our own redemptive work on behalf of those we serve, in concert with and through the atoning power of Christ’s sacrifice.

So with the powers of God restored and His authority to act in our own stewardships in the Sisterhood of Relief Society, the home, community, world and men in Brotherhood, and in the home, community and world, we are both equally vested “in the priesthood or power of God.” This means I can fully operate to save souls and to lift mankind, to fill my callings, to mother, to act on the full gifts of the Spirit, to teach, to prophecy, to engage others by the power of the Spirit, to claim every promise the Savior has issued to any of us through righteous living, just as any man can, and by virtue of the same power and authority vested in us.  I can be directed in my affairs, receive revelation, be transformed and become more like Christ as a result of this power. I can intervene through faith in Christ in others’ lives and pray for the Lord’s intervention through this power. I can eventually, like any man, be exalted.

To be sure we’re on the same page, let me clarify how I’m not using the word “priesthood” in what I just said. I’m not using the word “priesthood” here to mean one who is ordained to a particular office within the priesthood. I’m using it first in its fullest sense—as the power and authority of God to advance His work. (I’ll share another sense of the word “priesthood” as a brotherhood and training ground in just a bit. And I will post an Addendum to this letter with some suggestions about how we use “priesthood phrases.”)

Residual or Real Priesthood Power

With that said, I hear and get the sense that you feel that what you have is residual power only and residual authority—that you benefit from “pure priesthood” only through a male’s exercise of his authority and power by virtue of his ordination. In other words, women get a sprinkling but men get the showering. That comes from a partial misunderstanding of the priesthood, I believe, in the sense in which I’ve just referenced it.

While it’s true that we do receive one magnificent set of blessings as a result of ordinances they administer, there is more said and implied–and I think this is missed by those contending for ordination:  The blessings of the priesthood include BOTH 1) the ability to receive divine gifts through the exercise of others ordained to an office in the priesthood as they serve and 2) our own access to and containment of that power and authority ourselves by virtue of our having been given that as the keys were turned on our behalf as women. Our access to that power is activated only within our spheres just as men activate it within their spheres. All of that power and authority is the power and authority of God to act on His behalf. Men have it. Women have it. Elder Christofferson spoke to this inherent moral authority of women, which spins right out of the Savior’s doctrines, and Elder Oaks addressed this in April Conference. I rejoiced in their better articulation of it than mine, as I’d formulated most of this post before hearing those recent and inspired statements framed in the restored gospel.

[quote_left]The blessings of the priesthood include the ability to receive blessings and ordinances as well as our own access to that power.[/quote_left]

You said recently you wished you could do things “in His name.” You already can. You can pray, prophecy, serve, act, teach, call down powers of heaven, in His name. You don’t need an ordination to do that. You have that moral authority. The keys are turned. You and each of us can act on that in infinite ways.

I think you may be seriously confusing what it means to be ordained to an office with the priesthood with having the power and authority of God, or priesthood power, in our hands.  We have priesthood power, just as men do. We don’t need to be ordained to have that equal amount of God’s power. It operates in us in our spheres just as men’s operates in theirs.

Sitting on the Golden Egg, Living Under Paris

I think that is really important because what that means is–and this gets back to your first assumption: If we are literally vested already, then we realize that the burdens and blessings of it are already ours.

If this is correct, those advocating for priesthood—

Are sitting on the golden egg.

Living under Paris—unknowingly.

Transformation & Sanctification: Application for Men and Women

Let’s go just one step further together, if you will…

I’ve heard you say that you revere your husband and his priesthood power—as if it were something you longed for—and that you desire to have the same transformative power and sanctifying powers.

Following what I’ve said so far, Kate, we have those powers. As I internalize the doctrine, we already do.

[quote_right]The blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood are not only for men, but apply to all those under whom the authority and powers of God are operative–men and women.[/quote_right]

When I think of sacred clothing or holy garment, robes, and the oath and covenant, I notice the phrase that often follows: “of the priesthood.” I particularly notice the word “of” meaning “pertaining to,” as well as its additional meaning, “held or owned by.” The blessings of the oath and covenant “of the priesthood,”such as sanctification, are available because of the atonement of Christ and the restoration of His priesthood keys and power, and apply to all those under whom the authority and powers of God are operative—which is men and women. Each of us is in training to reach our divine potential. None of us can do so without ultimately  receiving the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood, whether in this life or the next. Likewise, none of us can access God’s powers or “priesthood” in that sense, only by its conditions, and both men and women can be sanctified and renewed only inasmuch as either conform to the principles ‘of’ the priesthood—meaning the power and authority of God given in our individual lives and callings as woman or as a man. It doesn’t have to be the same activity type as man to qualify for this power, to access or claim this renewing power, and grace to become as the Savior is.

relief society women at Salt Lake Temple

This means that we, as women, have the same access to the transformative powers as men as we magnify our callings as women; they apply to me as well as you. We only have to listen in the temple to learn that we have those powers. So it’s a false assumption of Ordain Women leaders that this transformative and sanctifying power can only come from being ordained. The power is ours for the claiming, as I mentioned in a thread in the Trib months ago and which has been restated in a few other online venues. As we’ve heard before, the priesthood is the power of God and not the ordination to an office. In the pure sense, priesthood or God’s power is needed for everything done in the work of the Lord in a man and woman’s lives, so when we fulfill anything for the Lord, we are drawing from that power, God’s power and authority, as keys were turned in our behalf.

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Kingdom of Priests

Let’s go to ASSUMPTION 2

Assumption: According to Ordain Women, Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness, envisioned ‘a kingdom of priests’ which kingdom doesn’t exist because women are not ordained to the office of a priest. There’s been, therefore, an arrested restoration.

This is huge. This implication and view is cited repeatedly in writings referring to the need for ordination, as if it is a gift ungiven by virtue of the fact that Joseph said he wanted to make us a  “kingdom of priests.” This has been echoed on the OW website, in presentations, and is the view upheld and positioned this way by JoAnna Brooks:

[When] it comes to questions of gender, I believe the tension between the temple ritual, temple liturgy, and the day-to-day administrative practices of the church is evidence of an arrested restoration within Mormonism on questions of gender and authority.

What do I mean by “arrested restoration”?  Joseph Smith had a revolutionary vision of women and priestly authority.  We can see its outlines in the minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society, accessible on-line here and in print (in limited form) in The Beginning of Better Days. He ordained his wife Emma Smith (D&C 25:7); he told women in the Relief Society that he intended to make of them “a kingdom of priests.”

I’d like to suggest that the confusion here may stem from the fact that Joseph’s words are inadvertently wrested from the larger context, or at best misunderstood. As I’ve read and re-read the minutes in context of Joseph’s other journal and historical writings, I noticed that he spent a lot of time talking about preparing people to actually enter the presence of God; to receive their calling and election; to go all the way up to the end of sanctification; and that he prepared those ordinances for many.

When He was talking about becoming a kingdom of priests, could he not have been referring to that very same subject of ultimate sanctification when, after one’s calling and election is sure and one becomes not just in training for or set apart to become, but actually becomes, a Queen and Priestess, King and Priest in the ultimate sense? Is this not the kingdom of priests/priestesses which Joseph aspired to for us? Did he not wish everyone to receive their highest blessings?  In this sense, he still does wish that for us. He did then and he does now. From his discourses on this subject, it appears this is exactly what Joseph was alluding to.

Listen to this:

In August, Joseph gave a discourse in which he touched on the fullness of the priesthood ordinance which would make a man a king and priest, and a woman a queen and priestess:

Those holding the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, that Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam (Teachings, p. 322, emphasis mine).

Similarly, he emphasized: “You have got to learn how to …. be kings and priests to God.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 346).

Notice that in calling for us to become kings and priests, queens and priestesses, Joseph is referring to our receipt of the highest temple ordinance, by which we become so.

That Joseph was talking much and thinking much about women in his day and ours becoming queens and priestesses through divine call and eventually ordinance is clear and history bears that out. For example, at a meeting in early February 1831, Joseph sealed up several saints. On September 8, 1833, Joseph sealed up members of Church at Bath, Connecticut (Journal of Orson Pratt), and in December of 1833, Joseph blessed his father and mother indicating that they would have eternal life (Teachings, pp. 38-41). Furthermore, according to the journal of Joseph Knight, Sr., all members of the Colesville Branch were sealed up.  These callings were made sure first by divine revelation until after Joseph received the keys from Elijah for the highest temple ordinances in 1836, and the blessings of the fullness of the priesthood were received by ordinance in the temple in the 1840s and after.

Amazing (vs Arrested) Restoration of The Gospel of Jesus Christ

[quote_right]Joseph did say that the Relief Society would be patterned after the priesthood, and it is as we execute our roles through the authority and power of God.[/quote_right]

Truly, this flips the idea of an arrested Restoration on its head. And while Joseph evolved in his understanding of each gospel principle, there is no evidence that he intended to ordain all women in the office of a priest, in the sense that Ordain Women has inferred and perpetuated. Can you see how this can confuse an entire group of people who take your words at face value and jeopardize their entire witness of the Restoration? Joseph did say that the Relief Society organization would be patterned after the priesthood organization, and it is, as we serve, lead, teach, execute our roles through the authority and operative power of the priesthood of God in its full sense. We are able to prophesy, to call down heaven’s powers, to act in the Lord’s name as we minister among His people and with His authority and power, to receive revelation, and to have open access to God and His spirit and prepare for priestesshood.

Isn’t the latter just the most wonderful news in the world?  Both genders have equal processes and patterns and potential for becoming all we desire to become in and through Jesus Christ and His atonement!  Isn’t ‘this’ what we want to off-load to the world?!

So here’s what I think happens to mess things up in our understanding:

When we confuse the word “priest” as a preliminary office and calling in the priesthood with the word “priest” as it relates to our future potential of having that calling and election made sure, we wrest Joseph’s comments, feel pain and disappointment at an illusionary, “missed, Joseph-intended blessing” of ordination now. This kind of pain can be alleviated. (I will speak to pain caused by cultural and human errors in another piece, pain that comes from cultural misunderstanding or marginalization, for example, again to be addressed separately… Enough ink here already.)

Priestesshood and Priesthood

[quote_left]Both genders have equal processes and patterns and potential for becoming all we desire to become in and through Jesus Christ and His atonement![/quote_left]

This brings me to another area of clarification and a related point. There’s another way we use the word “priesthood” that I’d like to refer to here.  We sometimes refer to the organization of men together, the brotherhood, as the “priesthood.”  We’re not referring to their ordination per se but to the men joined together in the organization of men. There is the solidarity of “brotherhood” just as there is the solidarity of “sisterhood,” both of which have important differences in feeling, and have no substitute in the life and health of those included.  But the “sister-hood” commonly referred to when it comes to matters of holiness and all of our womanly callings could also be called, quite accurately, “priestess-hood,” for that is its purpose.  The ‘priestess-hood’ is a group-given authority to create and mold society itself; and through it, the women trying to work together to create a society ready to see the heavens and the glories of Gods become Priestesses, same as men who, by so doing, become Priests.

So if the men are in training to become priests in the sense we spoke of through the highest ordinance (rather than as a priest in office and in training) through the priesthood organization and their divine roles within it and the women are in training—through Relief Society, and through the power and moral authority that we have as women, and through the keys being turned within our sphere—then we have equivalent organization, ability, and process (through temple covenants) through which women can become priestesses.  We don’t need to be ordained to do what we already have the authority to do.

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Oppressive Patriarchy vs. Liberating Patriarchal Order

How about ASSUMPTION 3?:

Assumption: We have a patriarchy in which men make all the decisions and one sex is therefore oppressed.

This assumption comes up in various ways in Ordain Women venues.

First of all, it speaks directly to a point Hannah Wheelright made as she shared her very reasons for becoming part of Ordain Women.  She was concerned when she read in Genesis that men “ruled over” women, and thought that being ordained to the priesthood would be the only way to level the playing field, as I understood her remarks. (I listened to them 3 times, but correct me if I misunderstood.  There were related reasons shared as well, which are addressed here, and some which are not because they fall into the cultural discussion, which I think is a separate and important one.)

This is an unfortunate, blatant misunderstanding of doctrine, and was a significant factor in a leader of OW turning to ordination as the solution for the perceived inequity.

As Bruce C. Hafen, formerly of the Seventy, and his wife, Marie, explained:

Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to ‘rule over’ Eve; ‘rule over’ uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling ‘with,’ not ruling ‘over.’ … The concept of interdependent, equal partners is well-grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel. Eve was Adam’s ‘help meet’ (Genesis 2:18). The original Hebrew for meet means that Eve was adequate for, or equal to, Adam. She wasn’t his servant or his subordinate.

This is also reflected on the OW website FAQ, as follows:

The Church’s Proclamation on the Family declares that men preside over their wives and families, thus preserving an antiquated and unequal model in both the domestic and ecclesiastical realms.

The word, “presiding” here is misunderstood and implies “ruling over.” This misconception allows women to think they need to set things right. Any woman who simply defers to her husband’s every whim because he is male is not exercising the priesthood power she has, nor does she understand the doctrine as a point of order rather than of dominion.  She has the ability to think, consult with, disagree with, and share her every consideration, and to have that be considered fully before a united decision is made.

As Glenn Pace stated, “Unfortunately, however, some look upon the patriarchal order as a monarchal order. The patriarchal order is not an authority of command, but a point of order” (Spiritual Plateaus, 75).

That’s important doctrine and an important distinction.  Patriarchal order isn’t the eclipsing of women, nor is it a carryover from other cultures whose system is hierarchical or oppressive. Our view of the patriarchal order, and of marriage and relationships, is not hierarchical or gender-disequal.  As Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

In some cultures, tradition places a man in a role to dominate, control, and regulate all family affairs. That is not the way of the Lord. In some places the wife is almost owned by her husband, as if she were another of his personal possessions. That is a cruel, mistaken vision of marriage encouraged by Lucifer that every priesthood holder must reject. It is founded on the false premise that a man is somehow superior to a woman. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As Elder Earl C. Tingey, formerly of the Presidency of the Seventy, has said:

You must not misunderstand what the Lord meant when Adam was told he was to have a helpmeet. A helpmeet is a companion suited to or equal to [the other]. [They] walk side by side … not one before or behind the other. A helpmeet results in an absolute equal partnership between a husband and a wife. Eve was to be equal to Adam as a husband and wife are to be equal to each other.

If we turn to scripture, we see that the root for helpmeet in Hebrew is ezer.  We read that word in Psalm 30:10, “O Lord be thou my helper.” Sixteen times in the Old Testament it’s used to reference God or Yahweh as the helper of His people.  As Victor Hamilton notes, “Any suggestion that this particular word denotes one who has only an associate or subordinate status to a senior member is refuted by the fact that most frequently this same word describes Yahweh’s relationship to Israel. He is Israel’s help(er)” (The Book of Genesis: The International Commentary on the Old Testament, R.K. Harrison, ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990, 175).

[quote_right]”The patriarchal order is not an authority of command, but a point of order.”[/quote_right]

Do we have an equal voice and should we? Absolutely. Should our contributions be equally valued? Absolutely. And where they may not be, we have to address those voids culturally, as we are not yet perfect, any of us. But I’ll address that, again, in a sequel. I’m speaking to the doctrine so we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and hide behind the need for ordination when in instances following our foreordination as women is all that’s needed. As Elder Perry affirmed: “There is not a president and vice president in a family. We have co-presidents working together eternally for the good of their family” (EnsignMay 2004).  So the matriarch is equal to the patriarch, the woman equal to the man in value and capacity. And similarly, President Kimball noted, “We don’t want our women to be silent partners or limited partners” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, 1982, 315).

Holding an office in the Church organization isn’t tantamount to having greater power and it isn’t the solution to being ruled over, since being ruled over isn’t the doctrine to begin with.  Similarly, the person presiding as a point of order has no more power than the one presided with.  A male presiding in a meeting has no more power than a woman speaking or a man speaking in that meeting. Power comes from doing our job with the Spirit of the Lord under the umbrella of the priesthood power of God which covers us all.

These OW statements and conclusions are based on misperceptions and are non-sequiturs, unless you hold a paradigm of functionally same equality, which if you look at answers to these assumptions, becomes a non-issue.

Again, there are instances where these principles are violated, and those clearly need to be addressed. But we change the culture by living the doctrine; we don’t change the doctrine to undo misunderstandings of the Savior’s teachings.

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The results of Ordain Women’s first three misguided assumptions, as discussed, are that women feel impoverished and as if they have less power, and are unequal to men without ordination.  But as we deconstructed those premises, we undercut, from the theological standpoint, the need for ordination to the priesthood. We are free to do all we can to build the kingdom of God and have all the authority and power necessary to do it, without duplicating male ordination. All of us, men and women alike, are in training to become a kingdom of priests and priestesses, kings and queens. Nothing is missing. Nothing stands in our way.

[quote_left]“There is not a president and vice president in a family. We have co-presidents working together eternally for the good of their family.”[/quote_left]

If the faulty assumptions are overlooked or taken to be true, they lead down a path to clamoring for functional equality. The OW site, for example, indicates that we believe, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ that “all are alike unto God,” quoting the Church document and the Book of Mormon citing this:

The Book of Mormon states, ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God’ (2 Nephi 26:33). This is the Church’s official teaching.

Below that statement, the site reads:

Ordain Women is committed to creating a public space to advocate for women’s ordination in the LDS Church.

The “therefore” in the white space between those two statements suggests that in order to be alike unto God, we must hold the offices of the priesthood. This jump can only be made if the assumption is that alike means “alike in function” and not “alike in value” or “alike in position and privilege.” This assumption is that functional equality is necessary to level the playing field.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
by Rose Datoc Dall

Again, we’ve seen how the dismantling of those assumptions breaks down the need for ordination and for functional equality; as we’ve discussed, we are alike in value already; alike in privileges of becoming like God; and alike in our equality with men.

The goal is equity and value for men and women.

There are a number of issues, besides, with functional equality:

1.    Functional equality destroys the divine balance to which Elder Packer spoke….

The whole physical universe is organized in order that man and woman might fulfill the full measure of their creation. It is a perfect system where delicate balances and counter-balances govern the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual in making. Men and women have complementary, not competing, responsibilities.

2.     It yanks women away from their respective callings and ultimately, if followed to its extreme or traced back to its original root assumption, will eat away at the family, at motherhood and fatherhood, and exaltation.

The end goal of the arch feminist functional equality proponents is to undo the natural order of the family. Those like Shulamith Firestone and Kate Millet see the biological reproductive order as the oppressive order, and motherhood, therefore, as slavery; marriage as oppressive.  They think God has made a mistake, essentially. They desire to overturn nature, as indicated in this quote:

The biological family is an inherently unequal power distribution… [But] the kingdom of nature does not reign absolute… we must get rid of it. The goal of the feminist revolution…must be not just the end of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself. For unless revolution uproots the basic social organization, the biological family—the vinculum through which the psychology of power can always be smuggledthe tapeworm of exploitation will never be removed (Shualmith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex, Farrar, Straus & Giraux, 1970, 10-11).

While OW is not seeking to break apart families but to empower women, the paradigm of functional equality to which your false assumptions leads, will in time, inevitably lead that direction.

Functional equality makes women mimes before male mirrors.

Functional equality means we need equal numbers of women in the workplace, in the market, in the Congress, and in black suits at Church meetings.  It’s plumb-line is secular and misses the qualitative differences, the complementary differences between men and women.

I’ll speak personally now since each woman is different in circumstance and personal vision. Some of the highlights of my life took place in unlit arenas—teaching my children to hear the voice of God, being there at the crossroads and helping them grasp their divine identities, serving another man or woman, being given timely words to speak, sharing my witness of Christ with the world. I consider two hours holding my grandbaby, lifting a teen, raising a child every whit as significant as teaching men and women in my congregation, speaking before thousands in a church assignment, or being active in the legislature, though I’ve done all of those things. I’ve gone back to school, but not to equal out the numbers of women in my field; and I’m employed, but not to up the stats of women in the workforce. I see those avenues as through streets and not ends in themselves. I think that when we align ourselves with God’s will and plan for ourselves, then the numbers will take care of themselves and we won’t feel a desperate need to even quotas everywhere, but to be where we are needed and called.

That said, this does not diminish the need for women’s voices to be heard in all matters of the kingdom where they should be. But matching number for number isn’t the solution; functional equality isn’t the solution.

Functional equality, in its extreme, asks why men can’t have babies too.

Again, where there are cultural inconsistencies and where women’s voices need to be heard, I am totally in favor of speaking up and out, for absolute inclusion and respect in all areas of counseling together, but what I see is doctrinal misunderstandings leading to want of doctrinal change, and confusing cultural misapplication of doctrine with doctrinal faultlines.

Cultural Gains Not On a Continuum of Revelation

Lastly, when cultural gains are made, Ordain Women often see these as trumpets of their own success, as if cultural gains are on a continuum with changing doctrines of the Savior’s Church. This is untrue and a mirage.  The Savior and His process of receiving revelation is not capricious. Leaders, a living prophet and 12 apostles, do not cower or capitulate to a minority or majority opinion of the people.  Revelation isn’t a popular vote.

Again, I’ve written this because I’m concerned about those engaged in Ordain Women and those who might be drawn into the ideology without recognizing the false premises; this quote comes to mind which I share out of that concern:

But when one’s acceptance of extreme feminist ideology …challenges all priesthood authority and then the Lord himself, one risks saying amen to his or her own religious faith. At that point, radical feminism becomes a new religion—the source of ultimate trust. When the commitment to exclusive female autonomy makes people “intent on defining themselves and their purpose for existing,” they have “made [themselves] the authority over church and God” (Joyce A. Little, “Naming Good and Evil,” in First Things, May 1992, page 28).   



P.S.: Thanks to D. Kuhns, D. Johnson, M. Whinery, B. Watkins, G. Boyd, and J. Hall  for their kind time, feedback, and discussions with me as I worked through this piece.

Karen Trifiletti is a Philadelphia-born, second generation Italian, who describes herself as a "perfectly imperfect but graced follower of Christ." Karen is a 1980-convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mother of two, writer, and business professional.