Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ordaining women and Ordain Women

Personally, I can't think of any good reason women don't have the priesthood in the same sense that men do in the LDS church. [1] And I think that the church would be a better organization if women were ordained. Hence, you could say I support the ordination of women: I do think it would be a good idea.

That being said, I don't quite identify with the Ordain Women organization. Part of their mission statement reads thus: "Ordain Women believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of [the fundamental tenets of Mormonism]." That one word, "must," is just what puts it one step too far for me, personally. "Must" to me means that the way forward has been determined, the answer is clear, there is no other valid option. While I think ordination of women is the best path forward, I don't know it. And I'm uncomfortable telling people I sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators that I know what direction the church needs to go; that's just not what I see my role being.

On the other hand--and maybe this is splitting hairs--if OW was all about imploring church leaders to sincerely and urgently ask if female ordination is not indeed a good idea, then I'd be totally in favor of it. I do think church leaders should be asking that question, and I think it's fine, and in fact good, if members faithfully encourage leaders to ask questions that are important to them [the lay members]. (If church leaders have asked this question already, and have received a definitive answer one way or the other, I'd love to know about it!) I think ultimately it comes down to whether I'm totally committed to my opinion being right, whether I think it's at least possible--even if unlikely!--that God's answer on the issue would be "no, women should not be ordained to the priesthood in the same sense as men." I think such an answer is possible--though I'd quickly add that I can't believe that the status quo regarding women is ideal; in other words, if women aren't meant to be ordained, I have to believe that there will be other ways for them to achieve much more equality with men in our church organization and culture. While I find that outcome unlikely--I do think that the ordination of women is (part of) the way the church is going to, and should, change--I can't rule it out. And that's why I don't join the OW movement. [2]

However, I'd like to emphasize that this is my personal stance. It's what makes the most sense for me and how I understand Mormonism. It incorporates theological beliefs (how God wants me to act), ethical beliefs (what is right), and pragmatic beliefs (what will be most effective in promoting gender equality). But I could be wrong--on all counts: maybe there really is no chance that some form of separate but equal when it comes to priesthood ordination is OK in God's eyes, or maybe it's just inherently wrong for this difference to persist, or maybe these kinds of bolder approaches are going to help change things for the better more quickly. For these reasons (in addition to the general prohibition on it) I don't judge anyone who does participate in OW--I see myself as more on their side than not, after all, and of the people I know affiliated with the organization, virtually of all them seem sincere and honest.

This post is already a bit long, so I won't go into details, but I will say though that the more I think about it, the OW action [3] scheduled for October 5th (women waiting in line for standby tickets to go to the Priesthood Session of General Conference) strikes me as a good thing. (I mostly love that it's generating discussion and also that it's more open to interpretation than OW's mission statement's language.)

Any thoughts? How do you feel about OW? Are you going to be waiting in line at the Priesthood Session on October 5th? Are you really mad about OW? Does my position make any sense? I'd love to hear more thoughts and have some more discussion!


[1] "have the priesthood" and "ordination" are the phrasings I'm going to use as a catch-all for the Mormon male experience with priesthood as distinct from that of Mormon women--maybe women get the priesthood in some sense when they are endowed in the temple, but that's not what I'm going to be focusing on here. [UPDATE 9/19/13: I didn't want to go through all the arguments for and against female ordination here, but I just read this great post that I think addresses a lot of the common arguments against it. I pretty much agree with everything in it.]

[2] That being said, OW's members have a range of views. This profile on their site, for example, is something I could get behind 100%. However, even though my position would apparently be welcome on their website, I'm not personally comfortable joining an organization with their mission statement for the reasons given above.

[3] I'm using the phrase they've given for it, not "protest" as some have described it.