The past few years it’s been hard to miss the news concerning the so-called “feminist” LDS women movements; every once in a while, usually around General Conference time, you’ll see a few things pop up online about some fringe groups of LDS women. Usually they’re in the midst of regular Mormon culture: you’ll learn about the attractive husband she gushes about on Facebook every other day, you’ll see the pictures of her smiling with her pearly whites as she poses with her cute little blonde kids, and you’ll try to decipher English from her bawling as she gives her testimony in Sacrament Meeting thanking everyone and everything for everyone and everything, but there’s something about her that doesn’t fit the Molly Mormon facade: she’s convinced that she and her daughters and every other woman in the Church should be ordained to the priesthood. I don’t claim that anyone in the LDS Church understands everything correctly the way God intends us to, but this particular departure from the doctrine is a little more noticeable, especially when she hops aboard the trending “Sheri Dew for Prophetess!” bandwagon of the day and kicks and screams in her cutesy blog about the supposed inequality between men and women in the Church.
Well, I have stayed quiet about this one for several years as there’s little reason to give these kinds of things much attention. I was quiet except for those times during the after-conference news when I laughed with my family about what these pockets of women were doing; I also shook my head at the small groups of LDS people who go beyond tolerance and love for homosexually-active people and kick and scream about how they should be able to live their lifestyles and be considered fully worthy to partake of the sacrament and attend the temple and hold priesthood offices, among other blessings that people involved in sexual sin are denied (I then jokingly said that I was going to start my own movement wherein I would try to convince the First Presidency and the Church at large that I should be able to marry my dog in the temple because I love her). **UPDATE: Some people (ex-Mormons, in fact) pointed out that the previous sentence sounds as if I’m comparing homosexuals to dogs in a derogatory manner. While I don’t at all agree with the homosexual lifestyle, I don’t view people who live it as dogs; in fact, I have a few friends whom I love and have some deeper ties with who have chosen to live those ways. I was simply stating that it’s as silly for an LDS member who supposedly understands the doctrine behind why homosexuality is considered a sin to protest that homosexuals should hold priesthood offices and be able to marry in the temple as it is for me to protest that I should be able to marry my dog. They’re still mad at me and probably always will be as long as I disagree with them, no matter how much I explain what I actually meant. Alas. I’m not extremely worried about that, though I did put in my effort to make amends for the misunderstanding.
Enough is enough, however, so when I heard of the “Ordain Women” movement trying to get tickets to the priesthood session of General Conference and then gurgling with joy under the delusion that they convinced the Church to make the priesthood session available on public communications, I decided it was time to write a letter. An open letter not unlike the one I wrote to Carl’s Junior some time ago. I have submitted this to them, but I provide it below for the enlightenment of the masses. I am truly saddened by these ideas as they only prove to put people only very slightly off track and provide confusion and dissension in the Church where there should be truth and unity.
All in all, we as a Church probably ought to focus on more important things than this– namely improving ourselves. We oughtn’t to dare to tell God what rights we deserve; if it weren’t for Him, we’d have no rights to speak of.
To: Ordain Women
Well, not why. I know why. You claim you don’t feel that you have equality. I can wrap my head around that concept, though I thoroughly disagree that you don’t have your equality, just as I disagree that so many other groups kicking and screaming these days don’t have their equality. There are certainly cases of women in the LDS church who don’t have their equality, but that’s not due to the doctrine– that’s due to men abusing the structure or women simply being too timid to use the opportunities given to them.
First, may I respectfully poke a little bit at the points you’ve made on your website?
I’ve noticed that, just like with many of the anti-Mormon people I’ve come across (and boy, have I come across a lot of them), the way you quote things (I’m particularly referring to your FAQs at the moment– particularly when you mention the Proclamation to the World and the interview on ABC Compass), you leave out very small, seemingly insignificant points that actually change the meaning enough to make it say what you want it to say.
Specifically, you say that the Proclamation states that a man presides over his wife and his family. You say it that way to make it sound like the woman is left out of ordering the family or is even under a totalitarian rule. What the Proclamation specifically says in that sentence is that the man presides over the family– not the wife and the family. There’s a very, very fine difference there, but a difference nonetheless that you have twisted slightly to get the public’s favor. Also, you specifically left out the sentence immediately after, which states that “in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” What’s more is that you mention nothing about the overall tone of the rest of the Proclamation, which is that man and woman are given these roles by a divine power, not by a bureaucratic assembly of old men with dusty, cobwebbed, Victorian ideas.
Now, on the lines of the interview, you quote one little snippet that President Hinckley gives regarding women and the priesthood. I’ve seen this same blip of this same article splattered across the interwebs by 21st-century so-called “feminist” priesthood hopefuls, and it quite frankly is a pitiful validation for one’s venture to the fringe of the doctrine and principle set forth by Diety.
Firstly, you leave out one of the most important segments wherein President Hinckley states that “the Lord has put it that way”. Again– this isn’t just a cultural thing like having doilies in the Relief Society Room or cleaning up the blood after a typical churchball game. This is something God has done. Also, “they counsel with us. We counsel together. They bring in insight that we very much appreciate.” The entire idea of women working with the priesthood leaders is left out; you rather make it seem as if they have no say in anything– that even in Primary or Relief Society or Young Women, every little thing women do has to be approved by the bishop first. You make it seem like women work under men rather than with them.
Further, the following statement left out of your quotations tears down the idea that you can protest or vote or push or shove your way into getting what you want: “He could change them, yes. If He were to change them that’s the only way it would happen.” By “He”, of course, I’m sure you realize that President Hinckley is again referring to God. Of course He could change them! He’s God! But just because some “forward-thinking” humanitarians band together and get on the news doesn’t mean that God will get tired of listing to our whining and give in. If God changes anything, there’s a more substantial reason for it than some people feeling miffed because they don’t understand Him and His ways. This is more eternal than change, though. This goes beyond this life, beyond the structure of the Church. God doesn’t change those kinds of things– eternal things. He’ll change Church programs to better help different people at different times and even in different places. He’ll change parts of Church structure. He even changed His own Mosaic laws– not to do away with them, but rather to build upon them to introduce higher, more eternal laws. God doesn’t change these kinds of things. These things are constant and eternal. If we couldn’t rely on things like this, what could we rely on?
And finally, when you quote President Hinckley as saying that there isn’t any agitation for women to receive the priesthood, you try to make it sound as if he means that people starting to kick and scream about their rights would change things– almost as if he’s giving us a subtle hint that if we want to change fundamental doctrine in the Church, we need to start complaining about it, and it’ll happen. What he’s actually trying to say is that LDS women are mostly content with their already equal position– there isn’t any agitation. Except, of course, for “a little handful, one or two here and there, but in 10 million members you expect that.”
So please. Stop twisting words. Keep protesting if you must, keep praying to get what you want, but don’t twist the words of the prophets and of the scriptures to have them say what you want people to hear. You and I both know that they’re more sacred than that.
Now, a few more general thoughts:
I also am led to believe– by your own actions (and when I say “you” or “your” here, I mean women holding the “equality in the Church” banner)– that you pockets of dissatisfied women will generally fall into one or more of several categories: they actually have been abused in small or terrible ways by incompetent priesthood holders and honestly feel deep down inside that this needs to happen, they’re one of the louder “feminazis” (as I’ve heard them called) who want to cause a stir and crush the domineering man beneath their liberating feet, they don’t remotely understand the sacred and deep and fundamental truths taught in the Lord’s temples, or they have a flimsy will or (more likely) a flimsy life structure and are easily persuaded or (more likely) attracted by fringe and underdog movements that may or may not have any ground to stand on– so long as they’re the underdogs, that’s all that matters.
I don’t intend any disrespect to you as women, of course. If you knew me personally, you would know I hold women in the highest esteem– really moreso than men; I was practically raised by five women (my mother, my sisters, and my dog) due to the lack of my father’s competence, diligence, and dedication, all leading to his demise. Most of my closest friends have always been girls, and I usually don’t feel as comfortable around men of most ages except for some of my close friends and father figures. I admit that whenever I see activist women trying to beg the First Presidency and the entire church for priesthood, I get a little annoyed. “How can anyone who has a remotely firm testimony in the Gospel honestly believe this?!” Shame on me as that is not the attitude I should have. But then I actually feel very sad that you and other fringe groups lack the peace and understanding that so many of our women have; they know that they are daughters of God and that God has provided the patriarchal structure Himself because he loves all of his children, not just men. He hasn’t excluded you. I know it. I only wish you did.
There’s no reason to begin those awful dissensions in the Church– however small they may be now– that we read about over and over in the Book of Mormon. Remember those dissensions? In some cases, the Church was still the Church– it wasn’t dissolved– but dissensions and fringes existed nonetheless, and the purity and trueness of the Church began to falter.
I invite you to not only rethink your stance but to analyze it spiritually. It doesn’t make sense if you look at the entire canon of true doctrine provided since the beginning of time; oh, I know it does if you ostracize from the Gospel a couple of scriptures or a neutered quote from a questionable, poorly transcribed, poorly punctuated Australian interview– but I mean that we need to take the Gopsel as a whole and not inject our own misplaced passions.
–Jordan Spencer Cunningham
We don’t bend with every wind of doctrine that comes along. Our doctrine is stable, it’s secure. Programmes change, we make adaptation according to the circumstances. But the basic doctrine remains the same and that becomes a solid unshifting foundation to which people can cling in this world of instability and drifting values.
–President Gordon B. Hinckley in the previously cited, poorly transcribed, poorly punctuated interview