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Women and the Priesthood in the LDS Church

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There is a movement now asking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to ordain women to the priesthood. With its leader facing excommunication for her actions, this article is an attempt to point out what went wrong on both sides of the discussion and why. The quotes in this article are now over a year old because nothing has really changed in that time. For those not in the know, the idea behind the Ordain Women movement is that the movement would lead to "greater equality" by adding female leadership to the Church. There are a few questions those on both sides should ask themselves and a few things both sides need to realize to be realistic on what this topic is really about and before any changes should be or not be made.

The will of the Lord vs the will of the people

The idea of petitioning the Church to make changes, in the minds of most Latter-day Saints, is as rational as petitioning the Church to let men carry and give birth to babies. It's not that the priesthood is a male right that women could never have. The issue is that the movements pushing and rejecting this issue seem to forget that it is the Lord that sets up the Church and who does what in it. The Lord set up the creation, He organized the religion. Yes, the leaders of the Church can and do make policy without asking for a new revelation before doing every little thing; in fact the Church hasn't had new revelation or new doctrine for several generations now. But, larger changes like this would require revelation and always have. (See Acts 10.)

When Joseph Smith set up the Relief Society it was more exclusive -- not every woman was permitted to join. At one point Smith stated that "he was going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch's day-- as in Paul's day" but this never happened. (Romans 16: 1-2 talks about Phobe, the female Deacon that brought Paul's letter to the Church in Rome.) Maybe that was good for then and women should get the priesthood now. But, it is the Lord that directed Smith to set up the Relief Society and it should be the Lord that allows women to receive the priesthood -- not a petition. Some things are policy, and policy can be changed by the Brethren. Others are not and must be taken to the Lord. It is irrelevant what men and women want, and it seems both sides have forgotten this in their arguments, based on interviews and articles popping up on the web.

Looking at their Facebook page, the Ordain Women group claims that they are "Mormon women seeking equality and ordination to the priesthood." They further state that,

"Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormon women to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood."

Likewise, when interviewed President Linda K. Burton, president of the Relief Society, stated that

"I don't think women are after the authority; I think they're after the blessings and are happy that they can access the blessings and power of the priesthood. There are a few that would like both. But most of the women, I think, in the Church are happy to have all the blessings. That's what matters most to them, and it doesn't matter who holds that umbrella. They're happy to let someone else hold the umbrella because we have different complementary roles and are happy with that."

Both of these views miss the real point - public opinion is not, nor should it be, how things work in the LDS Church. What both sides should be looking for on this issue is revelation from God, not just a pass or fail from the brethren or the wishes of the members.

What does the Lord want and why is no one asking Him?

The thing that is bothersome at closer examination is that no one is looking at making men equal to women. Should men start going to Women's Conference? Should men be admitted to the Relief Society? It was wonderful that women have their own organization to care for each other's back when women had less rights, existing solely to care to the needs of the men and to bring babies into the world. Perhaps in this new modern world, men and women have identical needs and the "separate but equal" roles should be abandoned and we should disband the Relief Society all together. Who is to say, other than the Lord?

Most members are likely all for a new revelation declaring the Lord's will on the matter at this point anyway. It has been talked about for decades. When will we hear the voice of the Lord on the matter? I would argue the Joseph Smith would have gone to the Lord and printed His will by now. Add to the Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) -- that's what it is there for. There is no reason a religion that is based on revelation should wait for generations to make changes. Remember the chastisement of the brother of Jared.

"And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord." -- Ether 2: 14

The Brother of Jared's people were left without direction because he didn't pray to the Lord. Of all the Book of Mormon stories, this is the one we should understand best. When Joseph Smith wanted to know what to do, he added to the D&C. The reality is that it doesn't matter if the majority of women want it or not, it is the Lord's decision and not man's. Any woman, or man, quick to say "women need it" or "women don't need it" does not get the issue. The real question should be, "what does the Lord want?" Let's look to the Lord for revelation and settle this question.

The real question behind the questions and expectation of the answers

There is a another thing to ponder in doing this and it is the second thing members should be looking at, the personal level of the question. Those opposed to females gaining the priesthood should ask themselves, what if the Lord says yes? But they are not alone. The question LDS feminists should ask themselves is, what if there is a revelation and it says to keep the status quo?

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A graduate of Franklin University with a degree in Digital Communications, David is the co-president of the Church of Jesus Christ in Christian Fellowship, a nondenominational Latter Day Saint/Mormon movement. In the past, he was a full time (more...)

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