Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not the Same, But Irrevocably Equal

In a recent post over at my favorite topic fodder blog, a conversation about women and the priesthood ensued. Unfortunately, I feel a few things were discussed which were not appropriate for an open forum, but a few thoughts came to my mind that I thought worth copying over here.

One commenter claimed that the issues of women not holding the priesthood are important to discuss because many women are leaving the church over them. Although it is true, that many leave the church over these issues, it is also true that many who question the same issues do not leave. I can’t say what is right or wrong for individuals, but I don’t believe that membership at all costs is the end goal of the Church. I don't think that the Church should have to change their policies merely because some people want it that way.

Certain challenges have always been posed to those who profess to want to follow Christ. Whether it is the challenge of leaving their livelihood or that of public shame and ridicule, or even that of giving up a treasured hope while watching your Lord and Master die, great things have always been required of the disciples of Christ. If a person gains a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, but allows a feeling of inequality to supersede that testimony, that is their choice. Being, as the commenter stated, “tired of feeling like a second-class citizen” is not in the end enough for some to turn their back on things they know to be true. I feel that being a second-class citizen - a server rather than a wielder of power - is part of the point of the Gospel. I personally believe that true power can only be found when a person paradoxically first abases and humbles oneself. Those who have discovered this power have been blessed beyond their wildest hopes because of that. All they can then do is testify to the beauty of patience and trust.

Though I hurt and feel for those going through these things (I have endured and am going through some also), it is important to understand that truth is not always comfortable when we are learning it, but we have been promised glory if we endure it well.

Another commenter began preaching that women already hold the priesthood in the temple. Although I agree with those teachings on some points, others divert from what I have found to be true. Either way, I don't feel it is appropriate to teach things we have been taught by the Spirit on a one-to-one basis. The very willingness of people to teach these things to others in this way seems to indicate to me that they are not directed by the Spirit. I don't think the Spirit would bypass the law and order God has put in place.

I don’t believe that all truths are for all people at all times. That is why the Lord said through Nephi, Isaiah and Joseph that he teaches line upon line, and light is added to light. There are reasons certain doctrines have not been revealed to the body of the Church. I don’t think it is up to me to suddenly decide to teach things I have been taught by the Spirit if they are not taught by those called to teach them (prophets), even if they are true. There is a danger that I am building up my own truth, rather than warming myself at the fire of the Lord's knowledge. It requires humility to wait and humility to realize that it is not my place.

What is more, the allegation that women hold the priesthood in the temple is not true. Though John Taylor has stated “Do they [women] hold the priesthood? Yes, in connection with their husbands and they are one with their husbands, but the husband is the head,” it is not correct to say that women hold the priesthood in the sense that men hold it. Women may perform certain priesthood functions at certain times and places, but it is always under the direction and delegation of a man who does hold the priesthood. To clarify, the priesthood is the power and authority to act as a representative of God on the earth. A woman is not ordained to this priesthood.

I don’t believe that women have to hold the priesthood to be equal before the Lord. I feel the priesthood is a calling, a special calling, to be sure, but a calling. Those called and ordained as Apostles are valued no more than those serving as nursery leaders or “mere” visiting or home teachers their whole lives. That is part of what the parable of the talents teaches us. It does not matter what callings we are given, only what we do with them. That is one of the ways my interpretation of this commenter's quotes differs from those who believe that women already hold the priesthood. I do not feel that holding the priesthood is synonymous with having all the power of God.

I also feel that for now the seeming inequality of men holding the priesthood is important for many to learn the true meaning of equality. Christ has taught us in these and similar parables that equality is not something that can be given or taken away. It only is. We are all equal, and any attempts to convince us otherwise, or to tell us that things need to change for us to be equal, comes from the Adversary. The Adversary is a master of quotes and scriptures, all the time diverting us ever-so-slightly from God’s truth. That is how he tempted Eve. We must be willing to wait upon God’s time and trust that He will teach us - and the body of the Church - at a time and in a way that is right.


  1. Thank you for this beautiful, clear articulation of how one can feel at peace with this issue.

    Both men and women have different callings, responsibilities, and assignments at different times in this mortal life. But I believe that both men and women can be empowered by God to do their part in building up the Kingdom of God on earth, and in bringing peace and joy into the lives of His children.

    As a woman, I don't feel like a "second-class citizen." I feel I am equally loved by God. I may serve in different ways than men do, but I believe I am equally valuable in His service, and equally eligible to receive His blessings.

    "Oh, what shall I ask of thy providence more?" (Hymn 108, "The Lord Is My Shepherd")

  2. There was an awesome talk about equality at Women's Conference. Go to, select May 16 and go to about 2:53 on the slide rule/time thing. Elder and Sister Osguthorpe are awesome.

  3. I also agree that there are some things that ought not be discussed, or that those who preach what isn't preached by our leaders are not following the order of things, which is soooooo critical with things like this.

  4. I lied. It's at about 2:33.

  5. I add my support.
    There is so much more I have to learn in my current sphere, it will provide plenty of growth opportunity without holding the priesthood.
    I trust the Lord.

  6. Christ has taught us in these and similar parables that equality is not something that can be given or taken away. It only is.

    That is a very compelling idea and I think in theory it sounds good. But what about in practice? When it comes to the application of gospel principles is seems that we mortals are at risk of implementing them unequally. Women and the priesthood is a good example. I don’t expect the priesthood to be extended to women anytime soon but I don’t think it is outside the realm of possibility. If the extension occurs, would an inequality be erased? Perhaps the extension of the priesthood to every worth male is a better example. Was an inequality erased there? I think perhaps one was.

    We are all equal, and any attempts to convince us otherwise, or to tell us that things need to change for us to be equal, comes from the Adversary.

    I don’t know SilverRain, this feels like too broad of an assertion to me. I think the gospel has a fluidity to it that allows for modifications and adjustments and even change. And some change can result from an organic grounds up sort of impetus. I don’t see that as being so bad. So is it the language that bothers you – that some women assert they are not equal? Would it be less troubling if these same women simple said they would like to hold the priesthood but didn’t advocate for equality. Or is simply that they seek change and that is wrong all by itself?

    I realize that much of what you are saying here is in the context of women and the priesthood so forgive me if I have streched your comments beyond your intent.

  7. Thank you for your comments, everyone.

    Sanford - I don't believe an inequality would be erased if women were given the priesthood. It would make men and women more the same, but that isn't equality.

    As far as change goes, yes, I believe the Church structure and practices do have room to change, but the way God has set it up, it is essential that such change comes from those He has ordained to make that change. There is no room in the Church for grassroots changes, though there is room for counseling and communicating with your leaders. The moment a person says "The Church should do it this way" they are not changing the Church, but they are separating themselves from it to some degree. They are allowing themselves to think (pridefully) that they are better at knowing the will of the Lord than those who the Lord has chosen.

    If women said they would like to hold the priesthood and left the terminology of equality out of it, it would still be wrong. The priesthood is something that cannot be coveted. By its very nature, a person who wishes the priesthood for power of any kind - even the power of feeling equal to another - destroys their own ability to wield it. No one who feels they must have the priesthood, or any other power, to be worth more understands what the priesthood is. Even if women were given the priesthood, I don't believe it would give those who seek it what they want. It is not really about equality, it is about feeling worth - true worth. For that, no one needs recognition from an outside source. In fact, I believe such recognition makes it more difficult to find.

    Seeking change is not inherently wrong, but one must be careful to do so humbly and patiently. Most blacks before the priesthood ban was lifted exemplified this humility and understanding. They understood that it was not about powers and authority, but about service, love and divine worth. I hope that women do not get the priesthood or anything like it until they, speaking of the group and not individuals, can adopt this same attitude. Otherwise, wielding the priesthood would be more of a stumbling block than a blessing.

  8. You know, if there was a League of Misogynistic Women, I think you could be elected president.

    "The priesthood is something that cannot be coveted. By its very nature, a person who wishes the priesthood for power of any kind - even the power of feeling equal to another - destroys their own ability to wield it."

    I have known many, many men who fall into this category. I've even recieved healing blessings from some of them. Guess what? The blessings still worked. I once recieved a healing blessing from a man who was breaking the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity, not to mention a myriad of smaller offenses. Guess what? The blessing still worked. Priesthood blessings are not predicated upon the righteousness of the priesthood holder. It is deeper and more complicated than that. I won't pretend to know how it works - but the worthiness of the priesthood holder is only a very small (perhaps the smallest) part of it.

    But to suggest that all priesthood holders have somehow reached this place where they just want to serve others, while women are just petty and power-hungry and want recognition - How much hatred do you have for your own kind?


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