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Agitating Faithfully

Gender in the ChurchDane Laverty — one of my fellow Times & Seasons permabloggers — recently started a site called Agitating Faithfully, “a site devoted to gender equality in the church.” I added my name to the list early on and now 244 others who’ve joined. All are invited.

The site header quotes this exchange:

David Ransom: At present women are not allowed to be priests in your Church…Is it possible that the rules could change in the future…?

Gordon B. Hinckley: He could change them yes…But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it.

The premise, in my mind at least, is that President Hinckley implied that it is possible for more gender equality in the church, but it isn’t an issue because no one really cares. This site was created to allow those who do care, to stand up and be counted.

At the time, the idea that no one was “agitating” baffled me, because I knew lots and lots (and lots) of women who cared, were bothered about, felt “disenfranchised” over, or otherwise wondered about the gender distinctions in the church. And I was surprised our leaders seemed to be unaware of it.

I’m not talking about women who scream out in General Conference, parade around on Temple Square with garments outside their clothes, or otherwise make spectacles of themselves or try to rock the proverbial boat. I’m talking about regular, faithful, church-going, visiting teaching, tithing paying, serving-in-the-Primary (or Young Women or Relief Society…), temple recommend holding, scripture reading LDS women who, still, can’t quite figure out why certain things are proscribed for women.

I didn’t hesitate to sign it because:

  • I’ve been outspoken about my questions for years, it’s hardly a secret
  • There is no scriptural basis for the distinctions that I can see — only a historical, cultural one (and some minor practical ones)
  • I see precedence for issues to be reconsidered when social mores change, as they certainly have for gender roles
  • Because I’ve been outspoken, I’ve been approached again and again by women with the same concerns who aren’t willing to speak publicly for fear of being seen as “less faithful” or “seeking after positions”— I think these concerns deserve to be heard and I don’t think asking honest questions should be impugned in such a way
  • As society at large accepts women more as equal partners than subordinate participants, missionary work in many societies will be harmed by the perceived sexism

What do you think about the approach of Agitating Faithfully?

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Dane February 24, 2011, 3:27 pm

    My favorite phrase in your post here is, “I don’t think asking honest questions should be impugned in such a way.” In may ways, I’m less concerned with whether women actually get the priesthood than I am with whether church members are able to ask questions without having their motives or testimony impugned.

  • Tricia February 24, 2011, 3:45 pm

    I say take it to God and let him address your concerns.

    Worked for me.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 25, 2011, 12:36 am

    Yes! How many times have I been asked, “Well, why do you want to be a bishop?”

    Seriously?

    Thanks for the site, Dane. 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith February 25, 2011, 12:48 am

    Tricia, thank for dropping by Mormon Momma.

    Your comment implies that you believe I haven’t taken this to God. Honestly, the reaction always surprises me. Why would you assume that, because I don’t have the same answer as you, that I haven’t done so?

    Honestly, I feel we all have very different missions in this life. Perhaps your is to be content with the status quo so that you can do a particular service elsewhere. And perhaps mine is not to be content, so that I can be part of the group addressing some of these things.

    Do you think that’s possible?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Michelle Obama and the Food PoliceMy Profile

  • creshnA February 27, 2011, 1:53 pm

    The difference between men and women in the church doesn’t make sense to me, but I’ve always just accepted it. What else can I do since I do know the church is true?

    I would sign my name to that site, but I am afraid that someone in my ward would find out and I’d be an outcast. I know that’s being a coward, but this kind of thing just isn’t very accepted in the church. I’m not ready for those consequences. But I’d like to talk about it here where I can be anonymous.

  • becky March 1, 2011, 7:39 pm

    Um…I’ve never felt unequal as a woman in the church. As a younger woman I did wonder about the Priesthood being a “men only” thing, and I questioned it until realizing that women are put on a pedistal, protected and loved inside the church.
    I’ve felt nothing but adoration for my role as wife and mother. It only seems fair to me that the men get SOMETHING in which to prove themselves to our Father, since they don’t get to enjoy the role of primary nurturer.

  • jennycherie March 3, 2011, 8:54 am

    “In may ways, I’m less concerned with whether women actually get the priesthood than I am with whether church members are able to ask questions without having their motives or testimony impugned.”

    Amen to that – we must not assume that questioning = lack of faith or testimony! How does one ever GET a testimony of ANYthing without questioning?
    jennycherie recently posted…Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each OtherMy Profile

  • jennycherie March 3, 2011, 2:12 pm

    “Gordon B. Hinckley: He could change them yes…But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it.”

    I remember being shocked by this answer – I didn’t expect it. I thought he would affirm that it was God’s will. Since he didn’t, I agree that it there is a possibility of change – – either when Heavenly Father wants it or (if he wants it already) when the prophet asks.
    jennycherie recently posted…Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each OtherMy Profile

  • jennycherie March 3, 2011, 2:19 pm

    favorite part of that site:

    “”The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them.”

    Perhaps equality in the church is something God is already willing to grant to us but we need to put out “effort on our part” or “work” for it in order to obtain it. Perhaps we need to show Him that equality in the church is our righteous desire, which makes faithful agitation seem like an avenue to be considered.”
    jennycherie recently posted…Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each OtherMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith March 3, 2011, 6:35 pm

    That pretty much reflects my thoughts. I was surprised by the answer.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Easy Lunchboxes Save Money On TripsMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith March 3, 2011, 6:36 pm

    Well said.

    The gender distinctions don’t make sense to me. At least I’d like them explained better.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Help to SleepMy Profile

  • Becky March 3, 2011, 11:17 pm

    i’m baffled by the women who don’t feel equal in the church. just because our roles are different doesn’t make one less and the other more. it’s like saying being a stay-at-home mom is degrading when compared to earning an income. in reality, raising children is the highest calling, and it’s given to women.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 4, 2011, 12:03 am

    Becky, thanks for your comment. I agree that different roles does not necessary mean less important. (I’ve been a SAHM for 23 + years, FWIW.) But I do think that the specific role differentiation in the church has led to inequality.

    Some of this is being corrected, slowly. Women now speak in church (are you old enough to remember when they didn’t?) and in general conference — although in a tiny minority there. In the last conference 5 out of 39 talks were women — and that includes the three in the General RS meeting. Only 2 women in all the talks of the general sessions.

    And none of the women are considered “authorities.”

    In the scriptures, in general meetings, etc., we’re hardly visible. And, of course, we (as a gender) aren’t “in” on the major decision-making process.

    Here’s the thing. I don’t have a problem with male speakers. I love men. 🙂 But if our roles are really so different as to put us in distinct places, then we probably need to have speakers who can personally address those roles, model who to live those roles, etc.

    There’s a fundamental disconnect to me to say that AB&C happen because of eternal, God-given gender distinctions, but women can be perfectly well represented by men — women don’t need to be included much.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…How to Become an Advanced Early Riser- Part 2My Profile

  • Darcee Yates March 4, 2011, 5:02 pm

    WOW! I groan at the very thought of being given the Priesthood. And I say that with absolute honesty. I don’t want it. I’ve always looked at the Priesthood as a duty,– from age 12 when they are collecting fast offering in all kinds of weather, to the High Priest group where they get to go play catch up on all the home teaching that wasn’t accomplished by the elder’s quorum.

    Seriously. I don’t see the Priesthood as giving me any more an ‘in’ with Heavenly Father than I already have in time of need. Just more responsibility. I have enough of that.

    I’m really not trying to make light of your concerns. I get them. I’ve just never experienced them myself. I’d really like to read Pres. Hinckley’s entire remarks at that interview. He rarely spoke without a sprinkling of hum0r, sometimes tongue in cheek. It’s too bad we can’t question him further on what he meant by what he said.

    And agitation. Isn’t what that Joseph Smith did when Martin Harris wanted to show the manuscript to some friends? He agitated till he got the answer he wanted? Just a thought. But, in that case, agitation didn’t work out so well.

    If they do give us the Priesthood, I hope they give us the choice. I’ve got plenty to do as it is.

  • Ryan March 6, 2011, 1:17 am

    I can’t help but wonder why the term “equality” keeps coming up. What is it exactly about the priesthood that you sisters desire? Is it the responsibility of presiding over meetings or directing the work in the church or giving priesthood blessings or [insert desire]?

    The way I see it, women don’t need the priesthood because you’re born with it. We call ours Priesthood and yours is called Divine Nature. In my opinion, the latter is even more powerful than the former. I find myself feeling envious of you sisters at times when I witness the patience my wife has with my children and when I admire her ability to “do the basics” and encourage us to do the same with seemingly no temptation to act otherwise. Think about what having ‘devine nature’ is. To have divinity (or godliness) be a part of your very nature is something I find absolutely amazing and, like I mentioned, I’m actually jealous at times.

    Despite that, I’m reminded of this quote,
    “The man holds the Priesthood, performs the priestly duties of the Church, but his wife enjoys with him every other privilege derived from the possession of the Priesthood. This is made clear, as an example, in the Temple service of the Church. The ordinances of the Temple are distinctly of Priesthood character, yet women have access to all of them, and the highest blessings of the Temple are conferred only upon a man and his wife jointly” (Lesson 13, The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, 91)”

    Think about the words in the temple with respect to being clothed. Think about what is promised in the sealing. There are many scriptural and prophetic references to sharing the priesthood between husband and wife. The temple ceremonies are also wrought with them. So, I’m once again left wondering, what part is it that you desire but lack? Without knowing any of you, I wonder if you are confusing the lack of “equality” for which you are longing as something doctrinal and cultural, or if for some reason only you and your spouse would know, something in your home and in your lives is such that you are not an equal partner who shares the priesthood responsibilities as the Lord has commanded. I seek the council and advice of my partner in all ecclesiastical and familial decisions we undertake. I seek her opinions, knowledge, insight, and council on countless other decisions as well. She truly shares the priesthood with me as she should. I genuinely asked here what she thought of the Agitating Faithfully blog and she simply told me she doesn’t feel like we are unequal nor does she have any desire to hold the priesthood. She was actually surprised at many of the comments therein.

    I know I’m not going to change anyone’s mind with only a few paragraphs but I wanted to express my thoughts because this thread was disconcerting to me – not because of the desire to hold the priesthood as much as due to the feelings of inequality that seem to abound among those who have posted. When a husband and wife truly cleave unto each other and become one, I believe the spirit will work in their relationship and disallow any negative, dividing feelings like inequality. Is it really a church-wide cultural issue or is it an issue in the home or in the lives of those feeling the inequality that is causing these negative feelings?

  • jennycherie March 6, 2011, 7:55 am

    “Is it really a church-wide cultural issue or is it an issue in the home or in the lives of those feeling the inequality that is causing these negative feelings?”

    Ryan – I don’t know about church-wide, but I do know that it is a frustration to some women, even when there is equality in their home. I am completely fine if this is the final word from Heavenly Father – if His plan is for eternity is that only men will hold the priesthood, that is fine. Really. Even if it means that my husband presides in our home (whether he is living righteously or not) and that I will never see more than two women speak in General Conference. If that is Heavenly Father’s plan, that is fine by me. What concerns me is that if it is NOT his plan but we continue to live this “lesser law” because we never asked. What a shame that would be if we never asked and that was the only reason we were denied the blessing.
    jennycherie recently posted…Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each OtherMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith March 6, 2011, 9:47 pm

    Ryan, thanks for taking the time to respond. I gave a detailed response in a new post today.

    Priesthood: Privilege or Burden?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Amazing Life- If You’ve Never Failed- You’ve Never LivedMy Profile

  • Brandi Leigh March 13, 2011, 3:18 pm

    QUOTE (made by Ryan, a male):“The man holds the Priesthood, performs the priestly duties of the Church, but his wife enjoys with him every other privilege derived from the possession of the Priesthood. This is made clear, as an example, in the Temple service of the Church. The ordinances of the Temple are distinctly of Priesthood character, yet women have access to all of them, and the highest blessings of the Temple are conferred only upon a man and his wife jointly” (Lesson 13, The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, 91)”

    And, yet, you people agitate?

    For what? For that which you already have?

    Analogy: The priesthood has the power to heal. So we are not all “doctors.” We cannot all “heal” as a doctor can. We are restricted, in this analogy, from becoming “doctors” because we are female. In a worldly sense, that should make us mad as hell. However, this is not a worldly matter. Unlike medical doctors, who are restricted to their earthly knowledge to heal, I am not restricted as I am: a child/daughter of God, a believer in Christ, an LDS member born in the covenant to faithful members. I know that my faith can heal through the power of the priesthood. (If those were the circumstances.)

    President Hinckley (not only our prophet, seer, and revelator) was a faithful member of the Lord’s church. Why put a limit on God’s church? You all are asking for a final answer. I understand that. Maybe the final answer is: get ready. Darcee (my mother) suggested we read the entire article, so that we do not take something out of context.

    Secondly I want to address possible impacts on the family. The highest blessings of the temple are bestowed on men and women jointly. You need two halves :). What is happening with the singles in the church today? With marriage in general? Would blessing the young women with priesthood, now, be a blessing? Aren’t single moms the greatest? No really, they are amazing people, but doesn’t the proclamation to the world call for a mother and a father? If we “share” our priesthood with our husbands now, what will change by blessing women alone with the priesthood? Maybe some of you all have perfect and loving marriages (like my mother) that you can feel the priesthood, but only through your husband. So what is the whoop about placing it right on your head? I can understand your argument.

    I really should stop commenting on this matter because most people who comment are in favor. This is where you come to discuss things that are close to your heart and you feel you don’t have an outlet for. It is a personal matter to all of you. But where do the greatest antagonizers of the church start? As previous members of the church who were possibly agitators, once.

    Allison, you are extremely smart, brave, and logical. And influential. I respect much of what you have to say, as do others. In fact I really feel that the women commenting in favor of this are all spiritual and faithful. Where is the discussion going? It has opened my eyes about the power of the priesthood and the impact it will have on me, once I’m also married. I don’t know the “final answer” as to whether women even can hold the priesthood. My thought is the Priesthood is distinctly masculine, in this time and place. Also, that if I want an answer to something spiritual, I don’t sign a petition. I also won’t be accused of following the “status quo” neither. We have been told to study things out in our minds, for ourselves. Ask of God. Is the next step really a political one?

    Story: My 80 year neighbor once told a 21 year old me, that gays would be accepted by the church. As in, Gay marriage would be sanctioned. By the LDS church. That right as we spoke, the authorities were in deep discussion over it. That she knew important gay members who were working with our LDS leaders. Also, that I had not lived enough to know what change meant. She was a great and faithful (and outspoken) member our ward. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Long pause. Yes, I’m relating the two thoughts. I finally asked her which of her children was gay. (Slightly off. She had a gay grandchild.) End of our discussion. Yes, this stuff is important. I don’t even put it past all of you to get an open and honest meeting in downtown SLC with your petition. But is that going to change God’s church? Or the nature of the Priesthood?

    So I’ll repeat what I posted elsewhere. Go, talk to your immediate authorities (who are men, I’m sorry!) . Write to our general authorities. Write to our Gen. RS president, who is not an authority (I guess, I’m repeating someone else). Ask God for personal understanding and revelation. (As do I.) Because I love all of you, I hope this is something that is (eventually) resolved. I guess this discussion is kinda a big deal.

    I visited Agitating Faithfully, briefly. I didn’t see how many of its discussions were spiritually strengthening. I see things like that a slippery slope away from the church. Because I love all of you, I don’t want to see you walking around Temple Square wearing your garments as outerwear. But more importantly (to me) I don’t want to explain to my non-member friends why you are doing that!

    A few men have commented. I find it surprising how quickly they are dismissed. Hello! They (possibly<=== oh, forgive me for making assumptions) hold the priesthood in question. Sure LeGrand thinks he is bit grand. And Ryan made some assumptions about this being prideful (some of it comes across as prideful to me, too). And Southern Gentleman is gentle. But also gentle enough we could hang ourselves. My mom, bless her heart, appears fearful of the priesthood. Maybe the greatest thing about this discussion is that some women like my mom come to realize, they are married to the priesthood. Joint ownership, possibly.

  • Brandi Leigh March 13, 2011, 7:43 pm

    And where is the edit button? I’m sorry. That quote wasn’t Ryan, simply brought up and posted by him. From an LDS manual. Thank you for that.

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