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Oh, Say What Is Truth?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church on the face of the earth because it is the only church that has the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, along with the laws and priesthood authority to govern it and perform ordinances in His name. It is His church as He organized it Himself while on the earth, restored in the latter-days with prophets and apostles to lead and guide it. But does that mean we have exclusive ownership or a monopoly on truth?

No. From apostolic and prophetic teaching, we know that all religions hold significant truths. And saying that the LDS church is the only true and living church does not mean that it has all truth that exists. We only have the truths that God has seen fit to give us.

We know for example that we have all the necessary saving ordinances, temple ordinances and the priesthood power to perform them. On the other hand, we also know that there is more scripture, more ancient records that have yet to come forth. We know from the scriptures we do have, that sometimes God revealed things to His prophets that He told them not to write. There were truths revealed to His servants that were “sealed up”; truths not meant for the world to know, at least not yet. In fact, it’s pretty well understood that there are things we may never know while in this mortal span of our existence. Knowing that, it’s possible that our prophets today have had truths revealed to them that they have not yet revealed to us.

All this being the case, we can see how having the “fullness of the gospel” does not mean the same thing as having “every single solitary piece of truth there is and ever will be”. We know that our Heavenly Father has much more to reveal to us as stated in the ninth Article of Faith.

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal, many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. Articles of Faith 1:9

A question to consider then, is this:
If we know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord’s true church containing the “the fullness of the everlasting gospel” with continuing revelation through God’s chosen prophets, is it possible that other religions have truths or divine practices that we don’t have?

For example, is it possible that the practice of praying to God and accessing His blessings through “Saints” is actually a true practice of God’s people and it just hasn’t been revealed to us yet?

Could the doctrine and practice in New Age and Eastern religions of reaching enlightenment and a higher communication with the Divine through the recitation of mantras or chants or trying to acheive outer-body experiences be godly forms of worship and prayer, that simply have yet to be revealed to modern-day prophets and practiced by true followers?

What about the practice so prevelant in some African religions, where people call upon the collective powers of their dead ancestors for healing or guidance?

N. Adu Kwabena-Essem, a journalist in Accra, Ghana wrote,
“African belief in spirits and juju is just like taking the universal belief in the supernatural to the next logical step. Universal belief in the supernatural and spiritism rests on a conviction of the existence of unseen beings with magical powers that can be harnessed to help the human race in their everyday existence./

As members of the Church, we believe strongly in geneaology and work for the dead, especially for our own ancestors. So is it possible then that they can also do work for us? Heal us from illness or disease? Is it conceivable that that since we can sometimes sense their presence in the temple, that God would have us conjure their presence and tap into their knowledge and resources as spirits in another plane of existence and find supernatural power or healing through them the way that those who believe in JuJu do?

The use of elephant heads and monkey hands in Juju may seem so out of the norm to us that it’s completely unimaginable. But what if we did it without the animal parts? Does that make it more palatable? Could there be truth in the simple practice of seeking healing by conjuring the spirits of our dead? Is it “the next logical step” as Mr. Kwabena-Essem claimed? Is it a “truth” that we as members of the Lord’s true church are simply unaware of because God chose to reveal it to some other spiritual leader, and not to His chosen prophets?

Should we consider that maybe we’re just not ready yet for such a “truth” to be revealed to us and are currently too closed-minded in our traditional Mormonism, or even in our traditional western Christianity to accept such an idea?

If some Zen Master in Asia has a wealth of spiritual knowledge and knows of ritualistic practices sanctioned by God that could help us reach earthly success and wealth, is his knowledge something that our own church leaders are ignorant about?

In short, even though we know that all religions bear truth, is there somekind of spiritual power or knowledge in another religion or held by a religious leader of another faith, that we can’t find in our own church, or that our own prophets don’t already know?

To all these questions comes a resounding “NO!” pounding in my mind and heart.

“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” [Amos 3:7]

Let’s assume for conversation’s sake, that there is a higher form of communication with God, another conduit through which we can receive information, power, healing or guidance from our Creator, (other than through the methods currently practiced in His own church, namely prayer, priesthood and revelation), and that method or conduit was made known to someone on earth. Surely then, that method would be revealed to His prophets, though we recognize that such a method, if it was revealed to His prophet, may or may not be made known to the body of the church.

But if there is a practice for communing with the dead where we can conjure their presence and God WANTED the members of His church to participate in such a ritual to find healing, find names for genealogical work and more fully turn our hearts to our fathers, wouldn’t that practice be revealed to us through His prophet?

If there is a higher way to commune with God on a more spiritual plane by reaching a higher level of consciousness, another way to access His power and blessings, to open our minds to knowledge and/or visions from heaven, such as the recitation of chants, smoking peyote, etc, and if that practice was meant for members of the Church to practice, wouldn’t it be made known to the body of the church through His prophet? Wouldn’t it at least be made known in the temple, to those who are worthy to enter?

Surely, those of another faith would not have these things made known to them while we who are members of His true and living church, who have been entrusted with His holy priesthood, and have been endowed in His holy temples and taught the true order of prayer, are left in the dark. Nor would we be left to find it on our own by stumbling upon it, or by searching through or experimenting with the doctrines and practices of another religion or philosophy.

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:…
… 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
[Ephesians 4:11, 12, 14, empahsis added]

In our quest to dig deeper, to become more Christ-like, more devoted in our efforts toward a closer connection with Him and understand Him more fully, we may be tempted to search for truth outside of the gospel and in the doctrines and practices of other religions and philosophies.

Though our intent may be one of honest seeking and hungering for “more”, nonetheless our sincerest intentions could lead us to something sincerely wrong.

Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Seventy said:
“We are susceptible to being victimized by what could be called ersatz ? religion a kind of inferior substitute or imitation for the real thing. Jesus warned of such as a defining characteristic of the latter days:

“Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” [Matthew 24:23 ?24]

Such pretenders have many faces, their ersatz doctrines many names. Some appear on stage in a doctrinal masquerade of sorts, costuming contemporary sociology in a kind of philosophical cheesecloth labeled theology. ? … Some take the form of pricey seminars, conferences, and touchy-feely ? sensitivity sessions…..And so it goes. All of them carry a singular label: the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.
(emphasis added)

To my mind… they represent a kind of jungle or swamp where men and women good people become lost. To such, ersatz religion becomes an entanglement of false notions an immersing slough of counterfeit and fraudulent doctrines and ideas like venomous snakes poison and distort true gospel principles.

But a compass is available with a true azimuth back to firm ground! The Man in the white robe is still there to guide across the dark and dreary wastes to the eternal tree of life. Following the compass the Man in the white robe that is wisdom. For wisdom is knowing what we worship and how we worship.
(emphasis was NOT added, it was in the original text)

It is a dangerous road we walk when we search for spiritual truth outside the fullness of the gospel, which fullness is only found in the Lord’s Church. Not that truth doesn’t exist outside of the Church, but that the Church already holds the real and eternal truths that other religions and philosophies embrace, as well as the additional truths that our Father in Heaven wants us to know for now, as revealed through his prophets.
Even though there are truths in other religions and philosophies, it seems impossible that they could have doctrines that we should already know, or any practices that we should be engaged in, but aren’t.

Though the philosophies of men and doctrines or practices of other faiths may seem to be plausible truths and therefore enticing, we would do well to err on the side of simple faith in the teachings of the Lord through His chosen servants. Anything outside of that is superfluous, and could lead us away from the eternal truth that we were so sincerely seeking in the first place.

{ 48 comments… add one }
  • ksjarvis June 29, 2009, 11:55 am

    Tracey, I just have to say that as I was reading the first half of this article I was starting to get a little scared that maybe this wasn’t the web forum for me. That maybe these weren’t the group of faithful LDS people that I thought they were and that I felt so very connected to. But then I got to your statement “To all these questions comes a resounding NO! ? pounding in my mind and heart.” Amen to that. To me there is so much truth in the just the standard works and words of the living prophets that I don’t know and understand that I honestly don’t ever see why anyone would go searching for truth outside of that. Where is the need to? I have so much to learn. In fact just reading your words and the words of so many others here show me daily how much I really don’t know.

  • Tinkerbell June 29, 2009, 12:44 pm

    Reminds me of something we read in our scripture study last night. Mormon 1:19

    And it came to pass there there were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics; and the poewr of the evil one was wrought upone all the face of hte land, even unto the fulfilling of all the words of Abinadi, and also Samuel the Lamanite.

    I just really can’t imagine any way to communicate with the Lord that is closer than prayer. We pray directly to God, and he answers us in our minds and hearts with distinct thoughts and impressions and feelings and sometimes a clear voice. Why would I want to back off of that direct communication and replace it with communication to someone else? It seems that definitely opens the door to potential false information.

  • Deanna June 29, 2009, 2:05 pm

    Tracey, I just have to say that as I was reading the first half of this article I was starting to get a little scared that maybe this wasn’t the web forum for me. That maybe these weren’t the group of faithful LDS people that I thought they were and that I felt so very connected to

    me too! halfway in I was like “um… holy cow, is she serious???” I had to get to the end. Then it was all ok again πŸ˜€

  • facethemusic June 29, 2009, 4:58 pm

    Sorry ladies– didn’t mean to freak you out. πŸ™‚ My intention wasn’t to fool anyone or make anyone think I was going someplace I really wasn’t. Rather, to cause people to really THINK about it and ask themselves the questions before giving my answer.

  • ksjarvis June 30, 2009, 2:26 pm

    I felt inspired by what you wrote to take advantage of the wealth of talks that we have available to us from modern day prophets at our fingertips at LDS.org. At LDS.org they have archives of the Ensign and thus conference talks all the way back to 1971. So I opened up the conference issue in 1971 and began reading the very first talk. How pleasantly surprised I was to find that only a few lines into the talk President Jospeph Fielding Smith made this statement:

    We are engaged in the Lord ?s work; this is his church; he is the author of the plan of salvation; it is his gospel which we have received by the opening of the heavens in this day; and our desire and whole purpose in life should be to believe the truths he has revealed and to conform our lives to them. No person in or out of the Church should believe any doctrine, advocate any practice, or support any cause that is not in harmony with the divine will. Our sole objective where the truths of salvation are concerned should be to find out what the Lord has revealed and then to believe and act accordingly.

    Since the Lord has revealed his everlasting gospel anew to us in this day and has made The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the custodian and dispenser of its saving truths, I desire now to restate for the Church and for the world a few of those eternal principles which must be accepted by mankind if they will save themselves. Our knowledge of these simple and yet profound doctrines has come to us by revelation in this dispensation.

    All I can say is AMEN.

  • facethemusic July 1, 2009, 9:39 am

    Awesome quote, ksjarvis!!

  • Ray July 4, 2009, 5:49 pm

    Sincere question:

    Are you saying members should not read religious books written by those of other religions – or just that we should not engage in practices encouraged elsewhere but not in the LDS Church? (For example, are you saying things like yoga and classic meditation are dangerous or improper or a waste of time?)

    I understand and agree totally with your main point, but I’m not sure I understand where you draw your actual lines.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 4, 2009, 11:55 pm

    Thanks for the article, Tracy.

    I’d like to make a distinction between “search[ing] for spiritual truth outside the fullness of the gospel” and believing that it’s possible for those of other religions to possess truth that we don’t.

    For one example, many other Christian churches (most?) recognized that blacks weren’t somehow lesser being in God’s site before we did. Apparently that IS truth–and others “got it” while the LDS church did not.

    Let ?s assume for conversation ?s sake, that there is a higher form of communication with God, another conduit through which we can receive information, power, healing or guidance from our Creator

    This is a good example. I certainly HOPE there is a better way. When I attend Education Week, some of the biggest classes, year after year after year, are along the lines of “how to get answers to your prayers” or “how to discern spirit from emotion,” etc. This is something MASSES of Mormons struggle incredibly with.

    And I actually do think it’s possible that there are and have been non-Mormons on the earth who have learned some better way. Mostly because I don’t see why not. Personal revelation is personal and if there is a person who is ready or able or whatever, then I see no reason why God couldn’t communicate in a better way to them.

    Faust once gave a talk on finding your personal place where God talks to you and likened it to an old crystal radio where there was a very particular spot that worked.

  • facethemusic July 5, 2009, 9:31 pm

    For one example, many other Christian churches (most?) recognized that blacks weren’t somehow lesser being in God’s site before we did. Apparently that IS truth–and others “got it” while the LDS church did not.

    Well, I guess that’s only if you believe the Church DIDN’T get it and thought that blacks were ‘lesser’. I would contend that the gospel ALWAYS held that all worthy men should hold the priesthood. Just because the priesthood was witheld for reasons we may not understand, doesn’t mean that we believed they were “lesser” and didn’t “get it”. If one day women in the church are given the priesthood, it wouldn’t mean that we were ‘wronged’ by not having it now, or that churches who ordain women NOW are ‘right’ and we’re “wrong”.

    Besides that, you have to remember that even though other churches were ordaining blacks before we were, they were preaching and assigned to black congregrations. The first black Catholic priest wasn’t ordained until just before 1900, but he was priest over a BLACK congregation. Same thing with Methodist, Episcopalian,e tc. — it’s not like they were baptizing whites. Not to forget that it was a ‘counterfeit’ priesthood and didn’t really hold any real authority in the first place.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 5, 2009, 10:24 pm

    Posted By: facethemusicWell, I guess that’s only if you believe the Church DIDN’T get it and thought that blacks were ‘lesser’.

    Joseph Fielding Smith (prophet):

    There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less.

    Brigham Young (prophet):

    If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.

    I don’t know how you define “lesser,” but heck yes, I’d say that many leaders–including some prophets–didn’t “get it” and did think blacks were inferior!

    I would contend that the gospel ALWAYS held that all worthy men should hold the priesthood.

    So “the gospel” did, but “the church” and “the prophets” didn’t?

    Just because the priesthood was witheld for reasons we may not understand, doesn’t mean that we believed they were “lesser” and didn’t “get it”.

    It’s entirely possible that the “reasons we may not understand” were simply because our leaders were too influenced by the surrounding culture and their upbringing to “get it.” So many of their statements on this issue were simply dead wrong, like those above. Which would mean that any Christians who did “get” that blacks could receive salvation JUST LIKE WHITES, held to “real and eternal truths” that even our prophets didn’t yet understand.

    To be clear, I’m not talking about the withholding of the priesthood necessarily (although that COULD have the same implications) but the repeated stated beliefs about WHY it was withheld. I’m talking about the STATED SALVATIONAL ISSUES surrounding the withholding.

    Whether or not God really wanted the priesthood withheld from blacks, whether he was diametrically opposed to that idea, or whether he allowed it due do the circumstances (which is kind of my line of thinking–he wasn’t punishing the blacks, as he was allowing the church to become established even though so many whites were racist) isn’t the issue. It’s that prophets and apostles repeatedly (and falsely) stated that blacks could not EVER have the priesthood, could not be sealed as families, could only be servants in the Celestial kingdom. Those are extreme and serious positions–and they were wrong.

    If one day women in the church are given the priesthood, it wouldn’t mean that we were ‘wronged’ by not having it now, or that churches who ordain women NOW are ‘right’ and we’re “wrong”.

    It doesn’t necessarily mean that–and it’s hard to even make a comparison since, in truth, we believe that all those men AND woman are ordained with false priesthood anyway–but it could mean that. If the priesthood is being withheld contrary to God’s will due to human prejudice and misconception (which, obviously our leaders are allowed to have (see statements above)), then women would be “wronged.”

  • Alison Moore Smith July 6, 2009, 12:46 pm

    Wanted to add to the last statement to parallel the blacks/priesthood issue.

    If the priesthood is being withheld from women EVEN IF WITH GOD’s ALLOWANCE, but past/present leaders have been wrong about WHY and FOR HOW LONG, then the same applies. Those of other denominations who believe both men and women can be called of God to administer in priesthood ordinances (or whatever God’s true, eternal position is) are more enlightened and more correct in that particular respect.

  • mlinford July 6, 2009, 4:04 pm

    I think we have to be careful here, because truth is not just something to be parsed out by topics here and there. It all interconnects. So, at some level, I’m not so sure that ‘others may be more enlightened’ on a specific topic really goes very far.

    For example, if people believed that blacks received salvation, what did that mean? No one else really has the notion of the afterlife that we do, so they may have believed blacks could receive salvation, but they were wrong about what salvation meant.

    What does it mean to have the fullness of the gospel? It means that we have the authority to work for the salvation of the living and the dead, and to build God’s kingdom on earth. It means we have the power to bind people through covenants to God, to enable them to access the fullness of the Atonement’s power. That doesn’t by any means mean that there isn’t light and truth in other places, but ultimately, light and truth is not something that exists in a vacuum — it all needs to be part of the greater whole, pointing to Christ and HIS fullness, or in the end, it doesn’t really serve the fullness of its purpose. And His timing. And His ways. Which takes into consideration more factors than we could ever consider.

    I firmly believe that some people may progress from light to light, though, and that may take them through a religious/spiritual pathway that may not get to the fullness of the gospel for a while. But one person’s personal journey is not the same thing as acknowledging what is Light and Truth in the big picture kind of a way.

    There may certainly be something that someone in the world understands that our prophets don’t, but the prophets don’t need to know it all to be the ones that God has chosen to be His mouthpieces. No one else has that authority and the fullness of the keys and the fullness of the gospel plan laid out for them all together as one whole, no matter how ‘enlightened’ they may be. Again, truth, or bits of truth, simply don’t exist in a vacuum.

    (And Alison, I really disagree with the way you repeatedly parallel blacks and the priesthood and women and the priesthood. Just wanted to say that. I don’t want to debate with you, but I think that line of thinking can be very, very problematic, for many reasons. Hindsight is one thing. Speculating about where leaders ‘might’ be wrong on something like that to me is just problematic.) As for me and my house, the Spirit has reinforced the fact that women and the priesthood and all of that is just as God would have it be. I don’t believe others are more enlightened about men and women and roles and authority, because they simply don’t understand what God’s authority is all about. They don’t have the teachings of the plan of salvation, or the authority to speak for God. They can’t on this front, because we are the only ones who have the true authority in the first place to even begin to try to understand and to be able to teach about it. That doesn’t mean things can or won’t change in the eternities, or maybe before. But blacks and the priesthood never had the kind of repetition, authoritative context, a proclamation to back up the notions underlying the order of things….)

  • Alison Moore Smith July 6, 2009, 5:26 pm

    Posted By: mlinfordFor example, if people believed that blacks received salvation, what did that mean? No one else really has the notion of the afterlife that we do, so they may have believed blacks could receive salvation, but they were wrong about what salvation meant.

    I did refer to this in one of my posts. Yes, they are wrong about certain things. But we have been as well. And we have been wrong on particulars where others have been right. I believe God allows that frailty, but it doesn’t require that we pretend it didn’t exist.

    When Holland said that he prayed and prayed that blacks would one day get the priesthood (contrary to what current apostles said), he didn’t do so in a vacuum. He was likely very affected by those around him, what he saw, and what he heard, which likely countered what the apostles has said about it.

    There may certainly be something that someone in the world understands that our prophets don’t, but the prophets don’t need to know it all to be the ones that God has chosen to be His mouthpieces.

    I agree. That certainly doesn’t counter what I said. Recognizing that our leaders have been wrong and made mistakes isn’t the same as saying that their callings aren’t legitimate or real.

    And Alison, I really disagree with the way you repeatedly parallel blacks and the priesthood and women and the priesthood. Just wanted to say that. I don’t want to debate with you, but I think that line of thinking can be very, very problematic, for many reasons.

    It doesn’t make much sense to throw out statements with the condition that they not be debated. “I don’t like your dress, but I don’t want to talk about it.” Where does that lead? So, you disagree? No one’s ever disagreed with me before. πŸ˜‰

    Speculating about where leaders ‘might’ be wrong on something like that to me is just problematic.

    I didn’t bring women/priesthood into the discussion for that reason. Black/priesthood is a sunk cost and because it is, it shows the problem I presented.

    Women and the priesthood is only instructive if we know the end game, and we don’t. But there certainly are some compelling similarities when you look at local culture vs priesthood. (Which is likely why Tracy brought it up.) Black men were able to vote 50 years before any women. There does seem to a time lag on women’s rights over black rights in some areas.

    As for me and my house, the Spirit has reinforced the fact that women and the priesthood and all of that is just as God would have it be.

    That’s fine for you. I don’t have the same reinforcement. But I figure if Holland could hope that blacks could have the priesthood when he was just a kid, it’s probably OK if I hope women do–or at least hope it’s explained more clearly. In particular I’d like to have an official source address the issue of understanding when “men” in the scriptures means all mankind and when it really just means men.

    When I was a kid I asked my mom why the scriptures were just for men. She told me that they were for everyone and “men” just meant “mankind” which meant “human beings.” That has been repeated again and again in various forums. But later (when I was four) my sister got baptized. I felt sorry for my mom who wasn’t participating. I said, “Mom,when I get baptized I want Dad to baptize me but I want you to confirm me.” She told me she couldn’t because only men could have the priesthood.

    Please understand, my mother was very traditional, old-school. She never once wanted the priesthood and when I was an adult couldn’t even understand why the issue bothered me at all. But I stood there at age FOUR trying to figure out why God didn’t think women were good enough to baptize someone–why MEN wasn’t really all people, like I was told.

    When President Hinckley read the letter from the girl who didn’t know if women could go to the Celestial Kingdom, he seemed so surprised, bless his heart. But I was banging my head on the wall, saying, “Why wouldn’t she be wonder? How do we know when we’re excluded and when we aren’t?”

    So, yes. I would really like an explanation or at least an acknowledgement that someone “up there” notices that it’s an issue to some of us crazies and maybe thinks about it more than just to tell us that LDS women aren’t bothered by ti. And I’d like someone to explain why “any member” doesn’t include women when sacrament prayers are concerned, too. :tongue:

    I don’t believe others are more enlightened about men and women and roles and authority, because they simply don’t understand what God’s authority is all about.

    Of course, no one said they did. I said that there COULD be parallels IF certain things happened in the future. But it’s pretty clear that other were more enlightened about how race reflects on roles and authority and salvation in many ways.

    But blacks and the priesthood never had the kind of repetition, authoritative context, a proclamation to back up the notions underlying the order of things….)

    True, I don’t know of a Proclamation on the Priesthood. But seriously, repetition and authoritative context? As far as I’ve seen it has exponentially more of both.

    I know of very few authoritative statement that actually spell out “women cannot have the priesthood and never will because _____________”. Probably the most pointed in my lifetime was when Hinckley said something along the lines of, “I don’t know why, I just know an all-loving Father in Heaven has a plan.” There were TONS of statements about blacks/priesthood!

    I was just sitting here thinking about the day in 1978 when the black/priesthood announcement was made. My mom burst upstairs yelling to us. We ran down and she told us the news. My entire family literally jumped up and down. And we, again literally, ran into the street where other neighbors came out to hug and talk, excited and rejoicing.

    Apparently Holland wasn’t the only one who hoped beyond hope that blacks would get the priesthood. Everyone I personally knew felt that way. Even though they didn’t know the end game. And even though doing so was hoping that the past prophetic/apostolic statements were wrong.

    So, sincerely, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to hope the priesthood will be open to ALL worthy MEMBERS, no matter their gender.

  • mlinford July 6, 2009, 6:17 pm

    When President Hinckley read the letter from the girl who didn’t know if women could go to the Celestial Kingdom, he seemed so surprised, bless his heart. But I was banging my head on the wall, saying, “Why wouldn’t she be wonder? How do we know when we’re excluded and when we aren’t?”

    I am keenly aware of the struggles some women have, but I guess at some point my thought is how on earth anyone could look at our doctrine and wonder about whether women have a place in the celestial kingdom? *I* end up banging my head against a wall when sometimes problems are created by making women’s issues bigger than they need to be. Honestly, it’s all over the place that we have a place, a significant place in the kingdom, now and forever. We ought not pretend that the notion of women and eternal life is somehow not answered point blank by prophets repeatedly. It’s not like they leave us hanging on that obvious question, so I have to agree w/ Pres. Hinckley on that. I think his point is — HUH? We teach so clearly that you are so critical to the plan, and that God’s plan for ALL of his children is to return to Him — it’s just central to our doctrine.

    I don’t want to minimize the pain and questions that are there, but by the same token, we shouldn’t pretend that the answers don’t exist on these major issues (like whether women will have a place in the celestial kingdom). (Head…hurting…now.)

    Apparently [Elder] Holland wasn’t the only one who hoped beyond hope that blacks would get the priesthood. Everyone I personally knew felt that way. Even though they didn’t know the end game. And even though doing so was hoping that the past prophetic/apostolic statements were wrong.

    The difference here (and to me it’s a big difference) is that most women don’t wish this kind of thing in a counter-the-prophets kind of a way. The women who are frustrated or struggling with these issues are the exception, not the rule.

    I know we each have our struggles and questions, and I’m sorry that for you some of these questions remain unanswered in your heart. But women are not left out of the picture like blacks were for a while. There isn’t some empty hole waiting to be filled about our purpose and the end of our creation. We receive all the ordinances of salvation, and men can’t receive the fullness of those w/o us. Honestly, to me it is just apples and oranges when I look at it.

    All of that said, I’m also satisfied as I ponder the temple and the scriptures that priesthood is something that we don’t understand in its fullness, and I’m ok with that, too. I don’t feel the need, however, to somehow have the order of things change to feel validated, needed, or potentially exalted as a woman. There is so much light and truth found in the order of things, and I am just plain sad (and sometimes kind of frustrated) when women will insist that we can’t be happy until or unless we somehow get the prophets to change things. Or that it’s our job to somehow get them to change. To take pain to God, yes, do it, yes. But don’t assume that what is needed to change that pain is some organizational or administrative or policy or even doctrinal change. Maybe the answer will be something more personal. I think sometimes people get too much confidence from the blacks and the priesthood and think, “well, if I don’t like something, that means I just need to pray hard enough so it will change.” All too easy to ask amiss, if you ask me. And all too easy to miss what can be found and felt about what IS. I wouldnt’ say that if I hadn’t felt real power and peace about what is. I don’t say that to rub others’ face in it who haven’t, but to suggest that maybe it’s possible to really be at peace with how things are, and not to have that be held hostage only to expected or hoped-for change.

    Just my ten cents’ worth.

  • Ray July 6, 2009, 7:37 pm

    I still have the same questions I asked in my last comment.

  • mlinford July 6, 2009, 10:47 pm

    Ray, I know you didn’t ask me, but my thought is that I think there can be value in reading material from other religions — to learn more about others, etc. I also like to see how elements of truth weave through other religions — to me, it underscores the fact that there are pieces of truth (from the apostasy, imo) that exist all around us…how pieces of truth have remained and how there are similarities across many religions.

    I also have found that sometimes others’ perspectives can give me new ways of looking at what we are taught — so I go back to the scriptures and truths taught by prophets with new eyes.

    I think the key is to really be sure to come back to the big picture and to see if and how things fit into that picture — not necessarily go looking for ‘some new thing’ from other sources. That’s my take.

  • jennycherie July 7, 2009, 6:07 am

    Posted By: Alison Moore SmithI’d like to have an official source address the issue of understanding when “men” in the scriptures means all mankind and when it really just means men.

    I totally agree on this point, Alison! I’ve had the same confusion!

    Posted By: mlinfordmaybe it’s possible to really be at peace with how things are, and not to have that be held hostage only to expected or hoped-for change.

    if I understand correctly, it seems to me that Alison was suggesting that it would be nice just to have clarification, even if the actual policy or practice does not change. . . I’ve also been confused over the story of Deborah, the prophetess, in Judges 4. . . how was she a prophetess? Did she have the priesthood? And what about Miriam, the prophetess in Exodus? Maybe it’s time for me to drag out my Old Testament manual again. . .

  • jennycherie July 7, 2009, 6:13 am

    Posted By: RayAre you saying members should not read religious books written by those of other religions – or just that we should not engage in practices encouraged elsewhere but not in the LDS Church? (For example, are you saying things like yoga and classic meditation are dangerous or improper or a waste of time?)

    For myself, I can’t see where things like yoga or classic meditation are dangerous in any way. . . but I do think we must be cautious where we go searching for truth. I think there can be things to learn by reading religious books by those of other religions BUT not at the expense of reading the scriptures or words of the living prophet and apostles. Our SS lesson last week was about apostasy and I was reminded again of what innocent, minuscule things can start one down the path toward apostasy IF one is already lacking in personal worship and strength of testimony.

  • ksjarvis July 7, 2009, 6:43 am

    but to suggest that maybe it’s possible to really be at peace with how things are, and not to have that be held hostage only to expected or hoped-for change.

    Oddly enough I think you can be at peace with something and still hope for a change to happen. For example my husband LOVES and I mean LOVES his job. He is extremely happy with what he does, who he works with, the work environment, everything. I would say he is absolutely at peace with it. But that doesn’t preclude him from hoping that one day he might get a promotion, learn new skills, and have new responsiblities.

    For myself, I am truly at peace about the role of the priesthood in my current life situation. I am grateful for the priesthood my husband holds and for how it blesses our family. But that doesn’t preclude me from hoping that one day my husband and I might be able to be more “one” in priesthood power. It is not like I’m letting that worry me or anything. I just hope that one day I really will be a priestess as indicated by the temple ordinances. That hope actually brings me joy. It doesn’t hold me hostage.

    Are you saying members should not read religious books written by those of other religions – or just that we should not engage in practices encouraged elsewhere but not in the LDS Church? (For example, are you saying things like yoga and classic meditation are dangerous or improper or a waste of time?)

    Ray, I obviously can’t answer for Tracy, but my views on this are very similar to Jenny and mlinford. I think it is ok to read material from other religions if you are reading them to seek understanding of what they believe and you aren’t out seeking a different set of principles to live by because the gospel just isn’t working for you. I actually think it can help you with your own missionary work if you meet people from a specific religion and you actually know about what they believe. It can help find commonalities in belief and allow you to help them see that we really aren’t all that different from them after all.

    As far as yoga, etc. is concerned, I think that if you are using it as a way to help clear your mind so that you can better talk to God through prayer (because I personally don’t think there is a better way to commune with God than through the direct communication of prayer) then I think it is very good. If you are deciding to leave the church and just use yoga as your religion then I think it is a problem. When people start seeking out truth in other places because they feel that they can’t find truth in the gospel, I think that is when it becomes problematic. Reading Tracy’s post made me think of this one on Mormon Matters.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2009, 12:24 pm

    Posted By: mlinfordI am keenly aware of the struggles some women have, but I guess at some point my thought is how on earth anyone could look at our doctrine and wonder about whether women have a place in the celestial kingdom?

    Certainly, for an adult. Who is well-versed. But not necessarily for a child.

    And as for “a place in the kingdom” what IS that place? I’d say that’s a “major issue,” so point me to the answers. I haven’t seen them.

    What, for example, does our Heavenly Mother DO? She’s in one hymn and has been acknowledged authoritatively, but we can’t talk about her anymore. And, as I was taught in seminary, are their multiple Heavenly Mothers? Is the seven women to a man really going to happen?

    In the entire creation story we’ve got ONE woman, and all she does it blame the snake for her bad deed.

    The difference here (and to me it’s a big difference) is that most women don’t wish this kind of thing in a counter-the-prophets kind of a way. The women who are frustrated or struggling with these issues are the exception, not the rule.

    So to you it’s OK for Holland to hope blacks got the priesthood–even though that was contrary to what the prophets and apostles up to that time had declared–because you think MORE people secretly hoped so, too?

    I find, actually, that tons of women have the issues I do. I get emails and IMs all the time about it. (If any of you want to speak up, go ahead! :smile:) I literally have people approach me at homeschool meetings, at Education Week, in the mall and say, “Aren’t you AMS from Mormon Momma? I was so glad you wrote ______ because I’ve felt that way my whole life.”

    But they can’t TALK about it. First, what is the forum? Relief Society? Yes, I’m sure that would go over really well. Any of you read the old LDS romance Charly? (My YW leader actually gave each of us a copy after a fireside when I was a kid.) She brings up sex in RS and the whole room goes wanky on her.

    I haven’t brought up the sacrament meeting prayer issue with anyone in my ward because I know the RESULT of doing so. I’ve done it before. No matter how gently, politely, submissively it is asked, it garners a defensive response and some level of labeling as a far-left extreme feminist crazy. I ask why women can’t say opening prayers and the response is as if I’m screaming from the back of the tabernacle during General Conference while wearing garments on top of my clothing.

    I don’t want to be black-balled for asking about a policy issue in my ward/stake. So I keep my mouth shut there and I talk about it here. And I’ve not told anyone in my new “white-shirt ward” about this blog at all. Still, I’ve had three people in that ward who have (unbeknownst to me) lurked here and approached me to say how much they support what I’ve said. And how they are afraid to speak up about it. 😐

    I’m sorry that for you some of these questions remain unanswered in your heart.

    Michelle, it’s not about my heart. My questions are unanswered, period. “I don’t know” and “It’s in the past”–even though it’s not–aren’t what we’d call substantive responses.

    There is so much light and truth found in the order of things, and I am just plain sad (and sometimes kind of frustrated) when women will insist that we can’t be happy until or unless we somehow get the prophets to change things.

    Who insisted women can’t be happy until a certain point? What I can’t do is claim that my questions are answered until they are. And who said the prophets have to change? What I’d like is to have the issue addressed.

    That said, President Holland didn’t have a problem hoping for change and neither do I.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2009, 12:58 pm

    ksjarvis, spot on. I think the church is not only an incredibly amazing organization that changes lives positively better than any other I know, but is God’s inspired organization. But I don’t think it’s perfect and I think there are some substantive changes that could–God willing–help the church.

    I don’t believe, for example, that the timing of the blacks/priesthood was coincidental or random. I believe that the urgency of it (to President Kimball and others) was that entire COUNTRIES couldn’t be proselytized because of the ban and that public perception of differentiation by race had become completely intolerable to most people. It was stunting church growth and spread of the gospel–when in earlier times accepting blacks (in a very racist country) might have doomed the church.

    Today, I see much the same thing with women/priesthood. I have had countless conversations with non-LDS women who (1) Have been flabbergasted that “someone strong-willed like you” would be in a church where women were “second-class citizens. and (2) Would never consider hearing about the church, because they disagree so strongly with the gender-differentiation in callings, leadership, decision-making, etc.

    I think it is affecting our missionary efforts more and more in industrialized nations. In these countries, such gender specifications are becoming more and more unacceptable. The non-LDS women I speak to are literally baffled by what they see as the nonsensical notion that, for example, who leads a ward is based FIRST on gender and THEN on all the other factors. In fact, I think that explains some of our church growth patterns. How are women perceived in countries that have the highest growth rates? What is their societal standing?

    To be clear, no, I don’t think we’re second-class citizens IN THE WAY that they do. But I do think our views are incredibly under-represented in the decision-making, policy-setting arena when we are at least half the membership. And I think very often women’s views are brushed aside.

    I’m still looking for the quote (I wrote it down) from the General Young Women meeting a few years ago. About how the General YW leader (counselor or president, can’t recall) left a meeting with a GA (I think Ballard? but don’t quote me on that) and he told the men in the room something like, “Now we can get on with the real business of the church.” She walked back in and took him to task. And he apologized profusely.

    It was actually told as a funny story (the gasps in the large room were telling), but is sadly not uncommon in what it presents. Something of an attitude that says we have to be patient and civil while the women “carry on” with their problems. And when they finally get over emoting we can really get to work.

    To be fair, I think often we DO “carry on” rather than work rationally and carefully through issues. I’d still rather have a man be bishop than a woman (sexist!) because I trust them more to keep confidences confidential. Maybe it’s our own darn fault that we don’t have the priesthood because we aren’t ready for it, collectively.

    But I think it behooves leaders to deal with women (and men!) individually. Listen to their concerns just as they would a man’s without chalking it up to hormones.

    When I was in college, every time I was upset or disagreed with something, some guy would say, “Oh, is it that time of the month?” I could have been hit by a semi, lying in the road with my guts on the pavement and they would have said that. It was incredibly insulting. And I told them so. And, yes, I thought of some equally sexist comebacks, but refrained from using them.

    Women, collectively, have the same ability to discern, to problem-solve, to lead, to serve that men do. Whether or not women get the priesthood, they should be treated with the same respect men get.

    Tracy, sorry for the threadjack.

    Back to you.

    I think blacks/priesthood blacks/salvation is an example where our leaders were heavily influenced by the prevailing culture and made statements that were completely wrong–while other religions were correct in the thinking that no RACE was lesser in God’s eyes. I honestly don’t think that’s debatable given the mountain of authoritative statements.

    What does that MEAN in the context of looking for light and truth? What does it mean as we try not to be deceived by false teachings? I think that’s the real question on that issue.

    Like I said earlier, at Education Week some of the consistently filled-to-the-brim classes are about discernment, personal revelation, answers to prayers. Deseret Book has a relatively constant stream of books on this topi (I own most of them!).

    I’d say a huge percentage of us don’t have the answers to prayers thing down. And, frankly, I think that most people who THINK they do, are fooled!

    I had a friend in Boca who literally claimed to get revelation for EVERYTHING, EVERY DAY, from the utterly mundane to the profound. Everything she did (what she ate, what she wore, what she taught her child that day, where she put her KEYS) was because God told her to do so. Seriously, all I could think was, “I think God has more important things to do than decided between fruit loops and cheerios.”

    On the other hand, we read President Kimball’s description of the black/priesthood revelation and it was a YEARS LONG begging, pleading, agonizing decision–that was THEN discussed and voted on with the quorum.

    So, when we read, hear, discuss things how do we make sure our ultimate decisions are correct and true?

  • ksjarvis July 7, 2009, 2:06 pm

    Alison, I absolutely agree about wanting there to be balance in the church, where women ?s voices are heard, respected, and are a part of the planning/decision making process. In a perfect world, with a perfect ward, I think that a Bishop ?s role and a Relief Society President ?s role would be seen as essentially equals. Much in the same way that a husband and wife are seen as equals. They each have their different roles but they work together as equals to accomplish the purposes of the church. In some cases I think I have seen glimpses of this already as I have watched our current bishopric work with our current Relief Society presidency. They seem to collaborate on everything as they try to meet the needs of the people in our ward. They really and truly seem to be one in purpose. And it has made our ward family stronger because of it.

    However, unlike you seem to imply that you feel, I really don ?t have a problem with assigning specific tasks or roles to people based on gender. I realize this little analogy I am about to share probably has glaring holes in it, but just go with me on it for a moment.

    One of my favorite songs in primary is I Pray in Faith. It has two parts with two different melodies that are first sung separately and then sung together. When we sing this song I like to assign the boys to sing the first verse and the girls to sing the second verse. Then they sing their corresponding parts together and it sounds angelic to me. It is right to arbitrarily decide that this is how they should be divided to sing this song? I don ?t know. But it does sound nice. Could the roles be reversed and it still sound nice? Absolutely. Is it possible that some girls might sing the first verse better than the boys and that some boys might sing the second verse better than the girls? Of course. But it does make it nice and clear and easy to divide up the roles by gender to make for a beautiful performance. And because the boys are singing about the action of prayer and receiving answers, does that mean they are the only ones that can receive answers to prayers? Of course not. And because the girls are singing about how to pray, does that mean that they are the only ones who are privy to the proper method of prayer? Again, of course not. That is simply what their assignment is. So instead of asking is it RIGHT to assign roles based on gender, it might be a better question to ask is really WRONG to assign roles based on gender? I have a tendency to think not.

    With this simplistic analogy, let ?s say that men were simply assigned the task to hold offices in the priesthood at this time. And women were assigned other tasks, such as walking hand in hand with God in the creation process to bring children into the world (which for the record, I consider to be one of the most sacred experiences of my life and would never want to give up that role). If the roles were reversed, would mankind still progress towards exaltation? Absolutely. Is it possible that some women are actually better suited to perform the duties of the offices of the priesthood than some of the men who hold it? You betcha. Are there some men who would actually make better mothers than some mothers we know? Sure. But I think the assignments were made to provide simplicity in what Heavenly Father knew would be one crazy, confusing experience here on Earth. Now here is the real question for me though, if men were specifically assigned OFFICES in the priesthood, does that mean that women can ?t hold the priesthood as well and participate in the ordinances that the men were assigned to officiate in? As an example, doesn ?t it seem logical and to me ideal that when you have a sick child in your home that the husband and wife would stand together, side by side, with their loving hands on that child ?s head to pronounce a blessing of healing? Wouldn ?t that seem the better way rather than calling in another brother from outside the home, who is not necessarily close to the situation, and who couldn ?t possible love that child more that the mother and father do? That is the kind of thing I hold out hope for. And can honestly see happening one day.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2009, 4:03 pm

    Posted By: ksjarvisHowever, unlike you seem to imply that you feel, I really don ?t have a problem with assigning specific tasks or roles to people based on gender.

    I don’t either, and I’ll tell you why. I DO think men and women are fundamentally different. That is WHY I want women to be more fully represented! Otherwise, there would be no point because our perspective would be the same.

    I don’t know where I implied otherwise. I AM a stay-at-home mom, you know. πŸ™‚ And, yes, because I’m a woman.

    What I want is clarification on the issue, even if it’s just, “Well, I had to divide it up somehow and that was an easy way.” But I’d like to know what the eternal implications are. And, yes, there is a big tie to polygamy there. Women simply do not have a model for what their eternities might look like, unless you call “eternities having spiritual babies,” as some have claimed, the answer.

    And I’d like more input and representation. I’d like to have respected, acknowledged, female input and even (shock!) decision-making at the general level. RS used to be completely independent. In fact, it was very independent until the mid part of the last century. It had it’s own budget, it’s own magazine, it’s own events–not dictated or approved by general male leadership. It’s not that I think this model is perfect, but to ultimately have every female-only group, at every level, have final oversight by male-only groups seems odd at least.

    And while we’re at it, I’d like to see and hear from more women and get rid of the absence of women praying and the “token woman” at conference. Just like I wish the scriptures had more female examples and stories.

    When President Hinckley said that LDS women don’t have issues with the priesthood, he was wrong. Do ALL women? Of course not. Do most of the women in his generation? Not at all. But many, many, many LDS women do and many more prospective LDS women do, too. In our culture, it is expected that gender divisions are explained and make sense. And in the church, they generally are not explained and they aren’t addressed. They are just brushed aside or, worse, those speaking about them are condemned for being “feminists” (!) or “trouble-makers” or “not being in tune with the Spirit” or whatever.

    Angie, you made some good points. What about prophetesses? I dare you to ask that question in Gospel Doctrine next week!

    ksjarvis, I’m with you on the blessing thing. Pioneer women gave blessings all the time, to their children and to each other. If I remember correctly, it was Brigham Young who put a stop to that. I don’t know of any doctrinal support for that, but that goes back to the original issue. I don’t know of any doctrinal support for ONLY men to have the priesthood at all. It’s not like the scriptures talk about the priesthood and say, “OK, NOW “men” means only males.” And I do wonder if it’s not just an assumption that was carried over. Men are preachers, women aren’t and never have been. Just as blacks were “obviously” an inferior race and so not allowed the same privileges that whites were.

    BTW, where is the doctrinal statement that says blacks couldn’t have the priesthood? I’ve only heard statements SUPPORTING the practice, not any that DECLARED it.

    I, too, have thought it was just odd that I need to call some guy I don’t know (and who never visits) in the middle of the night to bless my child who he doesn’t know, because I am not allowed. I’ve thought it sad that unmarried women were unable to give mother’s blessings or healing blessings or to dedicate their homes or anything like that.

    The problem is, if women can give THOSE blessings, why can’t they give OTHER ones? Of course, that’s the issue I had when I went to the temple. I’ve written about my experience here. In the temple women do give blessings (which threw me for a loop), so why can’t they do so in their homes? Or elsewhere?

    I’ve spent too much time on this already today. You all go at it. I’ll shut up and move to another thread.

  • agardner July 7, 2009, 9:09 pm

    Angie, you made some good points. What about prophetesses? I dare you to ask that question in Gospel Doctrine next week!

    I think that was actually Jenny. I’m having too much fun just listening to the rest of you.

    I’ve spent too much time on this already today. You all go at it. I’ll shut up and move to another thread.

    Aw, come on. I really enjoy reading what you have to say! As you know, we think much alike on things.

  • jennycherie July 7, 2009, 11:19 pm

    Posted By: Alison Moore SmithBut I’d like to know what the eternal implications are. And, yes, there is a big tie to polygamy there. Women simply do not have a model for what their eternities might look like, unless you call “eternities having spiritual babies,” as some have claimed, the answer.

    another question I share, Alison!

    Posted By: Alison Moore SmithWhat about prophetesses? I dare you to ask that question in Gospel Doctrine next week!

    Is it a problem if I ask this question (as the teacher) when I *don’t* know the answer?

  • mlinford July 8, 2009, 12:39 am

    In our culture, it is expected that gender divisions are explained and make sense. And in the church, they generally are not explained and they aren’t addressed.

    That expectation, imo, is part of the problem, though. So much of what we preach does not appeal our culture, to those who want things to just ‘make sense.’ (God and Jesus Christ appearing to a 14-year-old farmboy? Gold plates? Angels (including angels laying hands on [ahem, men’s] heads to restore ancient priesthood power?) Faith requires us to be willing to suspend some of that drive for logical, intellectual answers alone. This should not surprise us with issues as significant as those surrounding gender roles, should we?

    IMO, gender issues won’t make sense to the world unless they work in the way the world expects. But feminism is not close to a fullness of truth, and many principles actually end up distorting truth if feminism is used as the measuring stick for the gospel. (It should be the other way around!)

    There is more to all of these issues than having equal “checklists” of to-dos or ‘rights’ as men and women. And, imo, there ARE many explanations given, but they usually don’t sit well w/ feminist theory or cultural trends. (In fact, cultural trends and philosophies are very often the very thing that prophets help protect us against.) Some of this IS an issue of faith, and people won’t be able to understand why we do what we do in a vacuum w/o the Spirit.

    [(Naismith, where are you?) She was attracted to the Church because of the way women have so many opportunities and blessings! I love hearing her talk about that!]

    One of the problems with discussions on gender issues is that so often in these feminism dominates the conversation and sets the terms (e.g., “equality means equal to-do lists and opportunities, so therefore, if men and women can’t have the same callings, they must not be equal, therefore something is wrong.”) My experience has been that to understand these issues requires a suspension of much of what ‘the world’ and our culture and feminism preach. And especially requires a different perspective, an eternal perspective…not just as the world measures equality, but understanding what God means by equality.

    OK, I’m getting repetitive.

    Alison said: Today, I see much the same thing with women/priesthood. I have had countless conversations with non-LDS women who (1) Have been flabbergasted that “someone strong-willed like you” would be in a church where women were “second-class citizens. and (2) Would never consider hearing about the church, because they disagree so strongly with the gender-differentiation in callings, leadership, decision-making, etc.

    So, what is the solution? I don’t believe it’s policy or doctrinal change or more explanation that will solve this problem. It’s not that I don’t understand that there are things we don’t know. But there is much we do know, and much that can be understood w/o anything new being taught.

    I think if anything, one key part of the solution to the problem of women being afraid of joining the Church is found in us, as Mormon women, being more sure ourselves about God’s love and our place in the plan. One of my fave quotes is this from Pres. Kimball:

    Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different in happy ways from the women of the world.

    I would encourage anyone who struggles with these issues to study what has been taught about the roles of men and women (MUCH has been taught about this — I include a few of my favorites) and to pray earnestly for understanding. I have pondered these issues for more than a decade, and I can tell you that glimmers of understanding do come, but it takes a lot of time and trust in what we have been told and what is.

    FWIW, I wrote this about a woman I know who has found answers and peace on these very issues…not by praying that the Church would change, but by praying for understanding and having God open her eyes and heart to how MUCH He loves His daughters, and how the way things are have a purpose in His plan.

    Also, I can’t remember if I ever shared this talk here, but one of the best talks I ever heard on partnership was from the Osguthorpes at BYU Women’s Conf last year. They said that equal partnership is not understood by the world because it’s a gospel principle. I loved that, and believe it. I thought they captured truth very well in their talk…and that the principles they taught can expand beyond marriage into the interdependence of men and women in God’s plan in general.

    I also love this talk by Sister Sheri Dew and this article by Sister Holland.

    No, wait, I think the one I really like from Sister Holland is this one. She talks about patterns that we can find in the temple, in scripture. It’s awesome. She also talks about how feminism can leave women so short of truth and fullness of joy. The big picture plan is so important, ladies. So important. She talks of heavenly parents, gives us clues about how we CAN learn more about our purpose as women.

    Seriously, read it. So awesome. And read the Osguthorpes’ talk. And not because it’s my essay, but read about my friend, because she is seriously such an inspiration to me. Honestly, if you knew the kind of pain she had been in and the kind of pleading, pounding prayers she offered, you would know — if you are one of those women who struggles — that you are not alone, but that the real solution is to go to God with all your heart and then wait for the answers to come to YOU and your heart.

    I think one of my deepest concerns about this notion of somehow praying for some change out there in the wild blue yonder is that women will pray expecting institional answers instead of realizing that they can get answers NOW, and that they don’t need institutional change to find answers to these questions that do concern some people. I know they are real and can be painful questions to have. But I think it may be way off the mark to assume that the answers need to be somehow radical changes to our doctrine, policies, or practices. I also think that as long as there is the notion of ‘well, maybe they are wrong’ — people may not leave room for the fact that maybe they are right, and the answers are already there for the finding.

    I know there is more to come about what it means to be a woman in God’s plan. The temple makes that clear. But that is soooo much the case for men, too. And for so much else! There is soooo much we don’t understand about God and His ways and the lives of our Eternal Parents. But I am fully convinced that we and the women of the world don’t need to wait for that day of eternal roles and responsibilities to feel fully equal in God’s eyes — to KNOW that we are equal. That doesn’t mean we won’t still have questions, but there ARE answers to be found with what IS, now.

    Oh, and I almost forgot. Here’s a scripture that is so fabulous, and simply but powerfully encapsulates eternal blessings that await those who make and keep sacred temple covenants. And they very obviously include women, and in a sense sums up so much for me:

    And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them [that would be a man and a woman] Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths….

    Elder Maxwell once said that we are destined through righteous adherence to covenants to inherit all that God has, and then he says, “Brothers and sisters, there isn’t any more!” I believe that!

    Once again, I understand that we don’t have specifics about what Heavenly Mother does, but neither do we really know much about what Father does, either, or what it means to have ‘thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths” — but it’s clear from that one scripture alone (nevermind the boatloads of teachings we have from prophets) that the highest blessings (even though we don’t know exactly what that means) are held for a married couple, man and woman, together. Women are not second-class. They are right there alongside the men receiving all the glorious blessings God has for His children.

    And that, imo, can be taught to a child as easily as it can be taught to an adult. It is when I focus on those amazing doctrines, teachings, and truths that I feel the power and peace that I have talked about.

    Alison talked about children and their questions. FWIW, I talk very clearly and plainly about these questions and issues with my children, because I have seen them in adults who are wondering and struggling, and I have a daughter who was born a feminist (I never would have believed it had I not seen this so engrained in her soul from a young, young age). I will continually teach without apology that things are the way they are for a reason, and we can trust that God is good and loving and that His daughters are as important to Him as His sons, and that we can find great joy in our roles as women in the plan, in the Church, in our families, in the world.

    Sorry for the long response. There are a few topics on which I have a hard time being silent, and this is one of them. πŸ™‚

  • mlinford July 8, 2009, 1:05 am

    One more quote that may be of interest relative to the issue of women giving blessings:

    From Elder Oaks:

    The Prophet Joseph Smith told the early sisters that he had something better for them than a written constitution. Being organized under priesthood authority, they were to reject worldly concepts of power and seek the power that flows down from heaven for those functions and to those individuals who are using their time and talents in the Lord ?s way.

    In considering the Prophet ?s instructions to the first Relief Society, we should remember that in those earliest days in Church history more revelation was to come. Thus, when he spoke to the sisters about the appropriateness of their laying on hands to bless one another, the Prophet cautioned that the time had not been before that these things could be in their proper order that the Church is not now organized in its proper order, and cannot be until the Temple is completed. ? (Minutes, 28 Apr. 1842, p. 36.) During the century that followed, as temples became accessible to most members, proper order ? required that these and other sacred practices be confined within those temples.

    I found that interesting to ponder. The whole talk is interesting, actually. Elder Oaks has taught much about priesthood. I also like how he distinguishes between priesthood, keys, and authority in this talk as well. Women, for example, are given authority as missionaries, and also as temple ordinance workers. They have authority (note that he even uses the word preside to describe their role) as auxiliary leaders. Ah, I’ll just include that quote, too..

    Under the priesthood authority of the bishop, the president of a ward Relief Society presides over and directs the activities of the Relief Society in the ward. A stake Relief Society president presides and exercises authority over the function to which she has been called. The same is true for the other auxiliaries. Similarly, women called as missionaries are set apart to go forth with authority to teach the everlasting gospel, and women called to work in a temple are given authority for the sacred functions to which they have been called. All function under the direction of the priesthood leader who has been given the priesthood keys to direct those who labor in his area of responsibility.

    I love reading Elder Oaks. As a lawyer by training, I find his language interesting. I get the sense that he is precise and deliberate with how he uses different words here. You have priesthood authority. You have authority that is exercised under that priesthood by auxiliary leaders, missionaries, and temple workers.

    Thinking about the different uses of the words is instructive. I think it also helps us understand that there are some limitatinos in terms of language as well. I think it helps capture how the priesthood is something beyond the men, an umbrella that enables us all to come unto Christ, and in this context, to do what we need to do when called and set apart through the authority of the priesthood. Lots to think about.

    There is more to all of this than meets the eye, imo (again, not just about a to-do list that needs to be equal in order to be true and right and good), and imo there is much to be learned from pondering talks like this one.

    I love studying it all.

  • ksjarvis July 8, 2009, 6:28 am

    I actually really don’t have a problem with only men being assigned certain leadership roles through priesthood offices. I have a great reverence for the “proper order” of things. I kind of like to think of my little family (and this could reasonably be extended to wards, stakes, etc.) as a team. When life throws questions/problems/difficult decisions at you, you work together as a team to find a solution and my husband has simply been called as the spokes person for my team and the final decision that he makes for our family is actually a restatement of a decision that we made to together as a team.

    I don’t have a need to officiate in priesthood offices in order to feel “equal”. But what I would like to see happen (and I reasonably think it is possible) is that the family unit (ward unit, etc.) really can act as a true team. Like the previous example that I mentioned:

    As an example, doesn ?t it seem logical and to me ideal that when you have a sick child in your home that the husband and wife would stand together, side by side, with their loving hands on that child ?s head to pronounce a blessing of healing? Wouldn ?t that seem the better way rather than calling in another brother from outside the home, who is not necessarily close to the situation, and who couldn ?t possible love that child more that the mother and father do?

    I really see that as being an extention of the “proper order” of things that simply isn’t practiced at this time, but could possibly be practiced in the future.

  • facethemusic July 8, 2009, 12:31 pm

    Sorry for my absence from the conversation– in total honesty, I was intentionally avoiding it. I’ve had this “blacks and the priesthood” debate so many times, and we’ve covered here as well. And I’ll admit right up front that when THAT was brought up as an argument against my post, I got very irriated. I’m less patient and long-suffering with members on the issue than I am with non-members and anti’s. When members are making the same arguments about this issue that the anti’s are I sort of lose my patience.

    I’ll address this issue once here, then I’m done with it.
    “Quotes” are not the same thing as Church doctrine. Just because a prophet says something, it doesn’t make it “the doctrine of the Church”. And Alison, I KNOW you know that. In Journal of Discourses Brigham Young is quoted as saying “So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain,” and many of the early church leaders including Joseph Smith were quoted for believing there was human life on the moon. But it is not “gospel” or a doctrine of the Church that there is or was life on either. My entire article was about TRUTH and DOCTRINE, not about quotes. All those quotes you posted have nothing to do with TRUTH or DOCTRINE.

    So you can quote Brigham Young for saying that negroes will go to the Celestial Kingdom as a servant, but so far, the ONLY source for that quote I’ve ever found was NOT from anything Brigham Young wrote or said, but from a talk given by Mark E. Petersen at BYU in 1954, and he did NOT attribute the quote to Brigham Young. Did Brigham say it? Possibly, but I have no source for that. Do you? And what source is it? Someone “quoting” him? Was it in his own handwriting in his own papers? Was it just someone quoting him? Was it something someone heard in an address, then went home and wrote it down? Is what they wrote down ACTUALLY what was said? And even if it IS an accurate quote or taken right from BY’s own writings, does that make it doctrine? No. He also said this, “…the time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more” (Brigham Young Papers, Church Archives, Feb. 5, 1852), and increasingly in the 1960s, Presidents of the Church taught that denial of entry to the priesthood was a current commandment of God, but would not prevent blacks from eventually possessing ALL eternal blessings.

    No matter how many quotes anyone can find, “quotes” do not constitute doctrine. You quoted Joseph Fielding Smith’s comments about worthiness in the pre-existence, but he ALSO said this: “It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every manΉs doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards of doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.”

    Matters of administration and whether or not an ordinance is “practiced” at any point in time is not the same thing as Church doctrine either. We don’t practice polygamy, but we know it IS an ordinance ordained of God– it IS a godly principle-as is animal sacrifice. Just because a practice or ordinance isn’t “employed” doesn’t mean it isn’t something we embrace. Truth is truth and it’s eternal, even though in practice it may be withheld or prohibited for a time. Polygamy was instituted by God and was practiced, then it was forbidden, then it was practiced again (and only among a select few) then forbidden again. And now, practicing it will cause you to be excommunicated! Polygamy (and animal sacrifice for that matter) are ordinances that we’re all too happy to say can be ‘withheld’ from us, from a select few, from certain lineages. But you can see how back then, it was probably considered a privilege and an HONOR to be allowed to practice those things. It was an HONOR to hold the authority to offer up a burnt offering in the house of the Lord. But that was ONLY given to those of a particular lineage. Originally, Priesthood was given ONLY to certain lineages, then it was given to others, then it was completely withdrawn and NO ONE held it. Then it was restored and given to ANY male found worthy, then it was taken from a certain lineage, then it was restored again.

    Consider the comments given here, about women having possibly been given priesthood authority (priestess, prophetess, etc), back in OT times. If that IS the case, then it’s possible that it was only given to CERTAIN women, maybe of a certain lineage, and denied to others. And again, if they DID hold priesthood, then obviously, it was taken away. And IF that’s true, then maybe the temple promises of becoming “priestesses” is referring to actual priesthood authority. In the July ’89 Ensign, H. Burke Peterson said, “Women do not hold the priesthood, but if they are faithful and true they will become priestesses and queens in the kingdom of God, and that implies that they will be given authority.” So, if that’s the case, then it would seem plausible if not likely, that the priesthood WAS given to women, or at least a select few, in OT times, but then was taken away, and will be restored again. And THAT isn’t proof that the doctrines/practices of the Church are “sexist” (even though there are those with sexist views) anymore than the so-called “black priesthood ban” is proof that the doctrines or practices of the Church are “racist”, even though some may have held racist views.

    The TRUTH is, Priesthood WAS given to blacks in the early days of the restored Church.
    1836: In March, Elijah Abel, a black man, is ordained to the office of Elder.
    1836: In December, Elijah Abel, is ordained to the office of Seventy.
    1844: Walker Lewis, a black man, is ordained to the office of Elder.
    1846: William McCary, a black man, is ordained to the office of Elder.
    1900: Enoch Abel, the son of Elijah Abel, is ordained to the office of Elder.
    1935: Elijah Abel, grandson of Elijah Abel, is ordained to the office of Elder.
    1958: All black Melanesians (Fijians) are given the priesthood (blacks in the Philippines even earlier)
    1978: Revelation on Priesthood gives the priesthood to all worthy men regardless of color.
    1990: Helvecio Martins becomes first black General Authority Seventy.
    Additional blacks were ordained in the early years of the church
    (info from blacklds.org)

    Obviously, that it had to be “restored” to them in ’78, it had to have first been denied. But clearly, the priesthood WAS given to men, regardless of race/lineage in the early days of the restored church. For some reason, that changed after 1935 and it was denied only a certain lineage for a span of 43 years. Why? We don’t know. We can speculate…. we can guess… we can find obscure and isolated quotes with or without verified sources… we can acknowledge the existence of racist notions in those who held high positions in church leadership… and we can try to add one plus one and ASSUME that any existing racist notions were responsible for that 43 year gap when priesthood was denied to them.

    But WHAT IF it had absolutely NOTHING to do with racist notions on the part of church leadership? What if God had a REASON for it that we simply don’t know or understand? Just like he had a reason for instituting and revoking polygamy? Just like he had a reason for instituting and revoking animal sacrifice (which, my understanding is will be re instituted before the Second coming)? Just like (or so it seems is very plausible) he had a reason for giving women the priesthood, then taking it and maybe restoring it later?
    We can use all the quotes we want and come to whatever conclusions we come to. But either way, the truth is we DON’T KNOW. If you want to use quotes (verified or otherwise) and conclude that their human, fallible nature allowed them to succomb to societal ills and philosophies, and that despite being called as prophets, seers and revelators they were also racist pigs who let their wicked and racist views deny righteous men the priesthood, then go ahead. OR, since we DON’T KNOW what the cause was, maybe you could offer them the benefit of a doubt.

  • facethemusic July 8, 2009, 12:33 pm

    Ray– I don’t think that reading the books of other religions or practicing things like Yoga are “dangerous” or a waste of time. I myself do not do Yoga– but neither do I think that people who use it for exercise, stretching or relaxing are doing anything wrong or “dangerous”. I happen to have a Qu’ran that I read entirely. But, I didn’t read it to find “knowledge” or “truth” that I felt was lacking in my own religion. I read it because I figured if I wanted to understand Islam and know what Muslim’s believe, I should get it from them (I have several practicing Muslim friends) and their own “holy books” rather than from Christians on CBN.

    And yes, the Qu’ran DOES have many truths– but they aren’t things that WE don’t already have ourselves.
    And if there IS a ‘truth’ in their beliefs that we DON’T currently practice, it doesn’t mean that we SHOULD be practicing it, just because we know it’s a true principle. Polygamy is a good example. They believe in and still practice polygamy. But WE know, to do so now is a sin. So my point was, that whatever actual “truths” exist in other religions, the gospel of Christ ALREADY embraces, regardless of whether we apply them in practice.

  • mlinford July 8, 2009, 12:36 pm

    But I think it behooves leaders to deal with women (and men!) individually. Listen to their concerns just as they would a man’s without chalking it up to hormones.

    Just saw this. And I think Elder Scott addressed that just recently in a way, didn’t he?

    As a bishop, when you counsel with a husband and wife who are in marital difficulty, do you give the same credence to the statements of the woman that you do to the man? As I travel throughout the world, I find that some women are shortchanged in that a priesthood leader is more persuaded by a son rather than a daughter of Father in Heaven. That imbalance simply must never occur.

    And Elder Ballard is big on women’s voices in councils:

    In a recent council meeting with the presidencies of the women ?s auxiliaries, the sisters told me that very few women in the Church express any interest in wanting to hold the priesthood. But they do want to be heard and valued and want to make meaningful contributions to the stake or ward and its members that will serve the Lord and help accomplish the mission of the Church.

    I think as we talk about the challenges, we ought to also acknowledge the teachings…even if the culture/practice hasn’t all caught up yet. Yes, women need to be heard in councils, etc., and that is acknowledged by our leaders.

    Just wanna say one more thing — because I don’t want to be misunderstood as someone trying to silence the questions. I’m not. I think it’s important to be able to feel like it’s ok to ask questions. I know that sometimes RS or other church venues may not always be the place. But I think it’s important especially to focus on taking the questions directly to God for more understanding and insight, rather than thinking that everything has to be resolved by some official clarification or declaration or change. I want to see women with questions feel empowered to find answers, not to be in a passive mode waiting. I believe we are given much to help us sort through these questions. Maybe not getting specific answers always, but more understanding — yes. I believe that is possible, and perhaps part of the journey. If the questions keep dominating, w/o really exploring how to find the answers at an individual level, then we just leave women in and out of the Church spinning their wheels. The same old questions come up again and again and again. Maybe it’s time to look at the questions, too, and see if they are really the ones that need to be asked right now.

  • mlinford July 8, 2009, 12:40 pm

    No matter how many quotes anyone can find, “quotes” do not constitute doctrine.

    That is a very good, concise way to say it, Tracy. Thanks. An important distinction, imo.

  • agardner July 9, 2009, 12:16 am

    I think as we talk about the challenges, we ought to also acknowledge the teachings…even if the culture/practice hasn’t all caught up yet. Yes, women need to be heard in councils, etc., and that is acknowledged by our leaders.

    As I think about it Michelle, I think this is what really gets to me sometimes (I don’t lose sleep over these issues, but when the topic comes up I can get a bit fired up). I think sometimes men in the church think that if they “acknowledge” the need for women to be more involved, it’s enough. More of them need to walk the walk. I’ve had some bishops who have been awesome in trying to make their women leaders an integral part of the ward, but more commonly not. I’ve been upset several times when I’ve been in ward council and a really pertinent conversation will come up, and the bishop will say, “let’s table that for PEC” (or bishopric meeting, or whatever). In other words, “the women don’t need to be involved in this topic”. That bothers me. They can joke about how they should include women more, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. There are institutional practices and traditions in the church (albeit not necessarily doctrine) that make it very difficult for an open-minded bishop to involve women as much as they could be.

  • mlinford July 9, 2009, 2:01 am

    More of them need to walk the walk.

    I agree. But that’s a whole lot different than saying the whole system needs to be changed fundamentally, that new revelation must be given, etc. in order for women to be valued, which is what I hear too often on these issues. (I think I said before I have been discussing these issues for nearly a decade and a half online, so what is being brought up here is nothing new.)

    I also think that we as women can do our part to help the good men around us to listen. And that is something that we can have some influence with. I don’t think that women praying for radical changes in doctrine, etc. is really something that is empowering for us. I also think it’s really easy to be misguided about what to pray for.

    That to me is the difference. I think we can have great influence on the culture and institutional application of truth that we have. I think the best way for us as women to have influence is to know first of all what the doctrine is — that we are equal, valued, critical to the plan. And then I hope we can find that truth in the teachings, because it is THERE. I ache for women to know in the depths of their souls that these things are true. We don’t need new doctrine or teachings to know that. I KNOW it. The Spirit has made that CLEAR to me. I can’t give that to anyone else, but I can invite them to find it for themselves, and that can only be found with God and the help of the Spirit. Ultimately, at some point, the discussions with others who have the same questions will usually only lead to more questions, more frustration. I have rarely seen anyone actually come to peace with gender isseus by rehashing the issues with others who are struggling with the same thing. It’s important to know you are not alone, but I get so sad when women stay stuck in that place of frustration. I don’t believe God wants His daughters to feel that way, but they have to go to Him to get past that. (We all do, with whatever we struggle with, no? Interestingly, my struggle is believing all of this in my PERSONAL life. Weird, I know.)

    I believe that when we are armed with a conviction about who we really are, that we can be the strongest, most influential partners God needs us to be in our marriages and in the Church. It’s then that we can really be led by the Spirit, and not feisty emotion (face it, when we feel threatened or frustrated, we can be hard to work with!), when men may not quite do things the way they should. We can be led in our spheres of influence (which, imo, is NOT to tell the prophets what to pray for) to help the culture and the local practices match the doctrine better.

    Alison, you’d be happy to hear that, for example, I sent my bishop an email. He repeatedly will invite women to give the opening prayers when he is conducting. All I did was thank him for doing that, because I told him, it matters to some women. It’s not that big of a deal to me, but I knew it was for some. I wanted to reinforce that, because I hope others will notice and follow his example to not be bound to a practice that is not preached as necessity.

    Also, when I have ideas, when I feel it’s appropriate, I find local leaders who will listen. When I have concerns, I have often voiced them.

    Maybe I’m out of line here, but in my view, there is nothing that says that women can’t have a voice, even if they don’t sit in a council or have some leadership calling. Of course, we need to be respectful. I have also felt that they need to know and feel that first and foremost, I sustain the men in their priesthood callings. They need to know that they can trust us not to come in with the notion that the whole structure is wrong. They will be able to sense that, imo. Again, we must be sure that it’s the Spirit guiding us, not just pet peeves or frustration. But I have felt that they will listen if I will sustain them, truly. The Church needs us, but it needs us to be in line with the way things are, and to be in tune with the Spirit. But there is nothing that says that we can’t just talk to a bishop when we have ideas or concerns. In fact, that is the order of things…to talk to our local leaders about our ideas and concerns. It’s really that simple.

    If women are going to make a difference, they need to see where they CAN make a difference, and imo, that is locally. Because the problems often lie locally where leaders are still not implementing what the prophets and apostles have talked about — listening to and involving women appropriately.

    That said, I will come full circle and say again that I think if women are not happy with the order of things, that will show, and that will undermine trust and a willingness to listen. Just sayin’. That is, again, imo, why it’s so important for us to be at peace with the way things are. THAT to me is where our influence — both in and outside of the Church — has to start. I don’t see any other way.

    But then again, what do I know? I’m just a nobody trying to sort through all of this like anyone else. But I will tell you that none of the typical feministy approaches to ‘we need to change the church from the top down by being vocal’ have ever sat well with me. For all these years of discussing these issues, I have always felt that such approaches are a distraction and a drain of energy and focus and can be very divisive, even destructive.

  • facethemusic July 9, 2009, 8:39 am

    AMEN and AMEN!!! To your whole post!

  • agardner July 9, 2009, 11:55 am

    If women are going to make a difference, they need to see where they CAN make a difference, and imo, that is locally. Because the problems often lie locally where leaders are still not implementing what the prophets and apostles have talked about — listening to and involving women appropriately.

    Michelle, I agree that change needs to start at a local level, because that’s the realm we operate in. It’s incredibly frustrating though when the local leaders you are working with have very different views from you. I don’t want to say too much because real people are involved, but on more than one occasion when I’ve served in leadership I’ve been frankly shocked at how men in power have treated women. I’m not at all saying it’s a fundamental problem in the church doctrine, but I think it can be in church procedures and policies (yes, even on a general level). For example, why not have more women speak in general conference, or give prayers, or contribute in meaningful ways? I’m not saying that women aren’t allowed to contribute, but it’s more often in the “fluff” and not in the substance of things. Every choice a woman leader makes in the church has to be approved by her priesthood leader, and sometimes they listen to her suggestions and sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, it’s okay, because they have the priesthood and “know things we don’t know” (I would also add that we often know things they don’t know also) and that’s the end of the story. When you really feel like you are working under inspiration and the person in authority over you is not, that’s frustrating, and women really have no recourse. If they try to press the issue, they are seen as difficult, or overly-emotional, or radical feminist. There’s a really fine line there between supporting your church leaders and seeking change. I’m not saying all men in the church are like that, or even the majority, but there are plenty who are, and the procedures that the church has said up support that kind of attitude.

    It’s hard to explain what I’m saying. It’s like men in the church can treat women well and engage them as fully as they can under church policies and we all love those men (and I’d say their wards and stakes probably function really well!)…but on the other hand, they can also almost totally dismiss women and that’s okay too because there isn’t really anything that says they can’t. And they don’t see women up there making important decisions, or teaching the general body of the church. The women’s meeting is set up at a totally different time than the rest of the general instruction. So leaders look at that and say, “Well, they tell us to include women and value them, but I’m doing just as much as anyone else is, so I’m doing okay”. While I don’t think the general leadership is trying to hold women down or anything, wouldn’t it be an incredible example to the local bishops if they did include them more, in visible ways?

    I can only speak for myself when I say that I’d rather my bishop told me I was an idiot and not worth listening to than to sit and tell me that he values me and respects me and appreciates everything I do, and then proceed to dismiss everything I say.

  • mlinford July 9, 2009, 3:25 pm

    I understand what you are saying, Angie. I don’t think that priesthood leaders are always right. And it’s very frustrating when you aren’t heard and respected.

    But again, I also don’t believe that there is nothing that says this is ok. The doctrine is repeated often, and the Spirit will reinforce that for men who are listening. And sometimes we have to be patient with the growth process.

    I do believe that all of the figuring out of the balance is part of the journey, part of our development. It’s to me like our poor kids. Kids often have no recourse either when parents abuse or misuse their authority. But that doesn’t mean that parental authority at the core is bad. God gives us the opportunity, through the school of hard knocks, to learn by experience how to lead in His way…and that is in any role we have.

    OK, so on one hand, maybe that isn’t the best comparison, because women aren’t children, and that is not what I think the structure implies. The similarity I do see, however, is that we as parents have a stewardship because of our position and authority, and we will answer to God for it. Men in priesthood authority have a stewardship as well, and ultimately, I think God is as concerned about the process of development all around as He is about actually getting things done. Bless us all when we all work as we should, but if He only cared about the to-dos, things would be different, I’m sure. But I think there are so many layers here of what He’s accomplishing by the order of things, including testing our patience sometimes as women, that I just don’t worry about it. Or that is what I tell myself when I deal with someone frustrating.

    That said, I have dealt with women in authority who cause similar problems – who don’t listen, who make decisions in a vacuum, etc. That’s just part of the human nature part of our lives, and that isn’t just particular to prieshtood. And honestly, it’s sometimes been MORE frustrating when it’s been other women doing that to me — either from a leadership position, or undermining other women’s leadership.

    I also think that we have to acknowledge that just as missionary work is mostly a priesthood responsibility, so is church leadership. That to me is the simple reason why we don’t hear from women as much in General Conference and such. It also bothers me, though, that we think that all they do is fluff. The women make significant contributions. The value of virtue is an example. It was Sister Dalton who had that inspiration and took it to the leaders. (And then what happens? Women complain about what the women are doing. All I’ve heard on the nacle about the value is criticism. We want women to do more, but when they do, women complain that what they do is useless or second-rate or dumb or whatever. Drives me crazy.) I just disagree that all women do is the fluff. It can appear that way, but I have found that the more I really listen and study what the women teach, the more power I find. They are doing significant stuff.

    Honestly, I think we are sometimes our own worst enemies.

    I can only speak for myself when I say that I’d rather my bishop told me I was an idiot and not worth listening to than to sit and tell me that he values me and respects me and appreciates everything I do, and then proceed to dismiss everything I say.

    Sure, who wouldn’t? But imagine how men feel when women give lip service to sustaining the priesthood and then proceed to undermine and complain. It can all go both ways. The way things are tests both men and women, and I think it’s important for women to realize that we are often part of the problem and the lack of partnership — be it in marriage or the Church or whatever.

    And imo, it is just part of the journey to learn what partnership means by experience and w/ the Spirit helping us.

  • mlinford July 9, 2009, 3:41 pm

    One last thought — I think it’s critical to understand that the plan is not the Church. That our roles are not bound by just our callings. I think we should look at the whole picture and see how much women do in the whole plan. We are the ones who guard hearth and home, who influence the rising generation the most (even at Church, that is true — women lead the children’s organization — THAT IS NO SMALL THING.)

    Our roles are significant. They are significant in the big picture. If we don’t fragment things, I think we can see that women have a huge place in the plan. Priesthood is not everything. It is so important, but its power and influence are not the only power and influence in God’s work. I think Sister Beck deliberately used those words in her Mothers Who Know talk. Women have significant power and influence in the big picture, a significant role. The more I think about and ponder all of this, the more I feel that is really true. Nevermind the follies of fallen people, even in the Church. Even when things don’t work as they should, that doesn’t change the truth of the critical place of women in God’s plan. And it’s the women who often remind us of that. πŸ™‚

  • Seanette July 9, 2009, 4:18 pm

    I converted at age 24, and grew up with a mother who faithfully read Ms. every month.

    I do not WANT the priesthood. Why should I? I get all the blessings of the priesthood on the earth, I don’t have the responsibilities that priesthood holders do, and while I’m not a biological mother, I’ve taught Primary, helped in Nursery, helped care for others’ children, etc., and am quite happy with having my own role in the overall scheme of things. Seems kind of greedy for me to want the blessings of motherhood (to the extent that I get to play that role) AND the priesthood on top of that. πŸ˜‰

    I’m frankly a bit queasy about “feminism”, since there’s so much anger and hatred of masculinity in that philosophy as I see it in the media (including trying to take away gender from God!). I cannot believe that any righteous philosophy bears that kind of rage and bitterness as a fruit.

  • mlinford July 9, 2009, 5:15 pm

    I cannot believe that any righteous philosophy bears that kind of rage and bitterness as a fruit.

    This is something I have felt, too.

    And it’s not just about feminism — we can use the test of the fruits of any mindset or reaction. Does it uplift? Inspire? Bring the Spirit? So much of the negativism about women’s issues in my mind does not.

    I’m using this test on my own thought patterns that are often negative about myself. It’s hard to recognize them sometimes when they are patterns that I’m so accustomed to, but I’m learning to pay more attention to the fruits of my thoughts to see if they bring the Spirit or not.

  • agardner July 10, 2009, 9:29 am

    It also bothers me, though, that we think that all they do is fluff. The women make significant contributions.

    Just wanted to clarify on this point – I don’t think that all women do is fluff. On the contrary, I think that many men in the church think that and assign the fluffier things of life to the women. Maybe because women traditionally take on the more domestic side of life, but I’ve literally sat in meetings when the bishop tabled anything important for the men’s meetings, and that left us (the ward council, which includes women) to calendar, plan the food, and figure out what to do with the kids. Because I have a strong belief that all women do is not fluff, and is a real contribution, is exactly the reason I’d like to see women more involved in visible and important ways. As you’ve said, women offer something that men can’t. I think if we included that more in the function of the church we’d be a stronger church because our “ways” would be more interwoven with each other. I hope that makes some sense.

    Like Seanette, I in no way want to be a man or do what they do. We are different. It’s the “equal” part that gets me. It’s just my belief that many (I’d say most) men in the church do not consider women to be equal. In a way, they consider us to be “special” and almost put us on a pedestal – but it’s like a china doll who you just look at and never get anything from other than thinking it’s pretty and fragile and should be protected. That’s hard for me, because it’s not my personality to be seen and not heard – or admired but not listened to. God gave me abilities that I feel often have been unnoticed or stifled by the men I’ve worked with in the church. Not always, but often.

    It just seems institutionally that more could be done to give women an equal (but different) role in how things work. I’m not saying that lip service hasn’t been given, but not enough of real substance, imo.

    An example. When I was Primary president, my bishop disagreed with pretty much everything I did. We had very different styles, and if I’d think “black”, he’d think “white”. At times it was incredibly frustrating because we as a presidency would really feel strongly about something and more often than not it would be dismissed (and sometimes even literally laughed at. Really.) This was nothing revolutionary we were trying to do – it was things like splitting a Primary class because it had 18 kids, or submitting a certain name for a calling, etc. It became pretty clear to me that he wanted me to know who was boss. I rarely pushed back, although I would when I felt the Lord had made it clear enough to me that what I was suggesting is what He wanted. Otherwise, I’d just let it go, do it the bishop’s way, and move on with my job. I’m sure people thought, “Gee, does she not know that class has 18 KIDS and there isn’t even a classroom that will hold them all? How stupid is this woman?” And yet, I’d just sit there and smile, acting like I had not a care in the world, when inside I was screaming “WHY do I have to get his permission for every little obvious thing that should happen?”. Of course, after a few weeks, he suggested the idea and all of a sudden it was a wonderful plan. Things like this happened all the time. I served for two years and it was the longest two years of my life. Hard times. I did learn a lot though, and for the most part I just chalked it up to him being “that way” and convincing myself that not all men were like this (and I know they are not).

    My next bishop was fabulous. Then back to type A. I’d say in my experience the scales are tipped towards that type. There are a few gems out there, but most men in leadership want to be the boss and their way is THE way. In fairness, these bishops treat some of their male leaders like that too – I think it’s more of a power thing than it is a male/female thing. But the problem for me is that women have no recourse – when we do say something we are complainers, or whiners, or witches – and some of these men keep getting called over and over again. And they are ALWAYS in authority over us. If we KNOW that God wants us to do something a certain way, or have a certain person in a calling, we still are at their mercy.

    Maybe I’ve just had a few bad experiences that way (and please don’t think I’m dismissing the good because I have appreciated many things that these men have done), but I just think it’s happening to enough women in the church that it’s more the norm than the exception, and a lot could be done by the “higher-ups” to initiate change.

  • agardner July 10, 2009, 9:31 am

    BTW, Seanette, I just have to say – seeing your strength and testimony make me so happy. (I know Seanette! In real life, but haven’t seen her in 15 years or so)

  • Seanette July 10, 2009, 10:06 am

    It’s been a pretty busy 15, too. πŸ™‚

    Angie was one of the missionaries who taught me the discussions (we’re trying to hunt down her accomplice πŸ˜‰ ).

  • Ray July 10, 2009, 11:43 am

    Fwiw, I have person knowledge of the frustration the apostles feel knowing fully that dogmatism increases the further the water flows from the source. If all the Bishops and Stake Presidents in the Church understood and followed the counsel of the apostles, this would be a very different church at the local level.

    Local lay leadership is one of the glories of the Restoration, and it is one of the miseries of the Restoration, as well.

  • facethemusic July 11, 2009, 8:07 am

    Angie was one of the missionaries who taught me the discussions (we’re trying to hunt down her accomplice

    :cheer: :cheer: That is SOOOO cool! And now you’re “reunited” through Mormon Momma??? How cool is that???

  • facethemusic July 11, 2009, 8:09 am

    Well said, Ray.

  • Seanette July 11, 2009, 8:26 am

    I think it’s great! We’re now connected on Facebook, so hopefully will not lose contact again (I moved to another state not long after my baptism, which didn’t help with staying in touch).

  • Seanette July 9, 2009, 5:35 pm

    That’s one of my ongoing challenges as well, mlinford. I’ve been dealing with a fairly nasty depressive downturn for about a week now (hormones figure in. One of the few things I don’t like about being female), and while I have no trouble believing God loves everyone else, I’m having trouble convincing myself I have any value to Him.

    Must remember that a certain Adversary is aware of my mental weak points, especially when I’m annoying him by studying the Scriptures more intensely than usual. πŸ˜‰

    On the subject of my take on feminism, if you’re interested, I’ve written a couple of blog posts on the subject. Summary: I consider myself more an “equalist”, while being content with how the Lord sees fit to organize His Church at this point in time. I am absolutely certain that an omniscient God knows much better than a limited mortal does what’s best, and I’m much more comfortable trusting God than trusting the philosophies of the world.

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