My thoughts on Ordain Women

Today, a group of women from my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) will gather on Temple Square in Salt Lake City to request access to the male-only Priesthood session of the church-wide, semi-annual General Conference session. They tried this at the last Conference in October and were denied admission. They are trying it again today, despite having been asked by Church Public Affairs to refrain from doing so.

I want to share with you my feelings about Ordain Women and the larger issues of gender (in)equality in the church. I've thought about doing so for some time. I don't spend time on OW's website or fb page, but from time to time I happen to see truly awful attacks on OW supporters (or even non-OW people who are nonetheless in favor of greater gender equality in the church). I think many members of the church misunderstand "those people" - people who think small changes could be made in church cultural practices that would allow greater participation and autonomy by women, that would in turn benefit men and women in the church. I want to come out to you as one of "those people." In making you familiar with The Other, I hope to show you that the woman faithfully hoping for greater gender equality at church - whether she's actively agitating or not - might not be some hard-core, raging feminist you don't know but have made a lot of assumptions about. She might be someone you've known all your life who sits next to you in Relief Society every week. Like me!

I consider myself a faithful, orthodox Mormon. I have served in leadership callings in the church. I attend church every week and I treasure my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ. Here is what I believe.

This church operates on the principle of continuing revelation.

The question is not, "should LDS women hold the priesthood," but "if Thomas S. Monson were to receive revelation that LDS women should hold the priesthood, would you accept it?" My answer to that last question is yes.

There is precedent for female ordination, in Joseph Smith's day, in our own modern-day temples, and in the ancient church.

(That said, I believe there is something inherently male about the existing priesthood; I think if females were to be ordained, it would not be to the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthoods.)

I appreciate even small gestures like having a woman pray in General Conference, or hanging pictures of the female auxiliary presidencies in the Conference Center. They may not mean much on their own, but they are indicative of a greater awareness of gender inequality and a greater willingness to address it.

I wear pants to church sometimes and it is officially Not a Big Deal in my ward. In fact, more often than not, I am told that I "look really nice today, sister!" Last time I did it, the Bishop who had just been released told me he liked my pants.

Speaking of, I have an awesome ward. As president of the children's Primary organization, I had complete autonomy over my duties. I could do what I wanted, I had the budget I wanted, I had the support and personnel I wanted, I ran the show like I wanted, I had a voice in ward-level meetings, and my local leadership buffered me against the rare attempt to meddle by our regional leaders (Stake; and honestly I felt loved and supported by them, too). In fact, it's only in reading of other women's experiences leading church organizations that I've realized it could be any other way.

Regarding OW's attempt to get into the Priesthood session specifically, the meeting itself is not the point (at least not in my opinion). I think it was a fantastic symbolic gesture six months ago. This time around, I'm not so sure, especially since they've been asked not to (by church PR, not by the First Presidency directly, I might add).

There are lots of callings women could serve well in that we are currently excluded from for what I believe to be cultural, not doctrinal, reasons. There are various clerkships and roles in auxiliary presidencies that are traditionally (or even by the handbook) not open to women. I think that could change. The reverse is true, too. I can think of a few men in my ward who would have done a better job of running the Primary than I did, for example.

I personally do not feel the need to agitate for greater gender equality in the church. I leave that mantle to others, including the faithful members of Ordain Women. Even though I am not on board with every aspect of their platform, I do not feel they are hogging the limelight, silencing others' voices, or speaking for me without my consent.

I don't know what will happen today at Temple Square, but I want to say, in closing, that I am excited to be a member of the church at this time of small changes, and potential for greater changes. I love how the conversation around women and ordination has enriched my study of the Gospel and deepened my understanding of my own life roles.

I hope this post is not divisive. I admit that I am out of touch with so-called "mainstream" cultural Mormonism, or at least the version of cultural Mormonism that exists in North America. I am blessed to speak from the position of love and inclusion that exists in my current ward. I tend to think we Mormons can reason together about these things in a spirit of kindness. I hope I'm not wrong.

A cultural experience...with my own culture.

April 4th, outsourced