My heart aches, and the tears that I thought were long since finished have been flowing freely again. Again I’m feeling rejected, dismissed, and shunned by strangers, acquaintances, friends, and even some of my own family members for my sincere and heart-felt questions, desires, and pain. I and many like me have been painted again as dangerous, threatening, poisonous, and, in some cases, apostate.
Too many I know are being summoned by their local leadership (some at the behest of the general leadership of the LDS church, despite claims to the contrary) to disciplinary councils because of their honest questions and sincere desire to follow Christ and God. A handful of (online) prominent LDS members were recently issued letters indicating they would be put on trial before church courts for apostasy because of their beliefs. Among them was Kate Kelly, the founder of the Ordain Women movement.
The mission statement of Ordain Women contains the following (you can read the full mission statement here):
Based on the principle of thoughtful, faith-affirming strategic action, Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormon women to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood. We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.
Ordain Women is a peaceful activist movement, organized by and filled with women (many with whom I am well acquainted) who are sincerely seeking an answer from The Lord via the LDS general leadership about the gender inequality that remains in the church organization, despite the wording in The Book of Mormon stating that “black and white, bond and free, male and female . . . all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). Ordain Women’s proposed solution to this inequality is to ordain women to the currently all-male LDS priesthood. This would, in effect, offer women the opportunity to be involved in decision-making, leadership, and many other avenues of service and responsibility which are currently only available to male members of the church.
However, the church leadership has taken the stance that female ordination to the all-male priesthood is entirely out of the picture. Interestingly, President Hinckley, quoted in the above FAQ link, stated in the same television interview that at “present” (1997), there is “no agitation” for revelation concerning whether or not women should be allowed to hold the Priesthood, but that revelation from The Lord to change that policy is not out of the realm of possibility. Now there is agitation. Now women are asking the leaders to ask The Lord. They are trying to be faithful. But they are being turned away, without any answer except “it’s always been this way” and “stop asking.”
While I am not personally a member of the Ordain Women group, I fully support their desires and attempts to get doctrinal clarification from God on this important issue. I will be attending a vigil in a few hours to show my support for Kate and others like her.
The scriptures (that the LDS church claims to believe as the words of God) say “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort“, not “tell them to keep their questions private and stop telling other people when they hurt”. Christ spent his time with sinners and those who were in pain. He loved them and taught them and persuaded them. Never did he tell them to stop asking because they might hurt someone else’s opinions, feelings, or perceptions. Sincerity should never be met with the command of silence.
We are asking for change, and the asking makes people uncomfortable, but the fact of the matter is that much change in the past history of the LDS church has come about by the questioning of the lay membership. For a simple example, take the creation of the primary, which was an idea started in a local area (by women, incidentally) and later adopted through the entire church. Or take, for example, some of the changes made to the endowment ceremony, which were done after surveying focus groups.
Change is seldom easy.
But wasn’t it Christ who questioned the inequitable actions of those around him, urging them to turn their hearts to God? The simple fact of the matter is that the inequality will never be addressed by the general leadership unless they hear from the local and lay membership. But there is NO process for feedback to make it directly to the general leadership. So we are left to agitate until notice is taken.
If you read the Nauvoo Relief Society minutes it is clear that the way women are regarded in the church now is not the way Joseph Smith intended. Joseph stated that it was acceptable for women to give blessings, and he in fact intended for the relief society to be autonomous. It wasn’t until correlation happened that this autonomy was taken away.
Along similar lines, the history of race and the priesthood is something Mormons are well acquainted with. From the LDS website:
During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood. One of these men, Elijah Abel, also participated in temple ceremonies in Kirtland, Ohio, and was later baptized as proxy for deceased relatives in Nauvoo, Illinois. There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.
The article goes on to explain that this policy was changed by Brigham Young, who denied black men the ability to be ordained to the priesthood. This tradition was held until 1978 when the current church president, Spencer W. Kimball, received revelation from The Lord and the restriction was removed. Petitioning The Lord was what brought about this revelation. There is no reason to doubt that a similar petition on behalf of the daughters of God would bring about revelation and clarification, especially for a church that claims belief in continuing revelation (Articles of Faith 9).
If the LDS church is teaching truth, then what do they have to fear from people asking that the doctrines be examined to find reason for the cultural norms? Truth will win. There is nothing to fear where there is nothing to hide.
While I may not agree completely with the stated purpose of Ordain Women, I nevertheless feel strongly that all should be welcomed, loved, and accepted, regardless of their struggles and whether they choose to share those or keep them private.
Just because you don’t feel or understand the pain of the Mormon feminists – my pain – or their questions – my questions – or their sincere desires for the general leadership to ask God for direction in something that matters to them, does not nullify that pain, those questions, and that sincerity. We are daughters (and sons – yes there are Mormon men among our ranks) of our Heavenly Parents too, just like you. And we, like you, want to feel valued and accepted by the church organization, just as we are valued and accepted by God.
We may not agree. Your definition of “value” and “acceptance” may be different from mine. But that doesn’t justify meanness or snark or a blanket dismissal of our – my – concerns.
Have you had a real, sincere, open conversation with a Mormon feminist? Because I am one. And I am more than willing to talk with you. And I’m nowhere near as dangerous as mainstream Mormonism makes me out to be. Yes, I’m fringey. Yes, I may be more liberal than makes you comfortable. But you don’t have to agree with me to love me and have empathy for my very real, very sincere, and very deep pain.
Please remember when you share those condemning articles that are floating around the Mormon internet right now that you are talking about me, and that it brings me great pain to know that my views, concerns, and opinions won’t be considered or respected by you. I am a real person with real feelings. So is every other person out there. Just like you, we deserve to have our feelings and opinions respected, whether you agree with us or not.
Believe what you want – that is your right. I simply ask that you allow me to do the same without condemning me, especially since you can’t understand my position until you’ve tried. I believe God intends more for Their daughters and that They hear my pain and my tears and the pain and tears of so many others.
Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Show kindness, empathy, and love whether you agree with them or not. This is the way to be Christlike, which, if I’m not mistaken, is the whole point.