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As the co-founder of Ordain Women, you are planning to march with a group of women to the general priesthood meeting of the LDS Church Saturday night to press for entrance. I don’t believe that you think entrance will actually be granted, because your requests for tickets have already been denied, so your motives must be for something else.
It seems clear that you are hoping for media attention for your cause, that you want to agitate or stir up emotions to support your goal: “Mormon women seeking equality and ordination to the priesthood.” Perhaps you are hoping that creating a high profile will draw others into your ranks and that your numbers will swell.
You are by profession an international human rights attorney. For your career, you have learned an adversarial paradigm. Your world-view is based on clamoring, arguing and mounting evidence for the causes you believe. It is toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose, making points with contention and argument, reason and will. It’s not just the way of the attorney; it is the way of our times. This is a generation of people trained at divisiveness and attention-mongering for their viewpoint. Our public discourse these days is discordant. That might work well in furthering some causes in a court of law or even in the court of public opinion, but now we are talking about the Church.
If you are a hammer, then the whole world does indeed look like a nail.
In this case, however, if you choose to be a hammer, just what are you hammering against?
Believers understand that Jesus Christ is the head of this Church. He is the author of the doctrines and the organization, how and when things are taught and revealed. The Lord has given us prophets and apostles through which he communicates his will and reminds us, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38). That is a bold doctrine, stating without hesitation that the Lord’s appointed prophets speak for him, which I believe.
This leads me to ask about your very public motives. If you have a question about women’s place in the divine scheme of things, that is understandable. Of course, we seek answers to questions that impact our identity and understanding of ourselves.
Those who defend what you are doing like to point out how many revelations came because people brought questions to Joseph Smith and he, in turn, took those questions to the Lord. We think, for example, of Joseph Knight, David Whitmer, John Whitmer and Peter Whitmer (D&C 12, 14, 15 and 16) who each received revelation through the prophet because they asked him to query.
In each case, however, their query was about aligning themselves more perfectly with the Lord’s will for them. Their questions were essentially, what can I do to please the Lord? How can I serve Him better? What does he want of me? Their questions were asked in a spirit of humility, understanding who sets the terms of their relationship. Just as with our covenants, where we have made promises with the Lord in which he sets the terms, so it is with these questions asked and answered by Joseph Smith. The understanding is clear that those who had questions were stepping forward in a spirit of meekness striving to understand what the Lord wanted of them.
So I have a hypothetical for you. I wonder if you had the opportunity to have a private meeting with the prophet and were able to press for women’s priesthood ordination and he answered that the Lord had said “no” would that be enough? If you asked him specifically if he had prayed about women’s place in the kingdom and he said, “Yes, and what we have reflects the Lord’s answer,” would that be enough? With those answers, would you disband your group and go home?
Would you say to those whose profiles you are gathering, those who are planning to march with you to the Conference Center that the prophet has spoken? Go put your energies somewhere else?
I suspect not. This is the heart of what troubles me about your choice. You come from what I believe is a faulty assumption about the Kingdom of God on the earth because you are applying a secular paradigm. In the world, he who has the loudest voice and is clever about applying the most pressure often carries the day. Your agitation for ordination assumes that either the prophets will respond to pressure or that the Lord will. At the very least, it assumes that you have a better idea and are in a superior position to understand what will empower women.
It assumes that the prophets are too spiritually dull or backward to see the important questions or to ask them. It assumes that through all the centuries of recorded spiritual history, the Lord forgot his daughters and their development.
There is a twist of intellectual dishonesty at the heart of this. You press for priesthood power, I assume, on the grounds that it is truly the power of God on the earth, yet at the same time you refuse to acknowledge that same power to act, discern, and reveal in the Lord’s anointed prophets. The implication of your agitation is that you don’t believe that the prophets act with real authority-the very priesthood power you are seeking for yourself.
That just makes no sense. Your motives become suspect. A large gap looms between a question that seeks for expanded understanding and confrontation that seeks for its own way.
I think it is the temptation of this fallen world to seek to instruct the Lord. Most of us have times, when assessing our own lives, we are certain we know more clearly than He does what He should do for us and what is necessary for our well-being. On the most personal level, I have found that when I take that approach to the Lord, I become divided from him. It is fundamentally a refusal to comprehend who He is and who I am, his glory which is unspeakable and my own complete dependence on Him even for the breath I draw.
How odd it is for the child to seek to instruct the Father. It is the same for any who would seek somehow to right the Church or steady the ark. There is a presumptiveness and arrogance about this, which is troubling. There is also, at its heart, an attack upon the idea that the Church is led by Jesus Christ and his servants.
Another hypothetical. What if the prophet invited you into his office, listened to your demands to receive the priesthood and then said, “Because you and your followers want this and have stirred up the world, it’s yours.” If that happened, what an insecure footing we would all suddenly be on. Instead of God being the sure foundation of this Church, the great immovable I AM, we might suspect that instead it is a Church dictated by men-or women.
We would believe that man and woman are the measure of all things.
I am highly comforted that neither men’s nor women’s rules are the measure of all things, that in all this universe where there are changes of political administrations, the rise and fall of the popularity of certain values, the ebb and flow of cultural notions, that God is a firm, unchanging foundation.
Ultimately, the gospel’s purpose is to help us return to God’s presence and build the city of Zion. Zion has a reigning characteristic-and that is unity. “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness” (Moses 7:18). The Nephites’ perfect society after the visit of the Lord to them is described as a place where “there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another” (4 Nephi 2).
To lead movements against the Church’s doctrine seems a far cry from fostering unity. Instead it fosters fragmentation, sides and division. The scriptures teach us of the gathering of Israel. As a polar opposite, Satan is the divider. He seeks to scatter the Lord’s people, divide us from God and each other.
The Lord teaches that he shall “bring to light the true points of my doctrine” that “I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much contention; yea, Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them” (D&C 10:62, 63.).
Gathering and unity are expressions of the atonement. The Lord performed this work for us to bring us to be at-one again with our Father and each other. Satan will always seek to divide us and factionalize us.
The Lord told us he was restoring the gospel because this was a world where, “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world” (D&C 1:16).
What if everyone began their own Internet and virtual marches concerning the Church, agitating for their point of view? Would we be close to building Zion or farther away? Would we have the Lord’s power upon us in increased ways, if we outright defy his command to avoid contention?
Here’s a key question. Will those who follow you be more or less inclined to live their sacred covenants and be devoted to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Elder M. Russell Ballard, speaking at a Brigham Young University Devotional on August 20, 2013 said, “Why are men ordained to the priesthood offices and not women? . . . When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has.”
I am with Elder Ballard. I don’t know why women are not ordained to hold the priesthood. An explanation is not given in the scriptures. When people try to explain why this is the case in Church classes or talks, I sometimes find their reasons inadequate. They are doing their best to explain what the Lord hasn’t fully explained.
Sometimes their reasoning pits men against women as if one gender is superior to another (and in Church it is usually the women who are lauded). Sometimes they suggest ideas that say women are loving and self-sacrificing, but not strong, powerful and dynamic. I think many of these explanations miss the boat.
This I do know:
1.God is no respecter of persons. His work is to bring his daughters and his sons equally to be filled with light and power in a relationship where each is wholly dependent on the gifts, strengths and similarities of each other.
2.I know this not only because of understanding that has been given me as a recipient of the restored gospel and a student of the scriptures, but also because of my relationship with Him. He is always the source of the vision I carry of myself and through His Spirit I am continually encouraged to expand and increase in every capacity. It is His Spirit that urges me to be more of myself, to develop talents still in embryo, to lead it out in good causes, to abandon personal weaknesses in every form. He never invites me to limitation.
3.The relationship of the sexes and particularly the dignity and value of women has been manipulated by Satan from the beginning, which to me shows how significant this is. What this means is that women have been oppressed and powerless throughout most of the history of the world in most places. Men have had enlarged power over women in the world, and Joseph Smith, himself, taught us something about what power can mean: “It is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121;39). The history of the world and of women’s place in it is a demonstration of this truth. In the gospel we understand, if a man exercises power in this unholy way, it is amen to his priesthood. Thus, the gospel is the corrective and the transformation of the false ideas of the world that have kept women down.
4.I believe that God will continue to reveal more to men and women about how to arise in their divine nature as we seek Him. What that entails, I don’t know, but I believe it will be in His own timetable and in His own way-and all be based for our good. Because everything in my experience has led me to trust Him, my personal journey is to seek to obtain His will for me and to align myself with Him. This is where I seek to direct my energies.
5.I love the Lord. He has always been my friend and champion. I want to give my entire strength to standing by Him.
Maurine Proctor is the co-founder and Editor-in-chief of Meridian Magazine. She is an author of many books and received a graduate degree from Harvard University.