Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mormon Gender Equality

"So women don't hold the priesthood, and they likely never will?"

"No," I said, "when you believe that the head of your church is Jesus Christ, some things never change."

Then I said it: "and men will never be able to have babies."  Where this came from, I don't know, but it seemed a very acceptable response to the distinguished academic sitting across from me.

I have written of late of my view of "submission" in marriage, which I hope is now better understood with the last posting (many more thoughts there and more to come).  A conversation this last week with an academic now prompts me to write about its counterpart, gender equality within Mormon Doctrine.

I proceeded to add more to my defense of Mormon gender equality, despite the clear (and never-changing fact) that men hold the priesthood within my faith: 1) the revelation on celestial marriage had (I'm stealing from Richard Bushman here) made the family instead of priesthood quorums the center and focus of gospel learning, striving, and ambition and elevating the role of women within the church, 2) the subsequent revelation identified the highest saving honor and "glory" as unavailable without the other gender, 3) men cannot serve above a certain level within church hierarchy (bishop) unless married, and 4) women have their own organization within the church that they run.

Yet the first defense--with origins in ineloquent nether regions--was probably my best.  As the thirteen-year-old proselyte I was taught as a missionary said, light donning, "oh I get it - we have 'em, and they baptize 'em."

This defense makes sense when one views the purpose of the priesthood: service.  It is a privilege and honor to serve with the mantle of God, but priesthood leadership is largely designed to bless others.  Especially within my faith, where lay clergy spend 20-30 hours in unpaid service ministering to their flock, meeting with those in greatest need, attempting to fill the temporal needs of members and serve the geographic area which they have been called to administer.  It is often thankless work.

Now it is true that there are blessings that come from holding the mantle of the priesthood.  I know my dad has been blessed for always being worthy to administer blessings of comfort and counsel in my behalf.  Similarly, I have heard of young, busy bishops who have not known how they got through law school or a particularly challenging time at work *without* the blessing of their time-consuming calling.  These blessings I will never have.

But they will also never have the blessing of bearing a child, including the joy of feeling life within you for the first time, or a babe cry for the nourishment a mother is uniquely designed to provide.  Modern science has not yet (that I know of) compensated for this gender inequality, and I don't know if it ever well.

Motherhood is also often thankless service, and a life can be spent carefully caring for a child's every need (or bent over with nausea in pregnancy).  In many though different ways, it is a responsibility and privilege not unlike holding the priesthood.  True, like forks and spoons (this analogy thanks to my own mother's teachings), the applications of the various types of service are very different indeed.  You can't eat salad very well with a spoon, and you certainly would have a tough time eating soup with a fork.  But no one (in their right mind) would say one is superior or less serviceable than the other.

1 comment:

  1. I believe that as eternal companions, we will share the priesthood jointly. Even now, we all serve under priesthood authority, some who are ordained and meet in quorums, and others who serve under the local authority and meet in auxiliaries. I am certainly happy with my role as a woman. We have a great responsibility to teach and prepare each rising generation. All of us are blessed in and by priesthood power, and all of us are recipients to the gifts of the Spirit. It definitely is not the order of the Church for women to be ordained to the present offices of the priesthood. But we do know that women function through the priesthood within the temple and under priesthood authority in all of their callings. I am more than content with that, because I have faith in God's plan for me, and I know that God loves me and I am of supreme importance to Him. In fact, all of His daughters and sons are.

    Thanks for your post.