Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Women and the Priesthood

Eight of the sister missionaries I worked with, enjoying a large group study session, while serving in South East Asia. 
Because the present moment makes it nearly impossible to talk about women in the priesthood without also acknowledging a recent and very public excommunication, I would again like to point out how disappointed and brokenhearted I am anytime someone celebrates the outcome of Kate Kelly's church disciplinary council. The events of her life are between her and the Lord. They should be a private matter, but her insistence on making them public does not justify anyone's celebration. I'll repeat what I said a week ago, people who take pleasure or feel vindication in her departure are in need of repentance.

But just like last week, I don't care to discuss the details of that particular event (because I do recognize it is none of my business even if I did read all the private letters she so willingly publicized). Instead, I'd like to share some of the other thoughts this whole event has brought me to ponder.

Discipline is not based on or limited to gender
First, if a man insisted on a specific calling in the Church (or position in the priesthood), he'd be called to a Church Disciplinary council as well. Especially if that man organized a group to protest special Church meetings held during General Conference. Especially if, after holding one such protest, he was asked not to do it again ... but he did anyway.

This isn't about gender inequality. A man acting the same way would be treated the same way. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints we are taught not to covet positions of power or prestige. Those who do accept such positions do so in a spirit of great humility. God calls and qualifies us, we do not dictate our lives to Him.

Equality is not sameness
Over a year ago I shared my own parent's feminist approach to teaching me why I wasn't ordained to the priesthood. And it was simple, God gives each of us what we need to grow and learn in such a way that we can prepare to live with Him someday. For men, they need opportunities to serve in priesthood leadership. Women don't. Perhaps this is because our nature tends to be more sympathetic, perhaps it is because we are natural born leaders. For whatever reason, my parents made me believe I was already a leg up on my brothers, because they needed the priesthood and I didn't.

I had a friend comment and say there isn't any doctrinal proof that women are already a leg up, nor that men need a little boost. This may be true, but it doesn't change the fact that men need to be ordained to the priesthood in order to gain exaltation and women don't. Here is how I phrased this to a curious Catholic via facebook.

"I'm big for equality too. Which may make you wonder why I'm not bothered by not having the priesthood. My answer is simple. Equality is fairness, not sameness. God has told men they must be worthy priesthood holders to enter the highest degree of glory -- or exaltation. He has not told women that. We do not need priesthood for exaltation. So to me, that is equal." 

During my last year of teaching I had several English Language Learners in my classroom(s). For four years I had been using the six habits of writing to grade essays. One-third of this rubric is grammar and word choice. When I graded the essays of those learning to speak English, I was much more lenient about the number of allowed grammar errors and I more easily overlooked simple word choice. I wanted those students to know they could succeed in my class, in my Engllish class, even when their own grasp of English was not yet fluent. My native English student's were not given the same lax treatment. The rubric used for all my students was not the same. It was fair. Their chance at success was equal even when their circumstances were vastly different. 

God works the same way. People who never hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ are given a chance to accept it in the next life. Children who die before they are accountable for their own sins do not have need for baptism. God does not treat all of His children the same, because we are not all the same. He does treat us all fairly. 

Women and the Priesthood
So speaking more directly to what is doctrinal -- not all of God's priesthood powers exist on the Earth today. Who is to say there aren't priesthood powers that women are given at some point after this life? The first shall be last and the last shall be first, right? Might this scripture not apply to women and the priesthood?

Or what about the temple washing, does any woman dare tell me they've heard that blessing and they are convinced we are given none of God's power (the Priesthood) in the life after this one? 

The priesthood, by very definition is the power and authority of God. This power has always existed and will always exist; it is without end. It is the power God used (and uses) to create, govern, and rule the Heavens and the Earth. It is with this power that God works "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) Providing exaltation to His children is His work and His glory, and we participate in that work anytime we help bring someone closer to Him.

Women can help God fulfill that divine work, which is the greatest purpose of His priesthood. 

I may not be ordained to the priesthood. I may not be allowed to stay after Church and count tithing money. I have never passed or blessed the sacrament, but I'd be a fool to believe I don't use the priesthood. To believe I don't have access to it's mighty power. 

I do have the power to heal. I have the ability to bind in heaven what is bound on Earth. I have the power to lead. I have the power to assist God in building His kingdom and performing His great work. I have the power to glorify Him through my service, regardless of gender, ordination, or title. 

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