What Don’t Women Get

October 11, 2013

Turned away.

In response to the Ordain Women movement, many women in the church have been circulating a video by Sheri Dew called “What Women Get.”  Today’s guest post is a response to the points Sis. Dew raises in this video, and why this isn’t enough.  Welcome to guest poster Madison P.!

Here’s a run down of the list of things LDS women “get” as part of the package deal of being a Mormon woman:

  • to serve in the Relief Society.  An organization which is currently run entirely under male oversight.
  • to write the biographies of men.
  • to be president of an organization owned by the church.  Actually this is just what Sheri Dew gets. And if she had followed the traditional track for LDS women of getting married and having lots of kids and staying at home with them, she would not have been president of any company.  Her point that women are not banned from those positions (which is probably illegal).
  • to have privileges, opportunities, and expectations that would require ordination in other churches.  This one is kind of a dodge, since she avoids comparing what women get with what men get in the Mormon church; instead she compares what Mormon women get to what women in other churches get.
  • to go to the temple and participate in priesthood ordinances.  Of course, women make some different covenants than men, and those covenants put the woman below the man.
  • to have more teaching responsibility and leadership than women in other religions.  Bully for us!  We don’t have to wear burqas either.   It’s a low bar.  Besides which I’ve spoken to an Anglican bishop who was a woman, and she had much more teaching responsibility and leadership than your average Mormon lady. Also she was really cool.
  • to receive revelation for the church.  This claim is baffling.  The only thing that comes close is Emma Smith for whom Joseph received a revelation.
  • to never have been excluded from the temple.  She has conveniently forgotten black women prior to 1978.

Not turned away.

We also get

  • the gift of the Holy Spirit, something everyone gets at baptism.
  • the privilege of receiving revelation (but only for ourselves, since men alone receive revelation for the family, the ward, the stake, and the church)
  • the privilege of receiving the endowment (where women make different promises than men, as mentioned earlier)
  • the privilege of receiving spiritual gifts (which you don’t even have to be a member of the church to have)
  • the privilege of bearing and rearing children (again, so do nonmembers. So do animals. Oh, and not all women can have kids, either for biological or emotional reasons, or because they never find someone they care to procreate with)
  • the privilege of receiving all the blessings of the Atonement (so does everyone, Mormon or not)
  • She also says that the church “loves, values, teaches, and trains” women. Those are things you can do to a dog. It doesn’t have much to do with equality.

This all sounds nice and good, but when you break it down these are platitudes which skirt around actual problems faced by women who feel unequal in the church. And also, they are pretty much the bare minimum. Does the prophet want a medal for not banning women from the temple (any more) and granting us access the Atonement?

And really, the very fact that our leaders make speeches like this proves that the “equality” of the church is not evident. We need to be convinced.

Turned away.

So I wanted to clarify what Sis. Dew doesn’t mention:  what don’t LDS women get?

  • to participate in ordinances involving our children.
  • to give our children blessings.
  • to access the divine feminine.
  • to know for sure which scriptures that talk about “men” mean humanity in general and which just mean dudes.
  • to have as many role models from the scriptures as our brothers. The Book of Mormon has six named women. None of them are religious or military leaders. And of course, there are lots of nameless women who get raped and/or kidnapped and/or murdered. The Bible has a handful more ladies, but still a lot of rape.  We don’t have Sunday School lessons based on Deborah or most of the other females that are in scriptures.
  • to be consulted on matters that affect us like the language of the “Proclamation on the Family” and the design of women’s garments.
  • to confess sexual sins to a woman, if that makes us more comfortable.
  • to handle church finances.
  • to be called by the title “President” rather than “Sister” in relevant callings.
  • in a similar vein, to be called “Elder” rather than “Sister” while serving a mission.
  • to serve a mission for the same length of time as a man.
  • in regards to church programs for young women, to have the same budget as programs for young men.
  • to serve as Sunday School President, Ward Mission Leader, Church Education Commissioner, or BYU, BYU-I, and BYU-H President even though those callings doesn’t require the priesthood.
  • to participate in leadership roles in missions, over both sisters and elders.

So, moving on to a few points for discussion:

  • Why is it so important for LDS women to convince themselves they are equal using videos like the one Sheri Dew has published?
  • What would equality look like short of ordination?  Why is ordination for women out of the question?
  • Should the sexes remain segregated, with or without ordination?  What are the benefits and drawbacks of this?  How can equality be achieved if the sexes remain separate with one of them completely in charge of the other?

Discuss.

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28 Responses to What Don’t Women Get

  1. Larrin on October 12, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    It baffles me that she can’t find a church where women have the same level of leadership opportunities.

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  2. Angie on October 12, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    Wow. Your post left me breathless. Especially the part that said “get to write biographies…of men.” Ouch. It’s better to be honest and admit that it’s unequal. Otherwise, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

    It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker that it’s unequal, but let’s not be disingenuous.

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  3. Will on October 12, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    Reading this makes me so greatful for the woman that I married and for the many like her in the church.

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  4. Yet Another John on October 12, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Let’s rewrite the Book of Mormon to include more women’s names and make them leaders and such. While we are at it we ought to have Jesus select six women as apostles. Better yet, let Jesus’ wife select them. I don’t mean to be snarky about this particular point, (well, maybe I do) but the revealed scriptures to this point are what they are. That may change in the future, I hope it does. But it will happen if God wishes it so, not out of some hopey-changey wishful thinking.

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  5. nate on October 12, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Insightful post Hedgehog. As a man in the church I forget just how little equality there is between men and women. I do think Sheri Dew is just trying to gloss over the gross inequalities women face in the church.

    But the reality is that in life and nature, there is no fairness or equality, other than the Platonic ideal of equality chased in modern liberal democracies.

    Religions have never been about fairness or equality. In the Book of Mormon, all people deserve to go to hell, and anything extra is pure, undeserved grace. And there are always hierarchies, and these religious hierarchies are metaphors for divine hierarchies wherein we submit to God. Equality, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson “all men (and women) are created equal” is a secular humanist philosophy, a good one we should aspire to in secular society. But religion is a different thing. It is about submission to God, and that submission is achieved through the medium of a church which demands obedience, not a church that lay members get to decide what they think is fair.

    I think it is good for women like you to cry out at abuses, and to fight for equality in secular society. But we should not expect our religions to be about equality. It is about role play and humility.

    (Sorry to resurrect the ghosts of my former post! Just wanted to throw in my view, along with my support for your effort to get women at least be honest about the inequalities they face.)

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  6. Hedgehog on October 12, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    Interesting comment Nate, but I should point out that I am not the author of the post ;-).

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  7. dba.brotherp on October 12, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    Will,

    I am sure your wife, like my wife, is a wonderful woman. After all, they put up with us, right? :)

    Yet another John,

    I am having a hard time finding in the scriptures where it says it is forbidden that women cannot hold the priesthood. Maybe you can direct me to that chapter and verse?

    Nate,

    I agree with you that the church should be at least honest about the inequalities women face. Maybe religions should follow God and implement a “no respecter of persons” policy meaning religion should not show favoritism towards a person’s, sex, nationality, creed, tongue, bond/free status, etc.

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  8. Yet Another John on October 12, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    Dba.brotherp. I said nothing about women and the priesthood. I was just referring to the OP lament that few women are mentioned by name in the scriptures. Short of new revealed scripture (ten lost tribes, anyone?) we just can’t read into them what isn’t there. And what isn’t there are lots of named women. Again, my comment addressed that issue and not the lack of specific instances of female ordination.

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  9. nate on October 12, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    Oops…Sorry Madison!

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  10. dba.brotherp on October 12, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    My apologies Yet Another John. I was reading you wrong when you said, “While we are at it we ought to have Jesus select six women as apostles. Better yet, let Jesus’ wife select them.”

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  11. Jen on October 12, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    John, this isn’t a list of demands. It’s just pointing out some of the glaring differences facing men and women that everyone just keeps telling us to ignore. The lack of women in the scriptures is something that is confusing and a little hurtful for me personally, but I don’t want them to be rewritten. No one is asking for that.

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  12. Ziff on October 12, 2013 at 10:06 PM

    “Why is it so important for LDS women to convince themselves they are equal using videos like the one Sheri Dew has published?”

    Great post, Madison P. Regarding this question, I think it’s difficult to live in a world where equal treatment of women and men is a stated ideal (even if not always a reality on the ground) and then go to a church that does so much to tell women they’re less important. Dealing with this conflict while believing that there is something divine in the Church is really difficult. To avoid it, I think a lot of people will just jump from the hard task of reconciling the sexism of the Church with the egalitarian ideal of the outside world, and just pretend the Church actually treats women equally so they don’t have to get to the point of thinking about the conflict. This approach accounts for the popularity of videos like this as well as for the continued attention given to the writings of people like Valerie Hudson. Plenty of GAs also help people to make this end run around the issue by asserting things like that men’s and women’s roles in the Church are “equal,” without of course doing anything to make them so.

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  13. hawkgrrrl on October 12, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    Ziff, great comment. I tend to agree.

    I think the key thing for me is that we lose credibility when we assert things that aren’t so, such as women are treated as equals. Either treat women as equals or don’t, but you can’t just talk your way around the facts. Also, if priesthood is just “all men” regardless of present worthiness (as it seems to be now), and this is how the church intends to hold marriages together (by keeping this co-dependent difference), fine, but let’s quit equating it with motherhood. Fatherhood is the equivalent to motherhood.

    Will, I know you like to come across as strident, but I also know you have a great deal of respect for your wife’s intelligence, and I suspect you manage to have a fairly equal marriage. Most LDS women also feel they have an equal marriage. Church experience doesn’t match that, though. Our husbands love us. It’s hard to see women turned away like this. You wouldn’t turn your wife away with tears on her cheeks. You would listen to her, whether you made changes or not. You wouldn’t call her an enemy without listening first.

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  14. AnaMormon on October 13, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Would be great if Mormones believed the Bible as much as they do the pursuit of earthly goods and entertainments. Then, this wouldn’t be an issue. The Lord already provided the way. This is a commandment, as easy to understand as the 10 Moses gave.

    Ephesians 5:22-33
    22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

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  15. hawkgrrrl on October 13, 2013 at 6:49 PM

    AnaMormon: You are obviously not a Mormon. 1) Mormons don’t believe in Biblical inerrancy, 2) you are quoting the NIV which is primarily used by Evangelicals; Mormons use the KJV because our cross-referencing was all done in that version as well as an accompanying interpretation done by JS, 3) Mormons are taught that within marriage, husbands and wives are equal, so our interpretation of the scriptures you cite differs from yours, simple though yours may be to you.

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  16. Roger on October 13, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    Although I don’t necessarily subscribe to HG’s conclusion as to AnaMormon’s denominational affiliation, her post causes me to reflect upon what I observe at evangelical churches that subscribe to a “priesthood of all believers”. Although, I am sure there is variation, across Evangelical Christendom, here in the Bible Belt, the pastorates are generally held by males (although there may be female assistant pastors for recreation or teen ministries), the deacons and or elders are almost uniformly males, the Lord’s Supper and offerings officiants are male, and the committees of real stature are headed by males. It is an artifact of long-standing, both in “mainstream” Christianity and Mormonism.

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  17. ji on October 14, 2013 at 4:50 AM

    It seems here that we like to mock women in the Church who assert they are already equal with men — maybe we’re uncharitable in doing so. If a woman believes she has equal standing in her Church, and finds happiness there, isn’t that wonderful? No, some would say — she is a benighted dupe. Not so fast, I want to offer — maybe she is honest. Maybe she looks past the hubris of the day and looks to her God and finds equality and happiness? Maybe her definition of “equal” differs from someone else’s definition? Maybe it’s still an honest definition?

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  18. Jeff Spector on October 14, 2013 at 7:31 AM

    “An organization which is currently run entirely under male oversight.”

    Funny, every organization in the Church is run entirely under male oversight including the First Presidency. The word “entirely” has the ring that the men in charge make or approve every single decision that needs to be made for Relief Society, which is just not true. In most cases, the male oversight is mostly informed of things and could I suppose, if they wanted, approve or disapprove which seldom happens. It is the same way for the YM/YW, Primary and the Priesthood quorums. Even the Quorum leaders, who hold keys, run things by the leadership for approval or disapproval.

    Every single person in the Church is under oversight by males–Heavenly Father and Jesus

    “since men alone receive revelation for the family, ”

    Really, since when are women not be able to receive revelation for their family? When was that announced, I must have missed that.

    The gist of this post is really not about equality, but power. Some women seem to equate equality with position power. Which, of course, not not the point of the Gospel.

    And if position power really did equal equality, then all men in the Church would be equal, which they are not. Even if you assume they all hold the same Priesthood from the youngest Elder to President Monson, they are clearly not equal. And most men will never have the access to the position power that these women seem to think the men do.

    The real equality comes from our individual relationship with the Savior and how well we live the commandments. Because even the lowest of the low in the Church have the opportunity to receive the highest blessings of eternity regardless of ever having position power or not.

    The post, of course, misses that point entirely.

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  19. Martin on October 14, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    “Mormons are taught that within marriage, husbands and wives are equal”

    While I’m sure many LDS leaders have said this, I don’t believe the statement is true. Equal means equivalent, or interchangeable. I don’t believe Mormonism has ever taught this except in limited scope. Statements like “equally important” or “equally valuable” don’t make a whole lot of sense, either, unless a specific metric is used.

    In the business world, or engineering, or science, I believe men and women can truly be equal, in that they’re interchangeable in any relevant way. The secular western world teaches that men and women are likewise interchangeable within marriage. Mormonism has never taught that.

    One does not necessarily need to be equal in order to be valuable, or even essential. In fact, when one is told one must be “equal” in order to be essential and valuable, it can make one feel inadequate, and might not be appreciated. I don’t see why anyone should be surprised that women who feel valuable and essential would circulate Sheri Dew’s video.

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  20. hawkgrrrl on October 14, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Martin: I was just referencing the PoF which says “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

    I can only tell you that being seen as essential but unequal for no other reason than one’s biological sex is really not acceptable to anyone interacting at all outside of a Mormon bubble. It’s a clever strategy to keep women from too much interaction with the world around them so that they don’t realize that the world is less discriminatory than church. As one of the ‘haves’ I’m sure it’s hard for you to see how that must feel. I do not feel discriminated against for my sex in the workplace, in society, or anywhere really outside the church. That’s because we actively combat discrimination in our society. Within the church, I actually don’t really feel discriminated against, just irrelevant, ignored, and marginalized. The gender-segregated programs often don’t speak to me. Are there also men who feel that way? Undoubtedly.

    Jeff: I have yet to meet a woman who has been an auxillary head (YW, Primary or RS) who didn’t feel the bishop was heavy handed, tying her hands on decision making, cutting her budget beyond something workable, or forcing specific people into her organization. These are all believing, fully committed women, trying to do the right thing to run their organization. By contrast, I have yet to meet a male leader who felt that way. Perhaps this is because women have higher standards for how things are done, but to a person, I have heard from all my female friends that they felt second-guessed by the bishop and that their requests were not handled with consideration or speed.

    In saying that, I’m not addressing the OP specifically, just commenting on your note about power. I’ve never been in that sort of a calling personally, and I can’t imagine I ever will be. I’m also not bucking for it. You always seem to bring it back to the notion that women just want power. I see a call for respect where you see a call for power. Perhaps we mean the same thing.

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  21. hawkgrrrl on October 14, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    Martin: I also wanted to draw your attention to a post I did last week on BCC based on a survey about how Mormon women feel about the equality in their marriage. Some interesting results. http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/10/10/mormon-marriage-equality/

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  22. hawkgrrrl on October 14, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    This is probably the best article I’ve seen on how to better utilize the currently underutilized female brain trust: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peculiarpeople/2013/10/beyond-family-womens-leadership-in-the-lds-church/

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  23. Rigel Hawthorne on October 14, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    Hawkgrrrl…

    Like your compliment to Will, I like to think that I have a fairly equal marriage, but my institutional support of priesthood callings forces me to give my wife the raw deal. I’ve had callings that require me to go to Bishopric’s meeting, Ward Council and PEC (at least 2 of the 3) for close to 7 years. Participating in those pre-block meetings means my wife is required to do the final countdown to get the kids in the car and on the road to church. I have done what I can to get some breakfast on the table and lay out some clothes before I leave, but she consistently gets an unequal share of that work, unfairly. Honestly, is cracking the whip to get kids moving to get to church a job that requires the nurturing hand of a mother?

    We just welcomed a new family to the ward, nice couple with 3 children and one on the way. Guess what, he is called to be the Ward Clerk and she gets the shaft of getting the kids ready for church, by herself, each week–eventually with a nursing baby to manage.

    I’ve mentioned it before, but I drew the line by not sitting on the stand with the Bishopric when my wife was home with a newborn and I was bringing the other children to church and sitting with them, as my fatherly duty called, in the congregation. It was not long after that when my release from the Bishopric came.

    Nevertheless, my wife now, as a counselor in an auxiliary, has an opportunity to represent her auxiliary at Ward Council when the President cannot attend. I have relished offering her the chance to represent her organization by attending the Ward Council while I ‘sacrifice’ my participation and stay home with the children to get them ready for church. She just laughs at me as if I should know better.

    and Hawk…

    ” By contrast, I have yet to meet a male leader who felt that way.”

    In my calling as HPGL, I often feel that the Bishop’s response to me takes 4th place…after his attention to the Youth, Primary, and RS. I understand that the duties of the Bishop slant the attention that way, but that lower level association extends to lack of email response, inability to get his attention, etc. I’ve resorted at times to making appointments through the executive secretary to meet with him to review home teaching assignments, which he is ultimately expected to review and approve. I would say calling men out of the High Priests group to fill the Young Men’s presidency and other callings ‘forces’ the few left (in our small ward) into HP leadership positions. I could ask for one of them back, but I very well know I ain’t gettin them. But…I get what you are saying.

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  24. jspector106 on October 15, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    “Jeff: I have yet to meet a woman who has been an auxiliary head (YW, Primary or RS) who didn’t feel the bishop was heavy handed, tying her hands on decision making, cutting her budget beyond something workable, or forcing specific people into her organization. ”

    Then, I should introduce you to my wife and many of the women I have served with. Because it just wasn’t the case. My wife has served in YW, as a Primary President, as a Relief Society President and in a Stake Relief Society Presidency. If anything, in some cases, she had more Bishopric indifference than “heavy-handedness.”

    In my roles, I’ve had stewardship over auxiliaries at both the ward and stake level and I never did it or really saw it. If you call heavy-handedness sticking to the handbook, well, that might be a different story.

    In all my experience, the ones who get the most pushback are the Scouts, who are always trying to do stuff that is against Church policy.

    And, as Priesthood leaders at the ward and Stake level we are constantly being called on the carpet for our Brethren’s lack of effort in many areas, far more than I have ever heard to the women.

    And, BTW, I’ve never said it is the women of the Church who want power, only a small, vocal minority like some in the OW movement. That said, only crazy people want power in the Church, male or female. It only means tons more work……

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  25. Rockies Gma on October 17, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    It’s not about power. It’s about having an equal voice in the governing quorums that decide policy and interpret doctrine for the church. Women think and feel differently about things. Their insights and counsel ought to be included when creating handbooks of instruction, or clarifying policy, or interpreting doctrine. Women are smart and quite capable of handling the rigors of committees and quorums. Again, their voices should be heard and given equal measure.

    Back to power…..I change my mind — it IS about power. But not the I-want-to-have-power-over-you kind of power. It’s about desiring to hold priesthood power to grow the way men do by holding it. It’s about having power and righteous authority to bless the lives of others. It’s about learning here on earth how to become priestesses just as men are learning here on earth how to be priests. It’s about learning how to wisely and righteously use priesthood power from the experience of using it rather than only experiencing it as a blessee. Both experiences are tutoring and very developmental.

    So we ask, seek, and knock in daily prayer and regular fasting. We study the matter thoroughly in scripture and out of the best articles and books. It is a righteous desire. The revelation of yes or no we earnestly plead will come when President Monson seeks for it. Perhaps he already is. I pray this is so. I very much pray this is so.

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  26. carsaparilla on December 8, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    Jeff,
    You said “Every single person in the Church is under oversight by males–Heavenly Father and Jesus.” I would like to point out that there is a Heavenly Mother, and that God created male and female in God’s own image (see Genesis 1 and Abraham 4). Add to that that “neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11), it follows to my understanding that God is a title that references both Father and Mother.
    So, God being the head of our church, it seems to me that everyone would actually be under oversight by both male and female, just as it is in our own divinely appointed families where “father and mother are obligated to help each other as equal partners” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). It doesn’t make sense to me to have all this balance between male and female, mother and father, in our theology and practice, and assume that God is not also balanced.

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  27. carsaparilla on December 8, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    Rockies Gma, thank you :) I also agree that it’s about power, but again, not in a I-want-power-over-you way. The priesthood is the power of God. We are to become like God. We are to receive all that God has. We are to literally become gods through exaltation. None of that is possible without us having God’s power: the priesthood. So it’s bound to happen that women are also ordained. And if the temple endowment is enough, why are men ordained to priesthood offices in mortality? To administer the church and build the kingdom. It seems to me that to deny half of the righteous membership of the church a chance to add their talents to the cause is stagnating and counter-productive to the establishment of Zion.

    The argument that women asking about ordination are apostate deviants on power trips is sensational and seductive, but moot. (Also, hugely judgmental and condemning.) Anyone who seeks the power of God to use it unrighteously won’t get it. D&C 131:7:
    “That they [the powers of heaven] may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

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  28. Sisterinzion on June 3, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    Often, in my own life, I have been much better served by asking The Lord in humility why certain things are the way they are, rather than accusing, attacking, demeaning, or demanding change. I am grateful for the answers that come to deepen my understanding and hasten my own personal growth.

    Also, I have often received revelation for my husband and for my children. Sometimes I have worked with my husband to implement ideas or meet concerns linked to that revelation and sometimes I have moved forward in independent ways to serve him and our children. In either instance it is not about Me, not about who is right or who can do what. It is about serving and building the members of my family. My husband in his many callings of service has often laughed and at the same time lamented that the sisters prayers of faith exhibit more power than some of the brethren in exercising their priesthood responsibilities.

    Priesthood is one vehicle of service. Through God’s wisdom there are other vehicles. It is not about equality; it is about humility, patience and charity.

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