Defending Male Hegemony

by: Mormon Heretic

March 31, 2014

Fiona Givens was part of an interesting interview on Mormon Matters with John Dehlin.  She spoke about a conference talk on priesthood power vs priesthood authority, and said that women already have priesthood power. (These comments appear in the interview about 8:15 in.)


Fiona with her husband Terryl Givens

Fiona, “Elder Packer gave an intriguing talk in about 2011, I think it was about 2011 [it was actually 2010], in which he talked about, summarizing quickly, the church’s ability to disseminate priesthood authority and how they’ve been successful in that around the world, but have not been so successful in disseminating priesthood power.  I found that really intriguing that he would bifurcate priesthood authority and priesthood power.  To me that suggested that one could have priesthood authority without priesthood power, and that one can have priesthood power without priesthood authority.

I think section 121 is not at all ambiguous on this that you can have priesthood authority, but have absolutely no priesthood power.  For me, of the two, the most potent of course is priesthood power.  I felt, as a convert, the first time I went to the temple, that I was being ordained with priesthood power, and I have felt that ever since.

As a European, as someone who was born and raised in Africa, I am particularly sensitive to the global church, and our call to build Zion.  I come from a history of very strong female leaders, from Queen Boudica who burned a bunch of Romans in their temple to this current monarch who simply will not die, but my historical past  has very strong female figures.  I’m hearing a lot of political rhetoric in the OW conversations, which has concerned me just a little bit.  I’m not sure if this is not a throwback to the ERA, new wave feminism days.  I mean in the conversation you had, I think I heard the verb being used ‘marching to the Tabernacle’, and it was quickly changed to ‘walking’ but the first word came out was ‘marching’, so that concerns me just a little bit.

Most importantly, it’s this global perspective.  Many of the countries in which we hope to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ have a very fixed social and political male hegemony, and I’m not sure how successful our ability to aid women in those countries  priesthood power which I found in the temple, whcih is accessible to all.  If sister missionaries are coming into those countries, most of them are primarily Muslim, waving the banner of priesthood authority, and right now I understand there are a lot of African men joining the church because of this hierarchical power, and I think if we were to come in and destabilize that then we would prevent out sisters around the glove from accessing the ordinances and the power, the priesthood power that is only to be found int he temple.  I would hesitate now.  For me the most important thing for our women around the world is to be able to access priesthood power, and that may be through the paradigm, ironically enough, or male hegemony.  If their husbands join the church, it is likely that they will also receive the ordinance of baptism and then be able to go further and receive the priesthood power in the temple.  So that’s where I am, this is where I am on the issue.”

I think Fiona has an interesting point of view, and it is an interesting paradox, but I have some problems with her reasoning.  For one, it privileges “male hegemony” as God-sanctioned, and while I think that God does work in mysterious ways, I think there are some ethical problems with this.

If we look at a parallel example of blacks and the priesthood, Church leaders had a similar problem.  Missionary work was going well in apartheid South Africa.  The reasoning went that if we allowed blacks to hold the priesthood, then missionary work in South Africa would suffer.  While I have no doubt that such reasoning is correct, this type of reasoning seems to ignore the fact that missionary work in the rest of Africa would accelerate.  In the 1960s, blacks in Nigeria asked President McKay for missionaries.  There were black congregations introduced to the Book of Mormon and wanted to join.  Pres McKay didn’t want to offend the South Africans, and it turns out that a civil war in Nigeria would have caused problems in Nigeria anyway, so the misguided restrictions remained in place.  Now that the ban has been rescinded, baptisms in Africa have ballooned, and we now have temples there.  Not only that, but apartheid has been abolished in South Africa.  So, catering to the racists in South Africa actually weakened the spread of the gospel.  It is for this reason that I find Fiona’s reasoning about catering to “male hegemony” questionable.

On the one hand, I do agree with Fiona that perhaps there is an unintended consequence of getting Mormonism into Muslim countries that could be less open to the Mormon message.  But such catering to sexist Muslim societies seems to ignore that many feminists of Europe, the United States, and elsewhere would be more open to the Church.  In essence, we’re privileging sexist societies over non-sexist societies.  It could very well be the case that the current crop of millennials are abandoning Mormonism (and religion in general) for atheism precisely because they find male hegemony a problem.

So, I find huge ethical problems with what Fiona Givens is saying here.  Yes, there are always opportunity costs, but perhaps if Mormons had embraced female priesthood as the CoC did 30 years ago, then perhaps we wouldn’t be having the exodus to atheism today.

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38 Responses to Defending Male Hegemony

  1. Hedgehog on March 31, 2014 at 2:07 AM

    Speaking for myself, I’m getting tired of the way this authority /power split is seemingly being used to try to pacify women – we don’t have authority but apparently we have power (really?), but sometimes that’s framed as access to priesthood power (via male priesthood holders), and I’ve yet to read or hear anything that demonstrates what a woman using priesthood power looks like, how we’re meant to do it, in a way that doesn’t sound like any caring woman who may or may not have been through the temple, doing her best to help other people. And there was one speaker last conference who specifically stated that power comes from authority. So I’m pretty much resigned that we just don’t know what we’re talking about most of the time, simply speculating.

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  2. Howard on March 31, 2014 at 6:24 AM

    You make a good point Hedgehog.

    I know many women outside the church and a few men who clearly enjoy applying God’s power in mortality for the good of many around them. Implicit in the presence and use of that power is obviously the authority to use it! None of these women have been through an LDS temple or ordained to the priesthood so how did they get it?

    Fiona is turning things around here! Power is NOT ordained, but in the LDS church authority is ordained. Power is the result of one’s personal relationship with God, not the result of an authorized religious ritual. ALL women LDS and non-LDS alike have access to God’s power but Fiona’s twist implies this is an exclusive LDS temple blessing, it isn’t!

    LDS ordination confers authority not power. It is a license and an invitation to embrace or attempt to embrace or pretend to embrace God’s power within the LDS community. Those without the license of priesthood ordination may not! LDS women are not ordained but since ALL women and ALL men have the same access to God’s power the lack of ordination works to prohibit LDS women from exercising the power of God (that they may already enjoy) within the LDS community.

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  3. Jeff Spector on March 31, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    I do (strangely enough) completely agree with Howard on the authority/power issue. while I am not fond of the word “license,” I’ll also agree that ordination gives the man (or young man) the potential of receiving Priesthood Power to apply the blessings of Priesthood service to others. After all, it is really there for no other purpose but to serve others.

    There is supposed to be no honor or glory applied to someone by virtue of the fact that they have had the Priesthood conferred upon them. Though we do tend to reverence those with higher priesthood then ourselves. Which takes away from the “humble servant” bit.

    The power is applied through faithfulness, personal worthiness, knowledge and through the very acts of service we render. All things that women in the church can both perform, use and take advantage of, without directly holding a Priesthood office. Especially for those who have been through the Temple and received those ordinances.

    Many do not seem to want to hear that or believe this, because it appears they seek the honor and glory (which does not exist) rather than to understand how to use the power.

    The authority, after all, ultimately belongs to God. He decides who has it. The Power, OTOH, which is also God’s is given to those who strive to live up to it.

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  4. Howard on March 31, 2014 at 7:21 AM

    Well It’s very nice to be in agreement Jeff today, that’s somewhat rare for us. I’m not fond of the word license either but this is an example of my blunt use of unvarnished truth to impress a point. I actually think it works quite well when considering how it is applied to males. Few men would seek the use of God’s power on their own but by making it an official invitation, a right of passage and by placing it in simple repetitive format modeled by experienced males there is a high level of participation while generally reducing one’s self consciousness about doing it. However while it works to encourage and include males it currently restrains and excludes females.

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  5. Andrew S on March 31, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    I like the idea of this post, but I ultimately cringed at your last few lines

    Giving the priesthood to women didn’t solve all of CofChrist’s problems…rather, there were lots of people who left over that (Wikipedia’s section says 25,000 left to other restoration splinter groups, and that there were steep declines in new members in the next several decades.)

    As for atheism itself, as far as I’m aware, the CofChrist is far more OK with atheists than the LDS church is. So, even if there might not be a mass exodus from religion to atheism, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t atheists. It’s more a matter of whether those atheists feel comfortable in church or not. We’re simply going to have to stop considering atheism this huge bugaboo.

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  6. Mormon Heretic on March 31, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    I didn’t have time to transcribe the whole interview, so Jeff and Howard, you may be surprised to find that Fiona actually agrees with you on the point of priesthood power. Later in the interview, Fiona says that non-members have power of priesthood, just as LDS do. I guess the question for me then is, if all have access to the power of the priesthood, of what value is ordination to LDS priesthood?

    Hedgehog, I think you bring up some very salient points. In another interview Kate Kelly asked what is the purpose of ordaining men if all have the power of the priesthood?

    Andrew, what exactly caused you to cringe?

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  7. Christian J on March 31, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    thanks for highlighting this MH. I’m really glad that Givens is addressing this from a non-American perspective. I’ve also worried about the decidedly American/white/middle class flavor of OW. I don’t nec. disagree with their aims, but believe that they have a lot more work to do among women in the Church before they even get to the priesthood session.

    On the other hand, I’ve heard conference talks warning us about letting our cultures get in the way of living eternal principles. If ordaining women is right then, just like chastity or the WoW, should we not hold to that principle? Even if it rubs come cultures the wrong way?

    Either way, this conversation is important.

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  8. MB on March 31, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    I think it can be assumed that for the past 4000 etc, prophets have felt inspired to arrange priesthood authority and a host of other practices in less than perfect configurations. King Saul, a Benjaminite and of the house of Israel, got called on the carpet when he officiated in a priesthood ordinance, as I recall, at a time when priesthood authority was restricted to Levites.

    I think that God finds himself continually in a challenging situation: either a) inspire a less than optimal organization of things that will be less of a stumbling block to those of his people who are not yet able to function in a more perfect one and that will also bother/annoy/frustrate/disenchant those who recognize how much better it could be or b) inspire a more complete and optimal organization of things that will be a major stumbling block/causer of confusion to those of his covenant people who are not yet where they can receive it but that will cause rejoicing among those of his covenant people who can.

    So, he can either slowly foster the unready towards increased preparedness in a less than optimal situation (Levitical priesthood was eventually expanded to other Israelite tribes and to gentiles during the more internationally post-Christ aware era of the Roman Empire) or he can create a much more optimal situation and leave the unready who are in situations where they are, by their circumstances made unable to manage that hurdle, in the dust.

    Pragmatist road or idealist road? I believe God values both.

    We North Americans tend to think that idealism is more divine and leaving the unready in the dust is part of life.

    However, I think that God walks a more patient and inclusive line. Unity and mutual assistance among his covenant children who seek to follow him is something he values greatly. Which means that the idealists among us have to learn to exercise patience and faith in a situation that is sorely trying to them as they work, lovingly and wisely to help their covenant brothers and sisters who, for whatever reason aren’t able or ready, to become able or ready.

    Fortunately, I think some of them are doing that. And I believe we could use more. It’s a long process, frustrating to those of us who would like things to be better right now, and requiring patience, which is an undervalued virtue and trust, which is difficult in a skeptical world.

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  9. Jeff Spector on March 31, 2014 at 10:49 AM


    ” I guess the question for me then is, if all have access to the power of the priesthood, of what value is ordination to LDS priesthood?”

    I have pondered this question for a long time and have yet to arrive at a truly satisfactory answer beyond the gratuitous answers of males needing it to do service and such…… I am not quite buying that, though if that were the case, HT numbers might actually be better because frankly, having the Priesthood does not seem to make a huge difference there.

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  10. Andrew S on March 31, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    re 6


    Two things

    1) the idea that the exodus to atheism is prima facie a bad thing

    2) the idea that if only we implemented CofChrist’s changes, then we wouldn’t have an exodus to atheism.

    Even if we concede 1, 2 doesn’t prevent 1.

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  11. IDIAT on March 31, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    On the issue of women receiving “power” by virtue of having been through the temple:
    Author’s Note: Since sisters as well as priesthood holders are engaged in this work on earth, it is logical that they likewise will be so engaged in the spirit world. Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “Neither will the work in the spirit world be carried on exclusively by the men holding the Priesthood. The sisters who have made covenant with the Lord and who have received blessings and power in the temples will also have much to do in that work. This was made very clear by President [Joseph F.] Smith at the funeral of Sister Mary A. Freeze, when he said: ‘Now, among all these millions of spirits that have lived on the earth and have passed away, from generation to generation, since the beginning of the world, without the knowledge of the Gospel—among them you may count that at least one-half are women. Who is going to preach the Gospel to the women? Who is going to carry the testimony of Jesus Christ to the hearts of the women who have passed away without a knowledge of the Gospel? Well, to my mind, it is a simple thing. These good sisters who have been set apart, ordained to the work, called to it, authorized by the authority of the Holy Priesthood to minister for their sex, in the House of God for the living and for the dead, will be fully authorized and empowered to preach the Gospel and minister to the women while the elders and prophets are preaching it to the men. The things we experience here are typical of the things of God, and the life beyond us’.” — Gospel Doctrine pp. 581-82. (The Way To Perfection, p. 320) – “We Believe: Teachings of the Latter Day Prophets, Seer and Revelators”, Rulon T. Burton (1994)

    And, “In the temples of the Lord, sacred priesthood ordinances (e.g., washings, anointings, clothings) are administered to men by men and to women by women who have received the endowments of the priesthood in the temple (TPJS, p. 337) and have been given that specific priesthood responsibility. Women thus may act in priesthood power when called, set apart, and authorized by those who hold the keys; however, women officiators are not ordained to the priesthood or to an office in the priesthood to do this work.”

    I’m still not quite sure what it means to say women have priesthood power, but I’m trying to understand it. It isn’t discussed neatly or succinctly these days.

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  12. Mormon Heretic on March 31, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Christian and MB, I agree with you that a non-American perspective is useful, and perhaps this is one of God’s “mysterious ways.” I tend to think it is not, but that doesn’t mean that my perspective is right. The tension between idealism and pragmatism is always there, but whether one is pragmatic or idealistic is in the eye of the beholder. Regarding Africa, I’m sure that Pres McKay felt he was being pragmatic when he didn’t send missionaries to Nigeria in favor of not upsetting the South Africans. However, it could be also argued that it was more pragmatic to send missionaries where they were wanted in black Africa–the net increase in converts would have dwarfed what happened in South Africa, which eventually got rid of apartheid anyway.

    Andrew, I had a feeling that you would say #1. I think most religious people would view an exit to atheism as a bad thing, but I also understand where you’re coming from.

    Regarding #2, I think the exodus to atheism has a multitude of factors that you may be more equipped to address than me. Regarding ordination of women, it seems the RLDS had an exodus of conservative members, whereas the LDS are seeing an exodus of liberal members now. But certainly those going to atheism aren’t leaving solely because of female ordination. From what I can tell, religionists bashing science (like evolution), as well as gay marriage as a “civil right” are a problem. For Catholics, the priest sex-abuse scandal has led many to question God. So female ordination is just one of many problems.

    Unlike the RLDS exodus however, I don’t think that the LDS would have seen a conservative exodus. When blacks were ordained, I’m not aware of an exodus of white, racist members. I doubt if there would have been an exodus if females had been ordained. But there does appear to be an exodus now, and it seems to me that female ordination is one of the top 3 or 4 issues cited by those leaving the LDS Church.

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  13. Andrew S on March 31, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    re 12


    your latest comment highlights a confusion that I had not yet identified. you talk about people “going to atheism” as if atheism is a place. But really, atheism is not a place. You can be atheist in a church, or theist out of a church. The conservative RLDS who left didn’t “go to atheism,” yes, but they certainly left the church.

    If your problem is atheism (not believing in God), then RLDS don’t fix that. Rather, they just seem to have atheists who are in the pews.

    The main problem for many liberal protestant denominations (including RLDS to some extent) is keeping atheists in pews rather than out of pews.

    You’ve got to separate your issues — which is worse: people not in pews, or people not believing in God? Would you rather have people not believing in God but who stay in pews? Some people might find that the worst option of all.

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  14. Jeff Spector on March 31, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    I find the journey to atheism to be a very easy way out. it is especially odd for a person who professes to have had a great faith in God to completely do a 180 and go to no god side of the fence. I can see moving from an agnostic position to atheism or from a position of faith to agnosticism. But a leap to atheism especially for foibles of the church organization is a mystery to me.

    I can see leaving the Church, but to me, the testimony of the HF and Jesus transcends the earthy Church organization.

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  15. Rich Brown on March 31, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    I tend to think there’s a whole lot of shades of grey on the spectrum from believer to agnostic to atheist. For example, the Quaker writer Parker J. Palmer offers the term “functional atheism” which he defines as “the belief that if anything decent is going to happen, we are the ones who must make it happen.” In other words, people say they believe in God but don’t act like it.

    Latter-day Saints of all stripes have a tendency to be doers, to just get in there, get our hands dirty, and get the job done. We may even say the only way God can/will act is by using us as divinely chosen servants. But that can overlook the idea that God may have other ways of accomplishing the divine will.

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  16. Andrew S on March 31, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    re 14,


    As I recently wrote, I think the issue is that when one is confronted with a church that they have a tesitmony of as being true and a God that they have a testimony of revealing his will through said church, then when the church appears to be so out of step with a basic perceived sense of justice or morality, then the person has to ask themselves: is it just that the followers are out of step with God’s message, or is God himself unjust and/or immoral.

    A lot of times, people conclude the second, rather than the first. Their testimony of HF and Jesus does *not* transcend the earthly church organization.

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  17. Zara on March 31, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    Jeff Spector, I can help there. It has to do with realizing you felt the spirit about church-related things that you now believe to be false or fictional, and realizing that feelings aren’t a great indicator of truth. For me, it also had to do with realizing that I didn’t have any more proof that the Bible was the word of god than I had for the Book of Mormon. (Not to mention the truly horrible things that god appears to sanction in the bible.). Those aren’t the only reasons I ended up atheist, but they are a couple of the reasons why leaving Mormonism meant leaving god for me. For what it’s worth, my subconscious made those connections for me and I woke up one day realizing I didn’t believe in god anymore. I didn’t ask to become an atheist, and it wasn’t really a choice. Of course, after that realization I did dig in and investigate and pray and read and all of those things…but it just confirmed my suspicions. You kind of don’t understand it until it happens to you. At least that was my experience. I’d have said I’d never not believe in god. Incidentally, I’m happier now.

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  18. Jeff Spector on March 31, 2014 at 3:51 PM


    “when one is confronted with a church that they have a tesitmony of as being true and a God that they have a testimony of revealing his will through said church, then when the church appears to be so out of step with a basic perceived sense of justice or morality, then the person has to ask themselves: is it just that the followers are out of step with God’s message, or is God himself unjust and/or immoral.’

    There is a third answer to that as well…..One that might be even harder to confront.

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  19. Jeff Spector on March 31, 2014 at 3:55 PM


    ” It has to do with realizing you felt the spirit about church-related things that you now believe to be false or fictional, and realizing that feelings aren’t a great indicator of truth. ”

    Not discounting your own experience, but this is where I think it might be an easy way out. You are calling them feelings now, but I would and maybe you did, call them revelations or witnesses of the spirit.

    in order to support the choice you know take, those experiences have to be false or misinterpreted based on that new choice. Rather than ask yourself the question, what if those were really revelations or witnesses of the Spirit, what decision now must I make?

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  20. Andrew S on March 31, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    re 18:


    Oh yeah, another option is, “God doesn’t exist.” That’s hard to confront for many believers.

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  21. Zara on March 31, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    I understand where you’re coming from, Jeff, but it really is a total paradigm shift for me. It is definitely not taking the easy way out. Letting go of the idea of god was not easy for me–and as I said earlier, it wasn’t even really a choice.

    What I’m calling feelings were not the same as my normal emotions, and at the time, I differentiated them as “the spirit.” They were more like epiphanies. I thought they couldn’t possibly be from my own brain. But now I believe that they were–they were messages from a deeper part of my brain. I sought guidance from god, and I didn’t want to think that I was making important decisions without consulting him or that I was rationalizing anything out of selfish motives. I did wholeheartedly believe in the spirit before. It’s only after you are confronted with the totality of the information that proves the church to be man-made do you realize that all knowledge of god works the same way. I do realize that some folks leave the church and still believe in god and Jesus. That’s fine. I respect that. I do happen to believe that on the very off-chance that a father-like God and Jesus Christ exist, that they in their infinite mercy and all-knowingness would not penalize me for using the brain they gave me, nor for finding fault in a very, very flawed system (feelings/ the spirit). Regardless, I don’t find the evidence compelling enough to live my life as if that very particular set of deities exist. Why them, as opposed to any other version of god throughout history? I believe we believe in this god and this savior because of early indoctrination and geography. If I lived somewhere else, I’d believe in a different deity and be just as sure of his/her existence.

    Another thing I noticed as an active member is that I could feel the spirit while, for instance, watching an R-rated movie or while performing in a bar. The church had told me “the spirit” would withdraw in those instances. The church is where we get our idea of what the spirit is. How do we know that those feelings, those epiphanies, those burnings of the bosom, or however you experience the spirit, really are confirmations from God, and aren’t just instances of confirmation bias? Why is it that people in other religions can feel the spirit about things they are taught, and be equally convinced that god is talking to them–even when he’s telling them to do things we’d disagree with? Why do some of us feel the spirit when we do feminist activism, and other people feel the spirit telling them the status quo is god’s will? I just don’t believe in “the spirit” anymore.

    Those are just my personal experiences, and I do respect that you love God enough to want me to love him, too. I used to feel that way, and I used to feel that my atheist friends were throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I used that very phrase in a letter to a friend about two weeks before I lost Mormonism, and about four weeks before I lost god. We never know where our lives will take us. I respect those who will always believe in god, and who truly believe that the spirit is god’s way of giving us knowledge, but I don’t believe myself to be taking any sort of easy way out, and I don’t feel a loss in my life for having let go of a fatherly god.

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  22. Howard on March 31, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    I don’t think Zara threw the the baby out with the bathwater but many do. It sounds like she did lose god. I’ve been there, it an okay place to be. I think what Jeff is referring to are people who switch from one the head side of a coin to the the tail without dealing with the coin itself kinda like switching addictions.

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  23. Mormon Heretic on March 31, 2014 at 6:41 PM

    Andrew #13,

    I understand your need to separate the issues of leaving, but in a sense the LDS Church doesn’t care whether members leave from atheism, the RLDS Church, or other. It’s a loss no matter what. If we can identify why a person left, then we can formulate methods to try to assuage those concerns. If someone leaves for atheism, then perhaps the church could be less hostile to science and allow that God used evolution, rather than double-down and throw out carbon dating or some of the other dumb ideas. If someone leaves for RLDS or Protestantism, then what are the reasons? I see people like Stephen Robinson trying to make the Godhead and Trinity more alike than different, or resolving works/grace, etc. But no matter what the reason people leave, it still counts as a loss.

    Do people want atheists in the pews? Well, I can’t speak for church leaders. I suspect that someone like Uchtdorf wouldn’t mind; someone like Packer would rather throw the bum out. It’s an interesting question. For every person like me that wants more of a big tent Mormonism, there are conservatives like Jettboy that would rather excommunicate everyone that doesn’t believe as he does. I haven’t heard the church make a pronouncement one way or the other; no matter which way they choose, one group is going to be upset, so that’s probably why they remain silent. But I think that religious people in general would rather someone doesn’t turn to atheism, and if they do, then they are welcome so long as they keep their mouth shut (the same way with liberal mormons.) Churches seem to be harbors of conservatism, not liberalism, which makes it hard for liberals or atheists to stay connected. I suppose they are more threatening to conservative churches than someone who leaves for another denomination..

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  24. Jeff Spector on March 31, 2014 at 7:43 PM


    “you love God enough to want me to love him, too.”

    Nope, that’s not it at all. I can respect someone’s choice to do whatever they need to do for themselves, just as I expect the same treatment from others.

    What I do expect is that people do not re-evaluate their experiences based on their new paradigm they have chosen. Believing is a choice and not believing is a choice, even if you can’t bring yourself to admit it.

    In my world, truth is truth whether it comes as an answer to prayer, at general conference, in a movie (R-rated or otherwise) or through playing or listening to music. I don’t know about you, but those things can move me and I do not doubt a spiritual witness of truth when I experience it.

    Heck, I felt the spirit at Auschwitz as I contemplated my relatives and others who died there and the faith they had to endure it. If you can feel the Spirit in a place that personifies pure evil, I think you can feel it anywhere.

    It’s one thing to give it up, it’s another to deny things because it is more convenient that way.

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  25. Jeff Spector on March 31, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    “Oh yeah, another option is, “God doesn’t exist.” That’s hard to confront for many believers.’

    Touche’ Then there is a fourth choice. It’s hard because in their world that choice does not exist.

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  26. hawkgrrrl on March 31, 2014 at 8:16 PM

    “we’re privileging sexist societies over non-sexist societies” This is a point I have long felt has some validity to it. We can’t state that all of Europe and North America are progressive and ready for female ordination. Those that ARE ready feel it is long overdue. Those that are not ready still exist, though. I served a mission in Spain, and it is a very macho culture. It is incredibly difficult to change men from their all-male support structure at the local bar to an all-male support structure of giving service in the church, but it would be nearly impossible if they didn’t have some sort of unique men’s club angle on offer. I find that aspect of Spanish culture utterly unappealing, as a woman, but it certainly is the culture.

    My bigger concern is that the church hasn’t landed on a consistent, articulate definition of the priesthood that is easily understood and clear cut. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this matter, and any way you slice it, opinions are not binding.

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  27. Ken on March 31, 2014 at 9:24 PM

    “My bigger concern is that the church hasn’t landed on a consistent, articulate definition of the priesthood that is easily understood and clear cut. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this matter, and any way you slice it, opinions are not binding”

    I see it just the opposite. The Doctrine and Covenants and The Family: A proclamation to the World are pretty clear. The clarity they offer lead to the resentment I see from many advocating social change.

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  28. Andrew S on March 31, 2014 at 9:44 PM

    re 23,


    But at a basic issue, the church has ideals and standards that it wants to preach. It’s more of a loss for the church to compromise its standards to keep people who don’t believe in its teachings anyways (e.g., atheists).

    Changing its views on science isn’t going to make people think God exists any more, in the even that they are losing faith in God.

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  29. TheJenonator on March 31, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    I soooooo don’t want women in the priesthood. I regret that so many struggle with that and take offense.

    Men need it-it gets them thinking if others and reaching out to them. It gives them a sense of purpose in doing so.

    Women already have the blessings it brings throught the female form and experiences. They tend to reach out more and see connections to others more readily.

    A priesthood blessing would be more powerful as an experience for me than from a woman. We need men during these important times in our lives and without the priesthood, I don’t think they would act–not many who currently do. Women are chomping at the bit to help others. We have that support already. The priesthood gets men in the mix.

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  30. hawkgrrrl on March 31, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    Ken: I am talking about clarity on the matter of priesthood. Women are told in the temple that they will be priestesses. Yet we are told outside the temple we can’t have the priesthood because God decides who gets it. OW says “Then ask God if we should have it.” Leaders haven’t said that they have sought this specific revelation, and some make vague statements that women never had it and were never intended to have it which contradicts the prophetesses in the OT and the fact that JS talked about women being ordained. Others hand wave away those precedents. Then people like the Givens’ say that there’s power vs. authority. Others have said priesthood for women is “latent” vs. “active” for men. Different leaders are speaking from the position of different assumptions. Some leaders say priesthood = motherhood. Others, in the Q15 say priesthood absolutely =/= the men and =/= motherhood.

    It’s the definition of priesthood I’m interested in, not the definition of gender roles that is sloppily thrown together in the PoF. I’m no fan of the Proc, but it doesn’t define priesthood, so it’s irrelevant to what I’m saying needs clarification.

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  31. shenpa on April 1, 2014 at 6:43 AM

    I agree that everyone has the potential for priesthood power, church member or not.

    Priesthood authority is more like “power of attorney” – the authorization to act on another’s behalf in LDS church matters. That’s the only reason for it (IMHO) – organization.

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  32. Douglas on April 1, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    #`14 – Often direct denial is a lot easier for the “denier” to justify to himself.

    AFAIC, there is no “male hegemony” to defend, merely revelation and WHO receives it for WHOM. IF you believe, as I do, that Tommy Monson fulfills the role of “Grand Pooba” (in a more reverent tone, “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator”) for the Church and on behalf of the Savior for the entire world, then the status quo re: PH and Women remains.

    As for whether the males “run” the affairs of the Church, it’s my observation that it’s so large that it has momentum all its own, and is largely self-directing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Think of our own Federal Government, which is compared to most other nations of today or in history fairly detached from partisan politics in its day-to-day operations. I’ve seen it since 1984, which gives me five presidents to serve under. Likewise the Church, at least at the local level, seems fairly constant regardless of who is President or in the Twelve or various GA positions. I’m also sure that though the Prophet doesn’t rely on polling numbers or focus groups, that indeed the overwhelming majority of the sisters are satisfied with the status quo. Methinks Sis. Kelly and OW aren’t even close.

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  33. Mormon Heretic on April 1, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    Jenanator, I find your justifications insulting to men. If women are so superior spiritually, why don’t they perform more miracles in the scriptures?

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  34. Douglas on April 1, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    #33 – Can only speak for MY mother, God rest her soul. After having my sister, she had me but 22 months later. If the willingness to bear the discomforts of pregnancy AGAIN and go through childbirth ain’t a miracle performed exlucsively by women, IDK what would be…

    It’s a shame that more examples (other than the type I cited above) aren’t recorded in scripture, but absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.

    Consider that the ablity to “perform” miracles is less of a testament to the earthly agent priveleged to be involved and more a witness (after the trial of faith, see Ether 12:6) of He that enables it.

    A point too about “superiority”…military chronliclers have long heralded the combat abilties of the German “Landser”. Yet twice in the 20th century, the American “doughboy” or “dogface” whupped the Germans in a fair fight. Griping, Grousing, undiscplined, unmilitary, unshaven, and unbeaten is the American GI.

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  35. rah on April 2, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    Not a fan of Fiona reasoning here. Here is why. Let’s say there is a split between priesthood “power” and “authority”. I assume this means either authority in the authorizing and performing ordinance sense or in the administrative decision rights sense (judge in Israel; final decision in the hierarchy etc.) while priesthood power is more in the gifts of the spirits sense. So lets accept that for a moment and ask – how has this played out for women? Well, so far not well at all.

    1) We have seen their privileges to practice priesthood power diminish through male administrative demand. They use to bless after the manner of priesthood power, heal etc. Now? Heavily discouraged in the official handbooks of the church. We saw women withdrawn or withheld from basic expression of priesthood power. They were banned by policy from opening or closing sacrament meeting. Until last year, none prayed in General Conference. Today in almost all places they aren’t allowed to even hold their babies during a baby blessing. Women writing about women and the priesthood were excommunicated for trying to understand priesthood power leading to a chilling affect across the church in the subject that lasted for almost 2 decades. There is systematic lack of women writers and speakers in Mormonism on all topics. We are just getting around to hanging pictures of our general women’s leaders next to our male leaders.

    2) Systematic issues of responding to important women’s issues and experience in the church really abound. Lets be honest with ourselves. The church for all its progress on these issues (especially starting under Hinkley) has been very behind in things like training bishops to respond to domestic abuse, responding to instances of sexual abuse by male members, disciplining men and women in non-gender biased ways. Training leaders to include the voice of women etc. Again, I will not deny that there has been significant progress but it has been excruciatingly slow and has been largely done without the serious input of women. Some of the most extreme cases are of course rare events but they are super important events, critical ones that we as an organization should be trying to get right. But we have failed too much in ways that have spiritually damaged so many women. Common sense reforms that would come from recognizing the priesthood power of women seem to be simply off the table. RSPs hearing women’s sexual confession. Including female peers on disciplinary councils. Actual, systematic training of bishops on the most difficult pastoral duties (dealing appropriately with individuals involved in abuse etc). Some sort of checks and balances system that keeps women from being trapped in a male only system when some of their most sensitive and acute religious needs should be met.

    Of course the list goes on and everyone in the bloggernacle knows it. We just have to keep restating it over and over and over and over and over again because….well thats the problem isn’t it?

    If this “authority” and “power” of the priesthood split didn’t lead over generations to such a tilted male-centric system of administering church affairs to the disadvantage of women then I might actually be inclined to entertain the feasibility of such a doctrine. But when we can see the “fruits” that this approach has actually delivered for so many women over so many generations I just can’t buy it. Clearly, authority matters not just as a who does what but in some of the most important outcomes for women. I think we have long, long moved past the point where we can claim these are just a few “mistakes” or “foibles”. Especially since there is so little evidence that the male priesthood authority structure has been proactive at all about addressing these issues or in looking actively for ways to expand women’s priesthood power. The changes have come only grudgingly and often with lots of pressure due to outside forces recognizing and fighting for women’s issues. I am in my heart a pragmatist and empiricist. I think the evidence is long in on why having women excluded completely from priesthood “authority” is a significant problem in Zion. This all in the context of having well-intentioned male leaders trying their best. Men and women have different perspectives, experiences, needs, strengths and weaknesses. It is precisely why we need women not only giving input but having authority necessary to build Zion.

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  36. Douglas on April 2, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    #35 – Women Having the PH should NOT be necessary to have their needs meet insofar as the Church is able and can appropriately do so. I am certain that the Savior is most gravely concerned about the collective welfare of His dear sisters in the Church and if HE finds His PH leaders, from Tommy Monson on down, lacking, He has the ability and the will to direct them (us) all to shape up. In event of said “dressing down”, I wouldn’t want to be the proverbial “fly on the wall.”

    Bishops and SPs have been specifically directed that they are NOT marriage counselors and that however useful their respective spiritual insights may be (I will not disparage a Church leader until proven ineffective, and some have in fact been shown wanting…), that other resources of a more “temporal” nature (LDS Family Services, the hotline for child abuse, etc.) are to be used as appropriate.

    The failures cannot be entirely lumped at the feet of a lay Church leader, who, no matter how much he may care for afflicted members (and given a “triaging” need if things are THAT desperate, will typically aid and comfort the sisters before any brother). The primary onus is the prerpetrator himself, to repent, seek counseling and forgiveness (if warranted) to mend his ways. Some has to lay upon the victim herself (I’m being specific as to an LDS man abusing his wife, that’s NOT the only scenario of abuse, unfortunately) to persist in seeking help from whever it’s available (the Church, law enforcement and/or the legal system where applicable, other aiding groups, e.g. WEAVE, etc.) and to REFUSE to suffer in silence.

    Standing up for oneself is a fundemental human response to aggression, I know of nothing in any marriage covenant, especially the temple ceremony, that obviates this fundemental right and shred of dignity.

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  37. Stephen R. Marsh on April 4, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    “Giving the priesthood to women didn’t solve all of CofChrist’s problems…rather” — and therein is the rub.

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  38. […] episode 443 posted on October 16, 2013.  In a recent post, Fiona Givens took exception to my characterization of her comments from her Mormon Stories interview from October.  I promised to transcribe the whole interview […]

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