When I first heard about the OW movement, it was in regards to them asking to be admitted to the Priesthood session of General Conference in Fall of 2013. At the time, there was a lot of backlash, but I was not as quick to give in to the “OH THEY’RE BEING DIFFERENT, LET’S HATE THEM” aspect of it all.
After some research, I felt a few ways:
- My heart goes out to the women who are struggling with their worth and place in God’s eyes.
- I applaud the way these women are not afraid of asking questions.
- There is imperfection on both sides.
To be more specific, I recognize that women not having the priesthood is a huge issue for a lot of Mormon women. It’s hard not to feel oppressed or unfairly represented when all of the people who have the final say about everything are male.
If I were to break any huge commandments that would require me to have a disciplinary counsel, I would have to stand in front of a panel of men and have them judge me for my sins. Even acts as simple as confessing to the Bishop can be excruciatingly uncomfortable without a woman around.
If you look at it from a perspective of “rank,” all the positions of “power” are given to men. Men run the church on most levels. When this is brought up, often times these men will say “well we created a special program just for you,” meaning the Relief Society, but the rebuttal comes across demeaning and patronizing–as if the RS was meant as a bread crumb thrown to us to stop our fussing.
It is very easy to view the priesthood and the OW movement as black and white. Men have the priesthood, women don’t. Men can do this, women can’t.
But we’ve been told we’re equals our whole lives, right? So HOW COME?
I’m sure it’s obvious that I’ve had these thoughts myself. I’ve had nights where I had to come to terms, frankly, with being a woman. I imagine these fellow sisters of mine in the same hard place, but unable to find solace or answers. When I look at it in that light, my heart aches for them and I want nothing more than to see them receive the same answers that I’ve felt affirmed to me.
That’s why when I first heard about the OW movement, I was supportive of these women attempting to make themselves heard by the brethren about the idea of ordaining women to the priesthood.
But then conference came and went, and the brethren did not announce that women would be getting the priesthood.
Then the next conference came in the Spring of 2014, and the OW movement was stronger and in full force. At this point, I became confused.
Didn’t they receive their answer, I wondered? As I looked into the movement, I found that Kate Kelly and her group did not seem to be saying, “brethren, please ask God if the time is right for us to have the priesthood” as I once thought, but rather seemed to be demanding “brethren, ask God to let us have the priesthood and we won’t rest until the answer is yes.” To me, that second part of the equation is what eventually changed my opinion on the movement.
I am all for asking questions, but at what point does it pass the point of coming to our Heavenly Father in earnest and sincere desire, and turn to rebellious distrust of God’s appointed leaders?
I’ll admit: when I saw that Kate Kelly was being threatened with excommunication on grounds of apostasy, I had to look up the term on lds.org. Here’s something I found from the Teachings of Brigham Young:
Whenever there is a disposition manifested in any of the members of this Church to question the right of the President of the whole Church to direct in all things, you see manifested evidences of apostasy.
To me, the persistence of the OW movement is proof of this in itself. I am of the opinion that Kate Kelly is either in denial, unaware or simply downplaying for her own benefit the power of her movement’s ability to draw people away from the church (as opposed to strengthening their faith). I’ve found that anything that detracts from building up the gospel is against it. Kate Kelly’s OW movement does not build up the church in my eyes, yet they say they’re only asking questions.
Asking questions is never wrong. Sheri Dew said this:
A question posed against a backdrop of doubt and criticism—i.e., “I don’t understand thus and such, so the Church must not be true”—can be debilitating, as it negates faith and leaves a person unable to be guided by the Spirit to learn.
On the other hand, the same question asked in an environment of faith—“I don’t understand thus and such, and I wonder what the Lord will teach me about that question”—demonstrates faith in the Lord and hope that at some point an answer will be made clear. Questions asked in an environment of faith unlock the power of God to answer them.
From what I can see, the first part of that quote seems to go along with the mindset of many in the OW movement when we should be striving to ask questions with the mindset of the latter half of the quote.
Beyond whether or not apostasy was ever committed, I find that the OW movement is simply a misunderstanding of the priesthood power, coming from both men and women.
To expound upon that, the difference between men and women where the priesthood is concerned is not “men have it, women don’t.” To me, it is “men hold the keys, we all have the authority.”
In the Handbook 2: Administering the Church, it states:
Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood leaders to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth. The exercise of priesthood authority is governed by those who hold its keys. Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction.
Joseph F. Smith said:
While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, it has not been conferred upon them, that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. … A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation.
And finally, this wonderful quote from Elder Oaks in the spring 2014 conference:
We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.
This says it all. When I am the Ward Choir Director and I lead my choir, I am leading them under the authority of the priesthood, as conferred to me through being set apart by those that hold the keys. Same goes for every calling in the church. It has become clear to me that those who follow and support the OW movement do so because they are too hung up on the “he has, but I don’t have” part of it and do not realize that God’s House is a House of Order, and roles of the priesthood–as far as who holds it–is simply a matter of administrative duties.
I truly believe that all positions and appointments in the church are equal, but because our God is not chaotic, there has to be someone to do the paperwork and who is designated to hold the reins (or keys).
Perhaps it helps to think of them as janitors. They have keys to some rooms, and you can go in all the rooms and use what’s in them, but someone has to let you in, right? Someone has to keep the key ring! Are janitors better than you because they have the keys? Of course not!
If we dwell on the “he has, but I don’t have” aspect of religion (or life), we will never be able to truly appreciate what we have.
God made men and women as helps that are meet for each other. One was not created as subservient. I think there’s something powerful about the fact that we can only reach the highest degree of the celestial kingdom as a pair. To me that says that God created us as a whole bunch of halves.
I find I can liken it to an apple being cut diagonally: one half has the stem, one half has the base, and both share parts of the core. Each half is not the same, but it is equal in weight and in worth.
Whenever issues like these arise in the gospel, I find it helpful to go back to basic principles about which I do have a testimony; namely, that God loves me just as much as he loves everyone else.
If that is true, how could it be true that I am worth less than men?
We know God loves us equally and sees us as infinite and as beautiful as his male creations.
If that is true, then how could he withhold his greatest power on this Earth from us?
Obviously, he wouldn’t. That means that either a) God does not love women as much as men, or b) we don’t understand our ability to use and partake in the priesthood.
Logic and simple scripture study dictate the latter must be true.
My final words to anyone who may be struggling with this issue are to please pray about it. Read what the leaders have said and have faith that they are inspired to lead God’s church on this Earth. If you don’t have a testimony of that, please find it. Seek for truth and don’t reject the answer if it doesn’t match what you wanted it to be, even if it threatens everything you ever thought you knew and your identity of self.
And because I can’t manage to leave on my own words, here is a great chapter of scripture from the Bible that ought to bring both comfort and understanding, Matthew 7.