Some of our readers and participants have expressed a belief that eligibility for priesthood ought to be extended to women. Iâ€™m curious about the reasoning underlying different participants’ acceptance of this argument. That is, if you believe in the statement â€œthe priesthood should be available to women,â€? what is your rationale for that belief? There seem to be a number of potential possibilities (which are not exclusive).
The first potential rationale is administrative: Priesthood should be available to women for administrative and governance reasons. Priesthood is linked at present to church hierarchy and leadership. Under this rationale, positions of hierarchy and authority should be available to women as well as men; therefore, women should be given the priesthood.
A second rationale potential rationale is ordinance-linked, arising from the ordinance-giving nature of priesthood. Priesthood involves a number of ordinances that hold important places in the Mormon view of spirituality: Baptism, sacrament, and so forth. Without the priesthood, women are unable to officiate in these ordinances, and so women miss out on the full range of potential spiritual experience. This rationale, then, is that women should be given the priesthood so that they can baptize, administer the sacrament, and so forth, and enjoy the spiritual benefits of such participation.
A third potential rationale is doctrinal, and relates to the doctrinal nature of the priesthood. The priesthood is described as the power of God on earth. It is linked to oneâ€™s ability to act in Godâ€™s name. Under this rationale, women should receive the priesthood in order to make clear under church doctrine that they are no less worthy or able to act in Godâ€™s name or employ his power on earth. Under this line of reasoning, a gender divide in priesthood eligibility would be unacceptable even if priesthood were not linked to ordinance-giving or to leadership.
A fourth rationale is a general equality- or difference-related argument. That is, perhaps the harm of women’s exclusion does not arise out of inability to participate in the administrative, ordinance-linked, or doctrinal aspects of priesthood. Perhaps the harm arises from the general practice of drawing lines in the first place. Under this view, women should receive the priesthood not necessarily because of any factor related to priesthood use itself in the church today, but rather because any gendered distinction is suspect, as likely to reinforce negative gender stereotypes.
(A possible corollary to the fourth rationale is that women should receive the priesthood because prohibiting eligibility based on gender creates a perception that women are less valuable in God’s eyes. This could have negative effects, with women treated as less valuable due to that perception. A further corollary might be some kind of “divine discrimination” argument — that is, the argument that without the priesthood, women are less valuable in God’s eyes).
Of course, none of these rationales are exclusive. One could believe that priesthood should be available for reasons both doctrinal, ordinance-related, administrative, and equality-related — or any combination thereof. Or there could be other potential rationales I havenâ€™t noticed.
So, the question: If you believe that the priesthood should be available to women, why do you feel that way? Which of these ideas, if any, contribute to your understanding? How did you arrive at that conclusion?
Thread rules: This is intended as a narrowly-focused thread, focusing on why womenâ€™s priesthood proponents hold their views. General flame-wars, threadjacks, ax-grinding, calls-to-repentance, and so forth relating to women and the priesthood in general will be deleted.
[Also, I understand that this is a sensitive topic, and one where readers may feel uncomfortable commenting onymously. Feel free to comment pseudonymously or anonymously if appropriate; if commenting anonymously, please use markers as appropriate so that readers can tell anon-in-comment-14 apart from anon-in-comment 20 and such.]