You would think that at some point we would learn from past experiences with priesthood bans. Concerning the priesthood and temple ban against people with black African ancestry, President Dallin H. Oaks noted that:
Some people put reasons to the one we’re talking about here, and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that. …
I’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon … by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking. … Let’s don’t make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent.
While I think it’s apparent from my previous post that I don’t agree with President Oaks’s conclusions about the nature of the ban and its relationship to those rationales, I do agree with his point that it is better to use no rationales than it is to use faulty rationales.
Now, our other priesthood ban is the one against women holding the priesthood. While it’s not entirely analogous (women haven’t been ordained to priesthood offices in the modern Church and there have been no indications given by Church leaders that this will change in the future), I feel like this idea is still relevant.
One of the main rationales I’ve heard is that men are innately less righteous than women, so they need priesthood offices and service to push them further in order to be saved (while women do not). This idea is the one recently stated by Brad Wilcox in his now-infamous talk when he said that:
What else don’t women have? Priesthood ordination. They’re not ordained to the priesthood. “Well, how come they’re not ordained to the priesthood?” Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe we should be asking, “Why don’t they need to be” … So what is it that sisters are bringing with them from a premortal life that men are trying to learn through ordination? Maybe that’s the question that ought to be keeping us up at night.
This is a way of saying that women are innately superior to men, and therefore don’t require priesthood ordination to be saved, unlike men. In other words, the idea is that women are on a pedestal while men are worse-off and in need of an extra boost, and it is used to smooth over privileges given to men by making it seem like women are in the better position despite not being allowed access to those privileges.
While I’ve heard this idea repeated many times during my years in the Church, I don’t find it satisfactory for a number of reasons. First among these is the idea that everyone has a fighting chance to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. As Peter the Apostle explained: “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” And as Paul put it, we are expected to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” And, as he added elsewhere, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” To suggest that men are less likely to be saved and that they need the additional growth opportunities of priesthood service is to suggest that God is partial to daughters over sons, that He doesn’t work as well in enabling men to will and to work for his good pleasure, and that male and female are not one in Christ Jesus.
In addition to this theory, one thing that has been expressed is that women aren’t missing out on that much by not being ordained to the priesthood. As Wilcox stated at another point in his talk:
Girls, listen closely, because I don’t know that you’ll ever have somebody explain it quite this point blank again. You have access to every priesthood blessing. There is not one priesthood blessing that you are denied. And you serve with priesthood authority. When you are set apart in a class presidency or you’re set apart as a missionary or in any calling in the church, you serve with priesthood authority. You will go to temples where you will be endowed with priesthood power, and you will dress in priesthood robes.
It’s a statement that women have access to basically all the same necessary things as men who can be ordained to the priesthood, something that Church leaders have been discussing over the last decade. The problem is that combining these two ideas creates a nonsensical situation where women are supposedly not missing out on anything by not being ordained while men need to be ordained because they get something that helps to push them towards salvation (and thus women are missing out on something that men receive through the priesthood).
In any case, the concept is, at its root, a more palatable update to a more overtly misogynistic version of the same idea from earlier times. As articulated by President Brigham Young on one occasion: “Women … will be more easily saved than men. They have not sense enough to go far wrong. Men have more knowledge and more power; therefore they can go more quickly and more certainly to hell.” Many early Church leaders were raised in a culture where women were seen as having lesser capacities than men but more likely to be saved. That idea was also tied to the belief that polygamy was necessary because far more women would be saved than men. The current rendition doesn’t say that women are inherently less intelligent, which is an improvement at least, but it is still rooted in these deeply sexist views.
That same culture that early Church leaders were raised within led some men to argue against giving women the right to vote. Despite Utah Territory being one of the first areas in the United States to give women the vote, there was some opposition to including that right in the Utah State Constitution, particularly on the part of Elder B. H. Roberts. He stated that one of his reasons for opposing women’s suffrage was that engaging in politics would ruin the blessed state of women: “It was part of wisdom for women to keep separate and apart from such places and such embroilments, that they might not become the subjects of jest and gibes of low-down characters whose mouths you cannot stop.” He added that: “She is in danger of sacrificing that which is dearer than the ballot to every sensitive woman—that she is in danger of sacrificing that sensitiveness of soul, in danger of sacrificing the high regard of men, which ever goes with true womanhood.” It’s notable that he held women to a higher standard than men, noting that while quarreling and arguing among men was “degrading and disgraceful to them,” he felt that, “ten times more would we feel the disgrace had women been engaged in it.” He even compared political participation to chewing tobacco, which he believed was “a vice, a hundred times more disgusting in her than in man.” Roberts believed that women were too good to be involved in politics and used that as an argument in favor of excluding them, which has some parallels to arguments made about women being more likely to be saved from men and therefore too good to be involved in priesthood.
One final, more personal, reasons is that stating that women are superior to men as an excuse to withhold the priesthood from women is a sexist idea that cuts both ways. It impacts the role that women have in the Church, but it also tells men that they are worth less in the eyes of God (in a backwards sort of way). I was raised in a feminist household, so hearing about how men are less intelligent than women at home combined with hearing rhetoric like this at Church led me to deeply internalize the idea that I was inferior because of my sex. While I recognize that I am still in a place of privilege because I’m a man in the Church, my main point here is that teaching that women are more righteous by nature is something that is ultimately harmful to both women and men.
Thus, there are several good reasons to not use the idea that men need priesthood ordination and service to push them through to exaltation while women do not. First, to state this is to suggest that God does not treat everyone equally. Second, combining this idea with other defenses of not ordaining women creates a jumble of contradictory ideas. Third, the idea has roots in extremely sexist ways of viewing things. Fourth, similar ideas were used to advocate against women’s suffrage, but as was noted by Abby Hansen recently:
Choosing who to vote for was described as a burden that men took on reluctantly, but heroically. Many women believed that was the case for a very long time, until they realized that it wasn’t true at all. Having power and being involved in decision making (not by just influencing the men in their lives, but by actually having a vote themselves) wasn’t a burden – it was a blessing!
And fifth, it’s a sexist idea that causes harm to both women and men. Together, these reasons make me doubt that claiming that women are inherently superior and thus don’t need priesthood ordination while men do need it is a good idea.
Which brings me back to my original point. We need to stop perpetuating bad ideas in defense of practices in the Church. I don’t know why women aren’t ordained to the priesthood. What I do know, though, is that it is better to say that we don’t know why something is the way it is than it is to make up ideas that have no basis in the scriptures or revelations and which end up causing more harm than good. It is better to use no rationales than it is to use faulty rationales.
 Dallin H. Oaks, cited in “Apostles Talk about Reasons for Lifting Ban,” Daily Herald, Provo, Utah [5 June 1988]: 21 [Associated Press]; reproduced with commentary in Dallin H. Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned: Personal Reflections [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2011], 68-69
 Acts 10:34-35, NRSV.
 Philippians 2:12-13, NRSV.
 Galatians 3:27-28, NRSV.
 Cited in William Hepworth Dixon, New America (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1867), 241.
 Official Report of the Proceedings and Debates of the Convention Assembled at Salt Lake City on the Fourth Day of March, 1895, to Adopt a Constitution for the State of Utah, Volume I. (Star Printing Company, Salt Lake City, 1898), 587, https://images.archives.utah.gov/digital/collection/3212/id/10083
 Abby Hansen, “What Do You Do When Brad Wilcox and John Bytheway No Longer Have All the Answers?”, 8 February 2022, Exponent II, https://www.the-exponent.com/what-do-you-do-when-brad-wilcox-and-john-bytheway-no-longer-have-all-the-answers/
Thank you for this wonderful post. I think we fail to appreciate the extent to which the culture of early nineteenth century America influenced and constrained the church at its inception. We blindly accept damaging cultural baggage from a very different time as doctrine or policy from God. Polygamy is another topic about which people love to provide unhelpful rationales.
Once again, amen. Great post.
Thank you very much.
I long for the day when we can simply and openly state that what we did in the past was wrong. But Church leaders fear that undermines the concept of prophetic. Besides, to do so would give Kirton and McConkie heart failure, and they might excommunicate the First Presidency…..
People and organizations gain in stature when they can bring themselves to admit that what they did in the past was wrong. For crying out loud, think of Joseph Smith’s prevarications about polygamy, and his lying to Emma.
Let us not fall into the trap of lying for the Lord.
A favorite phrase of mine about attempting to rationalize past wrongs: it is better to just keep quiet, rather than opening one’s mouth and say something stupid, and thereby removing any doubt about whether the original statement was stupid. (Which is one of the points of this post.)
Chad, I agree that it’s better to live without concrete explanations that to come up with goofy theories. Amen to that.
On the subject of women and the priesthood: While I agree that we really don’t know why women haven’t been ordained I think we should be careful not to go the other direction with our assumptions. That is, we should be careful not take the world’s explanations at face value either–not that that’s what you’re saying–because I don’t think the world will ever have as its goal the establishment of a kingdom of priests and priestesses. It just doesn’t go there.
That said, while it’s certainly important to recognize that Adam and Eve are equal–in that neither is superior to the other–I loathe a community where men to do not view women as superior to themselves. I believe that cherishing women is the most natural thing in the world for honorable men to do–which, IMO, stems from a desire to safeguard that which is most sacred and holy above all.
A very good analysis but completely wrong on the premise. Truth is not found through idly assuming what is is right and stopping. Truth is found through active searching that entails professing a view, testing it, and then correcting the view based on evidence. As Joseph taught, “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” As modern scripture says, “You must study it out in your mind …”
The truth is that women should be ordained to priesthood office. They have been excluded through false traditions just like the racial priesthood ban was founded on false traditions. These errors will only be corrected through testing the rationales and finding them false. To simply accept the status quo without question rather than risk proffering a faulty rationale is to damn one’s own progression.
We should not stop discussion of women’s ordination. We should study, ponder, pray, and wrestle with the issue. We have done so on many other gender exclusions – missionary service, prayers in sacrament meeting, baptism witnesses, and so forth. In all these instances, the wrestle has lead to a realization that the exclusion is wrong and an outpouring of greater blessings as the exclusion is removed. So it will be with women’s inclusion in all rites that require priesthood office.
If priesthood is commodified, if it is treated as property, it follows that a slave, for whom it is unlawful to own property, has no right to priesthood. For Latter-Day Saints, priesthood became commodified with Brigham Young: after the loss of Joseph and Hyrum, priesthood “keys” of wisdom and knowledge were bureaucratically transfigured into arbitrary offices of authority. The commodification of power and authority is the root of the priesthood issue that Latter Day Saints avoid talking about.
I’ve heard LDS leadership define priesthood as “the power and authority to act in the Name of God.” This describes what priesthood does, but not what-priesthood-is. What constitutes the “power” and what constitutes the “authority” of priesthood? If we free up priesthood from the chains of man’s right and property, we get to a place where priesthood is something recognized by ordinance or by act. In other words, priesthood is what priesthood does; priesthood is not his or hers any more than shared-group-knowledge is his or hers.
It might be a good idea for LDS to study the wisdom of modern Jews and how they deal with gender roles and religious authority. I imagine someday the Mikvah ordinance will be absorbed into the Restored Church and women will come to officiate in ritual washing and anointing in the temple (just as anciently practiced). The ordination of women to priesthood would satisfy Utah-centric factions, but would isolate the Restored Church from Orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Muslim peoples that identify as Israelites to be gathered–ordaining women doesn’t serve the religious consciousness of worldwide majorities, it serves loud, zealous minorities. Until then, it may better serve us to explore more inclusive callings: a bishop and his wife to bishopric, a second counselor and her husband to relief society presidency, and so forth.
Dave, one thing to keep in mind with my writing style is that I generally have a very specific point I’m making and then I try to leave room for people to come to their own conclusions beyond that point. You can read this post as an “at least don’t do this” with the implication that you can go further in the direction you have indicated. Or you can read it as “you don’t have to challenge the policy, but please don’t use this as an excuse for the policy.” Either way, the central point of the article remains the same, which given that this rationale is repeated quite frequently, is still a challenge to the stats quo.
IMO, priesthood is essentially divine investiture–or the right to receive it based upon one’s personal righteousness. When Alma speaks of how high priests were ordained in a manner that thereby the people might know how to look forward to the Son of God for redemption–that’s what he’s imply–IMO. When we think of President Nelson as one who possesses all priesthood keys what we have is a figure through whom all salvific power flows–as if he were standing in the place of the Savior. He is invested with the power, authority, and even the presence of Christ in order to be able to do the works of Christ.
Travis, I wouldn’t be surprised to see women serving more in the ways you’ve described toward the end of your comment. We already see women being called to serve with their husbands as temple matrons and as companions to their mission president-husbands. My sense is that as we continue to cross the broad threshold of the Millennium we’ll probably see more opportunities for women to serve in priesthood capacities along with their husbands–following the pattern found in the temple. I think it’s cool to see general authorities including their wives in their ministries–initiating a pattern of priests and priestesses serving together in the church.
That said–and I could be wrong–I’m not convinced that we’ll ever see the priesthood–as it is today–equally distributed among men and women. To me that undercuts the necessity of there needing to be both men and women in the first place. They must work together–side by side–but they are not the same nor should we ever expect them to be the same–though it is vital they learn to be one with each other. Their innate differences suggest that their work and responsibilities will be different and therefore require unique levers and measures and whatnot to enable them to function in their respective capacities as priests and priestesses.
That and that said, my sense is that the earth needs to be cleansed before a fulness of both priesthoods can be openly revealed. I’m of the opinion that the matriarchal priesthood simply cannot function (openly) in a system that is not zion-like. Whereas certain aspects of the patriarchal priesthood can by introduced into the fallen world and serve as an Elias of sorts to lead us into a better–or more sacred–situation where the fulness of the priesthood is found. And it seems to me that we’re beginning to see evidence in the operations of the church today that point toward that “perfect day” when men and women will rule together in the Kingdom as priests and priestesses.
Getting into real tricky ground with gender differences. I once remember going to do baptisms before they had the strict guidelines and doing hundreds of baptisms in a row. I remember being the baptizer and after about 200 baptisms in a row I was really feeling it physically. There is definitely the aspect of physical strength that comes into play with the performing of the ordinances. Another closely related aspect here is that Christ was a male. All of his apostles were male, both in the old world and the new world. If we are to follow Christ then his example has shown this gender role and purpose. I don’t know why exactly it is this way, but certainly we don’t question Christ for being male and don’t question him for choosing all male apostleship to lead and direct his church.
Chad, thank you for the clarifications. To explain my response, I am trying to charitably disagree with your premise: Better to Use No Rationales Than Faulty Ones. You set out an excellent analysis as to why many of the rationales for excluding women from priesthood ordination are flawed. But I disagree that it would be better to just sit by waiting for God to direct us than to wrestle with the issue and risk proffering faulting explanations.
To use a poor analogy, children learn to make pancakes by making pancakes. The first batches will be faulty but that’s the process. There’s no other way to get to good pancakes than through faulty ones. Likewise, revelation comes through study, prayer, discussion, and yes – offering up views for discussion that may be completely off base. We’re required to make our best attempt at ‘why’ and then seek direction as to whether it is correct.
The racial priesthood ban would not have been corrected if faulty reasons were not presented and then proved false. It was painful, but a necessary part of the repentance process. Likewise, the exclusion of women from priesthood ordination will not be corrected if we simply assume the restriction is correct and decline to wrestle with they ‘why.’ As with the racial ban, the ‘why’ is us, not God. So you should certainly continue with dissecting the errors in Brother Wilcox’s and others’ faulty explanations, but realize that real progress will only come as you (and we all) try to offer up better explanations.
Rob, are you seriously suggesting that women are not physically strong enough to perform baptisms (or administer the sacrament or perform blessings)? I hope not, as that would make Wilcox’s explanation look sane in comparison. The reason Christ selected only male apostles was because the people in His day were not ready for women’s inclusion (just as we still are not). He waits patiently for us to drop our prejudices.
Dave, I completely agree with you on the idea that we need to keep looking for why women are not ordained in order to figure out that it isn’t from God because there is no good reason. We do that by guessing why, and then figuring out that our guess cannot be correct. But there is an assumption in there that you seem to be making that I stated and you didn’t. I really don’t think the sexist ban on women having priesthood is anything but human men being sexist, so I want to expose that as the underlying reason. I guess you wanted to state you position more diplomatically than I did.
The other assumption that you are warning against is that the female priesthood ban comes from God, and so we don’t need a reason, so we should quit making up bad reasons and second guessing God. “God said so,” should be enough. I don’t like that assumption because it throws God under the bus without examining why God might do that. That assumption makes me feel that God does not love his daughters, so I think it needs examining.
We’re all shooting assumptions around. Im just stating an obvious point that certain ordinances do take some physical exertion.
One area we are afraid to address is the logistical nightmare of having women ordained and serving side by side with men in leadership positions. So many times I have went out with the Bishop by ourselves yo minister. That completely doesn’t work if she is a woman.
Dave and Anna, those are very good points. I was too focused on making the point not to use this excuse and overlooked the idea of continuing to put out and test hypotheses because of that focus.
‘That completely doesn’t work if she is a woman.’
Errr…. Why not? I can’t see how it is any different than a male co worker and I working on a project together and doing a site inspection…?
We have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. We know they are omnipotent and omniscient. If we have an all powerful Mother, then it’s completely absurd to bar women from this same power and authority that She has. Church leaders insist that this power is the priesthood. They have made comments before about it being the power that organized the universe, the power that governs, the power that unlocks mysteries, the power of godliness, essentially.
The church claims women are destined for divinity as goddesses and priestesses. If we truly believe women are made in God’s image, then there is no reason they should be denied priesthood power, authority, offices, keys, etc.
What truly impartial and loving parents would set up a system that gave only their sons all decision-making authority and power? What parents would bless their daughters with the gift of healing and then forbid them from using it? What parents would allow their daughters to perform ordinances for one temple ceremony but ban them from performing ordinances elsewhere? Everything that is discriminatory and illogical is man-made. The gospel, with all its privileges and responsibilities, was always intended for everyone: male and female, black and white, bond and free. It is only man’s arrogance and hatred that has kept everyone from these blessings and that still keeps women from them today.
It doesn’t work because it puts a female in close prolonged contact with a male by themselves both of which are probably married to other people. Too much can go wrong. We cannot work that way, it’s not proper and doesn’t look good. There are times where I may be with the Bishop and we are alone together for hours. Nothing wrong with that. But if that person is of the opposite sex it creates a myriad of problems, everything from jealousy, to accusations, to cheating, flirting, sin, etc.
Rob, I am capable of controlling my sexual impulses. And I respect most men enough that I assume they can too. And if you can’t, then I can slap you silly. See, people can cheat on their spouse whether or not they work together for hours, and I think if people are going to cheat, they will arrange to be together. They make a decision to cheat. It doesn’t happen by accident.. And in today’s world, men and women are expected to work together, go out of town at the same time, and still expected to act like adults, not horny rabbits.
And why should only women be punished for some people’s unwillingness to control themselves? That sound just as stupid and unfair as saying women are too unintelligent to hold priesthood, or men are too lazy and need to be pushed into doing their duty.
Things change over time. For example, many Latter-day Saints feel strongly about the existence of heavenly mothers, but many haven’t accepted that thought as doctrine. Surely, as members of the church change in their understandings, structural changes will follow.
First of all, women can do anything men can do, including dunking someone under water. To think otherwise is just beyond comprehension.
Second of all, like Anna, 50% of my colleagues are women. I’ve travelled overnight with them and not only have I not cheated on my wife, I’ve never even considered cheating on my wife. Perhaps your sentence “We cannot work that way, it’s not proper and doesn’t look good.” should be modified to say “I (Rob) cannot work that way, it’s not proper and doesn’t look good.” Perhaps if men and women share church responsibilities, you will need to simply opt out.
If for some reason Anna and I are the exceptions, then the solution is not necessarily the status quo. The solution is that men should give the women a chance. According to Brad Wilcox, the women are better anyway. Why we allow our very important organization to completely shut out the best and brightest is again, beyond comprehension.
Back to the OP, yes yes and yes. Thank you for taking the time to write this amazing post.
I have enjoyed most of the comments.
As to women receiving the Priesthood. My grown daughter has made an excellent point: she doesn’t know if she wants to receive the Priesthood, but she thinks she should have the option to be ordained if she wants.
Tradition is important, but if there are weaknesses in the tradition, then for goodness’ sake, change it. Whatever happened to revelation that changes the order of things?
One last note: if a man has a problem in working with a woman, then HE is the problem—whether in Church, business, or the military.
I wish the people who wrote some of the comments to this post could have met my wife—a very nice woman who did not hesitate to tell Church priesthood leaders they were wrong. Most were smart enough to accept her strength with good grace.
I frankly think many Priesthood holders are afraid of women; hence the hesitancy to give them equal opportunities. All masked as respect for tradition of course. People used to fear vaccines (unfortunately, some still do). But they came around.
Illigitimit non carborundum. Things will change, someday. Let us try to wait with patience, hard though it may be.
The reality of it is that it’s not proper for a man and woman to work closely together alone. Call me old school or whatever but there is a reason the church teaches over and over how man and woman shouldn’t work together alone if they are married to someone else.
I can control myself too. That’s not my point. You create a myriad of undesirable situations that are not conducive to God’s work with situations where a man and a woman would work alone, by themselves together. And I know far too many people, both men and women who cheat on their spouse or flirt or create awkward or compromising situations because they are alone together for extended periods. I’ll be straight up honest- it’s not God’s way to have those situations. Marrige must be protected. Part of that protection and security is not allowing situations that could compromise ones marriage health. It’s the way of heaven too, not just here.
1. Women are not responsible for men’s choices. We are each responsible for our own choices.
2. I keep hearing anecdotally that BYU graduates are on the verge of being undesirable hires because so many are not able to work in modern business settings. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but attitudes like yours make it seem more possible.
3. I don’t see any reason to accept that your personal lack of self-control should limit my opportunities.
4. There are gay men in the church. Does male lack of self-control mean that men can’t work together either?
Take it up with the Lord’s annointed apostles. It’s not just me saying this stuff.
I will say this, there is godly wisdom in how we separate the genders in church settings with travel, assignments, callings etc.
Rob, since this a post about faulty rationales for excluding women, let me just say that even assuming men and women cannot be trusted to be together solo in church settings, nothing in that assumption means women shouldn’t be ordained. The simple solution would be a policy to require gender exclusive presidencies. So a female bishop would have female counselors and go on ministering exchanges with other female ward council members. The male ward council members would likewise go together. Larger counsels such as high councils could easily be 50/50 splits so that anytime two council members need to travel together they do so in same-sex pairs. It’s extreme overkill to exclude women from administering the sacrament, blessing their babies, and serving in leadership roles with men just because some of the membership is prone to have an affair of left unattended.
Sounds like a logistical nightmare. Like I said, there is godly wisdom in how it is currently set up. We dont have to know exactly why it is the way it is but it’s withstood some measure of the tests of time.
Dave K.: “The reason Christ selected only male apostles was because the people in His day were not ready for women’s inclusion (just as we still are not). He waits patiently for us to drop our prejudices.”
While I’m open to the possibility that what you say might be true–there’s no way to prove it. I think you’re making an assumption based on what a secular egalitarian society believes is fair play for women–which may or may not line up with how things are done in the Lord’s Kingdom.
Chadwick: “First of all, women can do anything men can do, including dunking someone under water. To think otherwise is just beyond comprehension.”
Maybe. Even so, one has to agree that men cannot do everything that women can do. ;>) Sometimes I wish we could return to an agrarian-like society–just as a reminder of how interdependent men and women really are.
Re: Priesthood Ban on Women: I know this is “old hat” for a lot of folks–but are men “banned” from giving birth? Can’t there be something inherent in our design that has something to do with the workings of the priesthood? I know that many folks don’t like the priesthood-motherhood corollary–but hear me out. In a certain sense motherhood is priesthood on a micro level and priesthood is motherhood on a macro level. They’re both in the business of organizing and nurturing bodies. And while they both overlap they also have primary responsibilities that are not shared.
And so, as I stated above, I believe there is a matriarchal priesthood–but it isn’t fully manifest in the world at present. And it won’t be, IMO, until the world is prepared to receive it. But the fact that it is present–in some measure–in the temple suggests to me that it is visible in more elevated or sacred spaces. I like to use Moses’ portable temple as a model–where the male priesthood deals with the dross of the outer court and protects and preserves the entire layout. While the female priesthood is mostly involved with that which can only take place within the sacred precincts of the enclosed tabernacle.
Not only is this an eternal pattern–it is a common pattern that has found its way into the fallen world as a natural out growth of our design as male and female. The average house in the west is patterned after the temple–with an outer court and an enclosed tabernacle with spaces that increase in sanctity as we move deeper into the structure. It is not an accident that such types are manifest in society–nor is it an accident that men typically protect the entire property while women govern within the sanctuary–with the understanding that there is always some degree of overlap.
I understand that these ideas may be difficult for some folks–and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone. Even so, my intent is to show how both priesthoods–though not identical–are equally vital to the purposes and maintenance of the Lord’s Kingdom in eternity.
Who could have guessed that something in T&S would get me humming Alan Jackson’s “She Just Started Liking Cheatin’ Songs”
To be honest I do dislike making priesthood and bearing children equivalent. There is nothing about the differences in my body compared to a woman’s body that makes it so I can speak the words of an ordinance, put my hands on someone’s head or lead meetings and make decisions while a woman cannot. Though, perhaps there is something I’m overlooking about my body and human physical dimorphisms that is inherently tied to priesthood.
The other part of that is while I can’t bear or feed babies, beyond that, I am capable of nurturing and raising children too. I know from previous conversations with you, Jack, that you’re a family man too, so I suspect you will agree that actively engaging in fatherhood doesn’t require a womb. I do have a general frustration with American society that there seems to be the expectation that fathers can volunteer to help take care of their children, but it isn’t something that they are required to do, it’s just something that is nice for them to do. I feel that I have an obligation to do everything I can to take care of them and be involved in their lives as an equal partner with my wife. And part of why I dislike making motherhood equivalent to priesthood is that I have seen men use that as an excuse to dump all domestic responsibilities on their wives because they have Church duties.
Chad, I certainly agree that men should be deeply involved in the nurturing of their children. IMO, every child needs a close relationship with his or her father. Even so, you’d be hard pressed to convince me that “rough and tumble” is the same with mom as it is with dad. While children need the close care of both a mother and a father–it’s also important that the get what only a mom and only a dad can give them respectively.
Re: Making priesthood and child bearing equivalent: First off–just to be clear–I didn’t say priesthood and child bearing. I said priesthood and motherhood and then spoke of how the two are similar in that they are both in the business of organizing *and* nurturing bodies–one an a micro level and the other an a macro level with obvious overlap between the two.
Even so, I think what we’re really talking about–on a grand scale–is eternal matriarchy and patriarchy–which is the same as being a king and a queen in the Lord’s Kingdom. But as it happens what we’ve been given to launch us toward a fulness is that portion of the priesthood that abides in the church today. And so an incomplete male priesthood and a female priesthood that has yet to be revealed in the world are equivalent enough–at this time–to get the work of the Kingdom rolling until a fulness of both is revealed.
Just to respond a little better to some of your specific points:
“Though, perhaps there is something I’m overlooking about my body and human physical dimorphisms that is inherently tied to priesthood.”
Certainly technology has helped to close the gap between men and women vis-a-vis hard physical labor like felling trees or breaking up rocks. Nevertheless, there are strong emotional and psychological differences that should not be overlooked.
“The other part of that is while I can’t bear or feed babies, beyond that, I am capable of nurturing and raising children too.”
I agree. But some of your time and strength must be given to protecting and providing for your family so that your wife can bear and feed your little ones. That means there will be some differences in how each of you serve the needs of your families
“I know from previous conversations with you, Jack, that you’re a family man too, so I suspect you will agree that actively engaging in fatherhood doesn’t require a womb.”
Of course not. Even so, inasmuch as your wife walks through the valley of the shadow of death in order to bring forth and nurture human life you must be willing to give your life in order to protect her and the child–that which is most sacred and holy above all. You must serve as a shield between them and the world.
“I feel that I have an obligation to do everything I can to take care of them and be involved in their lives as an equal partner with my wife.”
I agree, brother. But as you’ve probably gathered from what I’ve said above–equality doesn’t mean sameness. Of course, there’s a lot of over lapping in parenting–and that’s the way it should be. But even so, the world has gone too far (IMO) in it’s attempt to level the playing field. The positive differences between men and women should be maximized not minimalized. Children need fathers who are good men and mothers who are good women–not two interchangeable caregivers with little to no distinction between them. Otherwise, why Adam and Eve?
Extrapolating from the data points of 1986 and 2018, the future of priesthood in the church I envision is “Two down, one to go.”
Thirty-six years ago it was revealed that there should not be Seventies quorums throughout the stakes leading the proclamation of the gospel to the unbaptized living within organized stakes. A couple quorums of Seventies administering central committees was all that was needed from that priesthood office. Four years ago we learned that we have far too many serving in the office of high priest. A couple dozen in each stake manning the bishoprics and high council are all there should be, and those released from those callings are no longer members of a high priests’ quorum. (As with the shift from “general authority emeritus” to “former general authority,” former high councilors and bishops’ counselors may eventually also be considered former high priests.) With increasing equivalence of the Relief Society and Elders’ Quorum, it may in a future decade be found that there is no reason for the men to be ordained to service that the women also perform without ordination. In those future wards the only priest most latter-day saints will encounter most months will be their bishop, who will be male.
John, I always like what you have to say–though I can’t always tell where the humor begins and ends in your comments. If what you say is true–even theoretically–my sense is that even if there were less need for priesthood ordination in order to run the church in the future it is the patriarchal order that will eventually be running the show anyway–as the order of things will be much more centered on family governance–IMO.
These lines from “Heretics of Dune” by Frank Herbert seem apropos:
“Curiosity unsatisfied tended to create its own answers. Guesses were often more dangerous than facts.”
“You must serve as a shield between them and the world.”
What this conversation has led me to is a deep sense of gratitude that I live in a time and place where adult women and adult men behave as adults. Perhaps there are generational differences underlying the positions being expressed…?
I am soooo glad that I can hold professional and volunteer positions is amazing organizations where no one thinks I am having an affair because I’m friends with a male co-worker. I’m even more glad that I am strong, capable, and intelligent enough as a woman not to need ‘a male shield’ and that my spouse and I have the ability to work out a shared parenting/household system that nurtures or kids, keeps the house running, and allows every member of our family to put to work their god-given gifts.
The exodus of young members from our congregations is and will continue to be tied to this issue. My daughters and I are respected as equals and as leaders in our professional lives. One heads a tech company where she supervises over 100 employees. More than half are men. One works as a recreational therapist in memory care where she supervises men and women. My other daughter owns her own law firm. All attend and lead work meetings. Travel with their coworkers and present at conferences. Only in the church are they regulated to roles that ultimately require they are accountable to men. Only in church are they kept out of ultimate decision making and denied autonomous leadership. Only at church are they not trusted in one on one meetings with men. A close reading of the New And Old Testament offers us compelling female leaders that the church glosses over. We will not keep our women by continuing to ignore their talents and spiritual gifts. My grandmothers gave healing blessings. Lead as a relief society Presidents with their own independent budgets. We have taken so many steps backwards from the kingdom of priest promised by Joseph.
@RexT: “What this conversation has led me to is a deep sense of gratitude that I live in a time and place where adult women and adult men behave as adults. Perhaps there are generational differences underlying the positions being expressed…?”
I think this sums it up nicely. Some generations just love the status quo. Some don’t. Nuff said.
I actually had not considered what John Mansfield wrote. Jack seems to think it’s in jest. I didn’t get that impression, so I’m going to engage with it on face value. Perhaps the goal really should be a society without classes. I like it (other than the bishop being male; would love to see a bishop just be the most qualified person for the job).
“would love to see a bishop just be the most qualified person for the job”
What do “qualifications” have to do with anything? Bishop is not a “job.” Your bishop is your bishop much as your grandparents are your grandparents without you and your cousins having had any say in whether they are the most qualified for the position. Maybe they are mediocre or lousy grandparents. Still your grandparents, and wishing for others would be a misunderstanding.
I agree Bishop is not a job. Bishops don’t get paid.
We are taught that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies. So qualification seems to have pretty much everything to do with the matter.
That doesn’t seem like the sort of qualification that lends itself to a ranked ordering with someone being most qualified, another second-most qualified, etc. It seems more like the sort where someone either qualifies or he doesn’t, and whether he is superlative at what he has qualified to do it another matter.
Two points of clarification:
Chad, I see that my responses to you are bit condescending. Sorry, brother. I was trying to speak generally–but they come across as a charge to you personally. That wasn’t my intent.
Also, I want to clarify that even though I believe men and women function best together in “traditional roles” that’s not to say that I don’t believe women to be capable at whatever they choose to do. Women rock. I know–I have five daughters.
That said, just to clarify generally: while I believe that protecting women and children should be a priority for every man in every situation, it is especially incumbent upon men to protect their own. And I believe that a man’s desire to protect his own is a pattern that comes out of eternity. It is a vestige of how the matriarchal and patriarchal priesthoods work together. The latter shields the former as a layer of protection from chaos–not because the woman is weaker than the man. But because the fact that she is a life giver places her at the fulcrum of eternity–the most sacred space of all. And so, the seeming hierarchy between the two is about the maintenance and navigation of sacred space–more than anything else.
Jack, God is made up of a father in heaven, and a mother in heaven. Being a God mother in heaven creates worlds. Her priesthood is not matriachal it is the same as father God….
Why bother it inform you, you are stuck in your conservative world.
Jack: You are constructing a house of cards here. You make assumptions (and they are assumptions) about a “matriarchal and patriarchal priesthood” and then you build on that foundation making all sorts of claims. Your assumptions and then your claims based on your assumptions may appeal to some people. But not to me. It rings hollow to me. To me it appears that you are assuming that the status quo is correct, and then you start working backwards to various assumptions and claims. If that comforts you, then you can have at it. But I don’t believe that you are seeing the irony of you promoting such claims as a part of post which warns against using faulty claims in the service of a church practice or teaching. Can’t you see that you are doing exactly what Chad Neilsen is describing and warning against? Your assumptions and claims might reassure you but believe me when I tell you that they are painful claims for some. These are the kinds of claims that can cause some people throw in the towel; to lose their faith. As Chad Nielsen said: it is better to not try to build a set of explanations to fill a vacuum. It is better to leave the void empty.
From the original post: “Which brings me back to my original point. We need to stop perpetuating bad ideas in defense of practices in the Church. I don’t know why women aren’t ordained to the priesthood. What I do know, though, is that it is better to say that we don’t know why something is the way it is than it is to make up ideas that have no basis in the scriptures or revelations and which end up causing more harm than good. It is better to use no rationales than it is to use faulty rationales.”
Stephen you might be correct in suggesting that I’m making too many assumptions. On the other hand, I think where I might be making my most egregious errors is in how I label things. Even so, I think it’s fair to assume that because it is the destiny of both men and women–who continue in the covenant–to become priests and priestesses (respectively) that those offices will pertain to a priesthood of sorts. Now whether those two particular offices pertain to one priesthood or two separate priesthoods I cannot say for sure. But the one thing that seems certain to me is that to be a priest in the Lord’s Kingdom pertains to the patriarchal order–as per the Abrahamic covenant. And to be a priestesses — while that office may be found under the umbrella of one overarching priesthood order — is matriarchal in nature and, therefore, may be *termed* (IMO) a matriarchal order.
That said, there are other commenters on this thread who have shared their opinions as to why things are the way there are–and you haven’t challenged them. I’m OK with that–I don’t mind a good challenge. But even so, I think the reason for your singling me out may have to do with our opposing biases–more than anything else–because they tend to flash like a neon light compared to those opinions that are more in line with our own. But there are some real humdingers on this thread that we tend to take for granted because they echo the order of the day–as per the social sciences.
I understand your concern for those who might be hurt by my opinions–and I respect you for that. Even so, one could make the same claim about the doctrines that are being preached in our liberal institutions that are in direct conflict with the teachings of the church. What of the Lord’s little ones? Who’s defending them? And how many of them may be lurking–as readers only–on this site or worse–on other sights that never cease to complain about the church?
In response to your earlier comment, Jack, no worries. I didn’t read it as condescending. The main reason I didn’t respond yet was I feel like we’ve reached a point where we’ve both expressed where we are coming from and we both have some different underlying assumptions and biases here. I just didn’t want to get to a point where we were circling through the same thoughts in the conversation.
I suspect the reasons are faulty because they are attempts to reassure faulty assumptions about the way things should be — in this case, justifying inequality when equality was never a consideration.
All I know is that my wife has gifts that bless our family in ways I cannot, and I have gifts that bless our family in ways she cannot. It’s pretty rad.
Bryan, I’m not sure if I’m understanding you correctly. But there are several emphatic statements on this thread declaring that equality should be the order of the day.
Re: Justifying Inequality: I can’t speak for Rob–but I’ve tried to make a clear distinction between equality and sameness.
I love your final paragraph.
I’m responding to the OP by suggesting that the problem with the “faulty rationales” may be that they assume that God better have a good reason for instituting inequality. Perhaps equality is undesirable. Perhaps it’s just not important.
Thanks for the clarification, Bryan–and sorry for butting in.
You make an excellent point.
Equality is not a feeling. I can’t feel equal when i have no real ability to be heard except when permitted by men. I don’t want to be the same as men. I want equality.
I love the idea of abandoning faulty rationales. The comments brought up a few more that we should abandon like (some) women can give birth so they don’t need equality in priesthood ordination and men and women serving together leads to sin (offensive to all).
Additionally, I agree with Anna that we need to name that withholding women from priesthood ordination is sexist.
Finally, I consider myself a feminist. I cringed when I read the line, “I was raised in a feminist household, so hearing about how men are less intelligent than women…” This isn’t feminism; although it was my experience growing up and know it has been for many. When feminists demean or mock men, it’s not feminism, it’s sexism.
Laura, I don’t think it’s wrong for *men* to view women as superior to themselves. I know there are a lot of women these days who are uncomfortable with that notion. But my sense is–if a man doesn’t feel that way (generally) about women then there’s something amiss; something lacking in his understanding of what being a man entails.
“Additionally, I agree with Anna that we need to name that withholding women from priesthood ordination is sexist.”
I know I’ve shared a lot of my own–perhaps faulty–assumptions on this thread–but don’t you think labeling the withholding of the priesthood from women as sexist might stem from faulty assumptions too?
–How do we know that the priesthood is being withheld from women?
–How do we know that if the priesthood is being “withheld” from women that it’s not a matter of timing?
–And if it’s a matter of timing, what are the reasons for the displacement of female ordination in the church?
–Do those reasons have only to do with sexism? Or could there be other reasons?
–How do we know that if/when — and I believe it’s a matter of when — women are endowed with the priesthood that it will be identical to the male priesthood?
–When the fulness of the priesthood is revealed should we expect both priests and priestesses to operate in exactly the same capacities?
–If not, should we suppose that there will be an eternal imbalance between the two? Or can they be “balanced” but not identical?
–What part might complete unification between the man and the woman play in the operations of the priesthood?
Jack, thanks for your response. I feared my tardiness precluded any discussion and was happily surprised to see your comment. I think that to view women as superior to men contributes to keeping them on a pedestal. There’s a blog post on The Exponent II entitled “Pedestal Problem” that addressed this.
As for the other thought provoking questions, here’s my response:
“but don’t you think labeling the withholding of the priesthood from women as sexist might stem from faulty assumptions too?”- It might. But denying one group ordination while offering it another based solely on sex, I think is sexism.
“How do we know that the priesthood is being withheld from women?” We aren’t ordaining women to offices of the priesthood. This is fact. Lack of access to the sacrament during the pandemic showed the inequity here. My 87 year old, endowed, active-her-entire-life grandmother was unable to partake of the sacrament for over a year because she is isn’t ordained to the office of a priest. Had it been my grandfather, he could have blessed his own sacrament at home.
Withholding priesthood ordination might be a matter of timing, there might be other reasons, and they don’t only have to do with sexism, but this is the OPs premise here, “It is better to use no rationales than it is to use faulty rationales.”
Of course, I don’t have answers to the next questions you ask but they do seem to be rooted in complementarianism. That’s just not a belief that I have room for anymore in my faith journey. A fantastic book about this is The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Alison Barr.
Thanks for *your* response. As I looked back on my comment I was worried that it might’ve been little too brusque.
Yeah, I’m a strong proponent of complementarianism–with the understanding that there’s plenty of overlap. So we won’t be able to avoid talking to each other from different camps.
“But denying one group ordination while offering it another based solely on sex, I think is sexism.”
I can understand how it might seem that way on its face. But (IMO) we don’t really know all of the reasons for the disparity. That being said, what you’re suggesting is certainly possible. It’s just that I believe there are better explanations–one of them being a matter of timing (based upon the world’s preparation to receive the fulness of the priesthood).
I’m sorry to hear that about your grandmother. The pandemic has caused people to suffer in more ways than we know. Even so –without wanting to minimize the loss your grandmother must have experienced by not receiving the sacrament — there are so many people who are not able to receive certain blessings or participate to the degree that they would wish for so many different reasons. But that’s not always reason enough for the church to change its practices or doctrines. And so, while we may ache for those who, like your sweet grandma, who must forego certain blessings for a time–through no fault of their own–we can be assured that the desires of their hearts constitute a worthy offering–even as the widow’s mite.
To interject here, though, sexism by definition is prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of sex.
With that in mind, we need to look at the practice itself and any reasons our background for the practice as two separate topics. In this case, the practice is a ban on women holding the priesthood, which is, by definition, discrimination on the basis of sex, no matter how look at it (even if you want to use a softer word than discrimination to describe it). Now, the other part of the question is who is behind the ban (human Church leaders or God) and if there is a reason or long term plan around it, which is more where the disagreement here lies.
“In this case, the practice is a ban on women holding the priesthood…”
Chad, I think we first have to establish whether or not it’s proper for women to have the priesthood in the first place–at least at this time. Can we do that in no uncertain terms? If we can’t–then (IMO) we can’t know for certain that the practice involves a ban of sorts.
That said, I suppose we could use the term “ban” in a less discriminatory sense–one that follows from more (shall we say) naturally established domains. We might say that children are banned from going to nightclubs–but are we really discriminating against them on the basis of age? The same thing could be said vis-a-vis men’s and women’s restrooms and smoking vs. nonsmoking and so forth. Of course, all of that could change with the winds of culture. But even as it stands we don’t categorize it as discrimination.
I believe the same holds true for the priesthood: that there is a male priesthood and a female priesthood–or at least male offices and female offices within one overarching priesthood system. But the time simply hasn’t yet arrived (IMO) for the fulness of the priesthood to be revealed. But when it does — whether in one blinding event or incrementally — we will see the veil of the matriarchal priesthood parted and women ordained as priestesses in the Kingdom.
Of course, these are my personal opinions, Chad. I appreciate your patience in allowing me to share them on your blog.
I meant to respond to this statement in my previous comment:
“I think that to view women as superior to men contributes to keeping them on a pedestal.”
I don’t have much to say–except that I don’t think it’s bad for *men* to view women as superior to themselves. Even if women don’t want to hear men express that notion–I think it’s healthy for society overall for men to carry that belief in their hearts. It makes them better men–IMO.
Again, Jack, you are blending reasons and practice together to dance around reality. To me, the question about whether it’s proper for women to hold the priesthood is a separate question from whether they are banned from the priesthood. Can women currently be ordained to the priesthood in the Church? If yes, then there is not a ban. If no, then there is a ban. A ban just means that they are officially prohibited from holding the priesthood or priesthood offices in the Church.
As far as some future form of priesthood for women that is yet to be revealed, that’s a bit above my pay grade to know exactly what God plans there. As far as I’m a aware, though, priesthood is priesthood.
Chad, sorry if I was unclear. I was trying to convey the idea — in response to your previous comment — that a ban need not be a product of discrimination.