A “Privileged Male” speaks out

I’ve kept an open mind to the concept of women receiving the priesthood.  I have no problem with it occurring.  That said, Kate Kelly and a few other “under-privileged women” seem to be taking their desire out into political left field.

I recognize that most LDS women are not Kate Kelly. I am thankful for them and for that issue.  The reality is, MOST LDS women are not interested in having the priesthood males right now have.  Fiona Givens wrote a great piece regarding this recently, that the endeavor of some women to seek out priesthood power and authority in the manner they are doing, actually goes against D&C 121′s warning concerning priesthood power!  She notes a recent Pew survey that shows that the vast majority of LDS women (87%) disagree with Kelly’s premise.  Interestingly, more men are open to the concept than women in the Church.

Kelly insists that not giving priesthood to women is just another mistake that the Brethren have made along the way. This should be placed on the same pile of errors as blood atonement, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, etc.

However, it is a naive view that can reduce complex issues into a simple platitude regarding egalitarianism.  Nature does not recognize equality in all things. Men cannot bear children and most women do not grow beards. Without the complexity of scientific intervention, nature has men and women creating children in only one way: together. God reveals his will to his servants, often only after a long battle of study, prayer and pondering.

The end of polygamy was a complex issue, and actually required two Manifestos (1890 and 1904).  The attacks on the Church had gone on for many years, putting it and its people into huge debt and sacrifice. Did ending polygamy in the USA mean it also had to be ended in Mexico, Canada and elsewhere? What should those do who were currently practicing it? What would happen with the extra wives and all of the children? Today, the Church does not allow polygamous relationships in the Church anywhere. This is in stark contrast to the Community of Christ (RLDS), who first denied Joseph Smith’s polygamy, but now allows converts in other countries that permit polygamous marriages.

Blacks and the priesthood was also a complex issue. History shows that David O. McKay and perhaps one or two previous prophets looked into ending the ban. Although Pres McKay did not receive authorization by God to end it, he did feel impressed to change the parameters. Blacks from Indonesia and other areas outside African descent would no longer be included in the ban.  It required many changes in the world and in the Church (becoming a worldwide church w/a temple in Brazil) to move the issue to the next major step under Pres Kimball and the June 1978 revelation.  A major change, but it still wasn’t finished. The complexity of the issue continued as members discussed and argued over the “why?” of the ban. 35 years after the ban was lifted, the Church officially renounced the curse of Cain and other “reasons” given for the original ban.

Nate Oman recently blogged about why he felt the Ordain Women movement will eventually fail. He notes some of the complexities that Kate Kelly and gang are ignoring or refusing to recognize.  Her current post shows that this has become a political issue with her. The Brethren, as with all men, are “privileged males” an oblique term for misogynist or at least sexist, I would presume.

Oman notes that the prophet walks carefully in the realm of revelation. Afraid to place his own feelings above the Lord’s will, the man of God will take his time to prevent making a choice that goes against God. Yet, the Brethren have also recognized that the sisters need a bigger seat at the table. As with Pres McKay, they’ve made changes within the realm of current revelation. The new CH2 (2010 – before Ordain Women) encourages leaders to increase the effort of the entire Ward/Stake Council and particularly to obtain input and insight from the women in the Church. Priesthood session of General Conference is now live online. Sisters now have a Women’s session that will be on par with Priesthood Session of General Conference.

I recently had an experience that reminded me of Nate’s post. Among my callings, I am the stake Public Affairs Director.  I saw a great opportunity to have a visiting LDS person come speak at a fireside that would generate some positive interest  among both members and community people. The fireside would risk possibly being somewhat controversial, due to the inherent issues in regards to the theme to be discussed. However, I was convinced the speaker would deftly handle it in a way that would be uplifting and promoting of the Church. At first my stake president was eager. As he discussed it with other leaders, who encouraged him to consider the priesthood purpose, walk with caution and seek the Lord’s will on it, over a period of about a month, he finally determined that at this time the Lord’s will and needs would not be met.  I was highly disappointed, but knowing my stake president, I knew he pushed past his own personal interests and sought only the Lord’s will.  It is something I am still learning, and was a big learning experience for me to see someone push aside his own interests to fully seek God’s will.

I am certain the Brethren are pondering other ways to open things up to the sisters, while staying within the current dictates given by revelation. It is not an issue of male privilege, but of seeking God’s will.  Kelly can assert whatever she wishes, and all she will do is risk her relationship with God – who ostensibly has greater male privilege than all of us mortal men put together!

If there were a priesthood revelation for women, what would it entail? How complex would the issue be? Would they get the exact priesthood men have? Would they get something different? And if it were different, perhaps as Fiona Givens states that sisters/Relief Society are currently free to minister rather than administer, would it be enough for someone like Kate Kelly? Or would her political inclinations cause her to speak out against male privilege again/still?  Would she kick against the pricks, seeking extra priesthood privilege against the will of God, never satisfied until there are women apostles and prophets with the exact sameness?

I must note that most LDS sisters do not want men’s priesthood. Rather, they seek out God’s power in the works they perform, whether in church callings or in their personal lives. They understand that an ordination does not give a man anything if he does not walk humbly within that ordination. So it would be with a woman’s ordination.  If there were a women’s priesthood, most would probably want it integrated into a separate Relief Society quorum, rather than integrated wholesale into the men’s group, where they likely could get lost in the mix anyway (those evil, evil men are like that, don’t you know).

My advice for those in Ordain Women?  Walk humbly with circumspection. Toss away your pride and seek out God’s will – whether it means having priesthood ordination or not.  Then treat others as God would have you treat them.  Sneering with loaded terms like “male privilege” cheapens you and your stance within the Church. It makes you outliers in what could be a positive change for the Church.

Women with real power? Sherry Dew, Fiona Givens, relief society presidents, nursery leaders, mothers, single sisters, and many others, who use the righteous power God gives them and does something to move the actual work of God forward.


Liberties are NOT out of balance in contraceptive cases

BYU law professor Frederick Mark Gedicks wrote an article (Liberties are out of balance in contraception cases) in the Washington Post, regarding the Hobby Lobby’s (and others) issues with being forced to pay for contraceptives. In the discussion, he argues that the issue is not the religious freedom of the owners, but that of the employees that is at stake.  For him, this is clearly an issue of the owners overstepping their bounds in proclaiming and imposing their faith on their employees.

Let’s look at this from another angle. First, no one forces an employee to work for a company.  In a free society, I can hire on with any organization willing to take a chance on me.  In hiring on with a company, I accept to follow the company’s culture and guidelines. I cut my hair, wear the uniform, do not go to work drunk, show up on time, etc.  If at any point I choose no longer to follow the corporate expectations, I am free to part ways with them, and they are free to fire me. That is how things work in a free society.

Only in a society based on non-liberty concepts do we get arguments as Gedicks suggests. Why must contraceptions be made mandatory in a health care plan?  Do they protect the life of anyone? Does the person have options to either buy his/her own contraceptions, or buy an insurance policy elsewhere that will provide the pill or condom of choice?  The individual retains choice, even if the company chooses not to provide contraceptives.  It does not affect the employee’s religion in any way (as if there are religions out there that require contraceptives as part of their worship!).  In fact, to mandatorily provide contraceptives in a company’s policy is to also force other employees to subsidize the same.

Gedick is under the wrong assumption (is he really a law professor at BYU???) that government has the authority to impose such things upon society.  Only in a totalitarian state is this true. Yet, the Constitution does not give to the federal government such power. Instead, we have seen a corrosion of freedom over the years, greatly accelerated under Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama.

This same (il)logic would mean that any church that rents out a building for weddings, because it is now a commercial venture, must rent out to any wedding couple, straight or gay, or perhaps even group that wishes to tie the knot.  Don’t believe it? It’s already a problem in the state of Hawaii, with the receptions and weddings at the Polynesian Cultural Center now suddenly a target for gay weddings and receptions.

There is a reason why James Madison put freedom of speech, religion and assembly into the First Amendment. On those issues hang all other freedoms and true rights of the American people.  Gedicks’ reasoning would sound great in Europe, where religion is not an important issue for most. However, his reasoning is severely flawed in American Constitutional thought.  If the Supreme Court ends up agreeing with him, it will be one of the last nails hammered into the coffin of the US Constitution, as the Bill of Rights will no longer have any meaning or purpose.  If Liberty is out of balance, it is because there are many seeking to destroy God endowed liberty and replace it with government imposed definitions of rights. And it seems that Gedicks is on the wrong side of the Constitution on this one.

Book Review: Letters to a Young Mormon

Book review: Letters to a Young Mormon, by Adam S. Miller, $8.96 at Amazon.

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau

What should you expect from a book that has less than 100 pages, and whose dimensions seem to be designed for a small child’s hands?  Perhaps a children’s story about farm animals that talk, or visiting one’s grandparents.  This book is deceptive in this way.  Although the cover design and size are very diminutive, there are so many great treasures to be found therein.

Adam Miller is a professor of philosophy, who has previously written some very brilliant stuff on Mormonism. You can see some of his LDS philosophy work as free pdfs at saltpress.org.

This book is also full of philosophy. But it is taken in an entirely different direction than his other books.  We live in a world of information. Every teenager has an IPhone and gets updates on the world every few seconds via texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  We do not live in the LDS world I grew up in, where the sanitized history and teachings were not questioned, or if they were questioned, average Mormons did not have access to those questions and so lived our lives in blissful ignorance.  But today’s kids live in a world of change, where media swirls around them 24/7.  Our kids need a new method and philosophy that can teach them how to cope with the world, while still keeping their feet and testimonies firmly planted in gospel soil.

In a series of short letters, Adam writes on various topics the things that he feels will affect them most. He uses innovative concepts to teach his topics, yet is frank and to the point.  Tthe themes and story, while related, are often related in ways we usually do not hear in Church or on Internet web sites. Adam sets things in a very unique setting. 

He writes about: Agency, Work, Sin, Faith, Scripture, Prayer, History, Science, Hunger, Sex, Temples, and Eternal Life. Each topic is taken in turn, each with unexpected twists and turns that will surely satisfy a young person’s search for truth. He treats them as adults, without speaking down to them. He is faithful in truth-telling, and explains things in ways that can only increase faith and testimony.

He explains, for example, that the gospel gives us a road map (baptism, seminary, mission, temple marriage, etc), but our feet still must travel the rough road of experience. The road map tells us we must pray and read our scriptures, but we must still learn how to really communicate with God and learn about him through our own efforts over years of praying and studying. Adam explains that we all sin (and ostensbly become miserable) because we seek to write our own life story, rather than letting God write it for us.

If ever a book was written to help youth regain or find a testimony, this one is it.  It does not tell them where one’s testimony is hiding.  It does explain how one plants and develops a strong testimony by living the precepts of God in the right soil, in the right way, for the right purpose.  It places the right kind of philosophy behind our testimonies. While discussing difficult topics, wherein the world’s philosophy is so very distinct from the LDS view, we learn how to establish a strong foundation on some very important and key principles that will help us, and especially our youth, learn how to establish a foundation of faith and to excel in that belief.

My advice?  Every parent, teen, bishop and stake president should own a copy of this book. Remember the book everyone wished was given them before they had teens or were called as bishop?  For parents and leaders, Letters to a Young Mormon is that book. The answers are concise, and direct. The treasures in Adam’s book do not just hack at branches (hoping youth will somehow figure it out), but directly strike root with each swing. Because of its brevity, it is a great book to read with your youth (I wish I had it when my kids were teens). I know I will share it with my grandchildren, and with those adults who struggle with life’s journey.

 You can read the book excerpt from chapter 3 Sin at FairMormon: http://blog.fairmormon.org/2014/01/16/exclusive-book-excerpt-letters-to-a-young-mormon-chapter-3/