Power of the Priesthood

Albert Ellis QuoteUnlike many, I don’t believe that a patriarchal priesthood creates a power imbalance that leads to gendered injustices, such as domestic violence. I don’t think it is necessary to give women the priesthood or adopt identical family roles. Yet, though I don’t believe they are cause-and-effect, these things do play into a power dynamic that exists independently. I believe this power dynamic can be changed if we are willing. I realize that in a few short sentences, I have managed to alienate both sides of the divide. But I think my perspective, as a woman faithful in the Church and a survivor of domestic violence, has something to add to the conversation.

My husband was not a member of the Church when I met him. I was a freshly-returned missionary, he was separated from his wife. We both worked at the same retail store. At some point, I invited him to hear the discussions in my parents’ home. During the course of his investigation, he confessed to me many problems in his past and present. Still stuck somewhat in the role of missionary, it was easy to forgive things that I would not have, had I been looking at him as a potential future mate. I think that’s why he was able to get to me.

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As a Woman in the Church

In a recent FAIR conference, Neylan McBaine presented ways to include women in a Church which offers the priesthood and administration of the Church only to men. While I agree with some things she wrote, and with some I do not, there is one particular point I would like to examine.

There is a false dichotomy, perpetuated when Sister McBaine misquoted a post by Kathryn Skaggs.

In this dichotomy, there are two groups of women in the Church: those who see a problem with the way women are utilized and heard in the Church, have likely been adversely affected by it, and who therefore choose to “agitate for change;” and those who have never felt the pain a male-only Priesthood can bring to women, who don’t question the authority, and who therefore urge women to, essentially, “sit down and shut up” about it.

But there is another group, of women who have likely been mistreated or misunderstood by a member of the male-only priesthood in the past, or of women who have never been hurt but have still pondered these issues deeply, who would like to see hearts change, but who believe that the male-only Priesthood structure is in place at the will of the Lord, and who support the Lord’s authority structure and the Lord’s established methods for any change that will come.
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Selling a Life—Missionary Work

As I explained before, sustaining the law supports agency just as much as sustaining choice. You can’t support one to the detriment of the other without destroying agency in the process. It is a common misunderstanding that laws unrighteously apply force to individuals, so long as they are just and reasonable. They do not force obedience, but they do attach a consequence to behavior that some might perceive as force because they don’t like it.

Participating in a community is an implicit contractual agreement. There are guaranteed to be some laws you don’t like. I have heard this referred to as “tyranny of the majority” which is an empty catch phrase. “Tyranny of the majority,” in any meaningful sense, is ALWAYS present in life. Whoever has the majority of people behind them has the power. That is not the prerogative of democracy, and complaining about it or imagining it away is merely an exercise in fantasy.

The advantage to democracy is that it exposes this underlying reality to the open air and uses it to slow corruption. Note that it won’t stop corruption, only slow it. I believe that we are currently in a situation where corruption is present throughout the system. Theoretically, democracy should be capable of cleaning out the sump unless the majority of the people also succumb to corruption. It remains to be seen whether or not that is the case in the USA.

That being said, there is nothing inherently good about democracy, just as there is nothing inherently good in ANY form of government, even anarchy or decentralized government. The key to a good government is not structure, it is righteousness.

Alma said it much better. The preaching of the word of God has more power than the sword or anything else which had happened to his people. Power to change minds. Power to change hearts.

I believe that if we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stop preaching party politics and begin to preach the word of God in the political arena, we will affect true and righteous change. This doesn’t mean proselytizing, necessarily. This means to preach gospel principles. Frugality, self-reliance, charity, peace, patience, acceptance of others’ weaknesses, hard work, hope, sacrifice, unity.

If any of us truly wish to save the collapse of this country, it will not come by finding the political party which best suits us or trying to convert others to our cause. It will certainly not come by vilifying those who do not agree with us. It will not come by government overhaul. It will come because there are people who eschew politics in favor of peace, power in favor of charity, rightness in favor of righteousness.

Unless that happens, there truly is no hope.

Selling a Life—Marriage

I have spent countless hours mulling over the loss of my marriage covenant, what went wrong, what mistakes I made, and what meaning my experiences have for the larger picture of life. I believe I have gleaned yet another lesson by comparing marriage to the contract of citizenship.

Growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with parents who have a strong marriage, I was taught what a marriage entails. There are many explicit agreements, including a wife listening to her husband when he listens to the Lord and the covenant to remain together throughout eternity. Even as a teenager and before I had a husband, I took the marriage covenant seriously enough to study it and to shape my life around its expectations. In doing so, I adopted several implicit obligations in a covenant marriage, including the expectation to grow together, to be patient and forgiving of my spouse’s faults, to give everything I had.

Under the government, in one sense my life and my liberty are theoretically unalienable, which means that even I do not have the right to sell them or trade them. I cannot put myself into indentured servitude or slavery, request a doctor to end my life to donate organs to save another, nor legally volunteer to be executed or incarcerated on another’s behalf.

But like everything, there are shades of grey. I can accept employment which pays me far less than the work is worth, or risk my life to donate organs to save another, so long as death is not guaranteed. I can sacrifice my time, talents, and even my personality for another. I can be raised or manipulated to believe I have no other choice. So these so-called unalienable rights are not as unalienable as we sometimes think. There is not really any such thing as an unalienable right in reality, only in the world of legality. And many people, as I claimed in the last post, confuse the difference between reality and legal rights.

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Selling a Life—Politics

A great many seeming unrelated conversations have sparked a flurry of self-reflection. Discussion of political concepts like “inalienable rights,” “liberty,” and “force,” and reminiscing mission stories with my brother over the Thanksgiving holiday, have crept into my analysis of the collapse of my personal world which is always lurking in the back of my mind. Like many of the best science experiments, unexpected contamination is breaking new ground in my journey to be a disciple of Christ.

Since it is too complicated for one post, I’ve broken down my thoughts into three loose groups, politics, marriage, and missionary work. I will cover the other two in future posts.

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