Conversation Six Critique

six

After so many weeks that I’d stopped checking, the folks who support female ordination in the LDS Church have posted the final promised episode. They used to be called discussions and are now called conversations. Rameumpton’s already covered this, but since I covered the other five episodes, I want to complete the set.

Before I proceed, I just wanted to comment on the graphic. This is not a graphic geared toward a Mormon audience. It is clearly a nun wearing a crucifix. I suppose they are trying to evoke the image of Mother Theresa, who is quoted under the graphic.

But Mormons tend to see the crucifix as a symbol of Christ’s death, and we prefer to think of Him resurrected rather than on the cross (despite the verbal imagery in most sacrament hymns). And nuns are typically associated with the Catholic church and vows of celibacy. If one is told, “but this is supposed to be a stylized Mormon woman in ritual garb,” then I’d say, “looks like a nun to me.” Actually, it looks a bit like some kind of alien nun I might see in a science fiction show (shades of Doctor Who).

I think a better graphic would have been the iconic hands from Michelangelo’s painting of Adam and God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Or perhaps a woman with open arms. At any rate, something other than this graphic.

Proposed Changes

This sixth discussion puts forward a long list of items they have gleaned from other websites. Here are my reactions:

key Examining all Church positions to determine whether they can be filled without regard to gender Completely agree that this needs to be done, though I’d suggest incremental changes. Also, if possible, increase the ability for women to access the handbook of instructions (e.g., permit the presidents of stake auxiliaries to have access to this handbook)
also Where a Church position must be filled by an individual of a specific gender, determine compassionate means for dealing with sensitive matters (e.g., how to care for females who have abuse/sins/issues that might be best handled by means other than solely meeting with a male leader)
um… Lifting the prohibition on women’s participation in the blessing of their children Depends on what is meant by “participation.”
sure Young Women (YW) acting as ushers Don’t think this is a problem. I note this list didn’t include young women passing the sacrament, as I have seen suggested, possibly in an earlier episode.
maybe Women serving as Sunday School Presidents see key suggestion
um… Encouraging partnership in marriage and eliminating the idea that husbands preside over their wives I haven’t seen this to be a problem so much recently from the pulpit during General Conference, but have seen this be a cultural problem at local and family levels.
lol Creating parity in the YW and Young Men (YM) organizations through equivalent budgets, educational programs (leadership, career, and spiritual training,) and activities (sports, service, and outdoor events) Just laughing because the budgets can be the same (or at least should be equitable per capita by default), but activities are planned by the girls along with the leaders. If leaders and girls decide to do a high adventure activity, then high adventure there will be.
sure Balancing the stories and images of boys and men in church publications, talks, and other media with stories and images of girls and women Good idea for the public images to reflect at least the actual diversity of the Church, or better yet the desired diversity of the Church…
um… Inviting women in Church leadership positions to speak and pray during General Conference in numbers equal to the participation of men, including during the Priesthood Session This I think we’d have to work towards, rather than wake up tomorrow and mandate equal air time for men and women, in ways that reflect the diversity of Church members
sure Encouraging leaders to use gender-inclusive language Um… depending on what is meant by this, I agree
yep Recognizing that girls and boys, women and men are equally responsible for appropriate sexual behavior, and avoid reducing morality to sexuality, and modesty to a preoccupation with women’s and girls’ clothing Did I ever mention the story wherein my daughter got a professor in trouble because he encouraged the men in the class to take off their shirts?
huh Instructing bishops to refrain from asking Church members, particularly young girls, probing questions about sexual practices and experiences There needs to be frank talk from someone about what is and is not appropriate. As to who instructs and who can receive confession, see the above corollary to the key suggestion
um… Calling women to perform pastoral counseling, particularly for women and girls who have been sexually assaulted or abused See above corollary to the key suggestion
um… Choosing a General Relief Society Presidency and General Board that reflect the diversity of viewpoint and circumstance in the Church, and establishing frequent meetings between the First Presidency and the General Relief Society Presidency Selection of all other than the Relief Society President herself is done by that Relief Society President. So simply encouraging her to select her counselors and board in a manner to best serve all the Church and all mankind would probably do the trick. I love love love how the Young Women’s presidency and board reaches across the world and meets using teleconferencing, etc.
um… Including the Stake Relief Society President in Stake Presidency meetings, and appointing women to meet with the High Council See the corollary to the key suggestion
huh Delegating more expansive supervisory authority to the Stake and Ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies, including approval of personnel, programs, and activities this gets into roles and responsibilities–not sure this one is broken by design or by accident, but at some level the Stake President and Bishop need to be responsible for either approving or delegating that approval
huh Including women among stake and ward leaders who hear evidence and offer judgment in Church disciplinary councils See key suggestion and the corollary
um… Including the local Relief Society president in all bishopric meetings, and rotating the planning of Sacrament services among the Relief Society president and members of the bishopric This is a matter of roles and responsibilities, see the key suggestion. In our ward, the majority of themes come from recent conference talks (including the women’s meeting and priesthood) and women happen to staff the roles selecting music. It seems more than 50% of the actual talks are given by women. So we’re living the dream…
um… Appointing women as presidents of Church universities and heads of administrative departments Surely merit is considered here? If there is a policy prohibiting women from being considered for such positions, refer to the key suggestion.
huh Expanding hiring practices in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and within the religion departments at Church universities to provide women the same placement, advancement, and tenure opportunities as men Surely merit is considered here? If there is a policy prohibiting women from being considered for such positions, refer to the key suggestion.
lol Affording women the same opportunity as men to function as district leaders, zone leaders, and assistants to the president on their missions I believe something of this nature will naturally occur as the number of women serving missions reaches parity with the number of men in service. It certainly has the potential to increase the importance of the role of the mission president’s wife as a leader for the women in the mission field
nope Changing temple marriage policies so that men and women have equal opportunity to be sealed to their second spouses after they are widowed or divorced I’ve been arguing with IDIAT about this for months. A woman who wishes to be sealed to a subsequent husband after divorce may do so, upon cancellation of the prior sealing. However this suggestion belies a fundamental lack of understanding regarding the purposes of sealing spouses together. Too much to cover in this small space. I could wish someone (Elder Oaks?) might address this in Conference.
huh Consider further wording changes to temple ceremonies and ordinances such that both men and women make the same covenants and enjoy the same promises I’d have to sit with someone in the Celestial Room and find out what this is supposed to be about. I might agree on some matters, but suspect others are in the category of this suggestion belying a fundamental lack of understanding regarding LDS doctrine.
um… Recognizing women as witnesses for baptisms and marriage sealings See key suggestion
sure Restoring the former institutionally-accepted practice of women giving blessings of healing and comfort I would say, rather, encourage women to appropriately exercise their faith to bless by discussing the history of female blessings in conference addresses and updating the handbook of instructions appropriately

If I had my druthers, the first two changes I would see made are:

1) Increasing access to the handbook of instructions, with an invitation for those female stake leaders who gain access (under my idea of how this might occur) to provide constructive feedback in support of the key suggestion and its corollary, and

2) Encourage women to resume the practice of appropriately exercising their faith to bless by discussing the history of female blessing in conference addresses (and updating the handbook of instructions as appropriate, perhaps even before distributing the handbook to the wider audience as suggested in change #1).

Esther’s Courage

The episode next talks about Esther, the Jewish woman who became queen and was able to save her people from Hamar’s planned genocide by risking her life (turns out the king was pleased and didn’t cut off her head).

Then there are a bunch of questions that imply to me that other women don’t take the stand and talk about stuff like this in testimony meeting.

Except I did this past Sunday. I talked about how my mother used her considerable intellect to find the just and merciful in each new policy, such as the standardization of funding across congregations. I even accidentally said the word “crap” during my testimony (speaking of the inadequate facilities the poor could erect in the days before the standardized budgets that are based solely on attendance and tithing status). And then I went on to talk about the treatment of men and women, providing a possible explanation for the current reservation of priesthood to men, namely the fact that those denominations that have put women in charge via ordination have failed to realized the hoped for increase in participation, and have in fact found the number of adherents dwindle.

I said I didn’t know why this was, and I dearly hoped to learn why in the resurrection, when I would see as I am see, no longer through a glass darkly. And I opined that our leaders are probably similarly wondering why not, as they love their wives and daughters.

I don’t know why other women can’t speak up and yet still see themselves as sustaining the brethren. But good grief, we have open mic once a month every month (aka testimony meeting), not to mention Sunday School, Relief Society, and access to bishops and other leaders. I can well remember the lesson where we discussed Paul’s suggestions for female deference, when I spoke up strongly, and wondered aloud why none of the married women were speaking up (this was long enough ago that I wasn’t one of the married women).

I’ve always spoken up, except when a teacher was choosing to not allow me to interfere with their vision of how a lesson should transpire. In which cases, I have typically made a point of going up to the teacher and sharing what I would have said had I been called on. It gets the matter off my mind, and helps the teacher know me, and hopefully trust me, or at least learn from me.

Win Friends and Influence People

The episode next covers some tips for actually conversing in a manner that won’t make people angry and alienated. I think these suggestions are pretty close to the Dale Carnegie tips I covered when critiquing a prior episode.

Exam Questions 

Next the episode suggests a variety of questions those seeking female ordination should be prepared to answer. I’d be happier if I didn’t get the sense that supporters were being prompted to practice how to say shibboleth. Among these reasonable questions are a few that betray the continued mindset or schema that female ordination is a necessary outcome:

• Why is ordination necessary for women in the LDS church?

• How do you think ordaining women would affect the Church?

• How can you sustain the prophet and support women’s ordination?

But one of these questions was striking, and was a question whose answer I’m interested to hear:

• What will you do if the answer is no?

If God continues to say no, what will the faithful supporters of female ordination do?

Proposed Actions

In the last pages of this final episode, we are provided examples of two cases where dialogue occurred. In the first case, a woman goes in and talks with her bishop for an hour about her feelings on this matter. In the second case, a stake in the Boston area conducts a special non-attributional event to reach out and involve those with concerns in discussion.

Finally, the episode ends with making the analogy that the actions of those seeking female ordination are simply like those who lowered their crippled friend through the roof to reach Jesus, as the door was blocked.

I was pleased that this episode did not include a call for supporters to gather and resign their memberships. And yet this has been a past suggestion, and the story of Esther, the poem about leaving fear on Temple Square, and the talk about making a hole in the roof when the door is barred almost reads like a secret code. If your bishop isn’t willing to welcome an hour of discussion on concerns, it seems, or if your stake isn’t willing to hold a non-attributional event, you are justified in going through the roof, leaving your fear on Temple Square, and screwing up your courage at risk of your own spiritual life, as Esther did in defense of her people.

I hope I’m wrong.

I would be pleased if those who resonate with the message of those seeking female ordination would foster goodwill and understanding by building relationships, talk about common ground and shared beliefs, work together on problem resolution, avoid trying to win an argument, and seek understanding and cooperation.

 

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for over four decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation, and is working on a midrashic treatment of the events in Nauvoo associated with early polygamy.

50 thoughts on “Conversation Six Critique

  1. The thing is, some of these are good ideas: equal budgeting for YM/YW (now, having my husband serve as ward financial clerk for this last year, I have seen that allocation of funds is really left up to the bishop. So, hopefully, bishops will see the need to distribute funds equally. In my ward growing up the sun rose and set on the scout troop, a fact that still bothers me to this day…but that is a whole other topic), making sure women have a part in the comings and goings of the ward, making sure that women have the support they need when facing difficult situations.

    That being said … I think Kate Kelly and her followers have done more damage than good with their antics over the last year and a half. They have burned bridges for many people across a wide variety of issues. They have brought contention into our Church and have set the stage for some nasty in-fighting. That has always been my issue with them…the contention. It ok to have questions, but not to use them to encourage dissent and foment rebellion among the membership. They still do not see that is what they have done, either.

    Elder Hallstrom of the Presidency of the 70s said, “Never let an earthly circumstance disable you spiritually.” So we have to decide how we go thru life, and how we deal with things we cannot change. I think KK and her followers failed at this. They let their questions eat away at their testimonies and now she’s been ex’d and many of the OW leaders are in the process of Church discipline. Was it worth it ladies? Was it?

    Personally, I feel very saddened and somewhat betrayed as I have seen friends and family go over to OW. Even if they have renamed this a “conversation”, it’s still an attempt to sway people to their way of thinking, which is apostasy. Something about quacking ducks or lipstick on pigs should go right here.

  2. In the last two wards I have been in, the YW budget was far larger than the YM budget (including Scouting) — the girls had money for refreshments almost every Wednesday night, and girls camp was all paid for — the boys had to earn money if they wanted any. And in every ward I have ever been in, the Relief Society budget was grossly out of balance with the elders quorum/high priests group budget. As far as ward budgets go, I think the women and girls have it pretty good.

    Yes — if it quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck, it’s a duck…

  3. I wonder whether those who demand funding parity between the YM/YW programs ever consider the network of Church-run camps, the plum spots/times for which are reserved for YW Girls’ Camp.

    Will equal allocation of resources include opening church camps up to the Young Men’s program?

  4. Speaking for my last ward, in which I was clerk for many years, the YW was better funded than the YM from ward sources. The same was true of Relief Society. I’ve been clerk in four different wards, and the numbers were similar in all of them.

  5. Here in Virginia, the young women currently use a 4H camp, and before that they used a national park camping facility next to Camp David. So while there is a vast network of Church Camp facilities in the west, that situation is not generalized across the Church.

    As for the relative size of budgets, unless one is in a privileged position to know, the appearance of budget disparity is sometimes produced by people (like myself) who wish to provide something (like cupcakes every month in support of the girls working on Personal Progress) and are too lazy to attempt to submit a request to get reimbursed.

    I think it would be useful for the bishop and stake president to start with a suggested per capita budget, and then changes this budget based on the needs of his congregation. This would also allow for the possibility that years of “big” budgets alternate between different portions of the congregation in a manner that avoids constant neglect of any group.

    An interesting aspect of this final episode of the six planned is that they’ve co-opted suggestions made by the faithful, as well as inserted their own repeated requests for female ordination (along with the subtle call to go through the roof and exhibit courage like Esther to approach the seat of power). Thus they have positioned themselves to take credit for any “positive” change that occurs.

    So here’s the thing – any of the “suggestions” in these episodes that are likely to be adopted were already made by the faithful, who because of their willingness to yield to the authority of the Church were invited to share their views with the Church directly, in non-attributional venues. Thus the ideation behind any changes that might be celebrated by those seeking female ordination will not have been performed by them, as they might imagine.

    Sometimes change is warranted. I am reminded of my friend who served a mission in Japan roughly 40 years ago. Her mission president was not adequately sensitive to the needs of the female missionaries. It wasn’t that my friend agitated for improved conditions, but she would write chatty letters home to her family and friends, who included those in high Church positions. So she wrote about the fact that the sister’s quarters were located in the red light district (the local prostitues thought it was funny to send Johns to inquire of the “white girls” regarding services) for example, or the lack of running water and getting their hair professionally done once a week, else they’d never get it washed.

    And the mission president realized that he was receiving corrective counsel and was not being sent any additional female missionaries. Rather than reflect and change, this mission president called all the sisters in and demanded to know who had been complaining. At the time my friend wasn’t even aware that her letters had been the cause. She just figured missions were supposed to be hard. And I’m sure her service was attended by frequent miracles, which would also have been recounted in the letters.

    One of the questions I wish those seeking female ordination would ask themselves is why thy think such a fundamental revision of affairs in the LDS Church would produce a different result than demonstrated in other Christian denominations that have embraced female ordination. These other Christian denominations have seen their numbers dwindle, and there has not been evidence of a surge of energy when the changes occurred, despite the promised expectation.

    If we who study history expect that female ordination would disincentivize men, it is because that is what has been seen in those denominations who have been willing to perform this particular social experiment. The proponents of female ordination deride us for our “fears,” but show no evidence that they have examined the data.

    For those interested in LDS Camping facilities, the website is https://www.lds.org/locations/camping. The website indicates the policy is “Camps are scheduled giving priority to LDS Church Young Women groups, then to other LDS Church‐sponsored groups, and lastly to families. [Thus the] camps may be available to families for a fee based on group size and facilities needed.”

    As to whether it is unfair that these camping facilities give priority to YW groups, one would have to understand the history behind why these facilities were purchased. I suspect they were purchased so the young women could camp in a place that didn’t include random strangers and habits, as occurred when I was a young woman in Virginia. Like the morning we awoke to find a truck had been driven through the middle of our campsite by someone I presume was drunk, with the wheels of the truck passing within a foot of my head.

  6. @Meg,

    In my last ward, the answer to your question is both. In setting the budget, the bishopric did it first on a per capita basis and then added some funds to the YW above and beyond that.

    Then, the YW, in their one fundraiser, knocked it out of the park and had money to burn.

  7. I always enjoy reading your thoughts, Meg, but I never comment (anywhere on the bloggernacle, actually). Breaking my silence to tell you how much I enjoy your writing and to add two comments from personal experience.

    1 – in our ward the YW and YM WARD budgets are equal. But, the YM raise nearly 5x as much money through the scout flag program. They have a lot more opportunity to get funds from outside the ward members and since the program is already up and running there is very little that the boys actually have to do to solicit any “new business.” The YW could raise more money, but haven’t found a sustainable model like the YM. For now all of the funds raised go to decrease the per girl cost of Camp.

    2 – I went through the CES program and taught Seminary. I loved it and had nearly all positive feedback on all my reviews. Once I got married (at the end of my student teaching) my chances of getting a full-time position plummeted. You cannot have children at home (so under 18) and teach Seminary full time as a woman. Thus as a woman, you are less likely to be hired over a man who can stay employed after children come. Because this policy has been litigated a few times, the Church is firm in that it makes no exceptions. The only hypocrisy I see in this policy is that you cannot be hired to teach, but you can be hired as the secretary (who makes less money). If you can work just as many hours as a secretary, it seems unfair to bar women from teaching release time seminary. (That being said there are a lot of requirements for seminary teachers – men have to be married (women don’t), you can’t be divorced, and several other qualifications.)

  8. It seems to me there are a lot of good suggestions in the above, and many very silly ones. I don’t think most people have a problem with the act of making suggestions. OW needs to understand that the way to get heard is not to march on General Conference and have your leader get excommunicated. Make suggestions to your local leaders and participate with the Church on higher-level meetings that are offered with Church public affairs and GAs.

  9. Each congregation will be different, when it comes to funds dispersal. I think it would be a fascinating thing to study, actually, the statistics on financial distribution. I have visions of plots in my head that show the variations, with standard deviations expressed and analysis of correlating factors for outliers. That would be such a fun study to perform.

    There are a variety of “professions” or positions associated with the Church that decline to allow women with children to participate. I think the tabernacle choir and being a female temple worker fall into that category, in addition to the seminary teacher situation. I believe one cannot serve a full-time mission when one has minor children at home (with the exception of mission presidents, who may be called even when they have minor children in their family).

    These things are policies that might be changed if the tactical situation changes, but this wouldn’t be the first item I would expect to see change from the list above.

  10. I enjoyed reading your reaction to the list of suggested changes – I had the same reactions. I would add my own suggestion as well. I think it would be wonderful if we could include the young women, Miamaids and Laurels, in visiting teaching. The young men get the opportunity to be home teachers when they are ordained to the office of teacher, providing them years of experience before being ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood. I think giving the YW a similar opportunity would be beneficial and make the transition into relief society easier.

  11. The question of Ward budgets is so fascinating to me because I have been involved with them at the ward and stake level for so long. This past year, the Bishop actually gave the YW and RS more money than they asked for because he thought they were being cheap. And the other issue can be how the money is spent. For example, the RS just spent almost $100.00 on table decorations for one meeting. The YM or PH would never do that. though getting the PH to spend any money is like pulling teeth. they have a small fraction of the budget each year $100 or $150 and usually never spend it.

    On the subject of camps, in the Stakes I have been in, the Camp are reversed solely for the use of the YW. Fine, no problem. But the difference in cost between the boys and girls to attend camps is huge. We had a YW camp this year that cost $70 with the Ward paying $20. Boy Scout Camp cost $270 with the Ward paying $20. And we had a High Adventure Camp for the older YM that cost $225 with the Ward picking up $20. So the families with YM pay through the nose just like always. Part of the reason is the gouging of the Boy Scouts when you think of how much money the Church must contribute to them. but, that is just the way it is. So the budgets are usually equal for the YM and YW, but the scout budget is also there. So there is a disparity. does not mean the YW do less than the YM. Not necessarily. the actual amount of money is not a good indicator since the youth generally plan their own activities.

    And if some group wants to do something special, the Bishop will usually find it, if possible.

  12. And then there are things like funding a trip to a disaster site to provide assistance – how would one categorize that, if one were doing a study of spending?

  13. @Meg, OW would categorize it as funding directed exclusively by a man, just like the RS, YW and Primary budgets. To be clear, their main beef isn’t with funding levels. Their main beef is with the gender of the person making the decision.

  14. @MD, Yeah, that has been a theme in the past. It probably lies under the surface despite the softer, gentler language of this sixth episode. But for many of those who are faithful, the matter of funding distribution fuels discontent.

    Clearly there are instances where the females in congregations get more financial benefit than the males in the congregations, and vice versa. In those cases where the females are not funded in a commensurate fashion, this fuels the argument that the paucity of funds for [insert female-oriented activity] is due to the fact that males are in charge, ultimately, of the budget.

    There may be instances (I have lived some of these) where a clueless man or set of men fund concerns that resonate with them and leave other concerns ill-funded.

    In a way, it is safe for them to agitate, since their agitation significantly decreases the likelihood they would ever actually have to shoulder the responsibility for funds distribution.

    I’m reminded of people who tell me the world would be a gentler place if women were in charge. But they seem to have forgotten the legacy from those women who have been in charge, which isn’t a peaceful sweetness filled with doilies and tea cookies.

  15. I am outside the LDS but a 100% supporter. I worry that this is the wrong approach to dealing with OW – because it accepts their radical ‘why not?’ agenda.

    *None* of these changes advocated by OW or their supporters should even be contemplated unless there is a pre-existing problem, which these are the best way to address.

    From outside, I don’t see the CJCLDS has any *major* problems – especially when compared with any of the other big Christian churches (whether Catholic or Protestant). In fact none of the other Christian churches are in anything like such good shape as the CJCLDS – nor do any have an good and un-corrupted leadership like the CJCLDS. From the current Pope to the Archbishop of Canterbury, other Western Christian leaders are busily subverting-from-the-top.

    Therefore, any changes should be considered very carefully, especially the reason for such changes – and I mean the *real* motivation for changes.

    Especially, there should be caution when similar changes have been introduced in mainstream Christian institutions, which are suffering collapsing membership, funding, participation and zeal.

    The best rule is – don’t negotiate with terrorists.

    And do not let them even suppose they are influencing you in *any* way.

    Any engagement, debate, or movement in directions of which they approve *will* encourage them to push their real (secular, Leftist) agenda which is to re-make CJCLDS into an image of The Episcopal Church/ aka. destroy the CJCLDS (or make it into an arm of the federal civil administration).

  16. Meg,

    Your comment reminded me of a conversation I had with a black member of the Church while I was on my mission. He had joined the Church in 1970, if memory serves, and I asked him one day what his first thoughts were in 1978 when Pres. Kimball made the announcement on the priesthood. His response was “ah crap.” Apparently, in the years leading up to 1978, he had been invited to speak at a number of stake conferences across the eastern US about being black in the Church. He told every single of one them that the men needed to know what a blessing it was to hold the priesthood, and how he would be a 100% home teacher if he were to ever have the chance. All of a sudden, he had to back up those words.

  17. I apologize for posting pseudonymously. But I will be mentioning some private family experiences.

    “If God continues to say no, what will the faithful supporters of female ordination do?”

    Either remain faithful, or remain supporters of female ordination.

    Up to now, it’s been possible to do both. Maybe it’s still possible to do both. It seems to me that the responses the Church has given to OW have all stopped just short of a blunt, plain, and final “God says no.”

    And yet I feel like the answer is No. So why not be blunt about it? I am reminded of the history of the Invergordon Munity of September 1931. Pay for British sailors was so poor that many of their families were on public assistance. There were other legitimate grievances. But mutiny was a capital offense. The response of many officers, who were sympathetic to their men, was to simply stop giving orders. Hints and “suggestions” were given instead. That way, if a hint or “suggestion” was ignored by a sailor, he was not technically guilty of mutiny, because he had not disobeyed an actual order.

    I suspect God does this sometimes.

    Meg, I think your observation, that the empirical evidence regarding the likely effects of female ordination on the progress of the Church is not promising, is spot on. My opinion is that this is not just a passing cultural thing, but something deeply rooted in human nature. If my family were no longer to look to me for spiritual leadership and blessings, but could get them equally well from my wife, I think I would essentially be cut out of the family. I am not an anthropologist, and perhaps there are examples I’m unaware of where a matriarchal society has succeeded in keeping fathers deeply involved in their families, but I certainly see a pattern of male non-involvement in the de facto matriarchal societies in a lot of U.S. inner cities.

    I was present when my children were born. Frankly, it didnt’ feel right. I felt like an intruder into a deeply female world. I know fathers who claim to have felt very differently about the experience; perhaps there was something different in the circumstances. I don’t know. I know that something deep in my male brain felt that my proper place was patrolling outside the cave mouth in case predators showed up. I suppose that makes me a Knuckle-Dragging Neanderthal ™, but I suggest that’s what we all really are.

    Whenever my sons start acting out physically, my wife almost reflexively turns to me for assistance. There is an expectation, never voiced and perhaps not even conscious on her part, that I will be prepared to use physical force if necessary to bring things back under control, before the kid breaks something or hurts someone. I resent this, actually, because our society has become very intolerant of any kind of physical force directed by parents against children, so I feel like it puts me in an impossible position. But I think it illustrates that, when it comes to parental roles, testosterone still matters.

    I am impressed by the first ten or eleven verses of Abraham 1, which is all about Abraham’s quest for the High Priesthood. The words “father” or “fathers” appear numerous times in those verses. In Abraham’s mind, the High Priesthood was very closely tied to fatherhood. Sure, we ordain men who are not yet fathers or who likely will never be fathers. We also marry infertile couples. It doesn’t change the basic nature of the institution.

    As for the suggestions in the sixth “conversation”: Some of these suggestions have merit. Some have a clear chip on their shoulder. All are smoke screen.

    The principle goal of Ordain Women is obviously to pressure the Church to ordain women. Whatever their separate merits, all else is window dressing.

  18. Bruce, MD, and Vader,

    Good points all.

    While those seeking female ordination certainly aren’t behaving in a manner that invites trust, they have clad themselves in human armor, those in the faith I think of as an ablative layer, those sufficiently loosely attached to the conviction that the Church is led ultimately by God that they might evaporate or disattach themselves over some question.

    But God loves those who make up this ablative layer. God loves the terrorists. And therefore I love them as well.

    Meanwhile, I am also wanting to clear a space in which the Church can adapt to serve members without having the “terrorists” be able to claim victory.

    And I do think it would be a wonderful thing for my sisters of faith to be able to perform the blessings that were performed and approved in the 1800s.

  19. Years ago when ward financing changed from having people pay ward budget and building fund and tithing as separate donations to a single payer from tithing with only a few exceptions, I was a ward newsletter editor. I had been a newsletter editor in various venues including civic, school and church for a number of years and I had learned to go very lean to keep publication costs to a minimum. Conscious that there were many needs in the ward, I had already developed a format that had no ‘fat’. The only way to cut costs would be to go to an every other month publication schedule. The bishop asked all the auxiliaries, including the newsletter to submit a budget request that was less than previously allotted. When I said I could not go any lower I was released. The newsletter editor who replaced me more than tripled the cost. It was not the first of many lessons that Church leadership at the ward and stake levels is often mostly a learning experience. As soon as things are functioning smoothly, a new team is called and the process of using the tools of inspiration and compassion to counter tradition and slothful thinking begin all over again. I am grateful that we do not have professional clergy and that relatively frequent changes are made at all levels except for leading quorum and presidency. It gives most members of the Church, both men and women, some experience of leadership, including leading the nursery, one of the truly challenging callings.

  20. Pat, being nursery leader was the third best calling I ever had. I loved it. Simple lessons about the gospel, playing with toys, singing songs and snacks. I used to joke when I got pulled from nursery and put in the EQ presidency that the average maturity of the folks I was serving had not changed. That was mostly untrue … mostly.

  21. FYI, the problem with women not having the same opportunities to be seminary teachers as men is something that probably only occurs in the US, maybe even only in Utah. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, and probably most other countries all treat seminary teaching as a calling, and usually the teachers chosen to fill the position are women.

    For instance, when I graduated seminary (some 10 years ago) I was called to substitute my mother as the seminary teacher. I was only 18 at the time and it was a great opportunity for me to learn the gospel even more profoundly. After two years I was replaced by another woman as the teacher.

    Therefore, these concerns appear to matter most only to the US-based members, and do not reflect the realities of a worldwide church. I really can’t understand why it has to be different in Utah than in the rest of the world, with teachers having to go through college to earn a degree in seminary teaching.

    Also, I agree with Bruce. OW has burned their bridges and now all that remains for them is to repent and return to the fold. No suggestions coming from them should be heard lest we add more fuel to the fire and, consequently, lead others into apostasy.

  22. @Carolina – released time seminary teachers go through training and getting a degree because they are getting a job. They will teach 4-6 classes a day, during the entire school day, just like school teacher. They are also paid and have other job requirements. I’ve been a released time seminary teacher too, and while it was very fulfilling, it was a calling, not an occupation. It was also not as demanding as the released time teaching was.

    So in the western US, a woman could be a seminary teacher as an occupation, until she has children. I was only commenting on that because it was one of the points Meg commented on, and while some university teaching positions are probably more merit based, seminary and institute have other factors involved that could be re-evaluated. For example, the CES just this year hired its first female Institute Coordinator, and they specifically sought out a woman because they wanted more diversity.

    These are the kind of changes that I can see the Church making – policies that don’t require revelation to change, but can add to the involvement of women in the Church.

  23. Working with children is often inspiring and frequently funny. As a teacher of small children I used my artistic skills to create various visual aids, sometimes drawing on the board. A member of the bishpric gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting meant for the children. He displayed drawings of various animals and plants. “Do you know who created all these?” He asked the children gathered in front of the podium.
    “Pat Chiu!”

  24. And I (as author of this post) was able to edit it, so had done so…

    There can definitely be a huge experiential difference between the Church experience in the Mormon corridor (the swath west of the Rockies running from northern Mexico to southern Canada) and the experience outside that corridor.

    Then there is the difference between the Church as experienced by active believers and the mental Church remembered by those who have distanced themselves from belief in leaders who are divinely led, individuals who think the leaders are bigots who must be forced to adopt “modern” ways by use of media attacks.

  25. Thanks Meg, I always enjoy reading your posts.

    One thing (of many) which came to mind as I was reading your post, and the follow-up comments, is a key difference between the “liberal” and the “conservative” mindsets a college course I took laid out.

    The professor maintained that at their cores the two mindsets viewed the world very differently with respect to how societies, institutions, or even individuals could change. He explained that liberals tended to view institutions are being very mechanistic. That if a problem could be identified it could be “fixed” – sort of like repairing a car. The liberal believes once the proper knowledge or practice is in place all that went before would simply go away or adopt the new policy. With the result that the institution, or society, would now perform “as it should”.

    The conservative mindset on the other hand tends to view societies/institutions as being very organic. They tend to view societies/institutions as systems which reached their current state of affairs through the interaction of all the preexisting pieces. Changing some policy or practice will be more likely to result in unintended consequences than it will be to fix whatever it is you are trying to change.

    In seeing how people respond at a gut level to the Ordain Women movement I think this difference in mindset is pretty apparent. As a word of caution I say to my liberal friends (myself included) be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water, and to my conservative friends I say don’t reject a good idea just because you don’t like the messenger.

    And I agree completely with Meg’s comments on that graphic. Whoever chose that graphic has managed to move a long ways away from their intended audience! I can’t think of very many other graphics which would more completely demonstrate just how far afield their thought processes have gone.

  26. Hi John (JSH),

    I like the idea of these two mindsets. But I would say there is a third mindset, which acknowledges the organic nature of the current state, but considers that careful incremental changes can get us from one position in space (physical, spiritual, or social) to another position.

    The Church has been practicing these incremental changes for decades now. If we trust and don’t go rogue, we can be safe.

    There’s a series I watched recently, where a team is presented with a former colleague who is on the run. At a certain point in the plot, the former colleague becomes convinced that the team has turned on him. He lashes out, set on protecting himself. Given the threat the former colleague poses to the lives of those on the team, they are forced to shoot him. Only at the end, as he lies dying, does he realize they had a plan that would have saved him. Because he couldn’t trust, he ends up dying.

    Similarly, there is a plan that will save all. But when people don’t trust, they will take actions they believe will preserve themselves.

    In the end, I suspect those who fought against the Church in their various times will realize their great folly. Those seeking female ordination to the exclusion of all else appear to fall into this category.

    Meanwhile, those of us on the team will continue to work to save all.

  27. Carolina Jan Wagoner:
    A lot depends on where in the USA you are – I grew up in a small rural Alaskan town, and my seminary teachers were all women (with minor children), since we had no professional seminary teachers in the area (early morning, in the Alaskan winter – some students had to travel almost 75 minutes to get to the church for seminary; luckily I lived 5 minutes from the church).

  28. As to whether it is unfair that these camping facilities give priority to YW groups, one would have to understand the history behind why these facilities were purchased.

    We’ll have none of your apologia for the Matriarchal Oppression here, madam! We want equality, and we want it now!

    But the difference in cost between the boys and girls to attend camps is huge. We had a YW camp this year that cost $70 with the Ward paying $20. Boy Scout Camp cost $270 with the Ward paying $20. And we had a High Adventure Camp for the older YM that cost $225 with the Ward picking up $20. So the families with YM pay through the nose just like always. Part of the reason is the gouging of the Boy Scouts

    I’ve been party to some discussions where it has been suggested that BSA camp costs aren’t really out-of-line with those of other youth camps (Friends of Scouting, on the other hand, is a whole other ball of wax). From those discussions I get the impression that it’s just darned expensive to run a youth camp in the woods, which is why the cost of YW camp has become such a hobby horse of mine in funding-parity discussions like this.

    It’s not that YW camp is inherently cheap; it’s just that it’s being disproportionately funded/subsidized at the church-wide level rather than the ward/family level.

  29. Where we live, the YW go to Girls Camp at a church run facility, but the stake women do a TON of work to make it happen. There is no way anyone could plan another girls high adventure camp.
    The boys go to a Scout camp where the camp does all the food and activities. Leaders just have to coordinate the rides and show up. So then the scout leaders can also plan a high adventure campout.
    The cost of the Scout camps completely depends on how much effort is put into raising money. It is far easier to raise a lot of money for Scout Camp through donations, if the scouts know what they are doing. If they don’t, then it is the same for boys and girls.
    YW are ONLY allowed to raise money for Girls Camp. Scouts can raise money for all sorts of equipment if they would like to.
    All around the globe there are differences in implementation. But, I have to say that a well run Scout Program is superior in a lot of ways than a well-run YW program.
    In fact, I was horrified to have a YM and discover there was actually a monthly meeting I could attend in order to speak to scout leaders. At that meeting I was asked to donate time and effort to raise money for Scouts. I said I would love to, but I would also need to donate the same amount of time to the YW since I have a daughter. I had never sat down in a meeting with YW leaders to discuss what was going on and how I could help. I felt cheated of missed opportunities. I still can’t believe all the opportunities that are offered to a boy simply because he is a scout. Sure, that Scout shirt is really expensive, but so many cool opportunities.
    I talked to the YW leaders asking them to let me donate time and effort to the YW program. I didn’t do much, but I did babysit for the YW Pres. when she went to Ward Council if her husband was at work. The leaders were young. The YW simply doesn’t have the structure in place to do more or cooler stuff.

  30. Alas, my prospective scout is pushing up daisies. Not really. I mean, morticians have standards these days. But in any case, I haven’t seen first hand the disparities between the programs for young men and young women, at least not from a parent’s point of view.

    Because of the way Mormons staff callings, there can be a huge disparity in experience from year to year and location to location, and even from the programs in Primary versus the programs for the YM/YW and the adults.

    I think that those of us arguing about scouting and YW camp budgets are not the ones teetering on the edge of leaving the church over the way women are treated in the Church.

  31. Amen I hate it that the church owns all the YW camps so it’s heavily subsidized, but we end up subsidising the BSA camps year after year instead of the church investing in camps for YM or making them mixed use.

  32. I should revise my comment a bit. I’ve attended and worked at all the camps for our youth over the years and the experience has wonderful for me and, as I observed for the youth as well. I never worked so hard as when I’ve cooked at YW camps. 16 hours a day! Intense pressure to provide a good meal and a ton of fun!!!!!

    But, really, the money thing has got to stop. What may appear on paper as disparity, is a myth. And the ones complaining the most really have no clue what they are talking about.

    As with the whole movement, many who are advocating for women ordination, both as part of the OW website and some Facebook pages seem to take offense at ever possible thing they can find to do so. And many, are not only not active in the church at all but are ex and Never-Mo’s. As I have read their profiles, I am just shocked at the lack of basic Gospel understanding, let alone how the church works.

    but I also agree that much improvement is possible, particularly with how local leaders utilize and promote the talents and leadership capabilities of the Sisters in their midst.

  33. This is the first time I’ve commented, and it’s a little long, so I apologize.

    Handbook 2, section 13.6.8 states that the bishop may authorize 1 group fundraising activity per year, and that the fundraisers may be used to pay the cost of one annual camp, or to purchase equipment the unit needs for annual camps.

    Someone mentioned earlier that the YM were allowed to fundraise for equipment, but the YW were not. However, there’s nothing in the handbook that prevents the YW for fundraising for equipment. They just typically don’t need equipment for their camps, so they don’t use their funds in this way. This actually allows the YW to use all of their fundraiser monies to pay the cost of girls’ camp. It’s not as if the YM are allowed to do an extra fundraiser for equipment – they’re still only allowed to do one fundraiser, for the purpose of paying for camp and equipment. However, I’m sure there are wards that are not following the handbook when it comes to fundraising, resulting in inequities.

    This year in my ward, the deacons went to Boy Scout camp, at a cost of about $400/boy, and the teachers and priests went on a high adventure camp, planned at the ward level, at $150/boy. Our YM fundraiser raised about $120/boy, so the deacons had to pay about $280 themselves, and the older boys about $20.

    The YW went to girls camp, at about $120/girl. I’m not sure exactly how their fundraiser went, but the girls did not have to pay much of the cost of camp themselves.

    Beyond the fundraisers, the YW and YM budgets were equal, to my knowledge.

    I’ve been in a ward where the YW were much better at raising funds than the YM, resulting in the girls paying almost nothing themselves for camp, and the boys paying for almost the entire cost of their more expensive camp.

    In a couple of wards I’ve been in, the deacons will go to an expensive Boy Scout camp every other year, and in between will plan a ward-level scout camp at a much lower cost.

    FWIW, when I was a youth, our ward did not do fundraisers, and the boys paid for all of their scout camp. Many of the boys worked on my dad’s farm to earn money for scout camp. So I tend to roll my eyes a little bit at the effort some wards go to to make sure the youth don’t have to pay much for camp. Especially when it’s the adults who plan and execute the fundraisers, rather than the youth.

  34. @meg, your wrote: “One of the questions I wish those seeking female ordination would ask themselves is why th[e]y think such a fundamental revision of affairs in the LDS Church would produce a different result than demonstrated in other Christian denominations that have embraced female ordination. ”

    There is a parallel there to the proponents of socialism. Communism has universally failed, socialism continues to fail at a slower rate, yet the proponents of socialism keep pushing it in the US, claiming that they are smart enough to “do it right”.

    I’ve read similar rejoinders claiming that LDS could do female ordination right, and _we_ would not have the same negative results of others. Some have even ignorantly claimed that churches who ordain women have not suffered declines.

    I think there are two levels, much like there are or were in communism, the inner circle cognoscenti, who know they are being destructive, and the “useful idiots” who buy into the propaganda.

    I’m unsure which camp KK is in. I suspect that Nadine H knows what she is doing.

  35. It is possible that the long relationship between the BSA and the Church will end before too long. We may well be in a period of transition as the YM leaders make plans. As the mother of three sons I have viewed the BSA with mixed feelings over the years, even while serving as a Cub Scout leader. My oldest and youngest sons left for college a year or so earlier than most young men and this cut short their participation in the local troop. They laid plans to complete their Eagle but employment and various worthy activities made it difficult. As for my youngest son, attending early morning seminary faithfully, serving hours every Sunday taking Sacrament to shut ins and tidying the ward house between meetings, as well as going as a partner to a 100% home teacher should have qualified him to be considered as an ‘active’ YM. I was shocked to learn that he was listed as inactive because his attendance at weeknight YM, mostly scout, activities was spotty. At the time he was president of the senior class, played tuba in the band, played lacrosse, and appeared on TV as a member of an an academic team and had feature roles in all the high school plays and musicals. However he never earned his Eagle before leaving for BYU on a full ride scholarship. I am aware that other young men have managed to complete their Eagle under similar constraints.
    The activities for young women have always lagged a little behind, possibly because they were largely local option. Away from the Wasatch Corridor YW camp is somewhat hit or miss. I appreciate the movement toward EFY and Youth Camp activities that involve both boys and girls. If my predictions about Church association with the BSA are realized it is likely that similar joint activities for teens will increase in numbers and importance. Many conservative Christian churches have already divorced themselves from an increasingly liberal BSA. There are good reasons that the Church never associated itself with the GSA. Just as LDS social services has altered its participation in adoptions, sometimes we must set anchors against the flood tide of popular culture as it infects long cherished associations.
    If and when association with BSA ends there is no reason that the local youth should discontinue learning first aid and life skills. In fact why not teach first aid and emergency response to all our youth?

  36. I just took the time to listen to the Mormon Stories podcast featuring Kate Kelly and her husband. If you have any questions regarding the faithfulness of Ms. Kelly and whether or not she accepts the truth claims of the Church, you should take a listen. Or, if you want, you can take my word for it. She does not accept the truth claims of the Church. Bruce Nielson, your questions have been answered.

    The most she seems to say is that “I find a lot of value in Mormonism.”

    The most interesting points I got from it are these:

    John Dehlin is a crappy host and interviewer.

    Kate Kelly and Brother Kelly are “childless by choice.” Neither of them wants to have kids, Kate very emphatically, and Neil by acquiescence. He waffled a bit when asked whether his mind would change if Kate’s did, and he said something to the effect of “well, if Kate changed her mind, I would be the best dad ever.”

  37. To MD.
    I admire those like you and Meg who are willing to do the heavy lifting of listening to the Dehlin interviews. I’ll accept your report of what you heard. I saw a picture of the two, KK and spouse, together. As a portrait artist I have developed a fairly keen eye for how relationships are fairing through telltale signs. I don’t want to be harrassed by OW devotees so I will keep my observations private.

  38. Pat Chiu, I agree with your concerns about the BSA and also hope the Church develops its own program soon separate from the BSA.

  39. From my April 9th post titled A View of Keys, this snippet seemed germane:

    What I heard Elder Oaks describe as well was the vast middle ground that is neither uniquely salvific nor uniquely related to creation. This is represented by the large green sphere and is shared by both men and women. The activities in this sphere are conducted under the umbrella of priesthood, but are only possible because there are individuals (necessarily added to the race and nurtured by women) who can perform the activities.

    So a useful conversation that might occur on this topic regards the extent of this great middle ground where both men and women may serve, and whether there are pockets that rightly belong to this great middle ground that have been relegated to one gender or the other due to folkways unrelated to the keys unique to salvation or creation, respectively.

    Just to say that Elder Oaks’ talk already appeared to set the stage for a significant re-evaluation of Church callings, to see which of these lies in the great middle ground where roles need not be relegated to one gender or another.

  40. While I’m in the mode of prognostication I will predict an ever closer relationship between YW and Relief Society, already indicated by the invitation for young women to spend some time in Relief Society opening exercises on a regular basis. This seems to be a trend toward treating young women more like the Aaronic priesthood in terms of their relationship to adults. The transition from YW to RS has been notably difficult for some young women and efforts are in order to alleviate the divide. While I am personally convinced that the Preisthood is intended for the men of the Church, I also believe that Relief Society is valuable for women and more effort should be made to make our daughters feel a desire to progress to full membership. Perhaps lowering the age of full participation to sixteen years of age would be one solution, but while willing to prognosticate, I want to avoid any hint of wanting to dictate. Our Prophets often leave me in awe as they move forward. I could not have predicted the various changes in the missionary program, not the least of which is new emphasis on post baptismal nurture of budding testimonies. It is not so much a matter of budgeting equally as it is a matter of providing for what is needed. Once again I am profoundly grateful to leave it in the hands of God and his chosen leaders.

  41. I am not sure YM have any easier of a time transitioning to Elder’s Quorum than Laurels to RS. Lowering the missionary age for both may help somewhat. But it is hard to be treated like kids, have a birthday and then expect them to be adults. The boys seem to have more opportunity to step up and have more mature responsibility through their Priesthood, but boys are still mature at a slower rate. I’d love to see the YW utilized in a better way as Laurels.

  42. Meg, do you really think that anyone even someone sympathetic to OW would have the desire or patience to listen to these “conversations” (formally called discussions)? It would just get tedious.

    I was at a family reunion this summer when discussed OW with a family member that is sympathetic to their cause. She brought up many OW talking points. I and some female family members listened to her go on politely, but we were hardly convinced. If the subject came up again with her, we would probably change the subject. If pressed, I would try to avoid this person. I don’t think I or my other family members are unique. I think OW has delusions of grandeur about their ability to be convincing to a typical rank and file active member of the church or many others for that matter.

    Making up six discussions (oh I mean conversations) was a rather ridiculous move. I perceive that as a parody of the missionary discussions. I find it rather funny, but somehow I doubt the folks at OW have a sense of humor. I would be really funny if it weren’t so tragic for those involved in this.

  43. Rk, I think the people involved in OW are made up of 1)sincere people who want to effect positive change within the Church and 2)insincere worldly activists trying to hurt the Church by continually picking at areas of supposed weakness and 3)some combination of the above.

    For the people in group 1), there are legitimate areas of concern and areas for improvement. Why do only men give the last talk during Sacrament (for the most part)? Why until recently did only men give prayers at Conference? Why can’t YW hand out programs for Sacrament so they can feel more involved? The issue is: “how do you raise these concerns in a faithful way?” It turns out there are forums for doing so, both on a local and church-wide basis.

    For the people in groups 2 and 3, I suggest being wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Know where people are coming from. Many people are being fooled by the sly anti-Mormon activists who are leading many of these campaigns. As in many things, by their fruits ye shall know them. If somebody keeps on bugging you with six discussions and does not know when to stop, it is a clear sign that they probably belong to groups 2 or 3. Be polite but firm. Your response shows you can tell when somebody moves from a sincere person being helpful to an insincere person trying to cause trouble.

  44. I think you are right about the makeup of OW and sympathizers. Fortunately, I am pretty sure that my family member is in the #1 camp you describe. I see the ringleaders of OW exploiting the sincerity and the hurt in group #1 to their advantage. This is a very insidious thing they are doing. I personally saw the discontent OW women had help foment in my family member. I’m not a fan at all. I just feel bad for the people in group #1. They are hanging out with snakes. I hope no permanent damage has been done to them emotionally and spirutually.

  45. This is why I waded in and commented on the stuff those seeking female ordination are posting. There are some valid points, but they have mangled the history and failed to understand key points regarding the doctrine of the Church.

    My hope would be that folks in the #1 camp could read my critiques and realize that the “obviousness” of these episodes put out by those seeking female ordination isn’t as obvious as they might have thought. And being a woman myself, it isn’t as though I’m clueless about why some might wish for things to change.

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