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.
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).
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.
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?
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.