Discussion Four Critique

Discussion4This fourth discussion was not posted on the promised date.

Day after day I visited the website. As the time for the discussion to be posted became a distant memory, I began to hope that those advocating for female ordination had realized the folly of their strategy.

Alas, it does not appear those advocating for female ordination have decided they were pursuing folly. So I remain uninformed regarding the reason for the delay.

In this fourth discussion, we are asked to read a number of articles and scriptures. Which I did. After a brief matching activity, the discussion proceeds to present to me the articles and scriptures I had just spent so much time reading.

It becomes clear from the stories presented that those seeking female ordination presume that they can, by dint of persistence and public pressure, eventually effect change in the Church regarding priesthood, much like the change that occurred relative to the former racial ban on granting priesthood keys to those who were of Black African descent.

Winning Allies

There is a book of some acclaim, titled How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It has sold 15 million copies since it was first published in 1936. If those advocating for female ordination truly wish to win over those who would need to grant their desire and influence their future actions, these advocates might do well to consider the tenets in Dale Carnegie’s book.

There are a variety of behaviors and habits suggested by Dale Carnegie that I haven’t detected as prominent among those seeking female ordination, for example:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  • If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Begin in a friendly way.
  • Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
  • Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  • Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  • Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  • Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  • Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  • Let the other person save face.
  • Praise every improvement.
  • Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  • Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  • Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

At this time, it seems like “If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically” would be a particularly useful behavior to adopt as soon as possible.

I understand someone is being given the opportunity to admit they were wrong. Yet for some reason, this individual claims they cannot get to the venue where such a discussion would be appropriate. In the event that the challenge is financial and the barrier is distance, I have frequent flyer miles I would be happy to donate if it facilitates a quick and emphatic admission of wrong. I think I am even local to the venue in question, so there wouldn’t even be a need for hiring a rental car.

When Personal Revelation is in Conflict with the Authorities

This discussion contained numerous stories about revelation. However many of these stories had nothing to do with revelation that overturned the principled position held by those in authority.

The following stories had to do with simple (if sometimes miraculous) improvements:

  • Jethro’s suggestion that Moses share the duties of judgement
  • Emma Smith’s suggestion about tobacco spit on the floors, which led to the Word of Wisdom
  • The Brother of Jared requesting non-flammable light

The other three articles mentioned are a mixed bag.

  • April Young Bennett’s article exposing her ignorance regarding how women “hold and exercise priesthood” is possibly intended to be a suggestion that the leaders produce clarity.
  • Brigham Young’s excerpt suggesting that individuals should seek revelation rather than blindly following leaders is presenting in a manner that suggests that individuals will receive revelation that tells them their leaders are wrong. However the actual quote is clear to me: Brigham wants people who know by revelation the Godly intent of the leaders, so are able to actively assist in facilitating the Godly direction of those leaders rather than blindly and stupidly following even when nuances are neither aligned with God’s intent nor the actual hope of the leader in question.
  • The story about how the Church under the direction of Spencer W. Kimball finally overcame the priesthood ban preventing blacks from receiving priesthood keys (including temple ordinances) was amazing. But here we see the leadership of the Church, themselves, working to understand and effect change. I thought it was particularly poignant when in 1954 the special committee of the twelve was asked to study the issue, only to conclude that the priesthood ban had no clear basis in scripture but that church members were not prepared for change.

This last story, so key to the righteous indignation of those seeking female ordination, contains another story. That is the humble patience of those who stood to benefit once the policy was changed. I’m pretty sure Darius Gray and his fellows of the Genesis Group did not run about writing news articles about how racist the Church was, or doing the kind of things those currently advocating for female ordination are doing.

Secondarily, as indicated by numerous public statements, the ban preventing blacks from receiving the priesthood clearly did not originate with Joseph Smith, despite having taken strong hold of the vast majority of Saints within two decades after Joseph’s death. Therefore, the ban could be rescinded.

However the policies withholding priesthood keys from women do not appear to have arisen from cultural folkways alone. You can’t point to any time in the lives of Jesus or Joseph when women were granted priesthood keys. Those advocating female ordination try to wrest the Relief Society minutes to prove women did hold (or had been promised) priesthood keys, but making Emma autonomous leader of women and oblique reference to power (fulfilled later in the temples) is not the same as granting women priesthood keys.

Independent of whether or not it is appropriate for women to receive priesthood keys, those advocating female ordination have failed to consider an important point of order contained in Doctrine and Covenants 28:

2 But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant [the prophet], for he receiveth them even as Moses.

3 And thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him, even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations, with power and authority unto the church.

So for those currently persuaded that female ordination is the right thing and something so important that it is worth risking everything gained from membership in the Church, consider requesting revelation for how it is possible to be obedient and declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations. Consider reading a recent copy of Dale Carnegie’s book. Consider the faithful example of the members of the Genesis group. I suggest that you can do more to strengthen faithful Mormon women from within the fold that you’ll ever accomplish insisting on being thrust from that fold.

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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.

24 thoughts on “Discussion Four Critique

  1. Meg,

    Thanks so much for posting this. I had forgotten about the Genesis Group and their humble patience. You are correct that this is probably the best way for all groups (not matter what their beef with church doctrine) to move forward. The tactics of these groups by trying to publicly shame the church and it’s leaders is what prevents me from giving them much sympathy.

    Also it should be noted that the story of Jethro, Emma Smith, and the Brother of Jared–none of them were asking for a change in doctrine. They simply had a problem and went to the Lord in an attempt to solve it.

    Thanks again for posting.

    Medford

  2. Hi Meg, you wrote “I began to hope that those advocating for female ordination had realized the folly of their strategy.”

    Do you really only believe that they have a “folly of strategy”? Is that really all you see it as or will you come out and actually say it is truly apostasy and going against doctrine? I guess I’d like a very short explanation because I have only seen you play both sides of the field on all issues and kind of dance around directness about doctrine and social issues.

    I’m not sure why you don’t come out on these things? It just seems to water down your positions. I’m just giving some feedback, you don’t have to post this if you don’t want :)

  3. Hi S.,

    Even though those seeking female ordination have wandered pretty far from the path in pursuit of their goal, their original aims were likely inspired by good.

    I suspect the original aim was more equitable treatment of females and making increased female power available to the Church, neither of which are bad aims. So I attribute their strategy to their original good aims.

    You are perhaps misled because I don’t castigate folks in uncertain terms. That is because I don’t know all the details. Also, I am posting under my real name, and so do not allow myself the absolutist accusations an anonymous blogger might be tempted to fling.

    For what it’s worth, I’m rarely willing to delete or moderate comments from real people, even real people with whom I don’t agree.

  4. “There are a variety of behaviors and habits suggested by Dale Carnegie that I haven’t detected as prominent among those seeking female ordination, for example:

    Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.”

    You know, as I think about it I am beginning to wonder KK might have made a significant tactical error. From my experience in dealing with civil rights movements, it is important to maintain the perspective of the relatively powerless victim against the larger, powerful organization. But by opening up criticism of the local leadership (the Bishop, for example, for not transferring the records), they have placed an individual who otherwise would not be in the spotlight and is relatively powerless in comparison to an organization with thousands. Even if they attempt to dial it back, the worm is out of the can (so to speak), and criticism will be heaped down on the local leaders heads. That will not, ultimately, benefit their efforts.

    Of course, that is all arm of the flesh talk, and the Bishop in his stewardship is more powerful than all the lawyers in the world combined, but I don’t think it is a minor issue. I think in the long run, they will be hurt by their complaints about the process.

  5. When random readers of the New York Times read the word “bishop,” they are thinking of the Catholic version, which is an individual who presides over a much larger organization than a Mormon ward. They don’t understand that a Mormon bishop is a fellow who is doing his ecclesiastical duties for a congregation of a few hundred people without pay while simultaneously attempting to have a healthy family and a career that will provide for that family.

    So if the strategy was to convince Mormons that Ms. Kelly is a powerless victim, it’s a flawed tactical step. However if the strategy was to alert those unfamiliar with Mormon culture that Ms. Kelly (and Mr. Dehlin) are facing a large, powerful organization in order to bring external pressure to bear, it isn’t clear that this was a significant tactical error.

    Of course, aligning oneself with the side of the unbelievers in the ostensible pursuit of changing the organization and culture of the believers seems a fundamentally flawed strategy, in my opinion.

  6. Thanks for another great critique. I appreciated your tact and your (it seems to me) sincere hope for their repentance. Perhaps you have read Carnegie’s book.

    OW truly has crossed the line by opening up local bishops to public pressure.

  7. I realized that I have more to say. :)

    I suppose everyone has read KK’s statement on OW wherein she calls her local leadership cowardly and unchristlike for doing this after she has moved… except she technically has not moved. Perhaps this as splitting hairs, but KK has not yet purchased a new home, according to the OW sister in my ward.

    I hope Kate takes you up on your offer of a ride.

  8. My understanding is that Kelly is temporarily living in Provo whilst preparing for a move to Kenya (!). I wonder whether she was hoping she could delay her hearing until she got some Kenyan bishop (or, better yet, some hapless teenaged missionary serving as an interim branch president) who would be cowed by her pseudo-sophisticated DC-Area-Human Rights Lawyer™ schtick; and then come back to the States crowing that her exoneration before a disciplinary council was already res judicata?

    ‘Cause she sure as heck wouldn’t get a more sympathetic hearing in Provo than she is going to have in Virginia.

  9. Not to mention a Provo bishop has already taken away her parents’ temple recommends for their activity with OW.

  10. Oh, interesting. Kenya was mentioned, but I thought that was a trip, not a move. Moving to Utah made absolutely no sense to me as an escape tactic, but Africa? Now that’s a different story.

    KK is talking about how the local leadership started discipline as she was packing to leave (when she received the probation letter that should not have come as a surprise since she had already been told on May 5 that she was on probation). I suspect the truth is that she decided to leave right after her May 5 meeting with the stake pres, when she was placed on probation. When they could not get to Africa quickly enough, they went to Utah (to be with family, as she said) just to be be somewhere other than Vienna, VA.

    KK acts like church discipline is chasing her or deliberately scheduled for after she leaves. I believe what actually happened is that she decided to leave only after church discipline began.

  11. “This last story, so key to the righteous indignation of those seeking female ordination, contains another story. That is the humble patience of those who stood to benefit once the policy was changed. I’m pretty sure Darius Gray and his fellows of the Genesis Group did not run about writing news articles about how racist the Church was, or doing the kind of things those currently advocating for female ordination are doing.”

    Wow… I had forgotten about this too. The comparison is obivous.

  12. Meg, this was an absolutely great post. I love the D.Carnegie tenets. Lots to think about.
    Regarding the following”
    ” You can’t point to any time in the lives of Jesus or Joseph when women were granted priesthood keys”

    Just a little clarification here, as it was said by Elder Oaks and in lesson 11 of Joseph Fielding Smith book, there is a difference between the office of the priesthood and keys of the priesthood.

    “Priesthood keys are the power and authority to direct the Lord’s work on the earth.

    There is a difference between receiving an office in the priesthood and in receiving the keys of the priesthood. This we should clearly understand. …… While all men hold the priesthood who are ordained to any office, yet there are special, or directing, authorities, bestowed upon those who are called to preside. These authorities are called keys.” (Lesson 11 JFS)

    Priesthood keys direct women as well as men. Women do receive keys of the priesthood all the time, as the keys are defines as the authority to perform certain duties in the Church or to preside. Therefore, when a woman is set apart to be RS President or Primary President, counselor, teacher, etc. they are given the keys to perform the duties pertaining to their callings, the same way they are given to men. Like Elder Oaks said last conference, what other kind of keys could they be, but priesthood keys. What is not given to women are the offices of the Priesthood. Here is what he said:

    “We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.”

    That’s my understanding in the matter as explained by the GA’s.

  13. Hi Kareen,

    I agree that women are granted priesthood authority to carry out efforts/missions/callings on behalf of the Church.

    You claim that Elder Oaks said “what other kind of keys could they be, but priesthood keys.”

    But in the quote you inserted, we see that Elder Oaks actually said, “We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?”

    Women are currently granted authority, but not keys. Then again, the vast majority of men have authority but not keys.

  14. You are right about my quote, but JFS explained it better,
    “There is a difference between receiving an office in the priesthood and in receiving the keys of the priesthood. This we should clearly understand. …… While all men hold the priesthood who are ordained to any office, yet there are special, or directing, authorities, bestowed upon those who are called to preside. These authorities are called keys.”
    Women are also called to preside and teach in the church, and they are given the keys to those callings. Priesthood authority is given via keys = “power to perform duties under the priesthood authority.”

    Priesthood holders have authority to bestow those keys. We women can hold the keys to our callings, but we do not have priesthood authority to give or transfer those keys to anyone, neither do the men without the proper line. For example, I was given the keys to the RS Presidency (the right to Preside over the sisters and perform those duties under the priesthood) , but I could not bestow or give those keys to anybody once my time was over. The priesthood holders who have the authority over that calling are the ones who can call a different RS president. I hope I explained myself.

  15. Hi Kareen,

    I know it seems like splitting hairs to anyone outside this conversation, but the keys of the priesthood are not merely the authority to preside in a calling. By that definition, even the President of the Beehive class would have priesthood keys.

    I covered this in a comment I made in the critique of Discussion Three:

    Q. What is meant by priesthood keys?

    A. The ability to authorize exercise of priesthood power and perform priesthood ordinances (which was followed by a discussion of the need for authorization to administer the sacrament, for example).

  16. Kareen and Meg,

    AS pertaining to keys, Handbook 2, Section 2.1.1:

    “All ward and stake auxiliary organizations operate under the direction of the bishop or stake president, who holds the keys to preside. Auxiliary presidents and their counselors do not receive keys. They receive delegated authority to function in their callings.”

    The only folks in your wards and stake that actually hold keys are the Stake President, Bishop and the Presidents of various priesthood quorums. None of the counselors hold keys. Authority to act is delegated, but not the keys.

  17. When I was a freshman at BYU, I was called to be a counselor in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency, and right after the president was set apart, the Stake President invited him to set me apart as a counselor. As he started he gave me all of the “authorities and keys” for the calling and the stake president chimed in, softly but sternly, “No Keys! No Keys!”

  18. Meg: “… by dint of persistence and public pressure, eventually effect change in the Church regarding priesthood, much like the change that occurred relative to the former racial ban on granting priesthood keys to those who were of Black African descent.”

    I’m not sure if you meant to suggest that the change in granting the priesthood to all worthy males was the result of “dint of persistence and public pressure,” but public pressure was not the reason for the change as I experienced it. Had that been the case, the doctrine/policy would have been changed in the 60s (at the height of the civil rights movement when public awareness and criticism was at its height, when other athletic teams refused to play BYU because of the ban, etc.). By the 70s, the outside pressure had largely dissipated.

    There was certainly persistence by the prophets in seeking for the “long-promised day” when those blessings could be granted. Personally, seeing how the Spirit was poured out on those living in Africa in the decades immediately preceding the lifting of all restrictions, I think the Lord was clearly preparing the people of Africa accordingly. The prophets up to that point in time (as well as First Presidency statements to the Church) makes clear, to me, that the issue was both doctrinal & policy related (just as is polygamy–the policy under the doctrine changes, the doctrine itself never does/did as the promise was made from the beginning). David O. McKay related the following according to the Church architect at the time:

    “I remember one day that President McKay came into the office. We could see that he was very much distressed. He said, ‘I’ve had it! I’m not going to do it again!’ Somebody said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m badgered constantly about giving the priesthood to the Negro. I’ve inquired of the Lord repeatedly. The last time I did it was late last night. I was told, with no discussion, not to bring the subject up with the Lord again; that the time will come, but it will not be my time, and to leave the subject alone.’ We were all, of course, a little bit dumbstruck. I don’t think that it has ever been written that that happened….
    “I’ve never told anybody about that. I can still see him coming in with a bit of a distraught appearance, which was unusual for President McKay. He always appeared as if he had everything under control.” –Richard Jackson, an architect who worked in the Church Office Building, quoting his experience with David O. McKay [SOURCE: Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005), p. 183.

  19. Obviously those advocating for female ordination haven’t studied the details of the case they believe is precedent.

    It is nice reading the story about David O. McKay tyring again. It gives expanded context to his rejoinder, “That question makes it seem like *I’m* the one in charge of this Church!”

    I like to think there was an opportunity to avoid the priesthood ban entirely, but once it was implemented and the people had entwined their souls in it, the ban had to run its course.

    I personally think the situation with women and the priesthood is completely other, and has more to do with God’s love for all his children, not just the ones like me and my husband who wouldn’t care what kind of individuals held the keys (so long as they are righteous).

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