By Jeffrey Collyer
Jeffrey Collyer says about himself: “Not much to say really. I’m a middle-aged member of the Church, married to a fabulous woman with whom I do my best to raise 4 children, living in the UK. I’ve been writing my own blog about the Atonement for the last 6 months or so – www.allthingswitness.wordpress.com”
If you pay any attention to the LDS blogosphere (and let’s face it if you’re reading this you probably do), then you will have noticed that again as we approach General Conference there has been an upsurge in the number of OW-related posts.
While I wouldn’t say I have actively followed the various arguments on either side, I follow a wide range of LDS blogs, and have therefore read countless posts on the subject. Unfortunately I am now at the point of inwardly groaning every time there is another post about OW, and after some pondering on this, I have identified why that is, as well as a proposal for an alternative “Movement” (so if you don’t want to read about OW skip to the end).
So firstly, why I don’t want to read anything about OW anymore (and yes I appreciate the irony that I am writing about something that I don’t want to read about):
Firstly, I find it boring. I don’t mean that in an insulting way; it’s just that I can’t find anyone saying anything new on the subject. One of the reasons I follow the blogs that I do is that I like to read thoughts and ideas from others that are fresh to me, giving me new insights and different perspectives. But all of the arguments that proponents of OW make basically boil down to variations on, “It’s not fair”, which makes neither the argument nor the counter-argument terribly enlightening. I still tend to read OW-related posts because, I think, “Maybe this one will be different. Maybe this one will actually have something new to say.” But invariably I’m disappointed and end up wishing I’d spent the 2-3 minutes doing something else. So, could anyone wishing to post on the subject of OW please SAY SOMETHING NEW!
Secondly, I really can’t see what they’re trying to achieve. Anyone who knows anything about how the Church works will know that confrontational campaigning just isn’t going to do anything to further the cause, so I have to assume that the leaders of OW either have a different agenda to the one they are publicly espousing, or they’re not terribly well informed on how the Church functions. Either way, it doesn’t suggest to me that this is a “Movement” either from or on behalf of faithful members.
That is not to say that I don’t think faithful members can or should have serious questions about issues that affect either the majority or minority groups within the Church. It is also not to say that I don’t think that cultural conditioning has shaped some of our Church policies. After all, if we really ignored our modern-day cultural demands, then the injunction to be like the Saviour would mean that all LDS would men would wear dresses and have beards. On the subject of beards, certainly here in the UK there are plenty of very well respected public figures with beards, and it’s frankly bizarre that they are essentially taboo in the Church. But to be honest there are more important things for me to worry about in my life than growing beards, or wearing plain white shirts to Church, or any of the other cultural norms we follow.
Finally, I can’t help but think that the OW agenda simply misses the point, and is a distraction from the real questions we should be asking. For a start it seems to conflate Ecclesiastical Authority and Priesthood Authority. I think we already do that too much in the Church. But as the Doctrine and Covenants makes clear, the purpose of the Priesthood is not to fill an Ecclesiastical structure, but rather to bring us into the presence of God. I’m sure that many members have been in Wards or Branches where the Ecclesiastical leader has exercised unrighteous dominion as described in D&C 121, but they still retain the Ecclesiastical authority until they are released from their Church calling. So while I think there could be a genuine discussion to be had about Ecclesiastical structures, I think it’s a mistake to assume this is the same as having a discussion about who holds the Priesthood.
And in terms of Priesthood authority, there are some really interesting questions we could be asking. So for example, in our Temples women officiate for women and they are given authority to do so, without having any Priesthood conferred upon them. But if one of the key purposes of the Priesthood is to officiate for Priesthood ordinances, then this throws up a load of questions such as: What authority are women using in the Temple? And if (for example) that is something like delegated Priesthood authority, then what else could members do if Priesthood authority were delegated to them?
In reality, I don’t think we really understand the Priesthood terribly well, and rather than campaigning for greater access to something we don’t understand, perhaps instead we should seek to understand it better. Then we might just see how the opportunities for us all expand as we gain the greater light.
So, I have a proposal that a new “Movement” be started, to be called the Understand the Priesthood (UP) Movement. Let’s start a discussion about that instead, and see if we can’t all use the Priesthood which we all have access to, in order to get closer to God. After all, that is ultimately what the Priesthood is for.