Discussion One Critique

Discussion1I’ve been interested in reviewing the discussions those critical of the Church’s treatment of women promised to post. My experience is that you really had to dig to find this stuff.

Looking at the first discussion, “See the Symptoms,” I find I agree with much of what they are saying. Basically, the lesson talks about what it is like living in a culture where one portion of the participants are not treated equitably. I have experienced inequitable treatment as a woman in a male-dominated profession and as a mixed-race child engendered at a time and place where my parents’ marriage was consider void and prohibited. I get the importance of equitable treatment. However their conclusion that disparities between the males and females in congregations would evaporate if only women were permitted priesthood ordination seems simplistic and flawed.

I have three main points to make about this first discussion:

1) It is (interestingly) a rather female-oriented document. It is clearly intended for an audience that feels rather than thinks. Being a female, I think this is actually rather clever. Being an engineer, I find that the exercise will fail to resonate with the portion of the population that would need to stop being patronizing.

2) I am the descendant of many generations of Mormons. The most recent three or four generations in my personal ancestry were presided over by faithful women whose husbands were not participants in the faith community (making it generic so I can include my Chinese grandfather in this population). These women did their best to raise their children to love God, and all of them were pained by their husband’s unwillingness to participate in Christian/Mormon culture. As a result of this reality:

a) I wonder how many men who have been faithful in the Church would have declined to participate, if it weren’t for the male bonding facilitated by priesthood quorums.

b) I personally have been raised to care deeply for the spiritual guidance from my foremothers. By extension, I was raised to care deeply for the spiritual guidance from the gender-peers of my foremothers. In my own life, I have given significant weight to the teachings of my gender-peers, such as my female MTC teacher who taught us that sisters have the right to give blessings by the power of their faith in Christ (a right I have mentioned in open meetings and had confirmed by my Bishop at that time).

c) I wonder that the writers of this first discussion do not appear to understand the beauty of being shielded from service “opportunities” that could conflict with a woman’s ability to either engender children or raise them successfully. In my own life, the raising of the children has been primarily assigned to my husband, because of circumstances unique to my household. My children still seek me out, but my husband is the one whose schedule has been freed from other responsibilities that he might be available for all the many things that arise in the middle of the day and night.

3) Although I disagree with the implicit (and sometimes explicit) conclusion that ordination is the remedy, there are many valid cultural points being raised in this first discussion. Given where the discussions will lead us, however, I can’t help but be reminded of the conversation represented as occurring between one Eve and the one tempting her. The temptor told truths, but then suggested an action that was not the only option, an action that was in direct opposition to God’s commandments.

I challenge us to identify those ways that our culture is inequitable in unGodly ways, with suggestions for how we as a Church can influence the ones perpetuating the unGodly traditions in a manner that is consistent with God’s ways.

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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 One Critique

  1. Three or four generations? Are you referring to those who were widows as well as those with inactive or non-member husbands? I learned about the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic power in one of my anthropology classes. In most traditional or ‘patriarchal’ societies such as pre-revolutionary China, older women, particularly the matriarchs of well-to-do families exercized great power over various key areas of family and community life. They were almost like puppet masters, deciding issues such as marriage alliances and decisions about property. This was often exercised through their sons who held extrinsic power because of the death or resignation of their fathers.

  2. Mormon women often rule within the home where their decisions about family matters are supported by their husbands who seem relieved to focus on their jobs and callings with the idea that they can trust their wives to make good choices. Relationship disfunction often seems to occur where the wife is unwilling or unable to function as the keeper of the home or where the husband wants to ‘boss’ everything and interferes with and counters his wife’s decisions. Priesthood is a form of extrinsic power but it is designed to serve the interests of others. Where someone pretends that priesthood gives him the right to bully and boss his wife and children rather than bless, support and serve them, he deserves reprimand. I cherish memories of those few times when this mutual support system functioned properly in my home. A man who understands and honors the true nature of the priesthood is a blessing to his family. A woman who dismisses the importance of a balanced structure of authority and wants to ‘do it all’ will suffer the consequences and possibly never understand what she has sacrificed.

  3. I found much of the rhetoric similar in nature to the ways the anti-Mormons use to undermine the church and priesthood authority. It left me sickened. Seeing them twist Elder Christofferson’s talk, playing BINGO with mocking/undermining authority, picking away at everything they could to undermine the church and it goes on and on. I see a sense of displaced/misplaced compassion with these groups. They want us to feel sorry for them and use the good nature of women’s compassion to pull others into their mentality. Sympathizing with groups that are directly contrary to the Church leaders and the doctrine is what they ultimately want. Sympathy for their chipping away at authority. I can’t imagine how the Brethren would feel or think if they read this (which they probably have). More than this, I cannot imagine how the Savior feels when he sees this kind of mocking and twisting of His priesthood authority on the earth.

    Now, having said this, yes, they do address some cultural things that resonate with some members but please consider that this might be a tactic used to lure in those who are on the fence or don’t feel like they fit in. OW is crafty. They want to gain followers and will embrace any woman with open arms who has had a bad experience with one person on a ward level for instance. They are not innocent in this and would like us to believe that they are humble, meek seekers of truth. I sincerely hope women don’t get sucked into their false philosophies that have a little cultural truth mixed in for good measure. I almost sense that you might be getting a little caught up in the sympathy that they want to achieve by agreeing with some of the things they are saying. Without the sympathy, they have no power.

    We are warned over and over again in the scriptures that Satan uses mimicking and mixing truth with false doctrine in order to gain followers. I see this as a Korihor situation in real-time. When members call out the group (not individuals) firmly that they are repeating the pattern in the Book of Mormon, they immediately respond that we are being unkind and u Christ-like to stop the conversation from going into the reality that their actions are those of apostasy. They are our sisters who have been deceived and these things need to be brought to light. I hope that through the love of good friends and family or ward members, they can work through these issues with the Lord. I hope that well-intentioned women who want to feel compassion towards these sisters will do so with the understanding that they are in apostasy and they need to be brought back with our love and prayers and understanding (but not displaced, inappropriate compassion).

    It might be helpful to discuss how these discussions are indeed apostasy (please look it up on LDS.org because all the resources on there make it black and white). Perhaps it would be good to find ways to help those who have or are in the act of apostasy to come back?

  4. As someone who knows me well challenges my characterization of my ancestors back to 3-4 generations, we have:

    Parents – she remained faithful always, he was sometimes faithful but mostly not faithful.

    Chinese grandparents – she was converted to Christianity years before she could be baptized, he wasn’t, or at least his son indicates he was pretty much a committed Buddhist in his thinking at the end (rationale for not letting us do the temple work).

    Utah grandparents – she was Mormon, he was baptized Mormon but never received (or sought) priesthood ordination. When I was staying in their home prior to entering the MTC, I remember him deriding the Book of Mormon.

    Chinese great-grandparents – none of them were Christian.

    Utah great-grandparents – In couple A, he was excommunicated and died when the children were young, leaving his wife to bear the burden of raising the children in the faith. In couple B, he had been baptized, but pretty much broke his wife’s heart by not darkening the door of a Church during the course of their married life.

    I suppose if I have to go back to my great great grandparents, we hit the families where the men were faithful members of the Church. So I should have said “going back three generations” except those are the folks who are in the fourth generation spot on my family tree…

  5. Apostasy.

    Yes. There is that. And yet, if an individual who is trying to subvert you points out a legitimate weakness, is it appropriate to deny the weakness merely because of the subversive purposes of the one illuminating the weakness?

    Put another way, shall we allow those who are being characterized as subversive and apostate to take control of the interpretation and history?

    In Lesson two they include an interview with Chieko Okazaki, the original Relief Society minutes, and a paper describing the evolution of what blessings were permitted, citing the encouragement of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young for the practice of female blessings in healing situations. So while I contend they are twisting these documents to their ends, I would rather examine what they are doing and counter their interpretation than merely sit silent.

    Ignoring, as a tactic, doesn’t work to cure cancer. I’m not sure if it is a recommended tactic to use for folks who are taking a wrong course to “correct” the Church.

  6. Speaking for myself, I found the packet very boring. I was clearly not a part of the primary audience and I couldn’t find myself at all interested in writing a response. I tried a couple of times and just couldn’t put my heart into it. I even listened to the Google Hangout in which Kate Kelly and others walked through this and it was a struggle to get through it … not because it made me mad, but it bored the heck out of me.

    The most interesting thing about it was a chick named Ingrid who is preparing (?) to go to the MTC in July who monologued at length about how people need to recognize her pain at not being ordained and demands that people need to recognize that this pain is real. I can tell you that I am glad that I’m not the president of the Baltimore Maryland Mission, because I think that he’ll have his hands full with this one.

  7. I also have discussion two and was hoping that it would be more engaging, but it bored the heck out of me as well.

  8. Discussion two went from fuzzy friendly social type of approach to graduate-level study of multiple documents pertaining to some field that looks at documents of this sort (women’s studies or comparative religion come to mind as discipline that might do this kind of discussion).

    I would say that reading the entire interview with Chieko Okazaki was delightful, from my standpoint. I couldn’t help but remember the delightful moment at a play performance at SVU when my friendly husband said “You look so familiar. What *is* you name?” and it was Chieko. She was so sweet.

  9. I love that Meg’s main critique is that you can’t find the link easily on the OW site, but then she didn’t include a link in her post, which is insanely annoying. Classic.

  10. As I disagree with those who demand priesthood ordination for women as the summum bonum, I didn’t feel like I wanted to insert the link here. Let others disprove or validate my experience as they see fit.

    Others wishing to be so kind as to insert the link in the comments could do so, I suppose. Though I know my comments on other sites (not M*) have been rejected for including links to outside resources.

  11. Jill, you need to re-read Meg’s post. That is definitely NOT her main critique.

  12. It is heartbreaking to see what is happening. I followed the top link to the BCC article, and found posted in the comments:

    “Ann Porter says:
    May 22, 2014 at 10:42 am
    It became apparent to me about five years ago (give or take) that the church had no real use for me, so after a couple of years of being in and out and in and out, I’m out. I’m still a nominal member, but I almost never go to church any more. Overall, I’m happier, more confident and much more engaged with the broader community, but I still feel the loss of fellowship, and yes, the loss of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. My spiritual life is all surfaces. I pray regularly with my family, but I don’t even know if I believe in God any more.

    The church structure is autocratic, authoritarian and sexist. It’s not my fault I couldn’t make it work.”

    How tragic this is. Here is a woman who could feel the loss of the companionship of the Holy Ghost as she left the Church, but came to the conclusion from its loss that she wasn’t even sure she believed in God. Throughout it was the Church that was to blame. This one post is the epitome of the Ordain Women movement — leaving the Church is search of happiness, losing connection to the Spirit, losing faith, and all of that to be blamed on those who disagree with you.

  13. I have an English degree, and nothing irritates me more than talking about someone’s grammar or spelling only to disparage them. If you know where they made an error, note it for your own pleasure, or email them with a suggested correction; don’t use it as a bludgeon to somehow give your argument more legitimacy – it doesn’t.

  14. For the most part, I felt your review was fair. I had a different experience reading Discussions One and Two, I really enjoyed taking all the information in. And that timeline in Discussion Two, wow! So interesting to see the progression of women’s blessings and independence of the Relief Society, to our present situation. Oh, and here’s the link to the Getting Started Packet, Discussion One, and Discussion Two, as well as the videos: http://ordainwomen.org/six-discussions/ Thank you for an honest review, even if we disagree on some things: I don’t believe OW is an apostate group from the Church. OW supporters ARE the church. At least, that is true to my experience as an endowed, temple-recommend holding wife and mother who would like to see full gender equality in the faith I love.

  15. Kristy:

    I don’t want to pick on you, because the evidence of your post makes you appear to be a reasonable, faithful person. So if I focus on one thing you wrote (just because it is something that I have seen repeatedly and I think needs dealt with) and critique it, I hope you won’t view me as being hostile or adversarial to you.

    With that being said, I think that a real problem is the repeated mantra “[X, Y, or Z] is the church.” “OW supporters ARE the Church.” We are the Church. Etc., etc., etc. If this Church is to mean anything, in it not merely a collection of people, of philosophies and worldviews, or even doctrine and dogma. None of these things individually ARE the Church — not people, and certainly not a subgroup of people. I put that in terms applicable to both sides — the Brethren are not the Church either.

    By viewing yourself or your group as the Church, it misses a fundamental point that the Church, for all its flaws, is the Kingdom of God on Earth. The Church would still be the Church if each and every member turned away from it. The Lord pulled His Church and His Priesthood from the Earth during the Great Apostasy (although miracles and inspirations continued to occur — a sermon could be written on that point). If we all went astray, regardless of which camp we were in, the Church would go along just fine without us. The stone cut without hands will roll along just fine without you and without me. Hopefully, though, we both take advantage of our opportunities to push the work along.

    In fact, if I were to view a single problem as the most common issue I find in those people who favor OW, it is that one — they see themselves as the Church. They see the Church as a collection of people. That caused them to deal with the Church as though is was a mortal organization — and we can see how that has caused some problems. The Church is an imperfect organization led by imperfect people, but overseeing all of our stumbling efforts towards Zion is the one perfect Person who established this Church and leads it still. We are not the Church regardless of our positions — it is His and not ours.

  16. Kristy, I agree with Jonathan above, so I won’t repeat what he said. I would urge a little caution though in taking everything in Discussion 2 as the Gospel truth. Many of the things on the timeline, for instance, just are not true, and are a misinterpretation of historical events to bend them to fit OW’s narrative. For instance, all of the talk of the ordination of Emma and others in the Relief Society is a great example of how the use of words have been changed over the years. The operable question is whether or not Emma ever had the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthoods conferred upon her. The answer to this is no. There is nothing in the record to support such a conclusion (and as Meg has pointed out elsewhere) this “ordination” was more akin to a setting apart in the modern vernacular.

    However, most of the items on that timeline are concerned with the very mundane questions of control over property and grain and lesson manuals. There’s considerable grumpiness expressed that the Relief Society, for instance, is subject to the authority and direction of ***gasp*** the prophets, seers and revelators set apart to lead the Church. For all the complaints made by LDS feminists about cognitive dissonance in the doctrine and culture of the Church, isn’t there just as much (or more) dissonance in claiming on the one hand to be a faithful member of the Church and to love it, and on the other hand engaging in a effort clearly designed to strike at the very foundations of multiple core doctrines?

    It seems that when I hear supporters of OW talk about how much they love the Church, I hear them describe a Church that has been bent to their will. When I listen to Kate Kelly, and I’ve listened to way too much of her for my tastes, she talks about how she loves the Church in terms of what it could be if only God and the brethren would bend to her demands.

    In the first discussion hangout, she gave a preview for Discussion 4 (“Revel in Revelation”) and teased that it was going to be about her role, and LDS feminists role, to be the guiding or driving force in bringing about the change in the Church and suggested that the only reason she sticks with OW (and perhaps the Church generally, but I may have misread her on that point) is that she expects to be the catalyst for this monumental doctrine change in the Church.

    To me, she’s setting herself up for a huge fall. I saw this because of two things: one, it is highly unlikely that the change she is demanding will occur in any of our lifetimes, if at all. I’m of the considered opinion that if God intended men and women were all to hold the same priesthood on the same terms, Joseph would have seen to it. The fact that there is nothing to suggest that Joseph ever even entertained the idea of conferring the AP or MP on any of the women is pretty clear to me. If I’m right, Kate Kelly will either need to change her stance, or else she’ll end up like Nadine Hansen, a bitter, defeated women who has left the church, but can’t leave it alone.

    Secondly, there isn’t a single example of someone doing what Kate is setting herself up to do. There’s simply not one historical example of anyone (that I am aware) of who has set themselves apart to go out a fix the Church that hasn’t ended up in apostasy. Some of us would argue that she’s already there, but most of us would recognize that she’s on the path. In the end, if there is some change, it won’t be because of Kate Kelly or all the agitating in the world. God does not succumb to bullying or emotional blackmail.

  17. Hi Kristy and Michael and Jonathan (and others),

    I’ve gone ahead and posted a piece about Discussion Two, for what it’s worth.

    I’m glad, Kristy, that you didn’t find me to be a polarized opponent. I am finding nuggets of delightful insight (I do adore data). I am hoping that discussion can lead to a common understanding of our past that will allow us to move forward together.

    I hope those seeking female ordination will not set themselves upon a hill, basking under the shade of a vine, waiting for the implosion of the misguided people they have attempted to convert to goodness and light. Jonah may object to my re-using his story for this purpose.

    As Jonah, they ought to have seen and will continue to see positive change. But patience is a virtue. We should remember to not be bigots (as Jonah pretty apparently was, first shunning his assignment to Nineveh, and then gloating on the hill, waiting for them to perish). Hopefully the Lord won’t see it as necessary to whither the vine that provides Church critics comfort. Perhaps they could even come off the hill and rejoice with us in Nineveh.

    In the end of time, I look forward to joining with Jonah and Nineveh, Alma and those he convinced to leave the Church, Joseph Smith and John Bennett, Emma and Eliza, David and Absalom, and all the children of God who He delights in and hopes to win back to heaven.

    At the end, this salvation of all mankind across all time and all peoples is the summum bonum I seek. So whatever God demands of me, whether it be to lead or follow, to change or remain the same, will be what I am willing to give to Him that I and all those I have loved from an eternity might come to Him.

    Non-sequitur.

    My daughters often speak as though I’m the least of the family. And sometimes that is true. Tonight my youngest daughter had made dinner – cheese sandwiches. Lovely, gooey, melty things pan-fried in butter. My husband was away from the house. So as we sat there to dinner, I wondered whether the family would look to me to select the one to pray or if they would look to my son-in-law.

    While I was wondering, my youngest daughter very decisively said, “Mother. Would you please pray for us?” She clearly felt it was her prerogative to determine who would pray. After all, it was her night to fix dinner.

    And so I prayed over our meal, and thanked God for the food and for our many blessings, and for the Gospel, and a blessing on those we love who are suffering, particularly one who has cancer and another who needs a heart transplant. And after the amen, we ate our delicious sandwiches.

  18. “The Church is an imperfect organization led by imperfect people, but overseeing all of our stumbling efforts towards Zion is the one perfect Person who established this Church and leads it still. We are not the Church regardless of our positions — it is His and not ours.”

    Jonathan, Maybe I am misreading you, but if the Church is lead by the “the one perfect Person,” and if, as an organization, it was restored as an extension of perfection, then it is illogical to characterize His church as an “imperfect organization.” Yes, His church operates in a fallen, telestial world with faithful, yet imperfect people, but for all the problems created by us mortals, it doesn’t make His church imperfect.

  19. Tiger:

    I understand what you are saying, but it depends on what you consider perfect. I have my three-year old load the dishwasher. This might be perfect parenting in execution and perfect efficiency in delegation (because that is how a three-year old learns responsibility). What it clearly is not is perfect dishwasher loading.

    I believe God’s perfect plan incorporated a lot of ‘dishwasher loading’ by a lot of imperfect people. And I am fine with that. The Lord established the big-picture items, and he put the right people in the right places. I look at Old Testament times — the Lord put Moses in charge and Moses established the ordering of the tents of the camp of Israel. Do I believe that this organization was perfect? Not really. But it was perfect in that the Lord picked Moses as the imperfect man for the job, and by following that imperfect man we increase in our ability to follow the Perfect Man. And isn’t that what it’s all about anyhow?

  20. “…I can’t help but be reminded of the conversation represented as occurring between one Eve and the one tempting her. The temptor told truths, but then suggested an action that was not the only option, an action that was in direct opposition to God’s commandments.”

    I’m just honestly curious, what were Eve’s other options? I have just never really thought of there being other options and am curious as to what they could be.

  21. Hi Meg,

    Are you Mormon? Have you been endowed?

    In my opinion, Eve’s other option was to say:

    “Thank you for your interesting proposal, dear snake. Let me consult with Father.”

    One record we have of the event as it transpired, the fruit partaken without consulting God, is in Moses 4:

    22 Unto the woman, I, the Lord God, said: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

    23 And unto Adam, I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying—Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.

    I propose an alternative had Eve refrained from partaking of the fruit:

    And unto Adam, I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast hearkened unto my voice, and hast refrained from eating of the fruit of the tree, blessed shall be the ground for thy sake; in joy shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. (c.f. Moses 4:23)

    Unto the woman, I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast not partaken of the fruit, but sought counsel, thou shalt be blessed. For thou shalt have all knowledge and shall be as the gods. Thou shalt bring forth seed unto thy great joy, and they shall comfort thee. And when thou shalt die, it shall be to thee as a moment, without pain. Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and his desire shall be to thee, and thou and thy husband shall rule together in righteousness. (c.f. Moses 4:22)

    And the woman and the man did live together in joy and love, rejoicing in the goodness of God, bringing forth seed and righteousness.

    Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Cain, Abel, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with all his posterity, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing. (c.f. D&C 170:53)

    And behold, when the days of their probation had come to an end, Adam and Eve were caught up to heaven. And Cain did preside in righteousness over the children of Adam.
    ________________________

    Basically, we have the following options:

    Satan tempts. Adam refuses, Eve refuses. God reveals the required path.
    Satan tempts. Adam refuses, Eve accepts, Adam refuses. God reveals…
    Satan tempts. Adam refuses, Eve accepts, Adam accepts. God reveals…
    Satan tempts. Adam accepts, Eve refuses. God reveals…
    Satan tempts. Adam accepts, Eve accepts. God reveals…

    Other than the one represented in scripture, the option I find interesting are those where Eve refuses the temptation. I won’t bother speculating on what would have happened if Adam had yielded and Eve remained true, because that changes both major prerequisites to the fall as recorded in scripture. But it isn’t too hard to figure out the possible outcome for the case where Eve chose to obey rather than yield.

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