The LDS Church Responds to Criticism and Details Efforts to Reach Out to Women

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The Millennial Star has received the following letter from the Public Affairs department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints entitled “Context Missing From Discussion About Women”.

The letter, written by Michael Otterson, Managing Director of Public Affairs, responds to recent criticisms from bloggers and explains and clarifies the Church’s efforts to reach out to LDS women and to listen to their ideas and concerns. It also clarifies the role of Public Affairs and their supervision by the highest authorities of the church.

Letter: Context Missing From Discussion About Women (PDF Document)

Text of the letter follows:


Context missing from discussion about women

Comments on various blogs over recent months about what Church leaders
should or should not think and do about women’s roles in The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints prompt me to provide some context from an insider
perspective that may be helpful.

Recently a woman posted this comment on a blog:

Please understand that not [all] women who wish to be seen in all their worth are seeking to be ordained to the priesthood…. What I am finding…. is that most of these women have been demeaned and marginalized by one (and usually many more) of the brothers of our faith. They have been told their ideas won’t work. They have been told they are not important. They have been told they are lesser.

The point is a noteworthy one, namely that LDS women who describe themselves
as feminists don’t necessarily seek ordination, but rather to be genuinely valued
and given a voice that is respected and welcomed.

There are three specific criticisms that have been raised on various blogs that will
be addressed here:

Criticism 1: The Church doesn’t want to hear from women about
painful experiences, doesn’t talk to them or only wants to hear from
women who are “blindly obedient.”

This is untrue. I can say with certainty that not one of the senior leaders of the
Church would ever want any Latter-day Saint to feel demeaned or marginalized.
Does it happen? Yes, of course. In 30,000 congregations led by lay leaders, it
would be extraordinary if it didn’t. Serving as a stake president or bishop is
demanding and exhausting, and by and large they do a remarkable job of it.
Likewise the countless men and women who serve at various levels in wards and
branches. But we are all human, and occasionally we say things clumsily or we
lack sufficient sensitivity or language skills or experience. The Church is a place
where we make mistakes and then hopefully learn to do better. It is also a place
where we allow others to make mistakes and improve.

What this argues for is better training of leaders and members, and more
patience, more long-suffering, more sensitivity and Christlike behavior on the
part of all of us. Bishops are extraordinarily busy, but like local leaders, should be
particularly aware of how easy it is to come across as patronizing or dismissive
when a woman wants more than anything to be listened to and feel as if she has
truly been heard.

But this is quite a different conversation from one about ordaining women to every office, from bishop to apostle, thereby radically redefining how Jesus structured His Church. Those of the Twelve apostles whose responsibilities include leadership and training are acutely aware of these training challenges and expend much energy addressing them.

If there is one thing that my lifetime of working with Church leaders has taught me, it is that they care deeply about Church members and their feelings. In our remarkable system of Church governance, no man or woman can rise to high office without first serving for decades in responsibilities that bring them up-close-and-personal with a mind-boggling array of human problems. In the course of their lives, apostles have spent countless hours in such counseling situations, struggling and sharing tears and helping members work the miracle of the Atonement of Jesus Christ into their lives. While their work as apostles is largely accomplished through local leaders ministering to their congregations around the world, they remain crucially aware of issues that concern the members of the Church.

Many members do not understand this. Even as the Church has grown much larger, the First Presidency and the Twelve are widely read on current issues and continue to travel and engage with the body of the saints. Such assignments invariably bring them into contact with rank-and-file members of diverse thought and backgrounds, not just leadership. I have heard members of the First Presidency and the Twelve speak many times of those experiences, and what they learn from such engagements. When they return, those interactions are often shared and a formidable knowledge base develops over time, especially given the lifetime of experiences of the senior Brethren. The same is true for the women leaders of the Church, who meet one-on-one in the homes of members, hold focus groups and have countless conversations with women and men as they travel the world.

Neither are General Authorities immune from challenges that can arise in their own families, with children or grandchildren, nieces and nephews. One of the great blessings of the Church is that we have leaders who experience the same burdens as the rest of us. They are not aloof.

Additionally, various Church bodies such as the Missionary and Priesthood departments constantly channel information to Church leaders through more formal channels such as the councils on which the apostles sit. Some Church entities such as Public Affairs and the Church’s Research and Information Division specifically seek out opinions from members.

An example: some years ago Public Affairs invited three groups of women, all active Latter-day Saints and including feminists, to come for several hours each to discuss concerns. I use the term “feminist” here not to imply political activism or campaigning, but simply as a term to describe those who want to further the interests of women in a variety of ways. The first two groups included single and married women, working mothers and stay-at home moms. Several in the groups had earned PhDs. The third group consisted mostly of members of stake Relief Society and Young Women’s presidencies, and we were particularly interested to learn if there were differences in perceptions between these groups.

In order to build an environment of trust, we do not disclose whom we meet with or what is discussed, although we do sometimes ask for permission to record the conversations so we don’t miss anything important. We find that this creates a safe place for transparent conversation. For several hours, a woman staffer facilitated the conversations, and I sat in and mostly listened for a major part of the time. I assure you that these women were not wallflowers. We learned a lot, and those findings have long since been shared with members of the Twelve individually and in appropriate council settings. Those kinds of conversations are continuing under similar guidelines to promote honest discussions.

Criticism 2: There is nowhere for women who don’t feel safe in their wards to have a conversation about some of their negative experiences that isn’t seen as subversive.

This is a serious question and I think is the kind of discussion that the Brethren welcome as they seek to understand the concerns of the members. My advice is to be patient, and trust in those whom we sustain as apostles and prophets and the revelatory process.

As we have said, most bishops, stake presidents and local leaders do a remarkable job. Sometimes, men and women in wards take offense when counsel is given. And, yes, sometimes we don’t handle things well.

First, local leaders should always be given a chance to listen. If approached prayerfully and sincerely, most will.

Second, every member, whether man or woman, should initiate such an interview with a willingness to take counsel as well as deliver a message.

Third, every ward also has a Relief Society presidency. While matters of personal worthiness must remain a matter between the member and the bishop who is a “common judge,” other matters of personal concern to a woman can be voiced privately to faithful Relief Society Presidency members and other local leaders. Without becoming an advocate, such a confidante could not only offer counsel but could be invited to accompany a sister to see a bishop or a stake president in some circumstances.

Criticism 3: By not engaging with the more extreme groups, the Church – and Public Affairs in particular – is not acting as Christ would.

First, it’s important to understand that the Public Affairs Department of the Church does not freelance. For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply unthinkable, as anyone who has ever worked for the Church will attest.

As managing director of the Public Affairs Department, I work under the direct supervision of two members of the Twelve apostles, two members of the Presidency of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishop, and alongside a remarkable and devoted staff of men and women.

This group of senior General Authorities often refers matters of particular importance to other councils of men and women leaders, to the full Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and to the First Presidency for further discussion or decision.

The dedicated men and women who work for Public Affairs reflect diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some are native Utahns. Others grew up elsewhere in the United States and some, like me, were born in other countries or are converts to the Church. Young and older, single and married, they have worked through their own challenging life experiences and learned and grown from them, as we all do.

Occasionally, as we have seen in recent weeks on some feminist blogs, those who are spokespeople for the Church and therefore are required to put their names out in the public square find themselves in the cross-hairs of critics. Sometimes those critics are highly cynical and make things personal. In recent weeks, I have seen some of our staff ridiculed by some feminist commentators, called disingenuous or, worse, accused of lying.

Our people are professionals and they have borne this with charity, good grace and without the slightest complaint. I don’t believe for a minute that these strident voices represent a significant proportion of LDS women, or even of those Church members who describe themselves as feminists.

Certainly all the staff understand that public relations is best understood as a bridging activity to build relationships, not a set of messaging activities designed to buffer an organization from others. Readiness to meet with many different groups is therefore basic to public affairs work for the Church, and we do it all the time.

Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept. No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion. Ultimately, those kinds of actions can only result in disappointment and heartache for those involved.

We might wonder what the Savior’s reaction would have been had the many prominent women in his life taken such a course. If Mary Magdalene, or Mary, his mother, or Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, had demanded ordination to the Twelve, had spoken publicly about their insistence and made demands such as we hear today, how would Jesus have felt, who loved them every bit as much as he loved the Twelve? Some of these women were closest to him in life and in death. One was the first mortal to witness a resurrected Being. There was nothing “lesser” about these women in his eyes.

I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised, and that agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue (the lowering of the age requirement for female missionary service was consistent with this conversation).

Few can doubt that the Internet has transformed our society for the better in many ways, notably in providing a voice for everyone with a keyboard or mobile device. The problem with the Internet, as we all know, is that it has also become a place for angry venting, cynical put-downs and the circulating of misinformation. What we read there is often anonymous and unverifiable. People are now apt to quote any blog as a legitimate source, no matter how extreme or cynical or how few people it represents, especially if it happens to comport with their personal view. There is an old quote, attributed to Mark Twain, suggesting that a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Never has that been truer than today, and it can make civil gospel conversations on some topics difficult.

Inevitably, some will respond to a lengthy post like this with animosity or will attempt to parse words or misinterpret what I have said, “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” Nevertheless, I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, more respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other. As Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said recently: “May we realize just how much we need each other, and may we all love one another better,” no matter which chair we’re sitting in.

Michael Otterson
Managing Director
Public Affairs
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

219 thoughts on “The LDS Church Responds to Criticism and Details Efforts to Reach Out to Women

  1. Wow! Excellent!

    I loved these quotes a lot:

    Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept. No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion. Ultimately, those kinds of actions can only result in disappointment and heartache for those involved.

    Its interesting that this is precisely what I explained in the various comments on my last post. I think its truly unfair the way the Bloggernacle has treated the Church here. Of course meeting with Kate Kelly was entirely out of the question. And the bloggernacle making this into an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ issue where Kelly represents any Mormon women that isn’t a Church puppet was unfair and in fact downright sexist and maligned thye vast majority of Mormon women everywhere.

    And PSF was uninformed. The church met with a large group of women other than MWS leaders. I know of several now that have nothing whatsoever to do with MWS.

    The problem with the Internet, as we all know, is that it has also become a place for angry venting, cynical put-downs and the circulating of misinformation. What we read there is often anonymous and unverifiable. People are now apt to quote any blog as a legitimate source, no matter how extreme or cynical or how few people it represents, especially if it happens to comport with their personal view.

    Everyone write this one down! It needs to get quoted and requoted on the Bloggernacle.

    Nevertheless, I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, more respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other.

    And we the Bloggernacle as a whole should consider ourselves rebuked by the Church now.

  2. This is EXCELLENT. Thank you Michael Otterson. You have done an incredible job of being direct, firm, bold, kind, and representing the thoughts of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

    “Inevitably, some will respond to a lengthy post like this with animosity or will
    attempt to parse words or misinterpret what I have said, “straining at a gnat and
    swallowing a camel.”

    Classic.

  3. I’m glad they sent this to Millennial Star too. We got it over at Mormon Women Stand as well.

    Since the meeting we had with Church PA, I have seen so many hurtful and mean things written about Br. Otterson and his staff, all of whom are VERY NICE PEOPLE! And they deserve none of the garbage that has been hurled at them by fellow members of the Church. In my meetings with Church PA with MWS and with Millennial Star bloggers, all of the people at Church PA were nice, very interested in what I had to say, and very open to ideas from members.

    I hope, that even if people do not agree with this letter (because in the 15 mins it’s been out, I’ve already seen some nasty comments) will at least decide to be less mean, and perhaps a bit more forgiving of the Church and the people that the Church has working for them.

    Personally, I have had to work to refine my online tone and behavior over the years to be more reflective of the Savior, it’s definitely a learned skill and one that takes constant practice. I hope that others will decide to do the same and will soften their tone and be more patient with the Church and with those they disagree with.

  4. If there are already nasty comments out there, it only shows the rock solid hardness of the hearts. I thought it was a fantastic letter. It is giving people the option to choose. And, if they chose to do this, they will have to suffer their consequences. Like Otterson said, “Ultimately, those kinds of actions can only result in disappointment and heartache for those involved.”

    I sincerely hope that hearts will be softened and a broader level of understanding (with open hearts) can happen.

  5. Christine – a little too classic in fact! Your atta-boy towards this shows, just as Otterson intended, all this crap piece was about is point scoring. He generically dismisses those he disagrees with by complaining that they aren’t possessed of the spirit of love, as though the Church is entitled to this quality assumption by default.

  6. I hope so too Christine!

    I know there are the rock hard hearts out there. But I also think there are a lot of people in the shadows and who would like to change, but perhaps are hesitant because of ridicule or they just don’t know where to find support to be faithful.

    I think, too, it’s really easy to be mean online, because you can type whatever, and send it into space, and not have to see the reaction of the person. That is one thing I think the internet has done wrong. Manners are important, even if you’re sitting behind a screen, typing words a million miles away from someone.

  7. I still wish that instead of mysterious meetings with the PR department, we could hear someone official (sorry, I don’t have a testimony of the PR department), actually acknowledge some issue and what can be done about it. Maybe a GC talk about being single or childless in the church. Perhaps an official policy that the RS president must be included in ward counsels. Perhaps addressing the priesthood issue not with a condescending pat on the head or a bewildering talk in the Priesthood Session, but just an acknowledgement that the issue is an important one and the 15 are inquiring of the Lord to see if a change should be made.

    Or, they could publicly speak with groups that aren’t just parroting back the same message.

  8. Erick — there are those that are not filled with love online. I have seen the attacks on Br. Otterson and those who are faithful, and they are not nice. So, yes, he was right and totally justified in saying that.

  9. Jon — the RS Pres, is included in Ward Council. If she’s not going, in your ward, then she should be.

  10. “Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept. No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion.”

    I don’t know of anyone making non-negotiable demands. This is PR spin. And to think that the church can’t possibly accept changes displays ignorance as to the church’s history.

  11. “Maybe a GC talk about being single or childless in the church.”

    Truly? General Authorities have spoken about these issues, in General Conference and elsewhere. Been to the Church website before? Good grief.

  12. “I don’t know of anyone making non-negotiable demands.”

    Jon, you’re being purposely obtuse.

  13. Erick, I’m not sure if you had the opportunity to read the letter in its entirety, but please note this extremely significant part (before you criticize this letter further), as this letter represents the views of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

    “First, it’s important to understand that the Public Affairs Department of the
    Church does not freelance. For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position
    inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply
    unthinkable, as anyone who has ever worked for the Church will attest.

    As managing director of the Public Affairs Department, I work under the direct
    supervision of two members of the Twelve apostles, two members of the
    Presidency of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishop, and alongside a remarkable
    and devoted staff of men and women.

    This group of senior General Authorities often refers matters of particular
    importance to other councils of men and women leaders, to the full Quorum of
    the Twelve Apostles and to the First Presidency for further discussion or decision.”

    Again, this letter represents the views of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

  14. And in regard to OW, they were told that if they persisted with their protests they would be cutting themselves out of possibility of conversation. They did continue on with their protesting and the Church is following thru with what they said they would do, and yet some how that makes the Church the big bad meany? Please, they shot themselves in the foot, and now are crying about it. If anything those ladies are detracting from the conversation and getting in the way of real solutions and real work being done by the Church on behalf of the members.

  15. Erick
    Interesting how you used the words, “piece of crap piece”. Somehow this adds to the validity of the characterization of those who “aren’t possessed with the spirit of love.”
    I haven’t seen the official leaders of the church respond rudely. To me, Otterson is saying that, at least on the issue of ordination, OW and the church are not going to agree and knowing what OW desperately wants, the church is not able to give, there is not much a conversation can do, other than to cause more discord.
    I can see why OW would think that ordination could be a step to solving some of their concerns. However, The Lord has made His will known by His servants, the Prophets, that ordination will not be the solution. With this said, I can also understand why the church is not speaking to OW any further. The church has clearly stated it’s position and OW has clearly stated it’s dissatisfaction. The church can’t ordain and OW seems unwilling to accept that. What more is there to say except for further argument?
    There is definitely room for change in the culture of the church in the way women are treated. I truly believe the church is slowly moving in the right direction. However, I think that civilized commentary will bring that about much quicker than name-calling and manipulation tactics.
    Let’s all keep it civil.

  16. Jon wrote:

    “I still wish that instead of mysterious meetings with the PR department, we could hear someone official (sorry, I don’t have a testimony of the PR department)…”

    This is an absolutely fascinating statement. As others have pointed out before, all of the concerns you mentioned have been mentioned by somebody “official,” i.e., a prophet or a GA, many, many times in many, many meetings.

    But I am more interested in exploring the line of thinking that causes one to say they don’t have testimony in the PR department.

    Jon, the letter from Bro. Otterson clearly states that he speaks for the Brethren. So, your statement implies that he is lying. Do you really think Bro. Otterson is lying? Do you really think that he is sending out letters (many of them now) without the approval of the Brethren?

  17. Joyce, can you expand on this? –> “In my meetings with Church PA with MWS and with Millennial Star bloggers, all of the people at Church PA were nice, very interested in what I had to say, and very open to ideas from members.”

    What ideas were suggested in the meeting specifically, and what response did the ideas receive?

  18. Dr. Pangloss, I suspect Joyce will tell you what she has told us — they were asked not to discuss the specific contents of the meeting.

  19. Jeff, I hope Joyce will speak for herself on it, though I appreciate your conjecture. If that’s the case, why publicize it at all? It seems counterproductive to present the meeting as a positive exchange for women of the Church and then not allow women of the church access to the actual contents of the discussion. It makes it look more like a PR stunt than a genuine discussion. (Whether it was merely a PR stunt is beside the point, I’m talking about the optics of the situation here.) What was so secret in the meeting that it can’t be discussed?

  20. This is spin and fodder for further spin. Joyce, you have one item in the cart before the horse sequence. The statement that essentially OW had made themselves ineligible to be included in discussions was not made until after the April Priesthood session. I’m dizzy.

  21. Jeff G wrote: “OW has specifically said that somethings are non-negotiable for them. It was their word, not his.”

    Please provide me a reference for this claim.

  22. Geoff B wrote: “Jon, the letter from Bro. Otterson clearly states that he speaks for the Brethren. So, your statement implies that he is lying. Do you really think Bro. Otterson is lying? Do you really think that he is sending out letters (many of them now) without the approval of the Brethren?”

    He does not speak for the Brethren in any prophetic, revelatory or visionary capacity. He may speak for them in a corporate capacity. I don’t care about the corporate church. A spokesman provides an avenue to speak without consequences. The person that is lending the authority can always just say it was said wrong or he didn’t really have authority to speak on a given matter. It’s a business/political trick that is not becoming of someone claiming to himself, speak for God.

  23. Dr Pangloss (or whomever you are), non issue IMHO. The real issue is the fact that this letter is speaking the thoughts of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

  24. Jon:

    “Jeff G wrote: “OW has specifically said that somethings are non-negotiable for them. It was their word, not his.”

    Please provide me a reference for this claim.”

    Among countless others, http://thestudentreview.org/exclusive-interview-with-kate-kelly-from-ordain-women/

    Key pull quote:

    Q: “Is there a limit to what you want to do here? I mean, we’re talking about female bishops, stake presidents, how about a prophet?
    A: “The ordination of women would put us on completely equal spiritual footing with our brethren, and NOTHING LESS WILL SUFFICE.” (Emphasis added).

  25. So many excellent quotes in his letter.

    First:

    “Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do
    not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for
    doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept. No matter what the
    intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather
    than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion. Ultimately, those
    kinds of actions can only result in disappointment and heartache for those
    involved.”

    And then:

    “We might wonder what the Savior’s reaction would have been had the many
    prominent women in his life taken such a course. If Mary Magdalene, or Mary,
    his mother, or Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, had demanded
    ordination to the Twelve, had spoken publicly about their insistence and made
    demands such as we hear today, how would Jesus have felt, who loved them
    every bit as much as he loved the Twelve? Some of these women were closest to
    him in life and in death. One was the first mortal to witness a resurrected Being.
    There was nothing “lesser” about these women in his eyes.

    I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as
    apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the
    Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his
    leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised, and
    that agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more
    productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the
    Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue (the lowering
    of the age requirement for female missionary service was consistent with this
    conversation).”

    Excellent points, especially about the way Christ organized His church … exactly the way He wanted it and still wants it today.

  26. Jon, so the bottom line is that you think the spokesman for the Church is part of a “business/political trick” set up by the Church leadership. As Spock would say, fascinating.

    Let’s think the logic through on this. The Church under Pres. Hinckley set up a Public Affairs department. Remember, Pres. Hinckley had worked as a journalist and was aware of the importance of public affairs. But when the Public Affairs department was set up by Pres. Hinckley, it was clearly under the control and mandate of the First Presidency and the Twelve. Bro. Otterson says it still is under the control and mandate of the Brethren today. The purpose of the Public Affairs department is simply to deal with the media and the public. As the Church grows, there is simply not enough time for individual GAs to handle such interactions on their own. Every successful large group — including churches — has some department to deal with the media and the public who have questions. It is not necessarily a “corporate” thing, it is simply how large organizations function smoothly.

    It seems to me critics of the Public Affairs department are really grasping at straws, coming up with any excuse they can to still say they follow the Brethren while continuing to murmur. And they pretend that they are not murmuring about the Church and its leaders — they are just complaining about the PA department.

    News flash: the Public Affairs department reflects the will of the Brethren. It is simply a modern-day vehicle for the Brethren to lessen their already huge work load.

    An attack on the Public Affairs department — which was created and is still overseen by the Brethren — is an attack on the Church itself. As Pres. Uchtdorf would say, “stop it!”

  27. Just a quick reminder to commenters: M* is not like some of the other LDS blogs you may have participated on. Polite disagreement may be welcome, but disparaging the authorities of the church or implying that they are somehow dishonest or manipulative is not permitted. Please make an extra effort to be respectful.

  28. “What was so secret in the meeting that it can’t be discussed?”

    “It seems counterproductive to present the meeting as a positive exchange for women of the Church and then not allow women of the church access to the actual contents of the discussion.”

    Right… because taking feedback from people by any entity, religious or otherwise, isn’t the least bit sensitive and that’s why every organization I’ve never heard of all publish their discussions during faciliated feedback sessions. Besides, that way the people giving the feedback — knowing the conversation will be published — will be totally comfortable to say whatever they like. ;-)

    Come on Dr. Pangloss. You know the answer to your questions.

  29. Jon:

    To build on that quote, envision two separate universes. This one, where the quote reads:

    “The ordination of women would put us on completely equal spiritual footing with our brethren, and NOTHING LESS WILL SUFFICE.”

    And a different one in where the quote reads:

    ““The ordination of women would put us on completely equal spiritual footing with our brethren, but NEVERTHELESS, NOT MY WILL BE DONE.”

    I would suggest that a profound difference is found between those two statements. One seems to me to be on one side of an important line, and the other is on another side of it.

  30. I’m sure that Dr. Pangloss would agree that all is for the best in the best of all possible churches.

  31. Ludlow says: “The statement that essentially OW had made themselves ineligible to be included in discussions was not made until after the April Priesthood session”

    Ludlow, perhaps you’re right about the timing (though in fact this has been going on for some time as I understand it, so you might not be). However, I suspect your smart enough to know why Kate Kelly’s actions, even today, wouldn’t change the calcus any.

    I think part of the problem is that if someone believes what Kate Kelly is doing is okay, they likely already believe that the only thing holding the priesthood back from women is sexist attitudes or the like.

    So human beings, being rather unfair, will try to come up with any reason to attack the Church over this. Pragmatically we all know that if the Church did meet with OW it would seem to legitimize their call for ordination and thus legitimize their views about why women don’t have the priesthood – namely that the church is simply sexist.

    There is no big secret here and we all know it. But if you honestly believe that God (assuming you even believe there is a God) isn’t the factor holding back female ordination, then politically it makes sense to do what you (Ludlow) and Dr. Pangloss are doing, namely asking questions that you already know the answers to and would behave just like the Church if all roles suddenly reversed, but to ask the questions in a way insinuating that the Church isn’t being sincere, or has something to hide, etc.

    It’s pure politics and we all know that’s the case. And I doubt I can talk you out of it. But it also does come across bad.

  32. Geoff B: The ‘hat’ of President of the Church is different than the ‘hat’ of Prophet of God. The corporate entity takes actions that may be just fine, such as setting up a PR department. That is simply an administrative action. If you are suggesting that these paid employees are the source of our current doctrine, than I would suggest that it is priestcraft and we need to stop it, right now. If, on the other hand, it is a department merely to make some corporate functions more simple, then bravo, but it still ain’t a prophet.

    Jonathan C: Let’s look at the quote: “The ordination of women would put us on completely equal spiritual footing with our brethren, and NOTHING LESS WILL SUFFICE.” Kate is saying that nothing shore of priesthood ordination will create ‘equal spiritual footing’ with the men of the church. I tend to agree with her, and this isn’t drawing a line, it is inviting a counter argument. What, short of priesthood ordination, would create an equal voice for women in the church. If an alternative were presented, I think it would be welcomed, but I haven’t heard of one yet, myself.

    My big problem is that speaking about hugely important issues through some PR spokesman is easily seen as passive-aggressive, condescending, and generally off-putting. Personally, if Pres. Monson were to state that he had asked God about giving women the priesthood and the answer in ‘no’, I would be satisfied. NOTHING said by the PR department will satisfy me on any gospel topic. They’re paid to put positive spin on things. That’s their job, and that job runs counter to speaking plain truth.

  33. Bruce Nielson: “Pragmatically we all know that if the Church did meet with OW it would seem to legitimize their call for ordination” But their concerns ARE legitimate. I don’t personally know what God’s view on the matter is, but there are some really troubling issues regarding women and the church. They are issues that are legitimate and should be addressed with dignity.

    If the purpose of refusing to meet with someone because you disagree with them if fear of making them legitimate, than I would suggest that would in fact be sexist, and I hope you are wrong about that basis. Concerns that brothers and sisters have are legitimate, whether or not anyone agrees with them.

  34. Since some here appear not to have read my description of the terms of the conversation in which I mentioned I had participated, here is the redacted e-mail I sent to Bruce, who had somehow found out about my involvement in one of the interviews Brother Otterson refers to (Bruce was all excited about maybe seeing the interview written up somewhere along with an official response):

    “Hi Bruce,

    “We chatted with the PA folks for about an hour. They pretty much said they’ll neither confirm nor deny that any such interview took place, etc. But they
    apparently do this kind of thing not infrequently. As I recall, they
    reached out and then it took several weeks before the actual interview got
    scheduled.

    “So it isn’t as though you’ll see anything on the Church website that
    is directly linked to what we said.”

    When forks are doing ethnographic research, it is extremely common as part of the ethical treatment of such volunteers, to suggest an environment of non-attribution. So the identities of the participants and the content of the discussion is not supposed to be shared with others.

    Since I have studied and conducted ethnographic research, and have been in multiple fora where the “not for attribution” rules were stipulated, I immediately and viscerally knew what I was being told. However it appears that some others are not familiar with those conditions and implications.

    As originally, I only post my involvement here to re-affirm the conditions that were stipulated as part of the discussion in which I participated. And this is why you don’t see me saying who was in the conversation or when it happened or what “group” I was part of or which group I was not part of.

  35. Jonathan: As a side note, your alternative formulation of the quote, with ‘Thy will be done’ is indeed a better, way of saying it. But just because the semantics aren’t all they could be doesn’t mean that there isn’t something there worth talking about, or a person worth talking to.

  36. Jon,

    You are crossing the line of what is acceptable on this blog. You’ve made your point, now rein it in. Please find ways of expressing your concerns with less accusatory language regarding the church and with more respect for its leaders or refrain from commenting. This is your warning. If wont comply your comments will be moderated. Thank you.

  37. “Personally, if Pres. Monson were to state that he had asked God about giving women the priesthood and the answer in ‘no’, I would be satisfied.”

    Because he should spend his time telling us about every prayer he says and every answer he gets. As soon as one subject was “answered” then the clamoring begins for the next. Or better, for just a different version of the same thing. I think it is pretty clear that Pres. Monson is aware of the concerns and the past conference gave good council. Let him who has ears…

    Frankly, I think that even if he were to specifically state, “I have prayed about it and the answer is no,” there are many that who now claim that they would be satisfied that would suddenly find that it just wasn’t quite sufficient. There are plenty of patterns of that in the scriptures, after all. Or at least of receiving divine messages and then immediately beginning to question it.

  38. I, for one, very much appreciate Brother Otterson’s letter.

    I forgot to admit that I did stipulate that I hadn’t been part of a seemingly similar conversation that was reported to have happened on the MWS Facebook page, which report appears to have caused some to suppose that PA only talks to the kind of person the critics have presumed make up MWS.

  39. Mike, do you really think that it would be burdensome to share prayer experiences on topics that have broad application to the church membership? I don’t. I agree with you that some would be dissatisfied with that. I can only speak for myself. If he were to say that, I would not be sympathetic to groups who didn’t take it seriously.

    J.Max: I have the utmost respect for the church leaders. I just don’t think that Brother Otterson, who I have no doubt is a good man and true, belongs to them. This fact doesn’t disqualify his words as not having meaning, they just don’t have the same weight for me as do the words of, say, President Monson. I also don’t think that President Monson or the First Presidency or the 12 have any evil intent or nefarious design. If I gave that impression, it was through expressing myself inartfully.

  40. Hi Jon,

    May I suggest that allowing President Monson to remain silent on the matter of an answer allows for flexibility in some future where we are given more latitude than might be permitted at this particular moment?

    Take, for instance, the desperate prayer of President Taylor, who on behalf of an incredibly oppressed people requested an end to the New and Everlasting Covenant. Because President Taylor hadn’t understood that plural marriage is severable from the New and Everlasting Covenant.

    Because President Taylor asked that particular question and then shared the answer he received, we have suffered terrible schisms in the body of those believing in the Church as it existed in 1889.

    I, for one, am content to allow President Monson to remain silent, that God may enjoy maximum future flexibility.

  41. Just one correction with Meg, I never did think there was going to be a write up. I was just curious what she could tell me if anything. (I may have joked about a write up)

    Jon says: “But their concerns ARE legitimate.” “If the purpose of refusing to meet with someone because you disagree with them if fear of making them legitimate, ”

    Okay, Jon, now notice what you just did, because its a very good example of waht I just pointed out.

    You are conflating Kate Kelly’s views (i.e. that ordination is non-negotiable) with any other woman’s issue. Bad form, sir.

    You also took my statement that the church can’t meet with Kate Kelly because that would seem to legitimze *ordination* (her non-negotiable stance of her own free will and choice that she’s chosen to publicly protest over) and then you’re conflating it with the idea that of “refusing to meet with someone because you disagree with them if fear of making them legitimate.” I mean honestly, Jon, try taking your views to anything even like unto a logical conclusion. OF COURSE, the Church shouldn’t meet with a protester insisting upon ordination when trying to figure out how to address women’s issues in a way their doctrine allows them to.

    Bad form again, sir.

    And of course we all know you’re trying to somehow position an obvious necessarily pragmatic move on the Church’s part to not talk to a protester — whose sole focus is on obtain ordination via non-doctrinal channels — as that somehow this is some sort of non-charitable act. Because (you are implying) the ONLY possible way to address women’s issues is by meeting with such a protester.

    Jon, while I may not be a mind reader, its not hard to see that someone whose true goal is women’s ordination would have strong incentive to use the various techniques you just used above: to attempt to conflate women’s ordination with all women’s issues, to try to position Kate Kelly as solely representing women’s issues, and to try to embarrass the Church as much as possible over what is really — when it comes down to it — news that the church really does care about women’s issues so much that they’ve been talking to a lot of women for ideas.

    I mean its such positive good news (and its even positive news for what I’ve seen a lot of liberals claim they are asking for!) and so it does not suprise me that the sole ‘bad spin’ the bloggernacle could come up with was “Well, they didn’t meet with the protester, Kate Kelly! So that means they didn’t really care about women’s issues!”

    Please consider a more realistic view here, Jon. The Church is doing what you’ve been hoping for — addressing women’s issues — but doing so in a doctrinally consistent way for our theology. Even if you personally believe women should be ordained, or even that the only thing holding it back is the sexism of the Brethren, can’t you at least see that this isn’t an approach or attitude that is realsitic for the Church overall? This is a good time for you to say “Yes, I appreciate the Church’s efforts and i can see why meeting with Kate Kelly was an unreasonable expection given the Church’s current doctrine.”

  42. Dr Pangloss …. I am a blogger here on M* and at MWS, as well as a manager on the facebook page for MWS. I participated in interviews for both groups, with other people.

    We were asked not to discuss the specifics of the meetings. However, I will say this, I felt very uplifted by both meetings and felt very much that the Church cares about the concerns of ALL of its members.

  43. “If the purpose of refusing to meet with someone because you disagree with them if fear of making them legitimate, than I would suggest that would in fact be sexist”

    I’m also more than a little unclear on how not meeting with a protester that has announced her sole purpose is to obtain ordination, so the Church instead met with women that weren’t insisting on something they couldn’t give, is somehow sexist. I’m not sure I even see the connection at all unless you’re implying that women’s ordination is the only possible solution to women’s issues (like Kate Kelly believes.)

    Minus that assumption It’s like your slapping a label on something just because its negative.

    Why not just say ‘well, not hearing out a woman concerned with women receiving ordination is sexist because I agree with Kate Kelly that’s the only possible solution.’ At least your statement would make some sort of logical sense then. And I’m sort of already assuming that’s the point of view you are really coming from precisely because it becomes impossible to make sense of what you are saying without first assuming that.

    If this isn’t where you are coming from, can you see why your insistence that not meeting with KK was somehow sexist just seems perplexing? In reality, everything you say seems perplexing (i.e. conflating KK with all women’s issues, etc.) unless I first assume you think that’s the sole possible answer to women’s issues. So that is why I keep assuming that. If that’s not your intent, you need to change your approach significantly.

  44. Bruce: Do you really think that priesthood ordination is only Ms. Kelly’s issue?

    Meg: I’m not sure I understand what you are saying, but I appreciate your way of addressing the issue. Are you saying that President Monson can’t give a definitive statement on the issue because in the future we may discover the statement to be wrong? Or are you saying that the answer could be, ‘not now, but check with me later’? It just seems odd to me that you are saying God needs plausible deniability, but I could be misunderstanding you.
    I personally would have no problem with President Monson saying, in essence, “I’ve asked/I will ask, and if/when the Lord reveals something new, I’ll let you know.” That would be fine, as I understand that President Kimball prayed and pondered for years before we understood that the priesthood ban relating to blacks was wrong. Maybe the time will come for female ordination, and maybe that time isn’t now. I don’t know, but I’d like to hear that the question is being asked, because it’s important. We are struggling to retain our young female adults, and from my experience, a great deal of the reason has to do with their sense that they don’t count as much as their male counterparts.

  45. Jon, Have you considered that no answer IS an answer? It means not now… Neither are we to demand or counsel the Lord on providing an answer. Perhaps Pres. Monson just doesn’t have the answer yet, but who would that satisfy, really?

    Have you also considered, and I have never seen anyone state this, that President Monson is the greatest respecter and champion of women—particularly women in the church? He attended the funerals of all 84 widows under his care when a bishop. If that doesn’t shout RESPECT, I don’t know what does. President Monson is a Christ-type figure who cares deeply about women. Of course, some people may say he’s only touting the party line or maintaining the status quo, but changes have been forthcoming under his tutelage, and I expect many more will occur, though probably not as fast as some would like, despite their “agitation.” Hence, I fully support Otterson’s call for greater patience, civility, and generosity.

  46. Bruce, to be clear, I tend to agree with Kate that ordination is the way to equal footing in the church. I am totally willing to have alternatives presented to me, and I don’t pretend to know God’s will on the issue. I also didn’t say that not meeting with KK was sexist, I was saying that delegitimizing a person is some form of ‘-ist’ and I disagree that fear of legitimization is the reason for not meeting. I also didn’t conflate ordination with all women’s issues, it just happens to be one of them.

  47. “We are struggling to retain our young female adults, and from my experience, a great deal of the reason has to do with their sense that they don’t count as much as their male counterparts.”

    I call baloney on this. Yes, we lose young adults, but that is primarily an issue related to virulent secularism in the United States. Overseas, this is not really a problem. And losing young adults has, really, always been a problem for the church. What do you think happens to LDS kids who can’t get into BYU and end up going to a university where there is small or zero LDS presence or support? They usually drift.

    Also, there tends to be a measurable drift of religious affiliation in college years across the Christianity spectrum, only to have many come back once folks have settled down, married, and start having kids of their own.

    In other words, the sky is not falling, despite the narrative pushed by folks who have real problems with the way the church is managed.

  48. Tiger: I think President Monson is a wonderful and kind man. Never said otherwise. I also believe that it is possible that no answer has been given and that may be the answer for not. I just would like to hear that the question is being asked. That’s it. Not so much, I think.

  49. Michael Towns: So you aren’t familiar with Marlin Jenson’s statement that we are losing members faster than at any time since Kirtland? I know that in my ward and stake young adult women are a huge issue. Maybe we’re an outlier.

  50. Jon, if I may make this suggestion as politely as possible: you have had your say. This is a “virtual living room” for people who support the Church. When you are in a living room and there is one guy who tries to dominate the conversation, making endless comments and not moving on, it starts to appear that the person is overbearing. My suggestion would be: move on. You have made your point. It would be a shame to ban you from this blog because you have the potential to add things on future posts. But as for this post, you have had your say. Thanks.

  51. “So you aren’t familiar with Marlin Jenson’s statement that we are losing members faster than at any time since Kirtland?”

    Um, yeah. I’m quite familiar with the statement. And I think that it’s true that we’re losing a lot of members…….in the United States. But guess what? We’re not just a United States church anymore.

    Are you familiar with a great quote by Ezra Taft Benson, back in the late 80s, that a time was coming wherein the Church would go through a “great sifting”? Would you like to take a stab at whether that sifting is going on right this very moment, and that it’s been prophesied of? And expected? And that things are gonna get Really Bad before the Second Coming?

    This is all proceeding according to the plan, Jon. I suggest we stop whining and simpering and get down to the business of keeping our testimonies.

  52. “Mike, do you really think that it would be burdensome to share prayer experiences on topics that have broad application to the church membership? I don’t. I agree with you that some would be dissatisfied with that. I can only speak for myself. If he were to say that, I would not be sympathetic to groups who didn’t take it seriously.”

    The Brethren and Sisters do share prayer experiences in almost every GC. But is it our place to tell them which ones they should be sharing?

    Once Moses tried to respond to every issue, broad or not. It was clear that it did not work. How many topics are there out there with broad application? Probably more than we think. We like to think that there is just one or two, but I am confident that a fairly large list could be put together by a large body of church members. So again, what makes one broad application issue more important than another?

    Should the Brethren also give us a list of exactly what not to do on the Sabbath? That has pretty broad application. But they don’t. They share counsel. Obviously there are issues where there have been direct “do” or “don’t” statements. If they choose to make a “prayer” statement, I will be happy to hear it. If they don’t, I am happy to follow the counsel that has already been given thus far. But agitating for it seems to be heading in a direction that goes along with the patterns I mentioned earlier.

  53. Also, it is worth noting that brother Otterson’s letter explicitly states that they have been meeting with women for years. It is inaccurate to talk about this as if Mormon Women Stand (which is only a few months old) is the only group with which they have met, or that they are holding these meetings as a reaction to recent agitation.

    He also explains that the content of those meetings is kept confidential in order that the women involved may speak frankly. They want people to be able to share their honest feelings and criticisms. If they knew that what they said was going to be publicized it would discourage frankness. (As Meg has pointed out)

  54. J. Max: We have seen some changes that I think reflects the fact that conversations have been happening, and for at least a couple of years. Finally having women pray in conference, adding RS general pres. portraits, lowering missionary age, particularly for women I think all reflect that. These are good steps, to be sure.

  55. Jensen insists critics overstate the LDS exodus over the church’s history. ‘To say we are experiencing some Titanic-like wave of apostasy is inaccurate,’ he said.

  56. “Michael: I hope you won’t mind if I worry not just about my testimony, but the testimony of people I care deeply about.”

    Well sure Jon. But folks need to bear responsibility for their own faith and testimony. The parable of the ten virgins makes that explicitly clear. At the end of the day, each individual needs to open the door of their own personal heart. They hold the key to that, not you and not me.

    There is no amount of caring that I possess that can force disaffected folks back into the fold. They have to make a free will choice.

  57. This article draws near to the issue with their words but their heart of the answer is far from it! All of the criticisms that were answered are strawmen and red herrings all wrapped into one.

    Criticism that should be answered #1 Women are not allowed to hold any position in the church that serves as a leader over men or the church as a whole in any meaningful way. Why does a perfect God command that cause many currently don’t believe that is from God as He would become a non perfect discriminator of persons based on sexual characteristics ? An LDS prophet should also actually declare in conference it is God’s will that women be banned from the priesthood because no prophet ever has!

    Criticism #2 that should be answered. There are currently no women leaders that women can go to that have any authority over men, so the women are routinely subjugated. What is the church’s plan to give women more authority to stand up to the men? Not just passively accept the men who are abusing them.

    Criticism #3 that should be answered. Why do thousands of women in the LDS church feel like they have to go outside the LDS church to social media to ask for things to change if the church really has an open dialogue with its women members. What is the process for women to file grievances in the church? Is it to once again go to men?

  58. 2close2call:

    No power or authority can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood. Your post is a reiteration of the reality that many who support ordination for women do so based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of what the priesthood entails. It is not authority, it is stewardship.

  59. @ Jonathon

    Great, so what you are saying then, is women can be given the authority to preside (currently only men do) over men and it does not have to be called the priesthood, correct? I think women would be okay with that.

    Women should be able to decide many policies of the church that have nothing to do with God. If you research it, Most of the church is made up of policies created by men and and not prophecy from God. If you want me to list the policies that are clearly not from God, I will. It will be extensive.

  60. “If you want me to list the policies that are clearly not from God, I will. It will be extensive.”

    Please list males teaching Primary and home teaching. Please.

  61. 2close2call:

    Everything you are writing is based upon a fundamental assumption that everything is about power and authority. That just isn’t what the Priesthood is. Some men believe that, and in so doing they often become abusers, and some women believe it and are abused. But it isn’t correct.

    False doctrine leads to suffering. When you approach the Priesthood as though it was a source of authority over your fellow children of God, suffering will be the result regardless of whether you took that position to satisfy yourself or alleviate the suffering of others.

    Now, with that out of the way, I am happy to address a couple of your other issues. My wife is in the Primary Presidency, and as part of her responsibility she has stewardship over a Nursery which includes an active, Melchizedek Priesthood holder. When she directs him on how the Nursery is to be run, she is acting under her stewardship and that brother, in my opinion, is under the same obligations towards her as I am towards my Bishop or Stake President. That is one example among thousands. Women make decisions on a regular basis, policies are made by women, and men fall under women’s stewardship.

    Perhaps, though, it is not all as it should be (not surprising in a fallen world). Perhaps there need to be changes. But here is the thing — just as the Melchizedek Priesthood holder is under covenant to follow my wife in the exercise of her stewardship, so we too are under covenant to follow the Brethren in the exercise of theirs. Authority and power are not part of the Priesthood plan — but we, my humbling ourselves, can choose to follow the Lord through His chosen (albeit imperfect) leadership. If there are changes that need to be made, and there likely are, then the Brethren will implement the changes that the Lord wants and we will be blessed by following Him by following them.

  62. “Women should be able to decide many policies of the church that have nothing to do with God.”

    I think that much of what you would claim has nothing to do with God, actually would have something to do with Him. And, if you ever sat through a

    “Criticism that should be answered…” Why do I suddenly think about Miriam and Moses? Dictating what should be has always worked out so well.

    It also never ceases to amaze me how many people are “subjugated” while belonging voluntarily to an organization. Subjugation is not a fruit of the Priesthood. If you think it is, then you do not understand the role of the Priesthood. (By the way, I never feel subjugated when our YW presidency tells our YM presidency what we are really going to be doing for our combined activities. Really, we just don’t find it is worth having a problem with that and we recognize that they have a good understanding of their stewardship and we are happy to work with them. I think that is the case in the majority of wards.)

    By the way, do people realize that women in Utah had to give up the right to vote along the way to the federal government allowing Utah to become a state? Those Mormons, always subjugating women. How backwards of them letting the women vote way back before the other states. Good thing modern society stepped in and stopped them and made them wait until they said it was OK. Just keep listening to the world. They always know what is best for you.

  63. Thanks for a well written and timely response to the critics of how women are treated in our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have never felt like a second class citizen in my church. I know there are people who will make mistakes but that can be found in any organization. Hopefully we are able to separate individuals from the doctrine of the church. Thank you for making that clear in your letter.

  64. I just learned how to link to a particular comment in a comment thread. Oh. My. Gosh. That’s so cool. Thank you, J. Max Wilson!

    In response to 2close2call:

    2close2call #1 Women are not allowed to hold any position in the church that serves as a leader over men or the church as a whole in any meaningful way.

    Meg – You’ve defined that none of the roles women hold lead men in any meaningful way. But there is a difference between intrinsic and extrinsic power. You are stating the power of women in not meaningful, but that doesn’t mean you are correct.

    2close2call #2: There are currently no women leaders that women can go to that have any authority over men, so the women are routinely subjugated.

    Meg – This builds on #1’s presumption that women have no power, and the presumption that women need other women to be their advocates. I’ve certainly seen situations where good men fail to understand that bad men can actually be as bad as the victimized woman claims. However in some ways there is no wrath quite as harsh as that of a good man who understands the bad another man has done to a woman.

    The phrase “the women are routinely subjugated” sounds like an anthropological assessment of a studied population, which is interesting. No one routinely subjugates me and mine unless they are long suffering. Whether long suffering describes their attitude (which entices me to yield) or their experience (making them give up any unrighteous attempt to rule) I will leave to your imagination.

    2close2call #3: Why do thousands of women in the LDS church feel like they have to go outside the LDS church to social media to ask for things to change if the church really has an open dialogue with its women members.

    Meg – Those seeking ordination for women haven’t merely gone to social media. They have convinced the New York Times to publish a series of stories “exposing” the Church as heartless and domineering that were strategically timed near International Day of the Woman, stories on which public comments were not allowed. They have staged a public demonstration (two) that appears to have had the calculated effect of hardening the participants in their opposition. They are publishing a series of discussions with the intent of sending their acolytes out into the world to preach this alternative to the Mormon current practice, complete with instructions for how to be most effective at subverting adherence to the current policies of the Church, which involves subverting confidence in the leadership of the Church, both those leaders who are male as well as those leaders who are female.

    I don’t argue that everyone who affiliates with the broader aims professed by these groups is necessarily so calculating. But these are not merely subjugated women with no recourse save daring to write freely in social media forums on the internet.

    For those familiar with the story of Lehi’s sons, Laman and Lemuel appeared to believe that they had no viable option to express their disagreement with their father (and later brother) that didn’t involve insurrection, violence, and attempted murder.

    By contrast, Nephi, stuck with the same father who spouted about visions and commanded his family to leave their home, went to God in prayer to understand. When their only good bow broke and the entire family began to lose faith and curse God, Nephi got creative (literally, I suppose) and then took his created weapons to his father and asked “Whither shall I go to obtain food?”

    Those seeking ordination for women, believing this will result in an end of abuses, are presuming that their only option is insurrection. They don’t appear to feel leaning on the Lord is an option. Nor do they seem to feel that proposing a range of solutions (weapons against the abuse) and humbly submitting them to those in power (male and female) might be of use.

    To expand on Brother Otterson’s suggestion, did those so earnestly desiring an end to “subjugation” go to those women who are General Presidents, counselors, and board members for the organizations within the Church with focus on women? Did they seek an audience with the Relief Society presidency? Or have they determined that the women in these positions are necessarily powerless?

  65. Pingback: Letter From Lds Church Officials Responds To Criticisms Regarding Efforts To Reach Out To Women Letter from LDS Church officials responds to criticisms regarding efforts to reach out to women | UtahGateway

  66. As far as an official statement regarding the Relief Society president being a part of ward council meetings, please reference the section of Handbook 2 describing the ward council meeting:

    https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/the-ward-council?lang=eng#44

    “The ward council includes the bishopric, ward clerk, ward executive secretary, high priests group leader, elders quorum president, ward mission leader, and presidents of the Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School.”

    They should be there and play an active role in helping direct the work in the ward. Oftentimes, the Relief Society president knows more about situations within the ward and is the source of information and suggested actions that should be taken to help a particular individual or family. I’m sure the overwhelming majority of bishops recognize this and seek for the valuable contributions of the women in the ward council. I know I’ve seen it in my ward.

  67. I find this interesting and heartening in some respects, but disappointing in others. The church leadership in general may not want to marginalize or make women feel lesser in any way, but LAST WEEK my sister-in-law, who has been striving for five years to get ready to go to the temple was told by her Stake President (who had forgotten about their first interview together and not showed up the first time and come late the second time) told her he would not give her a temple recommend. Not because she wasn’t worthy but because her husband wasn’t going with her and he wanted HIS WRITTEN PERMISSION to allow her access to the temple. He said he didn’t want to be the one to come between her and her husband (although he apparently had no compunction coming between her and the blessing she strove to be worthy for). I listen to the brethren over and over again say how women are respected in the church, but sometimes the message doesn’t trickled down. NO ONE would have done this to a male member of the church, period.

  68. ” but LAST WEEK my sister-in-law, who has been striving for five years to get ready to go to the temple was told by her Stake President (who had forgotten about their first interview together and not showed up the first time and come late the second time) told her he would not give her a temple recommend. Not because she wasn’t worthy but because her husband wasn’t going with her and he wanted HIS WRITTEN PERMISSION to allow her access to the temple.”

    I was born and raised in the Deep South. Seen a lot of silly stuff in my time, but I’ve never seen anything this absurd down here. I’ve simply never heard of anything this egregious. And you would think that if anything this silly would happen, it would happen down here in this here Georgia.

    Now, there are only two possibilities: you are lying in order to buttress your narrative that the church is chock full of misogynists; or, you’re telling the truth and your stake president is an epic douche bag.

    Well, if it’s the latter, you do realize that you have an inside track to the Lord, right? Why not take it to Him? He is the Lord of Hosts. Let me share something. I’ve been married three times. Yes. Three times. My first marriage was a temple marriage. (I won’t go into the second marriage. Long story).

    At any rate, in order to marry my current wonderful spouse, I had to go through a temple cancellation and clearance process. It was not a short, easy process. Basically President Monson had to personally review the file. Yep, the prophet himself has seen my name.

    I had reason to believe based on my acrimonious divorce that my ex was going to say a lot of mean things about me. A lot of mean things. I figured the well was poisoned and that I wouldn’t be able to be sealed to my current and eternal companion.

    But guess what? The Lord told President Monson to approve my sealing. The Lord did it because He wanted me to marry my wife. He wanted her to be married to me. And it happened.

    So instead of throwing up hands and bemoaning some ignorant or foolish stake president, why the freakin’ heck don’t you take your battles to the Lord of Hosts. Do you not believe in His arm? Do you not believe in His omnipotence.

    Let me tell you something: this is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is HIS church. He rules. Go to Him and plead for justice and you will receive it.

  69. First of all, there’s a small equation that could be listed here.

    Fairness Equality ( means “not equal”)

    Many times in life, being equal does not mean being fair. Two of my kids can illustrate that. The boy needs the biggest and most expensive RC car in order to be happy. The girl gets a butterfly kit (~$15) and is fascinated. The RC car lasts for a week and is forgotten. The butterflies last a few weeks and spark research and learning for a couple months after. Both got what they wanted and were happy. Now, should I have treated them equally by getting them the same thing and making sure there was no difference in that respect? Or should I have let their respective individualities take part in determining what would help them grow? The RC car can teach my kid how to be a good driver or mechanic. The bugs can inspire scientific research into entomology. Each child has their respective role in life and trying to make their roles equal means that one will be treated unfairly in the process. The church is the same, where we each have our respective roles and by filling those roles, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. True equality can come by allowing people to contribute equally in their different (and potentially unequal) roles. Complementing each other’s inequalities can make a larger whole than making each other the same.

    Second point, there is a story in the archives of history about a church meeting being overseen by Joseph Smith in which a particularly vocal detractor kept interrupting. At one point, Joseph stopped the sermon, pointed at the man and said something to the effect of, “Brother (can’t remember name), I command you to stop and be faithful to your wife from this time forth.” The man became very sheepish and slunk out of the meeting without another word. After the meeting, the question was posed about how Joseph knew the man was being unfaithful. He simply pointed to Matthew 16:4 and said, “In a moment of inspiration, his name came to me.” It makes me wonder what signs I’m asking for in order to be content. It’s never ended well. I can think of many BoM instances where prominent men asking for a sign ended up in situations ranging from intense humiliation to agonizing death. I’m content to say that if it’s been spoken in GC (as it has with Elder Oaks), that’s enough for me.

    There is a great work happening right now and a great sifting to counter it. The end result will be a truly converted church that is strong and secure. However, during that process, there will be a lot of discontentment and discord. There are many out there who pose questions they know the real answers to, but are unwilling to accept them. There are people who will make demands they know cannot be met. There will be people who are dissatisfied with the performance of something or someone because they did not meet their expectations, even though they know their expectations aren’t realistic and mean nothing when they contradict God’s expectations. In reality, all they’re only giving themselves two options. Either change the Church to meet them (which destroys the Church at its foundations) or be offended into parting from the Church. What amazes me is that those who are being targeted for criticism are still reaching out, even though it would be really easy to say, “We are cutting all ties with dissenters since there can be no civil dialogue.” Why keep reaching out to people you know disagree with you? The only reason I can think of is because they care and are trying to unite as many people as they can under one cause and save as many souls as can be saved.

    To bring the comments back to topic, I commend the letter and the attempt it makes to try and reach out to others and create unity. While the Prophet speaks for God (of which, the Presidency and Q12 are all sustained as “prophets, seers and revelators”), the PA department speaks for the prophets. I have seen nothing come from them that hasn’t been written or spoken by the prophets first. And as far as I know, they handle all communications as respectfully and professionally as anyone could.

    Yes, I know I’ve opened up myself for criticism and rebuke, but I’ve said my piece (even if it doesn’t completely make sense, which it may not) and I don’t believe I’ll be replying further.

  70. Jessica, I am sorry about your sister’s situation, that is very sad. However, that is not the Church, that is the Stake President, who is a person with faults. There is also an appeals process — she can talk to the regional authority or have her bishop go to bat for her. She is also allowed to ask to have his decision to be reconsidered. Priesthood leaders are not perfect. I agree with Michael — take it to the Lord as well, get your family involved, pray, fast and work at it.

  71. Michael: “Now, there are only two possibilities: you are lying in order to buttress your narrative that the church is chock full of misogynists; or, you’re telling the truth and your stake president is an epic douche bag.”

    Michael, we don’t know the whole story. Perhaps it’s neither? Perhaps a concerned Stake President sees a marriage fraught with turmoil, with the husband antagonistic towards the Church, with the Church being an extremely divisive topic in the relationship. I can see a stake president recognizing the solemnity of the covenants made in the temple, and fearing perhaps that adding this to the fire would flame a fire of contention that could, with a bit more patience, tact, and time, could be resolved and the relationship repaired. Perhaps he was just saying, “Not yet — let’s be patient, and see if we can get him on board first, so that this doesn’t needlessly destroy your marriage.” I can easily see a stake president being very reluctant to issue a temple recommend to a sister who he suspected was going behind her husband’s back and against his express wishes — not because he is a misogynist who believes that women need the permission of their man to do anything, but because that’s not how marriage relationships are supposed to work (in *either* direction).

  72. Jeff T.,

    Sure. There actually about two dozen reasons why the stake president did what he did. But, I think it’s fair to say that a woman does not, in fact, need her husband’s permission to go worship in the temple. Now, she may, for the sake of marital harmony, include her husband in this particular issue. But she doesn’t *have* to do that. And quite frankly, I am not convinced it’s a stake president’s business to determine that. His role is to determine worthiness. That’s the only thing explicitly delineated in the Handbook.

    Aren’t I right about that? Stake presidents aren’t therapists or marriage counselors.

    I’m willing to be corrected, but the church has significantly softened its hesitations on letting women go to the temple without their husbands.

  73. “And quite frankly, I am not convinced it’s a stake president’s business to determine that.”

    As a judge in Israel, they have every prerogative to say, “Please wait.” While they are instructed not to add to the temple recommend questions, they can (and I think should) stop people from going to the temple when doing so will jeopardize their spiritual salvation, rather than advance it. Yes, from what I understand, stake presidents have that discretion, and I think they should.

  74. In many cases and in many countries, I believe that investigators need the permission of their spouse to get baptized, even though that is not one of the questions in the baptismal interview.

  75. Thank you for the clarifying and enlightening information about this issue. Truth and tolerance very well given. It is so good to seek to understand, which this has helped me do. Thank you!

  76. Adding to the discussion, I am certain there are a number of leaders who served in leadership positions when the policy was to require written permission from the spouse. While we would hope that messages get down to them, it is not inconceivable that a person could have served as a Bishop under that policy, served in other callings for decades when the policy changed, and when called as a Stake President simply been unaware of the shift in policy.

  77. I normally try so hard to avoid reading comments, but I got sucked in…big mistake! :) Bro. Otterson’s letter is beautifully and lovingly written as he addresses–on behalf of the Brethren–the criticisms constantly being hurled at living prophets by those who purport to believe. It’s honestly shocking to me that some of this is still up for discussion, especially considering that Elder Oaks did, in fact, answer the question of female ordination in his talk during General Conference. What is shared in General Conference in our day is doctrine (refer to Gospel Principles Chapter 10, among other sources). So when someone says “If I could just hear President Monson say he’s prayed about this and the answer is no,” I call shenanigans. Elder Oaks spoke with the authority and keys of a prophet. For someone to reject his word is to reject the prophet’s word is to reject the Savior’s.

  78. @Michael Townes and Joyce, thank you for your insights. Believe me, after a season of outrage and shocked disbelief, we realized that Satan is just doing his best to stop this wonderful lady from reaching her full potential and just moved on to do what she needed. I wish I were lying. I wish that some men in the Church in positions of authority didn’t act this way. Ultimately of course things will work out and since her husband didn’t have a problem with her fulfilling her OWN desires, he “allowed” her to get her recommend (this is my brother, who is raised in the church but not active for many years. Yet even he wasn’t about to stop her from doing what she believed was correct for her spiritual growth). I wish I were making this up, it seems so ridiculous to be writing it. My point isn’t that the Church is wrong, but I mean come on… to truly hold someone accountable for this kind of behavior is daunting and maybe a bit impossible. Who do you tell on your Stake President to? And she was absolutely humiliated and so upset, as anyone would be in that position. She’ll be going through the temple in June but it’s hard to shake the bad feelings that this gave all of us. Then to read an article about how everyone just needs to be “more long-suffering, sensitive, and Christ-like…” it just burns a little bit.

  79. IN RESPONSE TO THIS POST BY JESSICA

    “I find this interesting and heartening in some respects, but disappointing in others. The church leadership in general may not want to marginalize or make women feel lesser in any way, but LAST WEEK my sister-in-law, who has been striving for five years to get ready to go to the temple was told by her Stake President (who had forgotten about their first interview together and not showed up the first time and come late the second time) told her he would not give her a temple recommend. Not because she wasn’t worthy but because her husband wasn’t going with her and he wanted HIS WRITTEN PERMISSION to allow her access to the temple. He said he didn’t want to be the one to come between her and her husband (although he apparently had no compunction coming between her and the blessing she strove to be worthy for). I listen to the brethren over and over again say how women are respected in the church, but sometimes the message doesn’t trickled down. NO ONE would have done this to a male member of the church, period.”

    ————————————-
    I don’t know if your friend’s husband is a member or not (doesn’t really matter), but any member (Male or Female) who is married to someone unendowed (taht is, someone who has never been through the temple for themselves), that spouse must provide written consent for the other to go. This applies to both men & women EQUALLY.

  80. Thank you. This was an excellent article. I am a convert, and have been a member since 1986. My family joined shortly after my 16-year-old daughter was found murdered. Why is this important? Because we were a part of a “progressive” Lutheran Church. My daughter was getting into drugs, and I asked our pastor to counsel her. He told me that was npt his job. She had to seek counsel herself! I could not imagine my Priesthood leaders saying something like that! But I digress. I have NEVER felt demeaned by my Ward, Stake or Church. I am an equal with my husband of 42 years. I lost another daughter 10 years ago from an illness. Because of the Restoration, I KNOW we will be together again. What other religion can promise this? Please do not change our doctrine or tenets. We would just be another progressive, generic church.

  81. Jonathan Cavender, there has been no shift or change in this policy (per the current handbook of instructions). It sounds like the Stake President in the situation cited above was doing exactly what he has been instructed to do by the brethren in these circumstances.

  82. In response to Jessica and her experience with her sister in law, I was under the same impression that an unendowed spouse of either gender must get consent. I don’t know the whys. I could speculate, but you know what “assuming” does

  83. I appreciate reading this letter from Michael Otterson. He gave an excellent example of how, we as church members, can have a different opinion and still be kind, civil, and show love for one another. I personally, have never felt the need to be ordained to the priesthood or have any of the responsibilities that go with such callings. However, I can still have love and compassion for sisters who feel so strongly about the issue. Many years ago, there were several church members who felt that polygamy was wrong, and when the practice was discontinued, there were many who felt that, that decision was wrong as well. There were also many members who felt that Brigham Young should not have been called as a prophet. These people left the main body of the church and organized their own church. Perhaps this would be an option for OW supporters. Another option might be to let the matter rest and respect the decision of the Lord and his Apostles. The wonderful thing about freedom of religion is that each of us can choose who to follow, and how we want to worship the Lord. OW can choose for themselves without being hateful or critical of the Lord’s apostles. I’m sure they are more than capable of organizing their own religion. They could even use the same organizational structure, only ordain women as well. The only thing they wouldn’t be able to recreate would be the actual power of the priesthood.

  84. Jon, your request to hear that President Monson is at least asking God the question got me thinking about prayer. It reminded me of the prophet Nephi in Helaman 10:5 “And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.” I don’t pretend to be as righteous as Nephi, but I do know that I have greatly desired things, but have been unable to pray for them. I have learned that it is not just listening to the Spirit for answers, but also listening to the Spirit to ask the right questions. It could be that our dear Prophet has not been led by the Spirit to even ask that particular question. But that doesn’t mean he’s not asking other questions relevant to women. Just a thought I had.

  85. For Jessica regarding the request that your sister-in-law get written permission, it might be instructive to recall that when I was a missionary in Italy (aeons ago, true) we could not baptize a sister if her husband was not being baptized.

    Similarly, it was not terribly long ago that a woman could not be endowed if her husband was not endowed, period. I think that policy changed in the 1990s.

    When it comes to an individual getting endowed whose spouse is not endowed, you don’t want the spouse finding out for the first time the evening of the ceremony. Just saying. And you don’t want to just take the word of the interviewee for it.

    It would have been rather lovely if she’d been informed of this policy before she went to the interview with the Stake President. Then she could have gone into the entire process prepared, and would have been able to whip out the permission, and everything would have been understood.

    It’s often about managing expectations.

    When my daughter married in the temple, she was very anxious because we were running few minutes late. My mother, a temple worker, told her the ladies in the temple who would be assisting her would be nice. It was part of their job to be nice. Because temple workers who aren’t nice to the patrons get assigned to work in the laundry.

    Break, break. On the subject of men and women and authority, it’s useful to think about the recent experiments where lab animals were shown to suppress pain response when in the presence of male researchers. Apparently male pheromones cause a stress response that isn’t present with females. So as well-meaning as guys can think they are being, their very presence causes a stress response. When a woman has experienced actual pain at the hand of a man, or has incurred vicarious trauma due to the general oppression of females at the hands of males, they will tend to be hypersensitive to the natural stress response that occurs in the presence of men.

    At times, the very fact that the person is male will cause stress, even when the interaction is conducted over the internet, where there is no possibility that actual male pheromones are in play. Pavlov’s dogs come to mind.

    So for some, there is a real allergy to male power and male presence.

  86. It’s ironic that he’d quote Mark Twain. Mark Twain would probably say that the Mormon teachings is one of those lies that can make it halfway around the world…

  87. Mark was a great man of wit and talent. No fair denying us the chance to quote him just because he thought Mormons were loons.

    Presuming the Mormon worldview is correct, Mark’s had 104 years to hang out and chat with the good folk on the other side. So there’s even a possibility he isn’t so certain now as he was then that Mormons are odd.

  88. Michael, thank you for these truly inspired words. You and the PR group are truly doing the Lord’s work. I thank you for your service.

  89. I now understand why Bro. O had to state that the brethren have to spend so much time thinking about training and education of the local lay leadership and the members. The Lord’s work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal lives of his children male and female. The Lord has already accomplished the first of those two thru his atonement and resurrection. Male and Female are equal on that one. All who want the latter must be sealed under the new and everlasting covenant. The only way to achieve this is as a couple, together. Having been ordained to the priesthood does not achieve exaltation for men. Women being ordained does not give them an advantage or equality spiritually. Only the receiving of sacred ordinances does that and the great equalizer is that the crowning ordinance is bestowed upon both the women and the man together. Asking “why can’t I be ordain to the priesthood?” as a women, is like asking “why can’t my male body bare a child?”. The answer to these questions does not get me a ticket to the exaltation nor does not knowing the answer disqualify me for the same. The reason the brethren don’t spend time meeting with people who disagree on doctrine and don’t respond to such rantings or requests is because such information is not necessary to get you, me or them to the celestial kingdom. In other more direct language, The Lord would say it is a waste of your time and you have other more significant issues to work on before you die to get you to where you want to go. Stop wanting for something that you won’t get. There is plenty from the brethren that you need to work on.

    Jon: sounds like you believe that the brethren are secretive and punitive to our sisters? If you believe that or anything close to it you should another church. One that you feel you can speak highly of, instead of complaining, whining or accusing of denigration. None of what you write is going to get you exalted. It is however, being recorded in heaven.

  90. I decided to check out the other big bloggernacle blogs to see what their reaction was. At BCC, there was a lot of hate toward M*. I saw one vaguely supportive comment of this blog, but it’s gone now. Of course, the comments calling M* racist and sexist are still there.

    And yet, it’s only M* that censors comments they say. We can’t stand dissent, but BCC is an open and honest blog that allows all views to be heard.

  91. Thank you everyone for your comments.

    Telling others to find a different church is an understandable, human response to those who employ public agitation and media pressure on the church in order to get their way.

    However, rather than encouraging them to leave it would be better to encourage them to stay, repent, submit to the authorities of the church, and develop faith in God’s ability to communicate His will to his chosen representatives.

    Let’s abstain from any further comments on this blog suggesting people leave or form their own church and instead encourage them to reconsider their false doctrines and stay. Thanks.

  92. @ Ivan

    I don’t believe what your saying about you post being deleted as it typically only happens on pro Mormon sites like these, but if what your saying is true, please go to [anti-Mormon site] and make the post and I promise it won’t be deleted, but be prepared to handle criticism that you will not be able to answer!

    [Note: Promoting anti-Mormon sites on M* is not permitted - Admin]

  93. @2close2call –
    you’re free to believe what you want, but it wasn’t my comment. It was a comment I saw that wasn’t there the next time I refreshed. Yet when I scrolled up, all the comments about M* is a bunch of bigots were still there. Steve Evans did tell people to cut it out, but also admits he agrees but just doesn’t want to state it out loud.

    I don’t need to go to [some ex-mormon site], sorry. Since you refuse to believe me, it’s clear you aren’t someone who can be reasoned with. If it’s anything like every other anti-Mormon site I’ve seen, the reason I won’t be able to answer the questions is because they are so divorced from reality and evidence, I can’t even figure out how to answer.

    Of course, it’s nice to see someone admit BCC is not a pro-Mormon blog.

  94. Wow. What a fantastic letter.

    Kate – excellent comment.

    Susan Howell – beautiful plea for us to retain our doctrines. And how true. Thank you.

  95. Yesterday evening Jessica stated this:

    “…but LAST WEEK my sister-in-law, who has been striving for five years to get ready to go to the temple was told by her Stake President … told her he would not give her a temple recommend. Not because she wasn’t worthy but because her husband wasn’t going with her and he wanted HIS WRITTEN PERMISSION to allow her access to the temple. He said he didn’t want to be the one to come between her and her husband (although he apparently had no compunction coming between her and the blessing she strove to be worthy for). I listen to the brethren over and over again say how women are respected in the church, but sometimes the message doesn’t trickled down. NO ONE would have done this to a male member of the church, period.”

    This then led to lots of speculation about what would cause the stake president to act this way, most of which speculation is entirely off point. (Joseph was the only commenter who touched on the real point, but he wasn’t as direct as he could have been.)

    The fact is, the stake president was acting as he should have, according to policy. And, Jessica’s assertion that “NO ONE would have done this to a male member” notwithstanding, the stake president was enforcing a policy that is not related to the gender of the individual.

    Here is the actual policy, verbatim, from Handbook 1, page 12:

    “A worthy member who is married to an unendowed spouse, whether the spouse is a member or nonmember, may receive his or her own endowment when (1) the bishop receives written consent from the spouse and (2) the bishop and stake president are satisfied that the responsibility assumed with the endowment will not impair marital harmony.”

    Jessica’s story wasn’t an example of sexism; it was a story of the Church working as it should. The bishop is the one who should have informed the sister-in-law of the requirement (as the handbook states), but even though the bishop didn’t do it, the stake president was required to—and it is good he did.

    While her sister-in-law (and Jessica) may both be heartbroken over this development, the stake president isn’t being mean. He is only applying a policy that has been long established based upon past experiences of Church leaders.

    -Allen

  96. Allen, I think it is also important to note that the policy refers to spouse, applying equally to a man or a woman with an unendowed spouse.

  97. You are correct, Brian. That is why I said that “the stake president was enforcing a policy that is not related to the gender of the individual.”

    -Allen

  98. Thanks for that detail Allen. As Meg mentioned in an earlier comment, violating expectations can cause hurt. Brother Otterson mentioned in his letter that they are trying to improve training for local leaders. Perhaps one improvement would be to let people know in advance about policies such as this one. Seems like the Bishop could have made this sister aware of the policy before she even made an appointment with the Stake President. At a minimum, the Stake President probably could have done a better job of explaining the policy.

  99. This was just an unfortunate miscommunication between the Stake President and the sister. That is why we need the patience Brother Otterson mentioned in his letter.

  100. Kelly beat me to the question ‘why can’t my male body bare(sic) children?’ but honestly, true ‘equality’ begins with basic design. I was mistakenly informed as a little girl that a disease I suffered had made me barren. I mourned my loss for a decade, but then I became pregnant with my first child and rejoiced. Each subsequent pregnancy, birth, and period of nurture was treasued. I value the contribution fathers make, but honestly, I do not resent the design that allowed me the privilege of giving birth and nursing and I believe the role of presiding and protecting granted by ordination to the priesthood provides a balance.
    It appears that Brother Otterson is in the position of Aaron. He legitimately acts as spokesman for the body of General Authorities, most of whom have individually stated these sentiments. We dismiss and denigrate this official statement at our peril.

  101. “We are struggling to retain our young female adults, and from my experience, a great deal of the reason has to do with their sense that they don’t count as much as their male counterparts.”

    Really? Every young adult ward I have been in has far more young women than men. In fact, as a whole, I am pretty sure that women have a higher activity rate regardless of age. In my ward almost half of the missionaries in the field are women. Over the years I have employed many LDS young women and one major problem they have had is finding active young men to date.

    When I was on my mission 20+ years ago Elder Loren Dunn visited our mission. Part of his talk was to impress on the Elders and they needed to treat the Sisters with respect. He concluded with “Elders, remember that you need the priesthood to enter the temple, the sisters don’t.” I think this was a pretty good summary of Heaven Father’s opinion of his daughters.

    My biggest concern is that we seem to have a growing number of people who are simply looking to be offended. Several years ago I went through a similar stage. I finally had to decide – do I get offended by everything and leave the church – or do I just accept that most people in the church are nearly as flawed as I am and are trying to be better? I chose the latter and decided that I will avoid taking offense. It has brought me from the brink of leaving the church back to being fully active – in the gospel as well as the church.

    Yes I have seen instances of male chauvinism. I have also seen sisters who have no respect for the men in the church and take pleasure in belittling them. Over the years I have heard dozens of talks about being good to your wives and respective the sisters. I have never heard a talk about being good to your husbands or respecting the men. Rather than taking offense, I just move on.

    If Heavenly Father wants women to have the priesthood or for the church to change its position on gay marriage or for us all to move to Missouri – I am convinced that he will let Thomas S. Monson or his successor know. Until then, if you really believe that Jesus Christ is at the head of the church, why get offended by the fact that the people who are looking to him to atone for their sins are still imperfect people.

  102. If strict observance to the NT and Book of Mormon is the primary reason for our male only priesthood, then I’m wondering why we allow women to pray in church and serve missions and teach.

    I was under the impression that the Church of today is not bound to “what was done in the scriptures”, because – modern revelation. And if you look at the Church today compared with the Church of old, that’s crystal clear.

  103. Christian J: Mike Otterson didn’t say that “strict observance [of scripture] is the primary reason for our male only priesthood,” nor did he imply it. Here’s what he did say:

    I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised…

    He doesn’t use the scriptures as a “primary reason” because he specifically says that “we do not know all the reasons.” As he says, “we only know that he did not” and that “leaders today regard [male-only ordination] as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised.”

    -Allen

  104. Allen, Ok, let’s use his words. I still don’t know why he’s bringing up these examples except to explicitly use them as a reason (at least 1). The point remains, we don’t do things in exactly the same way Jesus did them, because of context – among other things. This is sort of the whole point of extra-biblical scripture and modern prophets. (the Bible is not good enough on its own)

    If “because Jesus didn’t do it” is *a* reason, then so be it. That’s a pretty good one. But you then still have to explain all the things that Jesus apparently did and said that we ignore.

  105. Allen
    Thank you for clearing up the issue Jessica raised about her sister-in-law needing written consent from her unendowed husband. I tried to post earlier, and my post didn’t come through in its entirety. This policy applies the same to both genders. I believe there are some reasons for this that we could infer, but I like the idea that the church is doing its best to respect and honor the marriage relationship.

  106. **If “because Jesus didn’t do it” is *a* reason, then so be it. That’s a pretty good one. But you then still have to explain all the things that Jesus apparently did and said that we ignore.**

    We do what He did and said unless He now does or says otherwise. Not hard to understand

  107. “I do not resent the design that allowed me the privilege of giving birth and nursing and I believe the role of presiding and protecting granted by ordination to the priesthood provides a balance.”

    If we ordained barren women, then I might be on board with this logic. “Balance” can never be the reason why only men have the priesthood – as long as there are women who live a life without the procreative power.

  108. “But you then still have to explain all the things that Jesus apparently did and said that we ignore.”

    Why? Who are you to impose this rule? The whole point of having a prophet is that we can trust that God will make his will known to them and that we can trust and follow them. But just because they know what he wants us to do, doesn’t mean he has revealed why. We have no inherent “right” to demand a why. The whole point of faith is doing the what even when we don’t know the why. Scriptural precedent plays a legitimate role.

  109. When we’re on the “right” side of a debate we don’t have to worry about winning it, but patiently seek to persuade. Let’s no go so far to the almost point of practically abusing prophetic role. I can’t possibly imagine Joseph Smith or Brigham Young being telling us that we just have to trust and follow them without any kind of revelation. That’s the purpose of the Holy Ghost. The prophets receive revelation, and the individual members have every right to receive the same revelation through the gift of the Holy Ghost if they are living in accordance with true principles. I’m not saying we don’t frequently have to act first and then receive confirmation — and really the whole purpose of the gospel would also be undermined if we thought it was just a tit for tat – you ask, I do, I receive confirmation. Our hearts (desires) need to be in the right place from the very start to receive the confirming revelation.

    I agree in large part of the what/why dichotomy you setup, but I also think that we should not overly use this as God does not just want his children to become robots but to become like him. Surely, in that goal, we can expect many “whys” to come in time. I’m not saying we always know the why, but for me personally, I don’t like counseling people that they don’t know the why, but rather that the why’s will come through the spirit of prophecy as we live true principles. Maybe it takes a decade. After all, the point of life isn’t also just to tell us all the answers (or do just do them because we’re told) but to experience them by really turning our heart and desires to God’s work.

  110. **If we ordained barren women, then I might be on board with this logic. “Balance” can never be the reason why only men have the priesthood – as long as there are women who live a life without the procreative power.**

    Why? Barrenness is inherent in being male, but is a sign of something having gone wrong for a woman, which means it will be fixed. You need to stop acting as if the gospel and the church were purely this-worldly organizations. The belief in the eternities isn’t just a pretty fiction.

    Even in your secular this-world-only terms, though, your argument is very bad. There are billions of mothers ought there but only a few million priesthood holders. There are many, many, many more men who don’t have the priesthood because of their circumstances than there are women who can’t have children.

  111. Aaron,
    sometimes the ‘why’ doesn’t come because the people demanding to know why would be even more outraged if they knew the reasons. Revelation has to be adopted to the level of your anger and indignation.

  112. Aaron:

    As a lawyer, I always look at what is said and not said. Let’s pull from the words of Christ Himself:

    “Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants;” — 3 Nephi 12:1 (partial).

    Look at what is not said here. There is nothing said about whether the twelve are right or wrong. There is nothing said about whether we agree or disagree with them. After all, if they were right and we agreed with them, Christ would not have had to say that we should heed them. So Christ is saying to heed the twelve He has chosen.

    Why should we follow someone, even when they are wrong (presumably) and we disagree (presumably)? Because while they might be wrong, He never is. We promised to follow Him, and He has asked us to follow them. That needs to be enough for us. We are not robots, we are children of God following our Master’s chosen servants.

    Incidentally, whenever I see the robot comment, I have to chuckle because it so completely misrepresents obedience. Obedience, especially to a leader whom you disagree with or a position you think is wrong is hardly robotic. It is a conscious and deliberate act of will that can be incredibly difficult. I wonder, when people say obedience is robotic, if they have ever really struggled to be obedient to counsel they have disagreed with.

  113. Adam, the priesthood is available to all men. Child birth is not available to all women. Right?

    Its true, I believe that this life has a tremendous amount of value in our eternal progression. That we make decisions in mortality and have experiences that are found in no other way. I understand that you hold heavily to the teachings in the gospel that speak to the wholeness we will find in the next life. I respect that. But both of these are found in the same gospel.

  114. “Why? Who are you to impose this rule? The whole point of having a prophet is that we can trust that God will make his will known to them and that we can trust and follow them. But just because they know what he wants us to do, doesn’t mean he has revealed why. We have no inherent “right” to demand a why. The whole point of faith is doing the what even when we don’t know the why. Scriptural precedent plays a legitimate role.”

    J, Otterson is making a case using scriptural precendent. I’m explaining why that explanation is not satisfying to me (and what would make it so). I’m not trying imposing a rule on anyone. That means I’m obviously not arguing with “we don’t know” as an explanation. I’m not even arguing with his premise. I’m arguing against his argument.

    I’m guessing that you don’t think the logic of the PR head of the Church should be up for debate at all. If that’s what the Brethren would have us believe, then I don’t know why Otterson is crafting arguments in the first place. Just write, “God speaks to his prophet and his prophet says it is so.” instead.

  115. He concluded with “Elders, remember that you need the priesthood to enter the temple, the sisters don’t.”

    This is clearly inequality!!! I demand a recount!

  116. The priesthood is not available to all men. The Church isn’t allowed into China or the Middle East and is deeply constrained in its ability to proselyte in other extremely populous areas like India. Even in those areas where we are allowed to preach, there are many men whose circumstances will prevent them from having any realistic chance to accept the gospel. The numbers don’t lie. There are, today, orders of magnitude more men who are denied the blessings of the priesthood than there are women who are denied the blessings of motherhood.

    That doesn’t even account for the time periods when God removed priesthood from the earth but didn’t remove motherhood.

    What is more, even if you argue that fathering is strongly equivalent to mothering, you are still left with the fact that over historical time, about twice as many women have had posterity as men.

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg on the inequalities that mark this life. Between men and women, between people from different backgrounds, between time periods, between nations, between classes, between individuals, there is no even meting of blessings and opportunities. God’s revealed preference for fairness and equality *in this life* is very low.

    God isn’t fair, not if you a priori remove the 99.99999…% of our existence that occurs outside mortality. There is no way to make Him fair if you do that.

  117. “J, Otterson is making a case using scriptural precendent. I’m explaining why that explanation is not satisfying to me (and what would make it so). I’m not trying imposing a rule on anyone. That means I’m obviously not arguing with “we don’t know” as an explanation. I’m not even arguing with his premise. I’m arguing against his argument.”

    Christian J, first please let me say that I do enjoy seeing you here and hope that you feel that we are giving you the opportunity to state your views. I think that you are welcome here because your discourse is very respectful and hopefully you feel the same way.

    So, I want to throw this out at you: Have you read any accounts of how the Brethren approach some issues with respect to ascertaining the will of the Lord? It’s a pretty fascinating process. But one thing I do know in my research (consisting of reading a lot of material written by the Brethren or by folks who have studied the church professionally) is that over the past 185 years, there has been almost a kind of stare decisis with respect to revelatory precedent.

    Please allow me to make an analogy with the Supreme Court. As you know, the Supremes (and judges in general) use what is called stare decisis in their rulings. It’s just respect for prior decisions and precedent. It means that some things become settled law so that you don’t have to keep legally re-inventing the wheel. It is an outgrowth of the old Common Law in England, from which we inherited a large portion of our American jurisprudence.

    Now, stare decisis doesn’t mean that you *can’t* depart from precedent. But you had better have a really darn good reason for doing so. In fact, you need to have a compelling case for departing from prior decisions.

    Analogies only go so far, but let’s tie this to how the Brethren operate. There is already a vast number of “settled” issues that the Brethren don’t have to regurgitate. Why? Because previous generations of Apostles already went through it, petitioned the Lord, and obtained answers. Not every revelation is published or voted upon in General Conference. President Kimball said there is a “vault” full of them.

    I believe that this issue of why males have the priesthood has already been vetted. It is on file. It’s settled doctrine. Sort of along the lines of “Jesus is Savior” and “God speaks through prophets”. This isn’t something we have any reasonable expectation of change. There simply is NO precedent for it.

    That being said, and we’ve said this here before, if Pres. Monson receives an unprecedented revelation that the Lord has now authorized the ordaining of women, there is nobody here on this website that would balk. Nobody.

  118. Christian J,

    You aren’t arguing against his argument. You have isolated one small portion of his argument from its mitigating context as if the other parts of his statement have no bearing on this part. That’s simply quibbling for the sake of quibblement.

  119. Christian J. you imply that barreness should be equivilent to qualifying to being authorized to exercise priesthood authority, oddly mirroring those religious practices that produce nuns who renounce progeny. I believe that most women experience a yearning to nurture and that this is part of our eternal nature and eventually that yearning will be satisfied. My decade long belief that I was barren, throughout my adolescence, yielded insight into the feelings of those denied motherhod for various reasons including lack of a husband. Ordination to the Priesthood would in no way compensate for lack of children.

  120. Thank you for this letter. I have felt the need for change that is not drastic yet cultural for sometime. I am a highly educated SAHM in a leadership position. I have not felt safe sharing my pretty tame thoughts online due to the radical animosity there and feeling that it would hurt my family due to the other end of self righteous lash back. It calms my heart to know that there are leaders open to small cultural changes; perhaps in the future, a woman in the church’s highest compliment will not just be about her external appearance being “lovely wife”. Perhaps then, less of us will need to post so many selfies in inadequate “workout” clothing and there will be more true Christ like love in our communities, leadership, and friendship circles for those who do not look perfect or have the same bounties of life.

  121. Personally, I think the women around Jesus enjoyed a much higher standing than the women of the church do today. Why do women have to be invited on occation to share their opinions when the most natural thing would be for them to be part of the governing body of the church.

    I find my wife to be an intelligent and wise woman, which is why we make decisions concerning our family as equal partners. I’m certain that the church would truly benefit from applying the same principle to the leadership of the church.

    Christ didn’t ordain women to the Priesthood back then, but isn’t the whole point with so called continuous revelation that he will reveal new doctrine pertaining the governing of the church? The church has changed doctrine in other cases, such as blacks and the Priesthood, so why not when it comes to ordaining women?

    Seriously- why would a just and smart God rule his church through a bunch of (more or less) grumpy old men? It doesn’t make sense, really.

    Maybe that’s why my understanding and trust for the church has gone through a rapid change recently. And I’m not at all alone in this, by the way.

    Because if I think about it, I can’t think of any real revelations through the presidents of the LDS faith during my 40 years in the church. I’m sure the brethren all (or at least most of them) have good intentions, but I don’t think they are more inspired than any of us.

  122. Once you lose the assumption that God wants what you want, Jens R., the failure of God to reveal your beliefs to the prophets becomes much less puzzling.

  123. I love being a woman in this church even more after reading this. And the quote used at the end about loving each other and needing each other, no matter what chair we sit in, is just perfect.

    Thank you for this. It won’t silence the critics, but it brings peace and further conviction to my soul that this is what the Savior wants and desires as His church continues to grow.

  124. This is so humorous. Otterson, attempting to quell these criticisms, has simply proved their point.

  125. Christ was right about the elect being deceived in the last days. I just didn’t think it would be the women.

  126. Nobody owns this church. Who says the quorum of the twelve and the prophet make up the rules? They just get all their direction from above. It’s amazing to see how many mormon woman don’t get that. [comment edited to remove unnecessary suggestion -Admin]

  127. The following is another reminder of the symbiotic relationship of PFS and BCC in these matters:

    “Michael Otterson, managing director of LDS Public Affairs, sent the five-page letter to several blogs to offer context specifically to online discussions about women in the church.”—Tad Walch, Deseret News, with a link to a copy of the letter at the Millennial Star website

    “In a five-page open letter, posted Thursday on the popular Mormon blog By Common Consent, Otterson answers criticisms that have emerged in the so-called Bloggernacle about women’s roles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”—Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune, with a link to BCC’s posting of the letter and mostly disparaging comments regarding it

  128. Let’s no forget we are all discussing things that we have no control We are here chosen to be in these Latter days and we’ll will be tested more and more.
    As I woman I always see us as equal and at some point even stronger than most men and let’s not forget that our leaders wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for their mothers(women).I do NOT understand why all this fuss about an ordinance? WE HOLD THE KEYS OF LIFE,is this not enough? We as women have a responsibility to support and help our husbands and leaders not to start an inquisition.
    If anyone is unhappy ask the Lord why? Are we questioning the Lord now? Strengthen your families, our families the enemy is wise and always finds the smallest breach to enter your hearts and poison your soul… Let’s remember the bigger prize that it is yet to be achieved and let’s work on it… no judgment we are not here for that… The world are full of haters already let’s not become one of them and instead lets show them how we truly are, we are so much better than this.
    Are we forgetting where we came from and where we are meant to go?
    No criticism is good thing we all have different opinions I am no picture perfect and probably will never be but I will NEVER EVER question the First Presidency because I know they were called by our Lord to serve and guide us on these tormented days.

  129. Jesus hasn’t ordained any woman to the priesthood or apostlehood? What a nonsense. The bible is full of references to female priesthood holders and there sure have been a lot more before the bible was codified by the patriarchs of early christendom.
    What was Mary doing when she poured oil over Jesus’ head? Cleaning his hair? No, it was a sacred anointment performed by a woman on the saviour himself.

  130. Out of curiosity, for those of us who don’t run websites and don’t see behind the curtain, how long before it becomes appropriate to draw some conclusions by the fact that the Church PR sent this to FMH and yet they have not yet posted it on their site?

  131. I am just laughing at all this honestly…. I am so glad and we don’t have this responsibility as well as the others…. Can you imagine? Children,RS,Primary,Service,Bishopric service,interviews… yata yata yata…. really?! If we are doing what we need to do for real we don’t have time for question that no one on Earth has the answer maybe the Prophet knows but we are not ready to know… If simple things like this can cause such a big diversion can you imagine learning something much bigger?!
    I don’t know about you but I rather trust the Lord and I prepare myself and my family… It’s better than waste my time with things that I have no control over.

  132. Junia, oils were often use for grooming and soothing purposes and consecrated oils for blessings pretty much like now days and if so Why Moses not his wife? Why Jacob and not his wife? And many others I believe we are powerful and we can do much more than men but not like this.
    I don’t question the Lord like I said and honestly to me is a waste of time.
    We all have unanswered questions,I do but I have much to learn maybe we all do.
    We hold our own KEYS but some want the whole key chain…I really hope that those will soon find peace and learn again how to trust the Lord.

  133. There will always be dissenters. In Joseph Smith’s day, there were people who became angry and dissented over misspelling of their name in the revelations in D&C. There were others who were angered over the start of polygamy. There were those who were angry over the end of polygamy. Brigham Young told the saints that his temple (SLC) would have 6 spires, just so they wouldn’t get upset and leave the Church because Joseph’s temples only had one spire.

    Michael Otterson is a good man. He serves the Church and the Lord in a great way. Just as Joseph Smith’s name was held for both good and ill, we see the Brethren and Brother Otterson (and others) also being viewed in the same light.

    The Lord requires a humble heart (Ether 12), yet the world encourages pride and self-righteousness. Those making demands of the prophets, are sadly out of line. So many insist the prophet has not received a revelation on women’s ordination, or if he has, he should specifically say so. I believe that if he were to say, “I prayed about it and the Lord said ‘no'”, they would clamor that he was lying, a fallen prophet, a misogynist, etc.

    I am thankful for the sisters and brothers who are humbly engaged in the work, where we can assist the sisters to find and use the priesthood power that is within their grasp.

    I am also thankful for being a permablogger here at M-Star. To know that we were honored to be a recipient of this letter shows that our hearts are in the right place.

  134. Jonathan Cavendar, I wouldn’t make too much of it. They say they’re working on a proper response to it, which we can certainly respect as something half-cocked thrown out right away won’t be as good. If you’re really interested in responses, OW has crafted a short, simple one.

    I think the 5+ blogs commenting on it so far are quite enough. And my count is probably low.

  135. Junia: claims that women were ordained to the priesthood in the Bible are false.

    First, a “prophet” or a “prophetess” does NOT imply a priesthood holder. Revelation 19:10 states that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” The Lord would like “every man might speak in the name of God the Lord” (D&C 1:20). Every child of God (especially those that have the Gift of the Holy Ghost) is entitled to receive revelation for themselves, and are thus “prophets”.

    However, God makes a distinction between those with the “testimony of Jesus” and His chosen mouthpiece, THE prophet. In Numbers 12, Miriam (a prophetess) attempted to speak against Moses, THE prophet. She said: “And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?” The Lord responded: “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

    Miriam questioned and rebelled against THE prophet and as a result, was cursed with leprosy for 7 days. She repented and learned her lesson.

    As far as “Junia” goes, please read the ONE verse where she is mentioned very carefully:
    Romans 16:7 – “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”

    Obviously, OW wants you to interpret this verse as saying that Junia was an apostle. But the phrase “who are of note among the apostles” could easily be referring only to “my fellowprisoners”, and not Andronicus or Junia, or even “my kinsmen”. Another way you can interpret this verse is that Andronicus and Junia were “of note” or “noteworthy” to the apostles – (i.e. the apostles took special note of them). The fact is, this verse is anything but clear as to who Junia was.

    Again, there is no proof to the claim that women were ordained in the Bible.

  136. How ironic would it be if the Brethren announced that after much prayer and fasting, the Lord wants us to re-institute polygamy? The heads at FMH et al would explode!

  137. Its interesting to see the church leadership picking sides even with in the church and how they set up one group of Mormons above another just by the fact to whom they chose to send the letter to. We can see this in who they will talk to and who they will not talk to. Isn’t one member of the church as good as another member of the church? Why does the issue have to be turned into an us vs them?

  138. The letter answers your question.

    It’s reception by the pro-feminist prophet-skeptical blogs that they sent the letter to shows that, if anything, they should have been a little more selective.

  139. KingLamoni: I don’t think it is an “us vs. them” as far as the leadership is concerned. The letter was sent to 5 (or more) blogs, across the spectrum of readership. I believe it was sent to the blogs because those were the best outlets for the intended audience that had been criticizing the Church leaders. After all, Bro. Otterson starts by citing “comments on various blogs [made] over recent months.”

    -Allen

  140. It is interesting to see so many people that know so much better how the Church should be run. Clearly they have devoted their lives in service to others so much and yet somehow have only learned what the world has to say about how things should be done. But they do have this amazingly keen insight of how best to mingle in the philosophies of man. After all, what does God have that we haven’t already figured out and can do better ourselves?

    Progressive as people claim to be, some behaviors are just as they have been for thousands of years.

  141. Drawing lines within the church is not a priori wrong.

    “But behold, it is better that thy soul should be lost than that thou shouldst be the means of bringing many souls down to destruction, by thy lying and by thy flattering words.”

    Alma 30:47

  142. You know I hadn’t considered it, but it could be possible that Mary was a wife who was providing a second anointing type ordinance on the Savior. Women aren’t ordained to the priesthood to do this now either so who is to say she would have been.

    As an aside, if priesthood is to act in behalf of the Father, it would seem the ideal Corollary would be acting in behalf of the Mother. Of course, priesthood may not be necessary for that as I wouldn’t think either Father or Mother would be won’t the other and with distinct power. So again I come back to the feeling it’s just not necessary as its not the eternal role even though the feelings are well placed to want to serve in the kingdom.

  143. KingLamoni … the Church has not picked the sides. They are on the side of The Lord. They want all people to be happy and in the fold. It’s the people who have chosen to reject that, who have chosen sides. The Church has made their stand very clear, and yet, people still reject that stand. The Lord makes it very clear in the scriptures and via the prophets and apostles what is expected of members of the Church. When we feel rejected it’s not that the Lord has rejected us, it is that we have rejected Him.

  144. Wow. This post brought out some RfM-ers. You can tell by their unique combination of talking points.

  145. thank you so much for this wonderful explanation. this subject has been on my mind for some time. I feel frustrated when I see cynical and negative comments coming from members of the church about various points of view. the Savior taught that we need to be a church of unity, love and compassion.

  146. Mormon 9:9-10 says “For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?
    And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.

    The church cannot change, because God cannot change. It is completely ridiculous to say that it is ignorance that keeps the church from changing. It is in fact ignorance, and by ignorance I mean a lack of understanding, to think that the church, that God, can change his doctrine.

  147. Joyce Anderson… The church is the Lords church of who’s name it bares. The church is not made up of the leaders alone but it is made up of all who are baptized. A small group of faithful LDS women was formed calling them selves Ordain Women. Another group was formed in opposition to the first group and they called them selves Mormon Women Stand. Why the first small minority group of women couldn’t be left alone I do not know. Both groups of women are made up of faithful LDS women who both belong to the church. The leadership of the church in their speech and actions have appeared to have taken sides with one over the other.
    I’ll say that it is interesting to watch. I wish the church and all those involved the best. My self included.

  148. The response to criticism 2 is pretty awful. If someone doesn’t feel safe going to their ward leaders, that often includes the relief society president who walks toe to toe with the bishop. So basically he’s saying, suck it up and keep going to the people you don’t feel safe with. Not much helpful there.

  149. “King Lamoni”, you post some false things that need to be corrected immediately. First, women (or men) pushing for actions and doctrine contrary to the revealed doctrine of the Lord are not “faithful” like you pretend. Those who continue to vehemently deny the veracity of the doctrine and those who uphold it (read: the Prophets and Apostles) and twist, contend and debate to try to push these agendas and keep posting absolute demands on the Brethren are not considered “faithful” Latter-day Saints. In fact, the Otterson letter specifically states that these groups are suggesting apostasy. So, all members of the Church shouldn’t be surprised when we say that no, these aren’t faithful members. Of course these fringe groups would have us believe it in order to push their twisted agendas, but not for one moment do I believe they are faithful members. Because faithful members DON’T do what these extremist groups are doing (shaking head in utter frustration).

    Secondly, it is false that the MWS group was created as opposition to the other group of which you speak. I just went over to read the mission statement for Mormon Women Stand and it says, “Mormon Women Stand is a collaborative online effort to join like-minded female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who share a desire to make a public stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ and support The Family: A Proclamation to the World. We believe standing together reflects the divine nature and power with which LDS women are endowed to influence others for good. We unequivocally sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—commissioned by God and sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators—and support how the Lord has delegated priesthood authority to organize and administer the gospel among all of His children.”

    Now they say what they mean and mean what they say: the group is standing to defend prophets, seers and revelators, Jesus Christ’s doctrine and His priesthood authority and The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The group opposing the Lord’s priesthood only picks the mention of priesthood to create an “us vs. them” scenario. Not true. I’m a follower of the community Mormon Women Stand and follow their posts in my feed. I comment on the posts and am pretty actively engaged in it because I’m sick and tired of getting attacked by my own liberal members shutting me down for trying to defend the family proclamation. So tired of it. That’s why I’m an active follower MWS (that the Church PA dept has basically given a two thumbs up on). They hit all issues that are against the doctrine: abortion, same-gender marriage, extreme feminism that promote extreme false doctrine (like women’s ordination to the priesthood or praying to Heavenly Mother or that Heavenly Mother is a member of the Godhead, etc.) MWS supports the doctrine and defends unfailingly when even our own members of the Church (a vocal minority) seem to want to go against the doctrine and standards of the Church. They aren’t only concerned with a little fringe, extremist group.Too many bigger fish to fry out there with religious freedom at the forefront of the future discussions of the Church. Massive issues to tackle to try to help ensure members don’t get sucked into false doctrine and get silenced.

    Just my 2 cents here.

  150. Years ago I read a biography of President McKay. In it it detailed his repeated requests of the Lord to allow the Church to extend the priesthood to Black men. He was allowed to extend it to people of dark skin who were not of African descent such as the original inhabitants of Australia and New Zealand. He was told no for the others.
    But aren’t we all glad that President Kimball did not consider that the final word on the subject. He did not believe the subject was closed and could not be reopened with the Lord. He even went so far as to wonder if the original prohibition at the time of Brigham Young could have just been a mistake. Amazing man, President Kimball. Willing to seek truth, where ever it led.

  151. B B, your implied argument is false. Nowhere here is anyone arguing that the leadership shouldn’t pray about women and the Priesthood issues. The argument is that no one should demand they should and/or assume they haven’t or stopped; and especially that the answer either hasn’t been given or is predestined to be a certain way. Give the Priesthood leadership respect and not secular cynical abuse that is anti-Mormonism couched as suggestions while thinly disguised demands.

  152. Jeff G. Ironic indeed, unless you believe in temple ordinances and the efficacy of the temple because if you do, we never ended polygamy and there are a couple of polygamists in the Q of 12/15 today and lots more throughout the Church in general. I don’t see the FMH heads exploding over an existing practice and continuing doctrine, but I don’t follow them too closely. From my observation their collective heads explode over lots of other things-trivial and significant-but not about the extant doctrine and and very active practice of polygamy in the Church. Of course, if you don’t believe that what goes in the temples has any effect then you also believe we no longer practice polygamy. The irony would be the celebration by too many in this community (M*) if the Brethren re-instituted the priesthood/temple ban on black people.

  153. “The irony would be the celebration by too many in this community (M*) if the Brethren re-instituted the priesthood/temple ban on black people.”

    That is a lie and unfounded accusation. Even I who argues it was instituted by God (and then also ended by God) would never, ever, argue for or celebrate such a thing!

    Other than that, your argument doesn’t make any sense. Not even enough for me to understand how to respond.

  154. “The irony would be the celebration by too many in this community (M*) if the Brethren re-instituted the priesthood/temple ban on black people.”

    Not even sure how to respond to this. What an incredibly hateful statement. I have never seen any evidence of any regular poster here intimating anything of that sort.

    By the way, oddly enough there is a pretty huge cultural difference between accepting remarriage after death/divorce of a spouse and concurrent marriage to multiple living mortal spouses (although ironically, sleeping around with multiple partners does have some cultural acceptance now). I am pretty sure that it was easily inferred that JeffG was referring to multiple living mortal spouses version, unless one was anxiously looking to be argumentative.

  155. Globetrecker…You call these women who also fallow the prophets unfaithful. So all Mormons before 1978 who would like to have seen blacks receive the priesthood also could not have been a faithful Latter-day saint? Your logic is twisted.

    I am familiar with both groups and both of their mission statements. MWS was started shortly after OW. The earliest posts on MWS where in opposition to OW. I have yet to read any thing on OW website that disrespects MWS like you are doing by calling them unfaithful. Please. A little less judgment and a little more understanding. Thank you.

  156. “So all Mormons before 1978 who would like to have seen blacks receive the priesthood also could not have been a faithful Latter-day saint?”

    Yes actually, considering the historical record. Those who acted like and held equally strong positions to some feminists today either left the church or were ex-communicated. Your belief that those days were less contentious is just not true.

    Sorry kinglamoni, we understanding them far too well. Judgement is based on words and actions, and not some belief that some day women might be able to hold positions of power.
    “The earliest posts on MWS where in opposition to . . . ”

    Although I actually consider this in theory, the earliest posts didn’t mention any opposing parties at all. Nor does any following ones. Now if you were to quote where the statements show opposition then you might be found more right than I remember.

  157. “The irony would be the celebration by too many in this community (M*) if the Brethren re-instituted the priesthood/temple ban on black people.”

    Thank you rb for confirming that so many people who comment like you are simply filled with hate for their fellow brothers and sisters.

  158. From the comments of many posters here, it seems the old adage, “When Church leaders speak, the thinking has been done,” is alive and well.

  159. Corbin, I completely agree. Many commenters (including you?) unthinkingly automatically oppose and discard the counsel of modern-prophets and other Church leaders. They then come up with thoughtless reasons to oppose this counsel (“it is just the Public Affairs department”). Given the very sad history of people who do this, you would think people would think more, wouldn’t you?

  160. corbin, kind of like the other side that says, “when the liberal Democrats and newspapers speak, the thinking has been done. The Lord’s anointed needs to get with the program.”

  161. King Lamoni, you say, “I have yet to read any thing on OW website that disrespects MWS like you are doing by calling them unfaithful.” Are you being serious here, or are you a member of one of these fringe, extreme groups that Bro. Otterson is referring to (under the guise of a name “King Lamoni”)? If not and if you are being sincere (which I want to give you the benefit of the doubt), I’m pretty certain then, that you haven’t read the blogs and the comments. I assure you that there are absolutely appalling things that the OW and FMH blogs and their Facebook pages and comments have said about MWS and other strong LDS women who stand by the doctrine and the General Authorities. This disrespecting not only directed at MWS but those who don’t subscribe to their false doctrine or feminist mentality. This includes the members of OW and FMH mocking posts and quotes by apostles, changing apostles words to make fun of and twist their words, and mocking the things we hold sacred, including parts of the temple ceremony, the family proclamation, Heavenly Mother and even suggesting awful things about Savior Himself (I can’t even repeat what some recent blog posts have said about Him). It is appalling and reminiscent of anti-Mormon tactics and terminology but worse as it is within the Church. Have you read any of those 6 “discussions”? It is absolutely appalling. Even more disappointing, this is being done by our own sisters in the church. So when you question my thoughts on these women who align themselves with these extremist and groups suggestive of apostasy, I most definitely think they are not acting as faithful women. By taking a look at the content on their site and FB will give any active, average member of the Church similar thoughts.

    Now, with this letter, it is my hope that there will be some hearts softened and awakening to their dangerous philosophies. We know that in the scriptures there are stories of people who honestly and sincerely believed that their false doctrine was of God and was good and true. But after a huge smack down, they admit they were deceived and led people away (Korihor and Sherem for two easy examples). We have always been told the Book of Mormon is for our day and then when we see these things, it validates it.

  162. Corbin thinks his comments here were deleted. I see them just fine – here’s the link to what I think I see: link.

    [I love being able to link to an individual comment like that.]

    For what it’s worth, here’s a comment I’ve attempted to submit over at BCC, complete with all my grammar errors.
    ____________________________

    So if I were to make a positive comment here, that means I’m an operative?

    LOL

    My perspective on this is:

    Those asking for female ordination who have made it a sine qua non condition of their support of the Chuch (presuming there are such) have prompted a variety of responses from official Church leaders, as well as the public affairs department of the Church.

    One of the activities that the public affairs department of the Church has engaged in is conducting interviews with individuals or groups who have actively engaged on the topic of the gospel in online fora. I presume they have also engaged in discussions with others, but don’t know that for a fact. These interviews (as Brother Otterson indicated) are conducted in a non-attributional atmosphere. “In order to build an environment of trust, we do not disclose whom we meet with or what is discussed, although we do sometimes ask for permission to record the conversations so we don’t miss anything important. We find that this creates a safe place for transparent conversation.”

    Recently the Mormon Women Stand facebook page posted the information that they had been participants in one of these conversations. Except they didn’t indicate this was one of many such interviews. Peggy Fletcher Stack, writing up the news about the MWS announcement in her May 21, 2014, article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the discussion with MWS was characterized as the Church reaching out to a group of women who “support the church’s status quo — continuing its all-male priesthood.”

    Peggy then apparently reached out to the Church Public Affairs department to inquire about the discussion with MWS. LDS Church spokesman Cody Craynor issued the following statement, which Peggy included in her article:

    “In recent years the church has met frequently with women to find out more about their experiences in the church. Yesterday’s meeting with these thoughtful women was simply a continuation of this effort.”

    However, true to the Church’s promise to hold confidential information about who is talked to and what is discussed, Cody didn’t enumerate how many people they’ve talked to, when, or what the demographic content of the population being consulted.

    The next day, Karen H. posted a piece here at BCC titled Our Sisters are Leaving. This prompted Bruce Nielson of M* to post a piece on May 26, 2014, titled Bloggernacle Tactic: Demanding Change To Accommodate the “One”.

    In the comment thread to Bruce’s piece, I opined that Karen’s piece was prompted by Peggy’s article, which was in turn provoked by MWS so excitedly burbling about getting a chance to be interviewed by the Church Public Affairs department. As I have been one who had been interviewed by Church Public Affairs, I suggested the happy MWS folks might have misunderstood the not-for-attribution instructions I knew I had received.

    In other words, I believe MWS provoked the storm, innocent though their intentions might have been.

    When it comes to women and power, I petitioned my mission president in the day to stand up a parallel power structure for the Sisters. I am the working individual in my family, with my husband being the stay at home parent. As instructed by a female teacher in the MTC, I have given blessings by the power of my faith in Christ (though the day after I blessed my son, he died – this was in accordance with the silence on the matter that had been a feature in my husband’s earlier blessing of my son, and consistent with everything I’d been prompted to say in the blessing I gave, so it isn’t as though I think my blessing killed my son).

    So I was hoping to convey that those the Church is talking to are not merely the happy, contented MWS crowd.

    What I will say of myself (amidst my tales of a faithful Joseph Smith and an Eliza Snow who was possibly seduced by John C. Bennett and other interesting historical discussions) is that my first loyalty is to God, who has encouraged me to remain an active member of the Church. There is no matter about which I feel so strongly that I would ultimately walk away from the Church unless God himself told me to do so.

    Those who have made female ordination apparently more important than the Church have therefore by their own position set themselves in a place where they would not be consulted.

    I don’t know if my discussions about having been an interviewee played a role in release of Brother Otterson’s letter or not.

    Back to my normal weekend pursuits, which involve aquaponics, home-brewing kombucha, supporting my daughter at her concert, and writing about how the history of the Church would have been different had Emma asked Jane Manning to be Joseph’s wife instead of Joseph’s daughter.

  163. Corbin,

    The original statement is that “when the prophet speaks the debate is over.”

    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1979/08/the-debate-is-over?lang=eng

    It has been misquoted by critics of the church for years. There is a world of difference between saying the debate is over and the thinking is done.

    There is also a world of difference between public agitation and private disagreement. Critics always want to conflate public and private disagreement.

    See my more extensive post on this topic here:

    Declining Sunstone: An Argument Against Bloggernacle Participation By The Faithful

    http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/declining-sunstone-an-argument-against-bloggernacle-participation-by-the-faithful/

  164. J. Max Wilson,

    I was actually quoting the original statement from the June 1945 Improvement Era which does in fact state, “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.”

    When you say there is a difference between “public agitation and private disagreement,” what I hear is “you can believe what you want but keep it to yourself.”

  165. The 1945 statement was not a statement from a leader of the church, it was an error that was not caught in review. It does not represent the teaching of the church and to present it as if it were is misleading.

    See : http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/when-the-prophet-speaks-is-the-thinking-done

    I am not saying you have to keep your disagreements to yourself. But Public disagreements and agitation are inherently different than private counsel and discussion. They introduce a new dynamic as I discussed at length in my linked post.

  166. Excellent linked post J Max. Should be required reading for any member entering the world of LDS blogs.

  167. C. S. Lewis has said:

    “There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of these opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing you ministry after you have come to hold them.”

    I find the parallel applicable.

  168. “We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing you[sic] ministry after you have come to hold them.”

    Of course, the problem is that this presupposes a level of unorthodoxy that may not actually exist…

  169. Globetrecker… I use the Kinglamoni handle because he is one of my Book of Mormon heroes. He saw the error of his ways and converted to the Lord. I find that admirable.

    I am nether a supporter of Mormon Women Stand or Ordain Women. I support the Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings. I am nether liberal or Conservative. I do not have a dog in this fight. I am an observer. I have found it interesting to see the leadership of the church side with one faithful group of LDS women over another group of faithful LDS women. I do not agree with your assessment of the party of women you do not agree with. Please, a little less judgment and a little more understanding.

  170. KingLamoni said:

    I am an observer.

    In my experience, those who claim to be observers (or, more commonly put, neutral observers) are seldom such. (For a commentary on my experience in this area, see this blog post: Observing the Observers.)

    I have found it interesting to see the leadership of the church side with one faithful group of LDS women over another group of faithful LDS women.

    And the very next sentence provides evidence that the observer is actually a partisan commentator.

    -Allen

  171. Allen… I am an observer and so much more. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Did I say neutral? I view the situation threw they eye of one who is a believer in Christ. It saddens me to see the divisiveness of some regarding this issue. It is disturbing to see the judgments made of those who are doing their best to live their life. It is interesting to watch the leadership of the church. Its history occurring right in front of our eyes. Its fascinating.
    I propose more openness and inclusion with in the church opposed to exclusion. I wish all the best.

  172. Kinglamoni:

    “I am an observer and so much more. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Did I say neutral? I view the situation threw they eye of one who is a believer in Christ.”

    Might I suggest that you may be dealing with blindness of your own biases rather than an absence of bias. Perhaps you are what we are all striving to be — fully converted to the Lord. Most of us, however, muddle through life and one of the best ways to do that is not to deny our biases but rather to be aware of them and compensate for them.

    “I propose more openness and inclusion with in the church opposed to exclusion.”

    Openness and inclusion is a lofty goal, but one that must be accepted. We open our doors to all, but we cannot change the doctrine to do so. Christ loved each and one of those who went no longer after Him, but He did not change the doctrine. He did not tell the rich young man, ‘on second thought, just sell some of what you have and give that to the poor.’ Boundaries must be maintained — and, if we are worthy, we are trying to establish His boundaries so our brothers and sisters can know where to stand.

    A sentence later in the very talk by C. S. Lewis, he said:

    “But I insist that wherever you draw the lines, bounding lines must exist, beyond which your doctrine will cease either to be Anglican or to be Christian: and I suggest also that the lines come a great deal sooner than many modern priests think.”

  173. And C. S. Lewis should be required reading for all of us. (Just picked up his Collected Letters. He’s one of the few in the world with a twenty pound brain *and* a twenty pound heart.)

  174. Pingback: Review of Comments on Millennial Star’s Posting of Brother Otterson’s Letter | Out of the Best Blogs

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