This is a guest post by Cynthia J.
Depending on how you define it, I suppose I can be labeled a feminist. I believe a woman can aspire to any level of education or any job she desires. I stayed single until I was 34. At that age, I already owned a house, a car, and managed my own accounts without a husband all those years, and remained active in the Church all that time. I have two daughters, and would love nothing more than for them to feel strong, confident, and excited about their dreams for the future, whether it be in politics, business, medicine, or mothering. I want my daughters to feel the confidence to do all of that for themselves just like I did. I have a strong voice in my family. I’m no shrinking violet (just ask my husband). I have opinions, ideas (often brilliant), and dreams of my own. I believe women can do anything they set their mind to do. So in that sense, I am a feminist.
But then again, yes, I’m a stay-at-home mom. My DH and I liked the idea of the two of us raising our kids rather than a day care. I simply couldn’t imagine leaving my children all day to go work, so I was happy to stay home. It has never felt like a sacrifice to me. And, unlike feminists of the world-at-large, I do not believe in the Gloria Steinem-esque views on abortion, feminizing boys (my three are decidedly masculine), dominating my husband by bully-whipping him into doing exactly 50% of the household chores after he gets home from his full-time job, changing the rules and prerequisites of jobs to make them easier for women to get, finding offense at every piece of male/female humor, telling women they have to work in order to feel fulfilled, or that there should be no differences between men and women, at all, ever. Those differences are there, they are obvious, and they are eternal (See the Proclamation on the Family). In that sense, I am, apparently, not a feminist.
When it comes to church, I’ve held callings in just about every organization, except Scouts (knock on wood). My favorite, to date, was as a missionary. The experiences I had on the mission were so profound in their impact on my life and my testimony, that I still think of those experiences today when I teach my children or in any way try to sort out life’s little problems. I’m sure the “Mormon Feminist” women who have gotten so much attention lately have had their own experiences in the gospel, just as I had, for them to be active members now. But I’m completely puzzled by these women. Never, ever in all my time as a working woman, a member, a missionary, or a mother did I think I was somehow being cheated by being “denied” the priesthood.
Certainly, I have had my share of questions about “why” the church is organized as it is. O.K. Yeah. When I was younger, it bugged me a little. I mean, why was it only men in the priesthood? I didn’t feel any malice or bitterness about being unordained. Just prior to my mission I started to wonder about it more and more, and so I prayed about it — often. It was simply a nagging question in my mind. I was an intelligent, able woman. I was also firm in my belief that the prophet was, in fact, a prophet, and if there were something out of joint, he would correct it, or the Lord would correct my feelings about it. In his Devotional speech at BYU in August, Elder Ballard said:
Most everyone has family or friends who have been caught up in various troubling contemporary social issues. Arguing about the issues generally does not bring any resolution and, in fact, can create contention. There are some questions about the Church’s position on sensitive ￼issues that are hard to answer to anyone’s satisfaction. However, when we seek the Lord in prayer about how to feel and what to do in these situations, the impression comes: Do you believe in Jesus Christ and do you follow Him and the Father?
After almost a year of earnest prayer, my answer came while I was in the field during a zone conference. My mission president taught us about the balance that exists in the gospel and how gender is part of that balance. Explaining all of it with scripture references would be the subject of an entire article, but Elder Ballard gave a beautifully condensed version of it in his talk in August:
In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by a husband and wife.
I can’t explain how my mission president’s talk changed me, but it was as if all the thoughts and questions in my mind fell exactly into place and it all made perfect sense. Balance in the gospel was the reason for the different gender roles. I also understood that balance was, in turn, part of the church. We have different roles to play, equally important, in what callings we serve in the church, and those roles are all vital to the smooth function of the wards and stakes, and all essential to building the Kingdom of God on the Earth.
I have been happy and at peace with this explanation of gender roles and priesthood for 20 years now, so it concerns me to learn that there are a number of women out there who are so dissatisfied with their eternal role in human existence that they feel they need to receive the priesthood to feel fully integrated in the church. Why? What’s the problem? I’m pretty busy. We don’t have enough to do as women, we need to start taking on every aspect of the Church too? Frankly, I’m worn out and don’t want another job. Or is this ambition? Are there women who feel ambitious and want to move up through the ranks and be the Prophet? I was unaware that ambition was a motivating factor in receiving callings of any kind in the church, and it has certainly been discouraged in men holding those callings.
Or is it the ordinances we aren’t allowed to receive because we are women? Oh….wait. We already get all the same temple ordinances and blessings as men. So, what gives ladies? I’m confused.
Honestly, I think what’s lacking here isn’t a priesthood ordination, it’s faith. I think if you want changes in the church, then you need to look at changing yourself and your perspective, not the church itself.
Elder Ballard said:
“Do we believe that this is the Lord’s Church? Do we believe that He has organized it according to His purposes and wisdom? Do we believe that His wisdom far exceeds ours? Do we believe that He has organized His Church in a manner that would be the greatest possible blessing to all of His children, both His sons and daughters?”
If you believe all that, then you need to pray for understanding, because change doesn’t come by demanding tickets to the priesthood session of conference, or having a letter writing campaign to bug church headquarters until they cave. Newsflash: the Lord and his prophets do not cave. I think the way to get answers is to go back to basics. Say some heartfelt prayers, read your scriptures, and wait patiently. The Lord will let you know in a way that gives you peace and understanding. He always does.