A “Privileged Male” speaks out

I’ve kept an open mind to the concept of women receiving the priesthood.  I have no problem with it occurring.  That said, Kate Kelly and a few other “under-privileged women” seem to be taking their desire out into political left field.

I recognize that most LDS women are not Kate Kelly. I am thankful for them and for that issue.  The reality is, MOST LDS women are not interested in having the priesthood males right now have.  Fiona Givens wrote a great piece regarding this recently, that the endeavor of some women to seek out priesthood power and authority in the manner they are doing, actually goes against D&C 121’s warning concerning priesthood power!  She notes a recent Pew survey that shows that the vast majority of LDS women (87%) disagree with Kelly’s premise.  Interestingly, more men are open to the concept than women in the Church.

Kelly insists that not giving priesthood to women is just another mistake that the Brethren have made along the way. This should be placed on the same pile of errors as blood atonement, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, etc.

However, it is a naive view that can reduce complex issues into a simple platitude regarding egalitarianism.  Nature does not recognize equality in all things. Men cannot bear children and most women do not grow beards. Without the complexity of scientific intervention, nature has men and women creating children in only one way: together. God reveals his will to his servants, often only after a long battle of study, prayer and pondering.

The end of polygamy was a complex issue, and actually required two Manifestos (1890 and 1904).  The attacks on the Church had gone on for many years, putting it and its people into huge debt and sacrifice. Did ending polygamy in the USA mean it also had to be ended in Mexico, Canada and elsewhere? What should those do who were currently practicing it? What would happen with the extra wives and all of the children? Today, the Church does not allow polygamous relationships in the Church anywhere. This is in stark contrast to the Community of Christ (RLDS), who first denied Joseph Smith’s polygamy, but now allows converts in other countries that permit polygamous marriages.

Blacks and the priesthood was also a complex issue. History shows that David O. McKay and perhaps one or two previous prophets looked into ending the ban. Although Pres McKay did not receive authorization by God to end it, he did feel impressed to change the parameters. Blacks from Indonesia and other areas outside African descent would no longer be included in the ban.  It required many changes in the world and in the Church (becoming a worldwide church w/a temple in Brazil) to move the issue to the next major step under Pres Kimball and the June 1978 revelation.  A major change, but it still wasn’t finished. The complexity of the issue continued as members discussed and argued over the “why?” of the ban. 35 years after the ban was lifted, the Church officially renounced the curse of Cain and other “reasons” given for the original ban.

Nate Oman recently blogged about why he felt the Ordain Women movement will eventually fail. He notes some of the complexities that Kate Kelly and gang are ignoring or refusing to recognize.  Her current post shows that this has become a political issue with her. The Brethren, as with all men, are “privileged males” an oblique term for misogynist or at least sexist, I would presume.

Oman notes that the prophet walks carefully in the realm of revelation. Afraid to place his own feelings above the Lord’s will, the man of God will take his time to prevent making a choice that goes against God. Yet, the Brethren have also recognized that the sisters need a bigger seat at the table. As with Pres McKay, they’ve made changes within the realm of current revelation. The new CH2 (2010 – before Ordain Women) encourages leaders to increase the effort of the entire Ward/Stake Council and particularly to obtain input and insight from the women in the Church. Priesthood session of General Conference is now live online. Sisters now have a Women’s session that will be on par with Priesthood Session of General Conference.

I recently had an experience that reminded me of Nate’s post. Among my callings, I am the stake Public Affairs Director.  I saw a great opportunity to have a visiting LDS person come speak at a fireside that would generate some positive interest  among both members and community people. The fireside would risk possibly being somewhat controversial, due to the inherent issues in regards to the theme to be discussed. However, I was convinced the speaker would deftly handle it in a way that would be uplifting and promoting of the Church. At first my stake president was eager. As he discussed it with other leaders, who encouraged him to consider the priesthood purpose, walk with caution and seek the Lord’s will on it, over a period of about a month, he finally determined that at this time the Lord’s will and needs would not be met.  I was highly disappointed, but knowing my stake president, I knew he pushed past his own personal interests and sought only the Lord’s will.  It is something I am still learning, and was a big learning experience for me to see someone push aside his own interests to fully seek God’s will.

I am certain the Brethren are pondering other ways to open things up to the sisters, while staying within the current dictates given by revelation. It is not an issue of male privilege, but of seeking God’s will.  Kelly can assert whatever she wishes, and all she will do is risk her relationship with God – who ostensibly has greater male privilege than all of us mortal men put together!

If there were a priesthood revelation for women, what would it entail? How complex would the issue be? Would they get the exact priesthood men have? Would they get something different? And if it were different, perhaps as Fiona Givens states that sisters/Relief Society are currently free to minister rather than administer, would it be enough for someone like Kate Kelly? Or would her political inclinations cause her to speak out against male privilege again/still?  Would she kick against the pricks, seeking extra priesthood privilege against the will of God, never satisfied until there are women apostles and prophets with the exact sameness?

I must note that most LDS sisters do not want men’s priesthood. Rather, they seek out God’s power in the works they perform, whether in church callings or in their personal lives. They understand that an ordination does not give a man anything if he does not walk humbly within that ordination. So it would be with a woman’s ordination.  If there were a women’s priesthood, most would probably want it integrated into a separate Relief Society quorum, rather than integrated wholesale into the men’s group, where they likely could get lost in the mix anyway (those evil, evil men are like that, don’t you know).

My advice for those in Ordain Women?  Walk humbly with circumspection. Toss away your pride and seek out God’s will – whether it means having priesthood ordination or not.  Then treat others as God would have you treat them.  Sneering with loaded terms like “male privilege” cheapens you and your stance within the Church. It makes you outliers in what could be a positive change for the Church.

Women with real power? Sherry Dew, Fiona Givens, relief society presidents, nursery leaders, mothers, single sisters, and many others, who use the righteous power God gives them and does something to move the actual work of God forward.


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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery (joelsmonastery.blogspot.com). He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

30 thoughts on “A “Privileged Male” speaks out

  1. You know there is more to OW than they claim, such as when they call white men not only privileged, but troglodytes, etc., (as in the comment section in Kelly’s post).

    Clearly there are some very tender feelings out there. And there are some very outraged feelings out there. Perhaps some of it is justified. But OW seems to be gathering a shrill mob that seeks to belittle others who disagree with them. I sincerely hope they do not become lemmings that all run off the cliff together.

  2. rame, it seems to be true, in my experience, that even highly educated, career driven Mormon women do not necessarily feel the need for ordination. That’s been validated in my own realm of fairly politically liberal Mormon women (my wife included) who are not as bothered by the status quo as I am. Its been a surprise, but its hard for me to deny it anymore. That has led me to defer to them a lot more. If the majority of (again many liberal Mormons among my circle) Mormon women I interact with tell me that their aspirations do not include ordination, I have a hard time telling them otherwise.

    That’s not a cop out – just the most respectful way to honor the women I know – let them dictate the desires of their own path. Its why I think the Ordain Women movement is a bit short sided in their strategy. They take for granted that petitioning men is the way to make change. No, you haven’t even convinced the majority of Mormon women yet. If they did, the men would follow their wives, sisters and mothers, I’m convinced.

  3. Christian J.

    Your comment resonates with me. I have a hard time truly believing that women need to be ordained when essentially all the mormon women I know well are not really interested in being a part of the priesthood. They (and I) generally think that there is space to improve when it comes to women in the church as Sis. Givens points out but simply ordaining women seems to me to be a rather boring solution.

  4. Rame, great post, and good comments so far. I know literally hundreds of active Latter-day Saint women, and not a one — not one — is interested in having the priesthood. This issue is a tempest in a teapot.

  5. The entire issue (on both sides, I might add) has definitely brought to light much failure on our parts to understand the power of God.

  6. I can feel their anger.

    But I have to wonder the same thing the one commenter there wonders: If the priesthood authority of the Brethren is legitimate, then it is their right, not these women’s to obtain revelation to change Church practices, and the efforts of these women to obtain that authority by political means is damnable. If the priesthood authority of the Brethren is not legitimate, why do they want it?

    And so I agree with a followup comment: This is about infiltrating the Church in order to destroy it.

  7. Many seem to misunderstand the priesthood. There is no salvation and exaltation in performing priesthood duties. Salvation and exaltation only come from receiving the priesthood ordinances then acting faithfully to the covenants.

  8. Christian, I agree with Fiona. Sisters become priestesses in the temple and serve there (and in the world) in that sacred calling. Such service is of more value to God than in sitting in a stake meeting.

    Silver Rain, I agree with you. Yet, how can one begin to comprehend the power that can form worlds? Fiona Givens is correct in her thought that the illegitimate demand for power (of any kind, but including priesthood power) is contrary to the law of heaven (D&C 121), and we can say “amen” to the celestial power of that person. It is something I am still learning, and relearning continually.

  9. Ram,

    I hope it’s clear that I am no feminist by a long shot, but I would prefer not to trivialize their complaint. Yes, I think priesthood is a burden more than a privilege, but…..

    We should be able to see that 15 men having the last word in what policies are best for women could make someone a little uncomfortable. And this point generalized to almost every level of church membership.

  10. Jeff, I do understand the point you are making. I agree that it is too easy to trivialize and minimize the needs and desires of others. That said, when almost 90% of LDS women do not want men’s priesthood, I think that the Brethren (and General Women’s presidencies) are doing a very good job at increasing the real power of women in the Church in a way that most LDS women are excited about it.
    Meanwhile, Kate Kelly seeks to minimalize men, if no other way, than by the terminology she uses. If it were politics instead of religion, she would be calling her opponents Nazis, as a tactic to use strong emotions to distract from any conscious attempt to logically discuss a concept from all angles.
    So, she in referencing Nate Oman’s blog post, she uses the term “privileged male” as a term that immediately disqualifies him from being in the conversation. The only qualified males are those that have jumped onto her band wagon as “allies”. IOW, she effectively attempts to shut down the conversation by minimalizing those who do not agree with her, regardless of the merit of the argument made.
    Her argument is a shallow one, and even the wrong methodology for gaining priesthood power, as demonstrated by Fiona Givens’ post, and so Kelly is reduced to political name-calliing ploys. Either a person supports gay marriage, or is a hater. Either a person fully supports the feminist movement, or is a misogynist. Either a person supports X or they are a (fill in the blank).
    Now, there are faithful members who wish to see women receive priesthood, or at least power in the priesthood. I have no problem with those who wait upon the Lord to provide them with such a blessing. I pray the Lord answers them. However, the demand from those leading OW is something entirely different. The tactics are pure politics and risks leading them away from a testimony of God’s servants, the prophets.

  11. After serving for many years as a woman in LDS leadership positions, ie. ward and stake RS president,etc.,and being married to a bishop, I have compassion for woman who feel marginalized by Church policies and procedures. Too often women in leadership positions are servants to micromanaging leaders who do not follow the Church handbook of instructions. I have observed many bishops and stake presidents abuse women by overloading them with assignments, allowing them no opportunity to be heard in priesthood councils, and demeaning women by their words and actions. This is a real problem in the Church and needs to be addressed on every level of the Church.

    With that said, I do not agitate to receive priesthood ordination, believing that the temple endowment affords me more than enough priesthood blessings to enjoy and
    appreciate. When I read the New Testament, I see a Savior who honored and included women on more levels that our Church currently does. I trust that when the Savior returns, He will include women more fully in His Church and will include them in more administrative roles in the Church.

    I know the Savior loves and values each of His children equally and that He wants us to love as He loved. For me, right now that knowledge is enough to keep my testimony burning bright.

  12. Jeff G, “We should be able to see that 15 men having the last word in what policies are best for women could make someone a little uncomfortable. And this point generalized to almost every level of church membership.”

    I am trying to understand what your point is. If your point is a simple call for empathy, then that is fair. Neylan McBaine has pointed out that there are simple things the Church can do to make women feel more comfortable (get women more involved in Sacrament meeting, change the order of speakers so the husband is not always last, have women give more prayers at Conference, etc). So, if this is what your point is, okay, agreed.

    But as far as we know Christ’s church has *always* been one where men are in leadership positions through the Priesthood. It is fine to have empathy, but people who fail to recognize this are simply denying the reality of what the Church is. They want the Church to be something it is not.

    In addition, the angry language, ugly behavior and name-calling of the OW movement simply needs to be pointed out. It is not an accident that it has so little support among faithful latter-day Saint women.

    One other point: as Chris points out above, there are times when men in leadership positions are micromanagers, poor managers, insensitive, indelicate, etc. I would simply say this is not because they are *men,* this is because they are human beings. Yes, men can often be jerks. And, yes, women can often be jerks. Welcome to the real world. This would not be solved by magically putting women in positions of authority. If you don’t believe me, go talk to any female middle manager in the working world who has had a female boss. I repeat: women can be bad managers too. (One caveat: there ARE things that can be done to give women more say and more power on a ward and stake level, and I probably would have no problem with these changes. My point is to shoot down the claim that giving women the priesthood would solve the “bad manager” problem).

  13. I have never had anyone ever answer my question, what are they going to do with the Priesthood once they have it that isn’t getting done or can’t be done by the males? For that matter, what does having the Priesthood do that can’t be done by women without it? They don’t have any legitimate reason for it other than the worldly concepts of Power and Privilege that Jesus spoke out against.

  14. I agree with most everything you guys have said, especially Ram’s response to me about the tone of OW. (My comments at FMW are immediately moderated after I called them out on their “shrill and sarcastic” tone.). For the record, my comment was in response to the comments, not the original post.

    All the same, I think it’s really easy for us to dismiss them for reasons that don’t really get at their main contention. Yes, women do have the priesthood in the temple (kind of), and having leadership roles in the church involves attending a lot of meetings, and women would make all the same mistakes that men make in their leadership roles. But those things aren’t really what OW is about.

  15. One of the great strengths in the Church is that it is a lay ministry. One of the greatest problems and weaknesses in the Church is that it is a lay ministry.
    We have 80,000 missionaries, but they are mostly young kids that really do not know the gospel. We have bishops that make great bankers, lawyers, and brick layers, who have no understanding of human psychology, communication skills, financial skills, employment or welfare help experience, family counseling skills, etc. They are regular people who are suddenly asked to learn to walk by the Spirit and be guided in all things, when they are not use to doing much more than having FHE with their wife and kids. Many of them have never managed a business, much less a congregation or project, and so often end up being micro-managers, afraid that something will fall apart if they do not have a death grip on it.
    We do not give much training, not like ministers in other religions who must go to college and have classes in counseling, etc. So, sometimes we get a bishop/leader that is awesome and opens up doors of opportunity for the members (esp women), and others who micro-manage and do not let any power of decision or authority get past them.
    In a perfect world, all of our bishops would be great at delegating, listening, and counseling. However, we are far from that still.

  16. I’ve read both of the posts referenced and my take is one I’m not seeing yet. Admittedly, I do believe there are some who are agitating who have gone much too far and thereby lost the ability to claim righteousness in their cause. I think, however, that there is an underlying issue that could explain a number who have joined up with OW.

    I have recently noticed that while we (people) may recognize that something is wrong, we are not always clear on what it is. I believe this is at the root of the OW movement, small though it may be. While certain of the instigators are out for power, I think many have been swept up not because that defines how they feel but because that is the only source available that expresses the base feeling that something is off.

    This is not to attack or accuse but consider how much the men are given by way of direction, example, counsel, role models, … all to tell them who they are and who they can be. The General Authorities speak on thee value of women and how we are loved by the Lord. This is true. Proportionately however, women are given an incredibly small amount of what it actually means to be a woman and in our world, much of that is still defined in terms of man. I confess I am not very surprised that women who feel lost would seek to find that missing identity by using those same terms of man by which the world is run.

    It is less an issue of trying to take from man than it is of needing to understand woman. Unfortunately, because man does not perceive in the same manner of woman, this is difficult for him to comprehend. Also, being raised in a malw world she has been taught her value is either subject to men or in terms of man. I think many women of the church have a sense that we are apart which allows so many to not be confused as some have but for those who struggle with obtaining such an elusive, obscure, and relatively untaught self-understanding, the Ordain Women movement will find recognition with the lost among us.

  17. This reminds me of ancient Israel demanding Samual appoint them a king, 1 Samuel 8:19-20. “…That we also may be like all the nations (Gentiles); and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.”

    As in: “Hey, all the other churches ordain women. Why can’t we? When are we going to catch up with the times, and be like everyone else?”

    There’s another interesting twist, or parallel, depending on how you look at it. Samuel, the elderly prophet, had made his sons judges over Israel (1 Samuel 8:1), but they took bribes and were not righteous judges (1 Samuel 8:3). The elders of Israel took this as motivation, or as an excuse, to ask for a king (1 Samuel 8:5).

    As if being like everyone else in having a king, was going to fix the problem of a couple of unjust judges. (Whereas Israelite kings actually led to the break-up and downfall of Israel.) The modern parallel being that ordaining women is supposedly going to fix the problem of (allegedly) unjust (ie, sexist, misogynist) priesthood leaders. (Hat tip to Geoff B for pointing out that female managers are just as likely to be the boss-from-hell as male managers. My understanding of surveys is that both men and women prefer to work for male bosses overall.)

    Considering the downward spiral of literally _all_ mainstream religions that have followed modern trends (such as ordaining women), I would put forth that “being just like other churches” is the last thing we should consider.

  18. Ram wrote: “We have bishops that make great bankers, lawyers, and brick layers, who have no understanding of human psychology, communication skills, financial skills, employment or welfare help experience, family counseling skills,…”

    Isn’t your stake pres a good exception to that rule, being the head of _Human Resources_ for a $24 billion/year fortune 500 company? I’d say he’s got a good command of human psychology and communication skills. If there’s anyone who’s a good candidate for sainthood/translation, I’d say it’s him and his wife.

  19. Bookslinger, I agree that my stake president is a very talented and gifted person. I am certain he and his wife are true saints. I also believe most bishops and stake presidents are saints. Having such skills and talents does not make a saint. Having a humble walk with the Spirit does make a saint.
    That said, the Lord uses people with their talents AND weaknesses in whatever calling he asks them to serve in.

  20. Bearing the priesthood doesn’t amount to a whole lot if you aren’t motivated to love the Lord with all your heart, might, and strength. In fact, in my opinion, for the vast majority of priesthood-holding males in the church, bearing the priesthood is more of a curse than a blessing. These OW women may learn a lesson that Spock learned during his pon farr: that having a thing is not nearly as fulfilling as wanting it.

  21. If members really studied the priesthood and what it means, they would find it doesn’t matter whether men have it and women don’t. I believe men and women are under the exact same covenants and obligations and will be answerable to God in terms of their faith, hope, charity, love, sacrifice, repentance, humility, etc. Yes, men and women have slightly different roles and responsibilities in the church, but the underlying principles are the same. Men are responsible for laying on of hands, performing ordinances and blessing by the authority of the priesthood, but priesthood power is realized through faith and communion with God through the Holy Ghost. Priesthood is not the totality of the gospel; it is an aspect of the gospel. This is why I find the separation of men and women into priesthood quorums and relief societies on Sundays a ridiculous and antiquated notion. Dare I say foolish tradition? I think everyone would be more inclined to understand and honor the priesthood if they were instructed together. Separating adult men and women is a vestige of 19th century sexism and has no bearing in the eternal scheme of things. I would much rather sit with my wife and get both male and female perspectives on the gospel than to get the one-sided version each week. I think we would do well to combine our meetings to achieve this end.

  22. Steve,

    There is nothing blatantly wrong with the sexes meeting separately for one meeting out of the three. Men do well psychically and emotionally when we meet with other men; the same is true for women.

    Your implicit assumption in your remark seems to rely on the rather stunning notion that men and women are not different. Reason, science, not to mention just plain old fashioned common sense dictate that there are profound differences between the sexes, and those differences are to be appreciate and valued, not tossed aside in an attempt at achieving some kind of radical sexual egalitarianism.

    Putting aside the issue of women for just a moment, there is an increasing sense, at least in American and in the West in general, that males are “falling behind”. Elder Christoffersen spoke to this very issue recently. We men need priesthood meeting. We need priesthood fellowship. It’s important for boys and men to have some male brotherhood, away from the sisters.

    In short, there is profound wisdom in how the church is structured. I would caution against throwing that wisdom of the ages away in a progressive fit of pique.

  23. Michael,

    Nothing in your remark invalidates my rationale for adult men and women meeting together for priesthood instruction and/or general gospel instruction, unless you believe that the exercise of priesthood authority and power is understood by and only applies to men. Of course men and women are different, which is precisely the reason why men need to hear another perspective! Hearing another perspective doesn’t prevent us from hearing from other men, whether it’s on a social or religious front. If men must meet alone in order to achieve priesthood fellowship, then we truly do not understand how to connect with each other.

  24. I don’t really care whether men and women meet together or not (it happens on fifth Sundays now anyway), but it it worth pointing out that there are administrative things that must be done with the priesthood. The different quorums must report somewhere, and if they are not going to report in the 50 minutes left for priesthood, then we all would have to go to some other meeting. So, men and women meeting together would mean women reporting and men reporting, and the entire meeting would be quorum reporting with no time left for instruction.

    So, for purely practical purposes having separate meetings seems like a pretty good idea. Men and women spend plenty of time around each other at Sacrament meeting and during Sunday School.

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