Discussion Two Critique

Discussion2In this second discussion we are asked to to know the history. What follows reads like a graduate level analysis of historical points. I would argue they don’t sufficiently know the background behind the history they cite, but there are many good points here.

I would note that I’m the one of all of us women here that actually has talked about giving blessings by my faith in Christ. These blessings that I’ve voiced have been few, like seriously few. I almost always ask someone who holds the priesthood to voice blessings. But I know I can bless, and have done so.

There are four components to this discussion:

1) The Relief Society Minutes, where a) Emma is given the right to preside (a surprise to younger Mormons); b) Joseph talks of making the Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day, as in Paul’s day; and c) Joseph explicitly talks about women giving healing blessings and casting out devils.

2) A paper by Linda King Newell in the Silver Edition of Sunstone tracing the history of the migration from Joseph’s teachings regarding blessings and today’s practices where folks presume it is forbidden due to Joseph Fielding Smith’s memo to Belle Spafford in 1946, where he says the authorities have ruled washing and anointing the sick by women is permissible, but they think it is better to send for the Elders.

3) Greg Prince’s delightful interview of Chieko Okasaki published in 2012 (Dialogue).

4) A 15-minute video about women and the priesthood that speaks to various things, including how the once-independent assets of the Relief Society were absorbed by the Church.

Any man is better than any woman?

Starting with the video, I’ll note one portion that struck me particularly. The narrator paraphrases Joseph F. Smith at 12:48, where he says “The power is not given to the woman to act independent of the man, nor is it given to the man to act independent of Christ.” She then proceeds to grossly misinterpret what Smith meant by this statement, in my opinion, indicating she understands that women (plural) are not to act independent of the man, whereas men are only limited by the infinite power of Jesus Christ. In the context where I and many reading this will know the original wording from, I have never taken those words to mean that any man can rule over all women or that men are completely free to do whatever they might please. Although other statements in the video are likely not as grossly distorted, this one bit is a really important piece to be getting wrong.

There is also the history of financial adjustment, from a financially independent Relief Society to those assets being aligned under the common assets. While irritating, this is more about the underlying fiscal philosophy behind the law of consecration and foreseeable inattentional blindness when a non-diverse group of people administers to a diverse population.

The video attributes to malice what can be sufficiently explained by well-intentioned inadequacy. Or in certain cases (thinking of a situation from my youth), ignorant selfishness.

Ironically, this video highlights that there have been times in the past when women had roles where they administered, without requiring priesthood ordination. None of the historical roles mentioned for women necessarily required the form of priesthood some women are demanding.

Women are permitted to perform blessings

Going to the history of blessings, I am entirely encouraged that the last official statement in fact does confirm that women are permitted to bless the sick. Looking at the timing of this statement, this was in the immediate aftermath of World War II, where the men who had fought were returning home, only to find that the jobs and duties they had previously occupied had been filled by women in their absence. It became a matter of patriotism for the women to vacate those jobs and make them available to the men.

Many of those at the head of the Church now were young men during those times. It has been clear from their statements regarding women and the workforce that they still use the language of those days, where women were in direct competition with men for jobs.

Getting back to Joseph Fielding Smith’s memo to Belle Spafford, if read in the context of men coming home from war and finding the women no longer even looked to them to bless their own families, one can see why he might have asked her to encourage the women to refrain from blessing one another (though the practice was permissible) and look to the Elders for blessings.

In my world, the question is often “Is this strategic guidance, or tactical guidance?” Though one can see a long-term migration, I submit that the memo that was taken as the death knell of female blessings might have only been a tactical suggestion given the fragile state of men in the immediate aftermath of a terrible war. At what point subsequent to 1946 would the leadership have perceived a tactical need to encourage the women to resume the forgotten practice of performing blessings?

I imagine that the permissible instances of washing and annointing the sick would be like men administering the sacrament in their homes – an activity that, while possible, would only be conducted with the permission of the presiding priesthood authority. However it is interesting that Joseph Fielding Smith says nothing of blessings of comfort voiced by virtue of faith in Christ. I would actually really appreciate additional guidance on when these blessings could be legitimately performed. Not that I expect that have any need to perform such a blessing in the future. Blessings such as these, though, performed perhaps on the head of a sister who has been abused or raped, are not the kind of thing one anticipates. Again, though we in our day associate blessings with priesthood, there is nothing in this history that says women required priesthood ordination to administer blessings.

Relief Society, rev. 1842

It is, in my opinion, entirely crucial to understand what faced Joseph and Emma during those initial months of Relief Society. They knew there were sexual predators about, and that the predators included many men in high callings. In some instances, the women who had been misled into illicit sexual activity with the predators were also likely infected with venereal disease. And it is almost certain Joseph knew that at least one doctor (Dr. Bennett) was one of the predators. 1

Given the sexual predators, it should not be surprising in the least that Emma was given full autonomy, without reason to “report” to any of the men who might secretly be one of the predators. The women were freed to look to females, again a safety against having a woman go to a man who might be a predator.

This was also before Joseph stood up the Quorum of the Anointed, where he would introduce the washings and anointings to not only men, but also to women (a shocking thing in that day). Obviously, this was before the Nauvoo temple was available, so things were taught and done in the early Relief Society that we now primarily say and do in temples. I’m pretty sure this stuff is in any of a number of books on the subject of temples, but I usually just go to the temple rather than read about it, so I can’t cite a reference off the top of my head.

The society of female priests arguable exists today, unseen. All the rest occurred without any of the women in 1842 being ordained to priesthood.

Chieko, the Beloved, and Cultural Change

I adored the discussion between Greg Prince and Chieko Okasaki. My father was the first missionary convert baptized in Taiwan, so much of what Chieko had to say about initial bigotry and doctrinal stupidity among Utahns was no shock to me. While Chieko was married to a Japanese man, my father married a white woman. My Chinese aunt married a white man. So my family histories include a double portion of stupid Utah bigotry towards Asians in those days before the Supreme Court case that ended anti-miscegenation legislation.

But Utahns weren’t the vanguard of anti-Asian laws and practices. That particular bigotry was born in 1878 California to make sure Chinese laborers (imported to build the railroads) didn’t inter-marry with whites, building on the existing 1850 California ban on intermarriage between blacks and whites. When California rescinded anti-miscegenation legislation in the late 1940s, they didn’t bother advocating for the entire rest of the west to strike these laws from the books, other states they had strong-armed into legislating away the possibility of mixed race marriages lest California be faced with honoring such unions by reciprocity.

Much of Chieko Okasaki’s experiences dealing with ignorant Mormons can be viewed most accurately through the lens of Americans skittish about all minorities, particularly “Japs” who had bombed Pearl Harbor roughly a decade earlier. From that perspective, it is amazing that Chieko was in fact embraced by the most prominent citizens of her Utah community, including Ezra Taft Benson.

The focus of those agitating for female ordination, however, is on Chieko’s description of a) development of the initial manual intended for both Priesthood and Relief Society and b) presentation of the Proclamation on the Family. These particular histories demonstrate graphically the communication screw ups that can occur when men administer to the entire Church without thinking to consult the women.

Chieko, an amazing teacher, had been developing new manuals for Relief Society. At the same time, it was decided to create a common manual for the third hour, to be shared by the Priesthood Quorums and the Relief Society. No one thought to mention this common manual to anyone in Relief Society, a staggering oversight. The vision, to have men and women share the same manual, is great. And given that the lessons are adapted to each unique class by teachers who are presumably seeking inspiration, lacks can be compensated for. Obviously, once folks realized the lack of coordination existed, subsequent manuals have be developed by a committee including both men and women.

Regarding the Proclamation on the Family, none of the auxiliary presidencies were informed the document was being refined. Which is better than what I thought, hearing it read at the General Woman’s meeting. The Proclamation was so obviously not aligned with the talks given by the Relief Society (they’d been talking about female literacy) that I had suspected it came as a complete surprise to them as well as to us. So it hadn’t been a complete surprise, merely a document that had not benefited from review and comment from the women in leadership positions. While it is a bit rough, my perception of the Proclamation improved when I read the Southern Baptist Convention Article on the Family, the product of a year’s effort by a diverse committee.

Chieko’s stories remind us that there is much yet to do, to take advantage of all the potential brilliance of the diverse leadership of the Church. But I don’t see her advocating female ordination as the required or even desired means to achieve that end. This is actually quite encouraging – this means unfortunate patterns of inadequate communication can be changed with a mere memo, rather than necessitating a doctrinal modification that isn’t supported by scripture.

Of Cholera and Caution

Since my ancestry along one line traces back to John Taylor, third president of the Church, I’ve made a particular study of the records of his dealings with others. When the Saints were crossing the plains, John Taylor suggested that the Saints establish settlements along the trail, to grow crops for the Mormons traveling to Utah and reduce the dangers of the long trek through unsettled stretches.

John wouldn’t have known about cholera, and how that disease would devastate the overland travelers. Had Mormon settlements stretched along the Platte, they would almost certainly have been blamed for the deaths. With the large and unforeseeable influx of individuals traveling the Platte en route to the California gold fields, the situation would have become explosive.

Brigham ignored John Taylor’s suggestion, to the cautious Englishman’s dismay. As brusque as Brigham was, this meant the Saints were in the Salt Lake Valley, an important stop along the way, where orphans of those killed by cholera would get dumped before the forty-niners attempted the wagon trail across the Sierra Madres, a wagon trail that had been forged by returning soldiers from the Mormon Battalion (The Holmes 2-Thompson Company, en route to Salt Lake).

There are ways to look at the various developments and see the graces that attend us because of supposedly prejudicial actions from the past. For example, even if the Teachings of Presidents of the Church manuals weren’t initially conceived and developed by including sisters in leadership positions, is it not a wonderful thing that men and women do learn from the same curriculum during that third hour?

Those concerned about the loss of female autonomy with the absorption of Relief Society monies and responsibilities fail to mention the huge amount of effort associated with earning those monies – the bazaars and bake sales and musicals. The money earned at those events often came from the sisters themselves, unwilling to let another sister’s goods go unpurchased, knowing how much effort had gone into the acrylic grapes, refrigerator magnets, Santa Jars made from goblets, hand-made Christmas cards, and intricate crocheted shawls.

Even though the Church has urged women to remember their role as nurturers, by eliminating the mini-fiefdom that was the Relief Society of my mother, women were freed to become the wage earners our days have demanded they be, in so many cases. Ironically, in many cases, Mormon women now earn money by making crafts sold online via sites like Etsy, using that creative spirit to gladden a wider audience, and doubtless paying their tithes to the general fund of the Church, supporting the full variety of efforts the Church engages in.

Detractors from the movement to consolidate activities don’t mention the three-hour block associated with correlation. They may not be aware that a smaller percentage of women under the earlier system participated in Relief Society. It was considered separate from Church, if an important aspect of the female experience. However the old Sunday meeting structure meant that many women skipped sacrament meeting to fix dinner for their families. So men, often without their wives, would attend Sacrament meeting with those children the father could get to go. Loss of autonomy for Relief Society was part of a massive realignment of meetings, budgets, and other aspects of Mormon religious life, a realignment that served the unique needs of that time, increasing female participation in the actual religious life of the community.

Historian, learn your history

Those critical of the treatment of women in the Mormon Church remind us of historical points of which many members of the Church have not been aware. But they neglect to discuss aspects of that history that fail to support their summum bonum of demanding priesthood ordination.

Does our history as Mormon women promise greater things than many of us have experienced? I suppose so, since some don’t appear to have known the empowerment and joy it’s been my privilege to experience.

But is teaching surprised women to be actively unhappy with the Church going to produce the desired change? I say no.

I suggest we be like Cheiko Okasaki, embracing the gospel with all our hearts, using our brilliance to support the Church, earning the trust of our audience and only then speaking the honest words that effect change.

Notes:

  1. Formal testimony against the primary evil-doers was presented to the High Council in May 1842, excerpts of which were published in the Times and Seasons in May 1844 in a last-ditch effort to warn folks against some of those who were participating in publishing The Expositor.
  2. Yes, as in Johnathan Harriman Holmes, widower of Marietta Holmes and public husband of Joseph’s plural wife, Elvira Annie Cowles.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

19 thoughts on “Discussion Two Critique

  1. Meg,

    You’ve done a better job of reviewing that discussion than I would have, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on the rest of them. I know that this is a minor point in your review, but I have seen the complaint set out in a lot of places that the First Presidency didn’t ask the RS Presidency to comment on the Family Proclamation. When I see that raised, often the assumption is that if the RS Presidency had input then the language about gender roles would have been softened or changed wholesale.

    My reactions have fallen into two different categories: the first being that I can’t imagine that the sisters in the RS General Presidency would have suggested the kinds of changes that many in the OW crowd would want to make to that document. This is the same observation that I make when they suggest that there is a need for female apostles so that certain doctrinal and policy changes can be accomplished. My response is that if a women was chosen to fill the next vacancy in the Quorum of the 12, who would be picked? Chances are it’s someone like Julie Beck, and not someone like Kate Kelly. Even if women are ordained in the manner demanded by OW, there is little to no chance that OW long term goals will be realized.

    My second observation is that if you read the document, it isn’t a proclamation from the Church or even the general leadership of the Church. It is a proclamation from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12. As a result, it is not overly surprising that those 15 folks were the only ones consulted in the drafting of it.

  2. Thanks for your reviews of these Meg and I look forward to reading the next ones.

    On healings, while James’ instruction to call for the elders may suggest a preference for Priesthood in anointing the sick, generally speaking the scriptures talk of the gift to heal others as a gift of the spirit – not gender specific. I certainly hope that we can return to a time when women are encouraged to exercise these gifts within the Church and give blessings. I suspect your experience, Meg, in being supported to bless others by your Bishop would be by far the exception, but maybe (hopefully) I’m wrong on that.

    On the family proclamation, I agree with Michael. This was a document prepared and issued to the world by prophets, seers, and revelators. They give explicit prophetic warnings in it, and it continues to be extensively quoted in an almost canonical way (and perhaps will be canonised at some point, but obviously that is speculation). I doubt Mormon consulted with the ecclesiastical hierarchy of his day when compiling the records on the Gold plates. Joseph Smith didn’t consult with anyone other than God when translating those plates into English. I don’t recall any record of Isaiah seeking anyone’s opinion before he starting warning the nation and king about their behaviour. It is one thing to say that we have cultural practices that are insensitive to gender, ethnicity, or that are overly US-centric. It is quite another to say that when those we sustain as prophets are acting in a united and clearly prophetic way we disagree with them in either form or content.

  3. By the way, the reason I know about the increase in female participation following the change to the consolidated schedule was a conversation with Janette Hales Beckham, then the former General President of the Church’s Young Women’s organization. Janette happened to live in the same congregation as my husband’s mother.

    As for the time I myself have voiced a blessing by the power of my faith in Christ, this was on the head of my son, who was experiencing his third day of tachycardia following open heart surgery. My husband had given our son a blessing earlier in the day, and failed to say anything about our son recovering or coming home. My sweet husband simply looked at me blankly when I challenged him, saying he hadn’t been prompted to say anything about our son being healed.

    When I laid my hands on my son’s head, I felt right in blessing him that his heart rate would slow. I also felt right in blessing him that he would come home. I wanted to bless him that he would survive the future surgeries we expected, but the spirit constrained me.

    The next morning as I was expressing milk in the hope I could some day nurse my son, I saw something, as though God were taking my son to himself. A few minutes later the hospital called, urgently requesting that we hurry to our son’s side. By the time we arrived, our son was dead.

    At the time I saw the image indicating my son was being called to God, his heart-rate had descended to zero, and the doctors and nurses were working feverishly to attempt to revive him. Everything I had said in the blessing I gave was fulfilled. The lack of promise in my husband’s earlier blessing was similarly fulfilled.

    Edited to add: Regarding the wording of the Proclamation on the Family the end result would not have been different. However had the proclamation be affirmed by the signatures of the General Presidencies of the Auxiliaries headed by women (Relief Society, Young Women, Primary) and other appropriate leaders, it would be wonderful. Such an affirmation could even be done now, in kind of a second proclamation. Similarly, just as my blessing of my son and my husband’s blessing of my son used different words, the effect was the same. It pleased God to take my son back to Him. I’m sure the same would have been true of the Proclamation, had Elaine Jack, Aileen Clyde, Chieko Okasaki and other women been given a chance to suggest word choice alterations.

  4. Strange that they would highlight how the church has become progressively more patriarchal. This seems to undermine the idea that future revelation will bring in women’s ordination or that those who push for ordaining women are supporting the church in its directed course.

  5. Meg, thank you for another fair analysis. I especially loved your personal history interwoven throughout, and your tender story in the comments about blessing your son by faith in Christ. I am so glad you feel comfortable laying your hands on his head and pronouncing a blessing like that, as our pioneer foremothers did, and hope that other women embrace that gift as well. It is understandable some may be hesitant, given our (at least my) upbringing that only men do that in the current church, along with explicit instructions in the CHI and lds.org that make it explicit, “Only men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood may administer to the sick or afflicted. Normally, two or more administer together, but one may do it alone.” (https://www.lds.org/manual/family-guidebook/priesthood-ordinances-and-blessings?lang=eng). I also felt a bit sad when I read you say, “The society of female priests arguable exists today, unseen.” While I feel empowered in the temple, it makes me sad that this society of female priests cannot act out in the open, in church meetings–but only unseen behind temple doors. Why is it men’s society of priests can operate officially and openly, but women’s society of priests be unseen? My personal sadness aside re: history, I really appreciate your high engagement in these issues in the discussions, wow! For anyone else who wants to read discussion 2, it’s here: http://ordainwomen.org/six-discussions/

  6. One more thing: I do not remember the video’s narrator attributing the mistakes made by excluding women in church history to “malice.” She attributed it to their exclusion from the priesthood, which results in decisions made without female input or in spite of female objections. Could women have more opportunities in the church again if male leaders with keys decided to benevolently let us, even without ordination? Sure. But history shows that those opportunities would be subject to termination at any time. As long as women are excluded from the priesthood, we have no control over our opportunities. Which is why I hope that someday revelation will come giving mormon women keys–for my daughters, even if it doesn’t happen in my lifetime.

  7. It was interesting to see that the “Ordinances that require priesthood leader authorization are naming and blessing children, performing baptisms and confirmations, conferring the priesthood and ordaining to a priesthood office, blessing and passing the sacrament, and dedicating graves.”

    Blessing the sick is not on that list. Given the context of that section of the manual, I read it as saying members of the Aaronic priesthood are not to administer to the sick. Looking at Sister Newell’s review of the history of blessings, it was unclear whether those women who gave blessings were given power by virtue of their temple covenants or by virtue of the extended priesthood of their husband.

    In my case, I am both married to one holding the requisite priesthood and I have received the ordinances we administer in the temples.

    It’s also possible that I was completely in error to pronounce that blessing on my son’s head, but no one has yet taken me aside and told me I was in error. And it isn’t as though I’ve hidden the fact of that event, or refused to accept correction. In fact, I’ve pretty consistently asked for additional guidance on what about my actions was right or could have been done differently. When I’ve asked that at the local level, I’ve been reassured that blessings voiced by the power of faith in Christ are valid. But I’d be happy to be told I had in some way erred.

    As for control over opportunities, the Church is charged with a specific mission, and those responsible and accountable to God for that work will at times make changes to policies and procedures as they feel needed to best accomplish that work.

    I was blessed to have a mother who studied everything, and developed her own, principles-based testimony of the glorious purpose behind these changes. She’s pretty perfect, although she doesn’t like marathons that close down the town where she lives. I have seen her be imperfect in that one situation. Ironic, since I’ve run a marathon myself. Anyway, to tell a tale on her, the patriarch was giving her a blessing, and he said “You will be a leader among men.” But then he stopped cold. And he stated more carefully, “You will be a leader among your sex in your community.” This was important, because my mother is and was the kind of person who could have been a leader among men, if that’s what she thought God wanted her to be. Inasmuch as I love all my siblings, I’m rather glad she chose to be the person she is, and not foresake her yet-conceived children in pursuit of a role on the world stage.

  8. As for the discussion of malice, I have perhaps inferred from the strident stance of some individuals on the matter of demanding female ordination that they fundamentally question the leadership of the leadership to a degree that malice is implied. In that my perception may have been colored by experiencing the turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s regarding women’s rights and demands that were at that time being made of the Church.

  9. Hi Traveler,

    Thank you so much for posting the link to that excellent paper, which I’ll repeat here with the details:

    Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism (Jonathan A. Stapley and Kristine Wright, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 37, pp. 1-85, Winter 2011)

    So I take from this that during an era when Mormons were largely alone in performing faith healings, no one had any problem with any faithful member giving a blessing by virtue of their faith in Jesus Christ. In these early days things weren’t strictly codified the way they are now.

    As the practice of charismatic faith healing arose in other religious traditions, medically-trained Mormons were a bit less enthusiastic about everyone going and performing faith healings willy nilly. In addition, the cessation of polygamy (along with the resurgence of unauthorized polygamy under the helm of Lorin Woolley) led to a formalization that it was the restoration of priesthood power that served as the hallmark of the true Church.

    The one type of blessing that continued was washing and anointing women in preparation for childbirth. This one is interesting, as this blessing is very woman-centric, aligns with the identification of motherhood as primal in the female experience, and would be very awkward to have performed by male priesthood holders. For obvious reasons, there was confusion about this one, since it was allegedly appropriate for anyone to perform this blessing if they had faith, yet it resembles washing and anointings that may only be performed in the temple by those with explicit permission.

    An undercurrent in this paper is concern with the health of the male portion of the faith community, which at times was quite fragile.

    I enjoyed the vignette where President Kimball was being blessed in 1979 (p. 84). Elder McConkie requested that Camilla Kimball also place her hands on President Kimball’s head as part of that blessing.
    _________________________

    I am glad to have been raised in a family where multiple generations have documented charismatic experiences. These gifts exist, based on my personal observations, despite being derided by secular humanists everywhere and even many of the faithful (whether Mormon or of some other faith).

    I am similarly glad to have been given some nominal instruction/approbation in the propriety of using these gifts where faith dictates, both by my female MTC teacher and also my bishop.

    I look forward to seeing how this one element of Mormon heritage is handled as we move forward into an era where the vast majority of adult members have no family heritage regarding these gifts of the spirit. I’m not certain how we best allow those who have these gifts to know they may be used when the spirit dictates.

    Despite myself being an engineer, it was fascinating to review the history of how a legitimate need to codify priesthood combined with rigid thinking to suppress the valid and previously validated practice of blessings by virtue of faith in Jesus Christ.

  10. I feel inadequate in regards to adding to the discussion, but I do thank you Meg for yet another amazing piece. Your work is appreciated.

  11. I have often taken hold of a hand, carressed a brow or hugged someone as I pray earnestly and invoke a blessing for their recovery from some ailment. When I fast I choose a particular person on whom I focus my prayers. Surely God honors those invocations. However the formal priesthood blessing with consecrated oil by those with authority is powerful. In my experience those with authority are sometimes too reluctant to extend that blessing. I have encountered some men who wanted to be certain an illness was serious before they were willing to participate. Even so, I have not been tempted to usurp their stewardship. I have seen miracles in response to a child’s simple prayer. Whenever possible I ask appropriate people to officiate. When circumstances interfere, I trust God to hear my prayers and honor them.

  12. Hi Pat,

    I remember a time in my youth, when I had started attending the single’s ward. One relatively recent convert told me of how upset she was after having been attacked. The attack wasn’t a rape, per se, but that had been the intent of the attacker.

    I told this woman she needed to get a blessing. Though she had been a member for two years, she had never realized that it was her privilege to request such a thing.

    Being me, I made her stay in the classroom where we’d been talking, and ran through the halls to find some priesthood brethren who could administer a blessing. Having secured two who were willing and had oil (as I recall), we ran back to her. I forget if I remained to witness the blessing or not. I probably did: leaving her alone with two guys, even trusted Church guys, might not have been cool under the circumstances.

    This woman bore testimony at my missionary farewell, . I’d frankly forgotten the incident by then, because blessings aren’t unusual to me. But this had been her first blessing, and it had provided her profound relief after days of mental anguish.

    Why had I noticed her pain? I wasn’t in any position of authority over her. But in those days it was my practice to hug everyone (except male missionaries), and I suspect this physical affection towards all members of my congregation was the interaction that allowed me to be close enough to her to sense her pain.

    I’m currently married to a man who is relatively sparing in providing blessings. But when he does perform blessings, they are powerful.

    Those who seek priesthood ordination for women sometimes deride the idea that men need exclusive access to this power. “Are men so weak” they ask. I will just say that I have seen good men become great, and faithful women become glorious as they mold their lives to this pattern where the women encourage the men and boys around them to exercise the priesthood, and help make sure those who are instructed to administer blessings do so when circumstances require.

    It can also make a big different if we perceive that faith blessings are a gift we retain, but that the Lord has asked women to forego performing these blessings for a time for a good purpose.

    For some reason, I am reminded of the experience Lucy Grant [Cannon] had as a girl:

    When [Lucy] was about 12 years of age, her mother died. When her father [Heber J. Grant] told Lucy that her mother was dying, Lucy could not believe him. She hurried from the room and returned with a bottle of consecrated oil with which she implored him to bless her mother. He blessed his wife, dedicating her to the Lord. As the children left the room, he fell on his knees and prayed that his wife’s death might not affect the faith of their children in the ordinances of the Gospel. “Lutie” herself ran from the house feeling very bad as she expresses in the following words: “I was stunned and shocked and felt my father had not sufficient faith to heal her. I went behind the house and knelt down and prayed for the restoration of my mother. Instantly a voice, not an audible one, but one that seemed to speak to my whole being said, ‘In the death of your mother the will of the Lord will be done.’ Immediately I was a changed child. I felt reconciled and almost happy.”

  13. “Why is it men’s society of priests can operate officially and openly, but women’s society of priests be unseen? ”

    Matthew 6: 1-6, and 3 Nephi 13: 1-6 states:

    ” 1 Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.

    2 Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

    3 But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;

    4 That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.

    5 And when thou prayest thou shalt not do as the hypocrites, for they love to pray, standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

    6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

    In the end, I believe that any OW supporters have themselves not asked God the questions they are begging the leadership of the Church to ask. All their answers come from the 6 o clock news, politicians, and university professors.

  14. I’m not sure those seeking priesthood ordination for women are necessarily so wholly guided solely by the world.

    I’m a physicist. I know that not even cesium atoms decay at the same frequency.

    We had an amazing day at Church today. Our bishopric typically uses recent Conference talks for the Sacrament meeting theme, and today’s theme was Elder Oak’s October 2013 talk No Other Gods. I’m trying to get one of the folks to post their talk here on Millennial Star, in fact. Elder Oaks conveyed that we may seek all good things, but that our first object should be God and God’s will. Three of the speakers were women.

    Sunday School I sat with my autistic daughter, and the discussion was about prophets and revelation, but delving into the idea that we all have the right to revelation for our own circumstances.

    Relief Society was a discussion of Elder Bednar’s talk on how our burdens help us rely on the Lord, led by my friend Ling Ling, who is a convert from China. It was a wonderful, faith-filled discussion.

    I don’t think of it so much as women needing to hide their power in a closet. Rather that in bringing forward the entire body of Christ as a unified whole, there is reason to look to the men for performance of certain functions.

    For example, if women cared for all the needs of the women, how would men ever gain insight into the struggles of the women in the congregation? As writers know, women will read about both male characters and female characters, but men really don’t care to read about female characters. Movies are faced with a similar challenge: how to have compelling female characters in blockbuster movies. The movies typically handle it by making the female character young, scantily-clad, and sexually available.

    Since we don’t have the option of making Church leaders who happen to be women “young, scantily-clad, and sexually available,” we must be more creative to ensure that we reach all.

    Those seeking female ordination have merely failed to view women as powerful in the roles women fill in today’s Church. Perhaps it has been their misfortune to be surrounded by rigid men who were overbearing, combined with women who were cowed.

    It has been my privilege to be surrounded by angels of power, clothed in human form, whether male or female. And so I do not feel oppressed by the current state of affairs, which I see as a tactical response to current situations.

  15. Great commentary Meg! Interested in knowing what you have to say about discussion #3 from OW, and perhaps that is forthcoming. I have one question, and only one-Why would OW think they have credibility or validation with anyone, particularly those who consider themselves active, faithful members of the LDS Church when they use an excommunicated member (as in Margaret Toscano), speaking for them in said discussion? If anyone has the answer to that question, I would love to hear it.

  16. Hi Susan,

    I have already written a critique of Discussion 3. If you search M* for Stout Critique you should be able to find it.

    Those seeking ordination for women believe they are right. They believe the world stands behind them. They believe God stands behind them. So I don’t know that they would be concerned that one of their major contributors is an excommunicated member of the Church, assuming this is the case.

    I suppose I should go see if any additional discussions have been posted. It’s been an unusually fraught week for me, however. The fourth discussion wasn’t published on the planned schedule, and at a certain point I had better things to do than check the website where that discussion was to be posted. Like my daughter performing at the Kennedy Center during the 2014 Cappies (woot!).

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