Women and the Priesthood

This might only be interesting to myself and perhaps a few fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I wanted to write out how I’m feeling about all the hoopla about women and the priesthood.

I take as my theme Matthew 20:26-27, “whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”

This is how I see my church – it is led by Jesus Christ, who lives and speaks to His chosen prophet on the earth today. Jesus Christ has chosen a prophet and apostles who have a mandate to teach, warn, testify, and serve. I believe that those callings are divine – that they don’t happen as a result of campaigning or of knowing the right people – they happen as a result of revelation. In fact, I believe that for the most part all “callings” or assignments in the church happen as a result of inspiration. And I believe that even in those cases when a calling is extended without the benefit of inspiration, it can still be an inspired assignment, because serving the Lord in whatever capacity brings with it divine help.

This is how I see the leadership in my church – leaders are called to serve. We’re all human, so sometimes leaders “get a little authority, as they suppose, [and] they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39) It happens. The miracle in my mind is that it happens relatively infrequently. So many of the leaders I have worked with have truly sought to serve with humility and inspiration. Still, the ideal is the one Christ gave in Matthew – that the chief should be the servant.

Priesthood – in God’s plan as revealed to us on the earth, the responsibility of holding priesthood power and offices has been given to worthy male members of God’s church. I believe it is God that created that plan and that He has reasons for the way He has designed it. There are leadership callings that belong to priesthood holders – God planned it that way. But those leadership positions, as I understand it, are there for the purpose of serving – not bossing. Those leadership positions don’t come with a salary – or a set of working hours. They come with assignments to teach, to lead, to counsel, to serve, and to sacrifice time and money to the work. Not all leading is left to the priesthood holders in this church – and not all leading happens up front behind the podium. There are many who lead behind the scenes, male and female.

I don’t think it is wise to do a lot of speculating about God’s reasons for things, for after all, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9). I have my own thoughts about why Heavenly Father has divided various responsibilities between the two sexes. But even if I didn’t like His reasons (which I really don’t know), I believe and trust in God – so I believe and trust in the way He has set things up.

Alma teaches “therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God” (Alma 12:24). If that is my job on the earth – to prepare to meet God – then I figure the way God has set up things will probably allow me to do this. I can “kick against the pricks” and fuss about how I want things to be different, but ultimately, I believe God wants to know – can I be good to the people around me? Can I return good for evil? Can I serve where I’m asked, even if it is hard or demeaning or doesn’t make use of my talents? Do I have faith in Him? Do I believe He loves me and wants the best for me not necessarily here on the earth, but in the eternities? When I look at my life through this lens, the question of whether women should hold the priesthood or whether we are being discriminated against because we won’t be called as a bishop – those seem silly. I’ve got plenty to do with the responsibilities God has given me. I don’t need to worry about what he has given someone else.

Does God change His doctrine? Definitely not. Can God change the way He does things? Absolutely. He has and I believe that He will continue to do so. Does He do it because we organize protests and get up letter campaigns? I don’t believe so. I can’t say whether God will at some point ask women to take on the responsibility of holding the priesthood. I don’t really see a need, since the point of the priesthood is to bless the lives of others and perform saving ordinances (and which, incidentally, priesthood holders can’t do for their own selves, only for others). It is enough that there are worthy men who hold and exercise that priesthood power on behalf of others. Does that mean I think that women only access the power of God through the men around them? Definitely not. Faith in God, absolute belief in His power to bless, can give all of us, male and female, access to God’s power in time of need.

In this latest General Conference a number of speakers talked on “Obedience”. President Monson, quoting President Joseph F. Smith, reminded us “Obedience is the first law of heaven.” If Abraham could be asked to sacrifice his own son, can I do less than sacrifice my will to God’s plan? So – I think the controversy about women and the priesthood is missing the whole point. Church leadership isn’t about power – it’s about service. I don’t need to be a bishop to do what Heavenly Father needs me to do here on the earth – and I can serve always, with or without a formal assignment to do so. I don’t need to hold the priesthood to know that God loves me and values me and has important work (work that often feels beyond my capacity, by the way) for me to do. And I reserve to God the right to order things the way He sees fit, trusting in Him in all things (or at least seeking to do so!)

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