Why I Think We’re Having the Wrong Conversation

[ 60 ] Comments

by Bonnie

neylan mcbaineLast year Neylan McBaine, founder of the Mormon Women Project, rocked the Bloggernacle by making a presentation at FAIR about equality between the sexes. While her data on “the crisis” (her words) in the Church regarding women and leadership opportunities is drawn from a narrow sampling of vocal agitators for change (analysis here), she made some excellent observations.

I don’t disagree that there is a crisis for some. For others, a great, silent, moving-forward-with-faith army of others, crisis is considerable overstatement. Framing one’s argument with a crisis is, however, good rhetorical and marketing practice. And for what its worth, I have to agree that there’s a crisis, but of an entirely different sort. I’ll get to that later.

The individual experience of some, which is by nature of mortality quite wide-ranging, is not my focus here. If that has already sent you moving for the basket of tomatoes, hold on a second. I want to talk about sweeping generalities, in that sense that most of us do who want to find The Truth. Neylan makes some very salient points about The Truth.

First, our conversation about equality has used the fallen world’s terms for far too long. Neylan states:

Why do we do this? Why, when confronted with an intentionally inflammatory accusation like “gender discrimination,” do we instinctively default to defensive claims that our women are actually just the same as our men because they speak in church, go to school, and get to feel the Spirit the same way? We so often instinctually fall back on earthly paradigms to describe our structure. In an effort to bridge our own experience with the experience of our external audience, we rely on comparisons to hierarchical power structures of fallen world institutions: governments, corporations, and universities in which men and women ideally work side by side to advance to opportunities available to both genders. We talk in terms of opportunity, advancement, visibility, of hierarchical power, which are hallmarks of advanced worldly institutions, in America at least.

Neylan is reaching for something else, something not inflammatory or reactionary but true. She doesn’t want a “watered down version of the real thing, with lots of sugar added” – she wants The Truth. She’s willing to state point-blank that she doesn’t need it to be in a secular pattern using secular terms. She’d like the institution of the Church to reflect The Truth of an eternal relationship of celestial equality between men and women, and she’d like it to be spelled out. I hear that all the time in the Bloggernacle.

  • “In order for that to be clarified, there’d have to be another section added to the Doctrine and Covenants.”
  • “Until we have a clear revelation about Heavenly Mother, we’re all just floundering here.”
  • “It’s a nice theory, but until we have apostolic comment, that’s all it is.”

The issue isn’t that people are agitating for change in the Church structure to match the secular; the issue is that people want revelation. Good news!

That’s actually easier than it sounds. Our faith is structured on the rock of revelation and authority. The dispensation of the fullness of times was brought to pass through the faith and obedience and revelatory prowess of a small and simple man, uneducated in secular ways and therefore able to imagine a heavenly order that was unworldly. From Liberty Jail, he wrote:

joseph smith libertyThe things of God are of deep import and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind O man if thou wilt lead a soul into salvation must search into and contemplate the darkest abyss and the broad expanse of eternity, thou must commune with God. (TPJS, 137)

We know, in our heart of hearts, that debate will not resolve this issue, that we can’t resort to anything we experience in the world’s growing march toward enlightenment to tell us about heaven. In the historical example that is used to explain every cultural force that presses against the church and the subsequent answers that come (the revelation to give the priesthood to every worthy male) we do actually see the workings of the Lord to bring about The Truth. (I now have the attention of agitators and conservatives alike).

It was by slow revelation, inspired by intense, long-standing cultural pressure. Isn’t every problem we face? The Word of Wisdom came about because of the cultural pressure Emma placed on the prophet because of a filthy environment she had to clean up. He got more than he expected when he took the problem to the Lord, but isn’t that the purpose our problems serve? To open willing minds to greater views? And how did that revelation to Spencer W. Kimball occur?

By careful and ponderous and solemn thinking.

The blogger who self-identifies as Mormon Heretic provides us with excerpts from the working draft of Edward Kimball’s biography of his father Lengthen Your Stride. The narrative is fascinating.

spencer w kimballFor months the prophet was urgently concerned, spending many evenings in the temple, distracted and pensive. He talked to other church leaders extensively, asking their academic and spiritual opinions. He was tentative in asserting his own opinions. In fact, we have no record of him sharing his opinion of how things should be with anyone. In the process of his soulful search, others seem to have changed their minds (most notably Bruce R. McConkie), seeing his intensity and humility, led by his requests that they do intensive research as well to help him. Elder Packer is reported to have asked him why he would not let it rest, and then immediately answered himself that of course he could not, the Lord would not let him (see the excerpts linked above).

One morning after their morning meeting in the temple, President Kimball told the brethren he had cancelled lunch, asking them to remain in the temple with him. He spoke for two hours about his search, read applicable scriptures, noted every objection that could have been made and presented the answers he’d received. He asked their response, and all responded favorably to change. The biography continues (see excerpts above):

President Kimball asked, “Do you mind if I lead you in prayer?”  There were things he wanted to say to the Lord. He had reached a decision after great struggle, and he wanted the Lord’s confirmation, if it would come. They surrounded the altar in a prayer circle. President Kimball told the Lord at length that if extending the priesthood was not right, if the Lord did not want this change to come in the Church, he would fight the world’s opposition. Elder McConkie later recounted, “The Lord took over and President Kimball was inspired in his prayer, asking the right questions, and he asked for a manifestation.”

During that prayer, those present felt something powerful, uniting, ineffible. Those who tried to describe it struggled to find words. Elder McConkie said:

[It was as though another day of Pentecost came.]  On the day of Pentecost in the Old World it is recorded that cloven tongues of fire rested upon the people.  They were trying to put into words what is impossible to express directly. There are no words to describe the sensation, but simultaneously the Twelve and the three members of the First Presidency had the Holy Ghost descend upon them and they knew that God had manifested his will….I had had some remarkable spiritual experiences before, particularly in connection with my call as an apostle, but nothing of this magnitude. All the brethren at once knew and felt in their souls what the answer to the importuning petition of President Kimball was….Some of the Brethren were weeping.  All were sober and somewhat overcome. When President Kimball stood up, several of the Brethren, in turn, threw their arms around him.

This is the undercurrent among those who consider this issue and are dissatisfied in the Church today. They want a revelation. They want cloven tongues of fire. They want The Truth and the end to contention and confusion. I do too.

rane kirtland templeBut what if the Lord can’t give us Pentecost on this issue? What if that is why we get “a watered down version of the real thing, with lots of sugar added”? What if that is why further light and knowledge, as revealed in the Word of Wisdom ten-dollar-answer-for-a-two-dollar-question, isn’t forthcoming?

In a fireside address in February 1987, President Ezra Taft Benson gave the infamous talk “To the Mothers in Zion.” I remember it well: a 20-year-old newlywed, I’d just shared my feeling earlier that day to my temple-sealed husband that we were going to have a baby, and he had responded that he was going to leave me because of it, after a rocky Christmas in which we’d temporarily patched up another “I’m leaving you.” (My first child was born 9 months to the day from that fireside, four months after he did leave me.) You can bet the issue of motherhood was front and center for me, in February and all through that year.

In that address, he powerfully pleaded for mothers to “come home.” He said:

ezra taft bensonI beg of you, you who could and should be bearing and rearing a family: Wives, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the cafe. No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother–cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children. Come home, wives, to your husbands. Make home a heaven for them. Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create the bodies for the immortal souls who anxiously await. When you have fully complemented your husband in home life and borne the children, growing up full of faith, integrity, responsibility, and goodness, then you have achieved your accomplishment supreme, without peer, and you will be the envy [of all] through time and eternity.

The separation among women in the Church was immediate and dramatic. The prophet had overstepped – the prophet was a visionary. But if you read the talk, they weren’t his words. The quote above is actually from President Spencer W. Kimball, given in a fireside address in San Antonio in Dec. 1977, just a couple of months before he would undertake to embrace the twin difficult issue of priesthood and men and the effect on families. The prophet, a prophet with a deeply ingrained tendency to speak carefully on tense cultural issues and to seek the will of the Lord before his own, was pleading with all the people of the Church, both women who were interested in public careers and their husbands who often pushed them to augment family finances, to come home.

A careful reading of President Benson’s words ten years later reveals the same spirit:

This evening I pay tribute to the mothers in Zion and pray with all my heart that what I have to say to you will be understood by the Spirit and will lift and bless your lives in your sacred callings as mothers.

President David O. McKay declared: “Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother’s image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child’s mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security, her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.” (Gospel Ideals, p. 452.)

Contrasted with the worldly appeal of equality of pay (certainly a good thing) and equality of worldly opportunity (no downside to that), the prophet offers to women a peek at eternal power. Rather than trappings, the Lord offers real power, and the prophet is doing his job and reminding us, warning as a watchman on the tower, that the world is coming to destroy. In the letter from Liberty Jail, Joseph talks about this power, and it’s recorded in Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

Does this not sound like the power of motherhood that President McKay, and President Kimball, and President Benson were talking about? Does it not resonate with the power of ministry that Jesus taught his disciples when he clarified that he wanted ministering, not ADministering from his earthly kingdom?

jesus-washing-apostles-feet

And what of continuing discussion on the sexes from our prophets? In 1995 (on my 29th birthday!) the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve made a solemn proclamation, of the type enjoined upon the Prophet Joseph in Section 124. Read carefully the revelation to Joseph and you get an idea how the Lord feels about “solemn proclamations” sent to the world either then or now.

And what did President Hinckley’s newly formed Church administration affirm? Eternal verities that have not ceased to cause contention and division within the church on cultural issues we keep bringing in from the world in the nearly two decades since. “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” The words grate if you don’t want to hear them. Until we hear them peaceably as a Church, it’s unlikely more will come.

The Word of Wisdom was given as a principle with a promise when the behaviors and attitudes about health it revealed were not culturally accepted as true. The Lord, understanding that it was better for those 19th Century spirits to have time to acclimate themselves to the eternal truths contained, invited obedience and faith. In the years since, the revelation has been verified by science and by experience. In the same way, the world does not accept the revealed truths of the Proclamation on the Family as true, but the Lord has not chosen to stamp this revelation with a “This is The Way It Is” seal that causes the less faithful to stumble.

He instead invites, and waits.

I recently noticed an entire subtext to the Word of Wisdom I’d never seen before. In my recent reading of the Doctrine and Covenants I’ve noticed many subtexts that are revealed through “careful and ponderous and solemn thinking.” Curious, I approached the Proclamation with new eyes. And yes, it’s there. In all our revelations, if we would have Zion, we see the laws of that society reflected.

'Mother and Child'The plan is child-centered. Its eventual goal is a unity of all in the work of God, which is the immortality and eternal life of all God’s children – the children of a Mother and a Father. The work of mothers and fathers is ministry, and the kingdom reflects that ministry. No other voice has the staying power of a mother’s in the salvation of a child. “The mother’s image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child’s mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security, her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world. (President McKay, above)

We can know with complete certainty of the character and work of our Heavenly Mother precisely to the degree that we will value and protect her reflected work on the earth, as revealed over and over and over by prophets. The revelations that will shout The Truth from the housetops in all its glittering clarity will come when the simple call to “come home” is met with joyful gratitude for the opportunity rather than a defensive retreat to worldly definitions of power and influence. Power is not based in equality. It arises from consecration. A call for the kingdom to be remade in the world’s image is the least likely to invite The Truth.

And here is where we come to the true crisis.

We aren’t ready. We not only aren’t ready for Zion’s consecration because we can’t even agree about paying our tithing, much less giving all we have, we aren’t ready to know the character of the Gods. It will cause too many of us to stumble, so we are left with elementary, introductory, training wheels commandments and policies until we can learn to have faith in God and trust in our prophets. We are not ready for the company of those who’ve made consecration their existence, and since we are waiting for their return to prepare for the Savior’s return, that isn’t going to happen any time sooner either.

We aren’t waiting on God. He’s waiting on us. The true crisis is that we aren’t running to consecrate all we have, and running to be obedient to the principles of the heavenly structure of the family, that we aren’t running to obey every principle we have so that more will be revealed. We aren’t running to build Zion, and he’s not going to do it for us because he can’t. Priesthood power comes on principles of practice in ministering.

The upside is, there are people who are. When the announcement allowing younger people to serve missions was made, they came running. This is the generation that will bring Zion because they know how to run to God on the words of a prophet. We would do well to get on board and have the conversation they’re going to want to have. If we don’t, we may find ourselves left behind by those with greater faith.

That conversation won’t be about equality. It will be about consecration.

How sad to have ridden the luxury liner and realize we missed everything the journey was about.

Image credits not otherwise given: neylanmcbaine.com, lds.org

About Bonnie

Living life determined to skid sideways into the grave and say, "MAN, what a ride!"

60 Responses to Why I Think We’re Having the Wrong Conversation

  1. Angie says:

    I remember hearing (probably apocryphal, I didn’t hear the actual talk) that E. Oaks had said that the reason why Pres Benson wasn’t speaking (aside from being very very ill) was that he had been silenced, that we as a people were not flooding the earth with the BoM, we were not heeding his counsel in general so the Lord wasn’t letting him give us any more. That is what I thought of with this post–that we aren’t, as a people, embracing the truths given and hungering for more truth and we won’t get any more until we are–a bread and meat discussion.

    My thoughts were also along the lines of the fact that those of us who may not have been as affected by the pain of bad gender relations may have just as much to work on in the consecration and embracing of truth subject. Sometimes a believing heart (and a more easygoing sociological experience) can make it more difficult for us to engage in the mighty prayer for change and willingness to act on truths revealed. We may have the willingness, but we lack the wrestle while others are filled with wrestle–either because of a less easygoing experience or a more struggling heart, or both–but find it far more difficult to lay that willingness to act upon the altar. Neither anger nor complacency are a substitute for consecration.

    • jendoop says:

      I don’t think we have to make the fight ours if it isn’t though. President Kimball had a deep intellectual and spiritual wrestle with the priesthood issue, no one studied it as much as him. But that wasn’t wrong for the other apostles to dedicate themselves to it less. They didn’t stand in the way of him either. There’s a big difference.

      With this issue I don’t feel as passionate as I do about other issues (the church culture’s attitude towards mental illness for instance), but that doesn’t mean I’m neglectful. We each have our interests and differences for a reason. I don’t see it as my womanly responsibility to take up the gender inequality issue if it doesn’t spark for me. At the same time I shouldn’t stand in the way of those (like Bonnie) who are faithfully wrestling with it.

      Other than that, this post is full of things I will be processing for a while.

      • MSKeller says:

        and mine is with Singles. It has become a bit less vehement since I’ve remarried and moved back through the rabbit hole, but I do understand grappling with socialital habits and exclusionary conversations and practices.

  2. Michael Towns says:

    A profoundly insightful essay, from top to bottom. I really think that Bonnie has given us a beautifully spiritual analysis of some of the thorniest issues being grappled in our time, but more importantly, she has elucidated what we really ought to be talking about!

    As we say in the Navy, bravo zulu!

  3. Paul says:

    Bonnie, awesome post. So much to chew on here, but most important for me (and admittedly I am more detached from the central equality question that other readers because I am male) is the link to consecration and waiting on the Lord.

    You’ve done a nice job of demonstrating a cascade of prophetic teaching on the subject, and in invitation to take a less selfish view of the issue (“The plan is child-centered”). In making that statement I do not mean to pass judgement on those who are wrestling with the issue — wrestling is part of our faith development over time, and there is no sin in it. The sin, as Presdient Benson also taught, is giving way to enmity against God in the form of pride. And the consequence of that sin is spiritual separation and the attending lonliness.

    • Bonnie says:

      Perfect point about wrestling, Paul. I can’t tell you how long I’ve wrestled with this and all the different points of view I’ve tried on getting here. I hope to learn more at any point on my path, so I don’t want to in any way criticize where anyone else is. We wrestle. It’s the foundation of our maturing relationship with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Parents! Excellent point about giving way to enmity against God.

  4. Adam G. says:

    You’ve given me food for thought. Thanks for sharing the fruits of your own grapple with these issues.

  5. MSKeller says:

    “He instead invites, and waits.” – Succinct and glorious.

    Isn’t that what it is all about, even in our individual lives? The invitation, the inspiration, the epiphany, all given and then ‘He Waits’. He waits to see what we’ll do with it, if we’ll even remember what we felt/learned/experienced. He waits to give us so many blessings there would not be “room enough to receive it”.

    Wonderful read Bonnie. Beautiful flow.

  6. Bonnie, thanks for the link to the Kimball revelation. Truly that was an amazing time.

    As for your post title, “Why I Think We’re Having the Wrong Conversation”, let me make sure I’m clear what you’re getting at. Are you saying that we shouldn’t be talking about equality in the world’s terms, but rather be looking for personal and prophetic revelation with regards to gender equality? If so, I think that’s a really interesting message. I have to say that I’ve learned more about the Community of Christ, and they have a slogan about wanting “a prophetic people.” The way they canonize revelation is quite different than in our church. The RLDS members campaign and politic quite a bit. It would strike most LDS as an odd way of doing it, but the members in the RLDS are very active in the revelation process.

    I think the mission revelation in conference was embraced widely because many members want to get the mission “out of the way”. The year between high school and college just feels like a wasted year for many, and most would like to get out of high school and go. But if the prophet had a revelation bringing back polygamy, telling us to move to Missouri, reinstating Consecration, or even allowing gay marriage, I suspect there would be a lot of resistance. I don’t see the members embracing that so easily as the mission age. If there was a revelation allowing women to hold the priesthood to bless the sick, I can see members embracing that. Even if we could have deaconnesses passing the sacrament, I think most members would get behind it.

    So what I’m saying is that they type of revelation received may or may not be widely accepted. Yes, “they came running” for the mission age, but will “they came running” to embrace something radical like universal health care as a form of consecration? Will Mormons accept gay marriage in order to bring back polygamy as a form of equality? Certainly Joseph Smith experienced a lot of schisms with his revelations in 1838 and 1843 specifically. All the subsequent leaders have resisted these radical changes until the members were more ready (Wilford Woodruff and Spencer Kimball.)

    • Bonnie says:

      MH – thanks for joining us.

      Re: post title, yes I think we won’t move forward without engaging more personal revelation, and I think we’re getting hung up on equality. I don’t see campaigning and politicking within our structure – in fact, that’s what I’m suggesting is our problem.
      Re: the mission revelation, wow, I’m sure there are people who want to “get it out of the way” but have you looked at the videos online of people excitedly getting together? I don’t think you’re seeing the same spirit I’m seeing. These are people filled with the missionary spirit, not hurrying to check something off their lifelist.
      Re: resistance, consecration has never been repealed. We are called to live and to give – nobody simply asks us for it. We ought to think about that. The resistance you note is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. There is so much resistance among older members that the kingdom may have to wait til we’re dead to get anything done.
      Re: other revelations, those are pretty out there. The Proclamation doesn’t leave much room for allowing gay marriage.
      Re: priesthood for women, my point is that it will feel natural when the revelation comes to those who have sought their own personal revelation. That doesn’t feel natural as I’ve studied and sought my own revelation, and it doesn’t fit with my growing understanding of the relationship between Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, but who am I to say?
      Re: universal health care? As in government-sponsored? Um, the revelations are clear that we will see the end of nations – I seriously doubt the Church or the kingdom is going to rely on institutions that are dated, bloated, and under Satan’s control.
      Re: leader resistance, yes, it has always been there. But we do enjoy a more mature leadership now, with the advantage of much more revealed, both as a Church and personally, before they take reins of leadership.
      I think we weren’t really seeing eye-to-eye in the post, which is fine. Those were my thoughts and it’s obvious yours ran differently. I am deeply grateful for the excerpts you made available. They had a profound effect on me this year.

      • I don’t like the fact that spaces between paragraphs are removed. I think it makes it harder to read.
        The Proclamation doesn’t leave much room for allowing gay marriage. Well, I agree, but then again, Brigham Young didn’t leave much room for blacks to hold the priesthood before the final judgment. Now we have black general authorities, something Brigham would probably consider apostate. So, gay marriage is within the realm of possibility. (I’m not sure how I feel about it, lest anyone think I am advocating it.) But what I am trying to say is that in Joseph Smith’s day, revelation often jarring (ever hear of polygamy?) and against cultural norms. Do we really want that kind of revelation?

        I mean what if the Supreme Court rules that not only is gay marriage legal (as it overturned abortion in Roe v. Wade), but what if it makes polygamy legal? Would the church suddenly reinstate polygamy per section 132? Would there be a re-uniting with polygamist groups that never dropped the practice? I mean if we truly wants God’s will, and if we truly believe polygamy is an eternal principle, perhaps this is God’s way to make it legal again. (God works in mysterious ways.)

        As for my “equality” comment, it is meant in 2 ways: (1) gays are already arguing for “marriage equality.” I don’t know what to think right now. I did a post on Re-evaluating Gay Scriptures, and frankly I question whether scriptures in Leviticus should really be considered legitimate. But (2) if we talk about Brigham Young era polygamy, the fact of the matter is that women (by necessity) were very progressive (allowing women to vote, go to medical school, accounting, etc) and I would argue strongly in opposition to President Benson’s more victorian ideal of mothers in Zion. Women in polygamy were much more independent, worked outside the home, etc. They blessed/ministered to the sick, etc.

        When it comes to revelation, it can be quite jarring, and I don’t know if we always like to hear God’s revealed words. The mission age change is quite minor compared to the disruptive revelations of Joseph Smith. I think many members really don’t want that kind of revelation.

        • Becca says:

          “I think many members really don’t want that kind of revelation.”

          While I don’t agree with you on many of the things you have said, I do agree with this sentiment, and actually I believe that there has been a lot of revelation that people are already not accepting or “running to” (which, I think, was part of Bonnie’s original post). Members don’t like the revelation we have right now, and many of them balk at the words of our prophets. That doesn’t exactly clear the way for more revelation. In Joseph Smith’s day the saints were much more willing to sacrifice anything and everything to follow prophetic counsel and revelation. Today, many members only want to follow the counsel if it is “comfortable” or if it fits with societal norms.

          • In Joseph Smith’s day the saints were much more willing to sacrifice anything and everything to follow prophetic counsel and revelation.

            Some were, some weren’t. Many of the anti-Mormons were actually former Mormons. Following the Kirtland Banking Crisis, former apostle William McLellin may have been part of the mob that attacked Joseph Smith. Yet McLellin never wavered in his support of the Book of Mormon. Many think that John C. Bennett, a former member of the First Presidency, organized the Carthage mob. I think we need to be realistic about how devoted members were in the early days.

          • Becca says:

            How devoted members were in the early days? I thought you yourself were just arguing that members today wouldn’t follow revelation to uproot their homes and move to Missouri. The early members did (uproot their homes and move) several times. And practice polygamy. And many other things that we would never dream of doing today. But there are also things the prophets have asked us to do today that we would never dream of doing.

            Sure many anti Mormons came from “within” but is that really any different from today? I don’t think so.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Bonnie, I love your comment about ministering vs. administering, because it points out so beautifully how the what the Lord wants is so different from what the world wants–regarding this particular issue and so many others. Some great thoughts and reflection here.

  8. Jar says:

    I appreciate this article, and the comments for a number of reasons. It sure stirred up emotions. For me, I am stuck with the whole concept of having issues with the church, be it doctrine or customs. It smacks of pompousness. When Has God’s ways ever been our ways? Who stirs up these issues in our hearts anyway? If you are a woman in the church and have issues with your choice to work outside the home those issues you have are not “The Church’s” issues. Those are issues between you and The Lord. No matter the condition we find ourselves, be it single, married with or without children, married to inactive or non-member, divorced, struggling in any way with gender or sexual issues, these issues are between the individual and The Lord.

    We do not need doctrine or programs to meet each of the conditions of mortality. The purpose of this life, and that of our individual missions is to walk by faith. It is an unwise servant that must be commanded in all things. The Church is not the government with agencies to handle the various trials of mortality. No matter how we fit in or do not fit in — we can make our break ourselves by the very issues we create inside our own minds.

    In my own life I have experienced most of those trials and conditions listed above. How easy would it have been then, or even now in this horrible place I currently find myself in to assign stewardship of the problem to a lack of doctrine, revelation or program? How damaging that would be to my own personal growth, to my testimony and to my faith.

    We, as members of the Lord’s church here upon the earth are not adopters of the world’s way. We are a peculiar people, with a peculiar set of doctrines, beliefs, and standards. When we take up issues with our own ways we walk a path of destruction, often taking others with us.

    For those who struggle, lean upon the peaceful words of the Savior, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Work your issues out with your Father in Heaven. The Church is not enemy here, the adversary is. It is from issues like this, I believe, we see the beginning of the fulfilling of the prophecy that in the last days the very elect will fall.

    • MSKeller says:

      It seems as if you are saying what I’ve often said, almost everything really is about what we choose to focus on. When we focus on what is good in our lives, that is what we see the most. When we do the opposite, we see all the little things that can lead us far from where we originally wanted to be.

    • Bonnie says:

      Jar, so true. All of us have had gut-wrenching issues with life. On the other side of those issues, after finding the companionship of the Lord through them, we find enlightenment. One of the things I love about our theology is the absence of creeds and intellectual constriction. That can also be trying, I’m the first to admit. Blessings to you in your private struggles.

    • JennyP1969 says:

      Oh my…..this a a great concern: to view divine equality as being what has, thus far, been taught. There is no divine revelation on such equality. We have glorious revelations and proclamations on the roles of mothers and fathers, and on the duties of the priesthood. But divine, righteous equality has miles to go before it can truly sleep.

      We must pray, fast, yearn for, and be unafraid to seek the Lord’s vision of pure equality. Mothers can remain mothers, and be even better mothers if equality comes to this people. Love will grow. Blessings will abound. The Lord commands us to ask, seek, and knock to keep learning and growing. Pres. kimball was unafraid to “go there.” I’d heard all my life the old, false teachings about why black men could not hold the priesthood. Alliances were forged among the leaders who taught these various things. It was a laborious process to get to that prayer that day in the temple. But Pres. kimball was willing to consider they were wrong, that there was more. He asked, sought, and he knocked on the Savior’s door to bring down millennia-long beliefs. Many members had prayed for such for decades.

      Though I’ve never been oppressed by the church, I can see and now discern by the Spirit, that being revered is not full equality, nor is our role as mothers. There is so much more…..if we will have faith, seek, ask, knock…….and most of all — not be afraid to go there. It’s not about issues, coveting or pride. It’s about righteously envisioning the full measure of divine equality as the Savior so does. It’s about humbly, but earnestly pleading for such a revelation to come to a prophet willing to go there, too. It’s about tremendous faith in a living church that moves forward by baby steps at times, but by very lengthened strides at others. And it’s about bringing down old beliefs we once thought were accurate and complete. We must not be so “pompous” as to think we already know it all. There’s so much light to seek.

      • Moss says:

        Thank you, JennyP1969! You expressed my thoughts more eloquently than I could.

      • Bonnie says:

        Yes Jenny! That is exactly what I hope we will come to. But the process – the process is everything. We will find equality along the way as we seek The Truth as a people. We won’t find it in debate and public “correction” of our prophets and apostles, because that spirit brings dissension and division among the people. The time period of Pres. Kimball’s revelation was still filled with many, many people who believed the false teachings of the “why” (even among leadership) and they came to the truth by humble seeking. There are many who believe that if that revelation had been received any earlier, even though many of us prayed deeply for it, those whose souls were bound up with bigotry would have caused even greater division. The Lord’s way is never contention. He chooses his time to clarify, as he did when he visited the Nephites and Lamanites after his resurrection. Equality will come beautifully when we seek for discipleship and let him do his work.

        • JennyP1969 says:

          Love the thought, Bonnie, but respectfully invite US to do the work, not the Savior. It took years of Pres. kimball working the alliances of the Q12 to build a spirit of willingness to change their whole paradigm. If we believe in a prophet, led by God, how can there be alliances? Why years among the leaders to yield to God’s will? Because they didn’t work at believing there was more, or that at their level they could be wrong. The people were ready long before the leaders — hence the prayers and cries unto the Lord. The people did their work — at least many did. Many were very unkind to those who believed their was racial inequality. They labeled such members as going beyond the mark, being arrogant and prideful, being on the road to apostasy, etc. etc. Many said if the Savior felt there was bigotry, He would change things. And so He does…..when we seek, ask, go there, and face the ridicule of brothers and sisters who say the same unkind things about those who pray and yearn for gender equality. I may be wrong in every way. But could more of us try to “go there”? Could we yearn, pray, fast, and plead for Divine equality to come to a people who trust their prophet “go there” also? Could we do the work as such? Could we be kinder to those we may disagree with about this? Like not be cruel to those who wore pants one Sunday not long ago? Could we do the work — and it is work — to go to the Lord about any and all ways we may be incomplete in our own paradigms and assumptions? Could we do the work of listening more than espousing? Of hearing more than waiting to take issue? Of disagreeing without snark or silent smug superiority?

          Because, yes, Bonnie is so correct that contention, even in our hearts, is so not of God. We can do this. The Savior is waiting. Let’s not delay any longer in this holy work….His holy work. Thanks for listening, and I’ll be still now.

      • Becca says:

        This was a beautifully written comment. Just lovely.

  9. Hear, hear!
    This post wonderfully communicated conclusions I’ve been coming to lately.

  10. European Saint says:

    Bravo, Bonnie. Really. I would love to see this re-posted at one of the “big” blogs so as to generate maximum discussion. (But sadly, I am skeptical as to whether said discussion would end up being respectful, helpful, in the right spirit, etc. Pride is a tremendous stumbling block for us all.)

    • Bonnie says:

      Nice to see you over in our neck of the woods, European Saint. I’ve given much thought to where we cast our pearls, and come to the same conclusions you have. Bigger is often not, in the Lord’s eyes, better. I’ll take this group of faithful, intentional people. And while ideas are important and it’s nice if they get a useful airing, I like the exploration better when it’s prayerful. Hope you’ll stop in often and add your two cents.

    • Becca says:

      Which is the reason I am glad this discussion is here ;) We hope more people will wander over here and join in the discussion of a few faithful, respectful saints. Bonnie said it well :) Bigger is not always better. I have faith that these discussions will reach the people they need to reach.

  11. Katie L says:

    A very thoughtful post. Thank you for it.

    My fundamental concern with your argument is that it stems from the assumption that the very character of the Gods is gendered.

    But what if the Gods are NOT gendered? What if our experience of masculine and feminine is simply pointing at something deeper, something divine, but is not the sacred thing itself?

    You say it’s a consecration issue, not an equality issue. I can only speak for myself, but as a woman, I have spiritual gifts that are not primarily domestic but are public and, I believe, even pastoral. As it currently stands, I do not have the opportunity to consecrate my gifts to the church in the same way or to the same degree that a man does, because the structure does not allow me to.

    This is why equality matters. Theologically, I can support the idea that equality itself is not the end-game, that consecration is; but what equality does is create opportunities for consecration based on gifts, not gender. I believe a gift-based framework provides more freedom, is healthier spiritually, and is closer to that which is actually True than the gender-based alternative.

    • Bonnie says:

      Yes, my argument does stem from that assumption. There is some interesting research that’s been done on the Gods: Elohim, Asherah, and Jehovah. I referenced it when I wrote here. I would be very interested in the references to Asherah that were purged in OT times – probably most significantly in the time of Josiah’s reforms. I think the time of the patriarchs saw a completely different understanding of the Gods.

      I also think the gifts are consecrated most importantly on a personal level. I’ve written about some of the gifts of the spirit and their unfortunate conflation with offices here. So I get that equality matters, because it would seem to give more people access to each other’s gifts. But I think the point the Savior was making in washing the apostle’s feet as one of his last acts is that those gifts are best employed in humble one-on-one ministry, as Peter aptly demonstrated when he healed the blind man at the temple.

      And I think we get to the end game by focusing on it, rather than on the midsteps – letting butterflies come instead of chasing them. The gender-based issue comes up as a staple to both the proclamation and the temple. I don’t think we can lightly pass over gender.

      I’m so glad you commented and glad you’ve joined us here.

      • Katie L says:

        Don’t get me wrong: I believe in a Divine Feminine and a Divine Masculine. When I say that I’m not so sure that the Gods are “gendered,” what I mean is that I imagine that the Divine Feminine/Masculine probably don’t map neatly onto the assumptions we’ve made about gender roles in mortality. I imagine if we were to meet a Goddess, we would be stunned by Her wholeness, and probably Her possession of both “traditionally” masculine and feminine traits.

        I resonate with the idea you expressed that personal consecration can happen with or without institutional support. In my life, I am pursuing a career path that will allow me to exercise my spiritual gifts regularly, and because my gifts are a part of who God has made me to be, of course they show up in my home and interpersonal relationships. And I am always thrilled to receive the few callings that, as a woman, I am eligible to receive and that allow me to exercise them in church.

        But how much nicer would it be if I had institutional support for my gifts? I believe that the benefit to both individuals and the Body of Christ would be huge.

        Thanks again for the thoughtful engagement.

        • Bonnie says:

          And thanks for returning with your clarification. There is a great deal within your response with which I agree – always a happy thing to discover when we converse!

        • Becca says:

          I’m curious if you have read some of the things the Church published in the Parents’ Guide in 1985 about being careful not to confuse true gender identity with traditional gender roles. I was actually floored when I read it, because I have actually been under the impression that the Church was just as bad as society in promoting the erroneous notion that there are things that are “masculine” and “feminine”.

          I love this statement you made: “I imagine if we were to meet a Goddess, we would be stunned by Her wholeness, and probably Her possession of both “traditionally” masculine and feminine traits.” I believe this whole-heartedly. I think the things that we think are what it means to be a man and a woman are not what it means to be a man and a women. It’s an area I have struggled with, because I am 100% convinced that there is a reason I am a female and not a male, I believe that I have a distinctly male Father in Heaven and a distinctly female Mother in Heaven, and I just don’t know exactly what that means. It’s a journey, and I rely heavily on the words of the scriptures, the words of the prophets, and most importantly, the “greatest book of all” – the Holy Ghost, to help me – all of these are elements of personal revelation.

          And I do not think I will ever, in this life at least, “arrive” at a full understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman, but I think the journey is more important right now anyway.

    • Michelle says:

      If I may, I’d like to comment on this explanation of wanting more institutional equality. I appreciate understanding why some are passionate about equality and see it as essential to consecration, but I beg to differ. I personally think that limiting consecration to having to be facilitated by the structure is just that, limiting. The Lord tells us that we ought not be commanded in all things, and I see that as applying here. Consecration, in my view, doesn’t stem from the structure or from callings, it comes from our hearts, from conversion. If the former were true, then that would be true inequality, indeed, because only those with ‘big’ callings would have the ‘true’ opportunities to ‘give all.’

      I think thinking about consecration, as Bonnie explores here, requires us to transcend the usual ways of thinking about worth, value, contribution, talents, etc. We’re used to a system where you present a resume and are given a job for which you are ‘qualified’ which is more a linear ‘matching’ system. In my view, in God’s kingdom, the only qualification is a humble heart and a contrite spirit. The equality that comes from that simple requirement to me is stunning to ponder. The body of Christ isn’t about individual gifts, it’s about the body working together in ways that only the Spirit can facilitate.

      • Katie L says:

        Thanks for engaging with my comment. To be clear, I don’t believe that equality is essential to consecration. One can consecrate oneself and one’s efforts in all kinds of situations, even less than ideal ones. My point is that I believe that a role-based, as opposed to a gender-based, framework for extending callings and opportunities to serve is healthier spiritually.

        I do fundamentally disagree with your reading of the purpose of individual spiritual gifts to the Body of Christ. I believe that 1 Corinthians 12 makes it quite clear that each part (the individual) is necessary in order to work together for the good of the Body. While it is not *necessary* to match gifts with callings, and there may be inspired reasons not to on ocassion, I imagine that in most cases it’s preferable.

        • Michelle says:

          It looks like we disagree on both points here. I think there is spiritual value in having some gender-based roles, and I see spiritual gifts and the body of Christ as being a very fluid thing and in a more Gestalt way than a merit-based kind of approach.

          Not that I don’t see value in gifts being used, mind you, bit I think it could be very harmful spiritually were it only those who were ‘more gifted’ to always have certain callings. Like I said, I think that would breed more inequality if anything.

          • Katie L says:

            You’re right that we fundamentally disagree about the spiritual value of gender-based roles.

            I think you’re still misunderstanding me about spiritual gifts generally. I would never say that spiritual gifts are merit-based. They are gifts — manifestations of pure grace. It is mortal weakness that tells us that one gift is more important or more special than another. The Body of Christ has need of ALL the parts. That is the beauty of the Body.

            Perhaps this quote from C.S. Lewis will articulate what I’m trying to say much better than I can. In Mere Christianity, Lewis says that Christ helps us drop pride, falsehood, and pretense, so that we can get to the core of who we really are:

            The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs’, all different, will still be too few to express Him fully.

            This sounds close to what you’re saying re: a Gestalt approach. Our disagreement, then, is in the application. I would say, THEREFORE, a framework in which each member is encouraged to discover and develop their gifts so that they grow into their most actualized manifestation of a “little Christ” is preferable — even if the development leads them outside traditional gender lines. It sounds like you would argue that the construct of gender roles itself allows for this sort of flowering and development.

            That’s another conversation entirely, but I want to be clear that I I am not advocating for some sort of merit-based framework.

          • Michelle says:

            Katie, I am not sure that we are differing on how gifts are manifest or what they are. I guess I just disagree that somehow having some gendered roles within a temporary Church structure truly inhibits using such gifts. That said, I do think there is a tension between pursuing individual fulfillment/expression and making choices based on a bigger picture view of things. For example, I’m not naturally suited to motherhood or much of what ‘typical’ female roles are defined as. Having the doctrine of motherhood be more front and center has made me make choices that I might not have made had I followed only what ‘came naturally’ to me. As such, I feel that my Who I Really Am has expanded, not contracted. My professional pursuits and many of my interests even since I was a youth ran against ‘typical’ female characteristics. So I think I understand what it can feel like to feel ‘different’ from a stereotypical female and yet I still see and feel great value in the general roles we are taught about…not as straitjackets or pigeonholes, but as guides to then take to God to figure out specifically how to implement. It’s the ‘general patterns, specific lives’ (hat tip Elder Holland) kind of thing that I think helps us grow spiritually and lean on God at a very personal level. “Father, here are these general roles and guidelines and the structure. How do I take that with my gifts and best use them in a way that would be pleasing to Thee?”

  12. JennyP1969 says:

    Bring back polygamy as a form of equality? What?

  13. Michelle says:

    Bonnie, I had a thought as I read about the idea of ‘running’ to do the work.

    I like to think about the flip side of this, which is tied to the definition of the word ‘succor.’ Key to consecration, I think, is allowing the Lord to succor us, which is to ‘run to’ us. Consecration without conversion is just working yourself to death. When we know our God and feel changed by Him, then He, as Pres. Benson says, champions us and the choice to run to Him becomes something that springs from within, not is simply chosen from sheer will.

    It’s a process, to be sure, but the more I come to feel His power in my life, the more giving Him my life is more a natural fruit. I am not at all convinced that we choose consecration. I think at some level, it chooses us…it finds us, grace by grace, as we find Him, as we let Him into our lives, let Him run to us, let Him change us.

    • Bonnie says:

      I like those ideas. I find that consecration grows as a personal desire as we are converted, and springs from the acknowledgement that, like the father of the prodigal son, he runs to us when he sees us “afar off” as we truly begin our journey to him in faith. What many of us fail to see is what the missionaries of the rising generation know: that it is joy to run to God. Perhaps we knew when we were their age – I feel like I knew better then – and life trains us to run to money and power and position. We can remember how we felt when we were younger and not seduced by transitory things, and even in our middle age we can run again as returning prodigals, trusting the God of our youth.

    • Becca says:

      “Consecration without conversion is just working yourself to death. When we know our God and feel changed by Him, then He, as Pres. Benson says, champions us and the choice to run to Him becomes something that springs from within, not is simply chosen from sheer will.”

      This was beautiful. I have never really thought about the first part – consecration without conversion is just working yourself to death. I think my husband will appreciate that (he is struggling with some things having to do with consecration and conversion right now). It makes me want to do a little soul searching with regards to my own conversion and consecration.

  14. Jae says:

    It is my position that the reference to the term “equality” is a temporal mindset and has nothing to do with the mind and will of God. I find the notion of a need to be equal to anything lacking in understanding. I believe it is the desire of the Adversary to pit male against female to the point that unless we are the same something is fundamentally wrong. I cannot imagine that my Heavenly Mother has to battle with my Heavenly Father to claim her right place. Nor do I believe it will be that way for any of us who choose the path of exaltation. The very design of our individual creation is a testament to the fact that we are different as part of a grand purpose. What gifts God gives to each of us whether male or female is also part of our divine creation. In that plan and purpose we work in harmony as a unit. There is no need for us to be the same, in any way. Look around yourselves, even in and with our human and temporal minds we can see the variety of divine creation. We see in that variety a harmony. Imagine once this world is purified and sanctified and made whole how that variety, now pure and holy might be.

    It is sad to me to see women of my faith so overly concerned about an issue of this sort. The concerns of the women of the world should never leach in to those of our faith. Trust in the great plan of happiness for how could it even be such a thing if we take our earthly minds of battling for equal ground in to this plan. There is no need for it, not in this life or in the next. Our places have been sacred from the beginning regardless of whether we are male or female. As daughters of God we are given an assignment to fulfill that cannot be completed without the nature and gifts given to us as women. Men cannot fulfill these assignments. They are not given the tools to do so or called by God to complete our assignments.

    The very fact that we are different is a testament to me. When we are living our lives in harmony with the principles and doctrines of the Church we compliment one another and that is a beautiful thing.

    Lastly, when I meet my Heavenly Mother I expect her to radiate the qualities that I see in the very noble women of the Church. Her qualities will not resemble Heavenly Fathers, for that is not her calling.

    Sisters, to fulfill the measure of our creation we must be grateful for who we are. Being able to, or wishing for duties like that of our brethren does not take us as women of the Church were we need to be.

    • Jendoop says:

      Jae, I like the way you are thinking eternally, celestially here; without guile and without enmity. Thank you.

    • JennyP1969 says:

      It grieves me when women (or men) in our faith judge those who seek Divine Equality. It is very unkind, even if not meant to be. People who condemn by saying this word, and this concept are “of the world” or “from the adversary” perhaps don’t understand.

      You trample Patriarchal Blessings, and other spiritual experiences when you do this.

      You may not have had such direction and counsel given to you. But because you haven’t doesn’t mean others are not so inspired to seek Divine Equality. When you condemn such things as being of the devil, you shut the door on other’s personal revelation. It would be far, far better to consider, ponder, and pray about something so different from what you believe to be “the only truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Maybe you have and felt your beliefs to be true. Perhaps they are…..or were for a previous time, but maybe, maybe……there’s more.

      Last night, Elder Uchdorf spoke at a televised CES fireside. He made it very clear that none of us, the whole church included, has all the truth yet. He spoke about being willing to consider that past beliefs may be wrong. He used Nephite and Lamanite paradigms each group believed to be absolute truth. But they were both in error, while being both partially correct. He spoke of continuing revelation that may help us grow, even if it challenges past beliefs. I wondered what he might be trying to prepare us for.

      Please don’t judge those who see Divine Equality as a spiritual truth, and not a temporal concept from the adversary. Equality is being no respecter of persons. It is giving ALL the same powers, privileges and opportunities as another. Women can be mothers and still be priesthood bearers. We would grow and become more Christlike and more like Heavenly Mother. And the church would grow from the gifts women would bring to the quorums. Men would grow. Converts would increase. Retention would be better. Fewer people would leave. Marriages would become more one. If Julie Beck was an Apostle, or Sheri Dew, or Sylvia Allred, and so on……there would be beautiful nuances only women could bring to the Apostleship. This does not take away from men or fathers….or their priesthood…..or their role. This does not make women into men or anything so ugly and fearful, nor does it take away from their role as mothers. It does not rob masculinity, nor does it rob femininity. It adds….it increases…..it beautifies……..and, it equalizes in ways that uplift and inspire. Please, just think about it, ok?

      And finally, if God was not of the mind and will to bestow Divine Equality……..He would be a respecter of persons and would cease to be God. It is my sincere belief that the word, “roles” is a very good one that has served us in mortality very well. I’ve loved my role as mother in Zion. But as I’ve grown into my old age and had the experiences of my life, as well as spiritual experiences I didn’t seek in any way, I’ve come to see that there is so much more to this sacred role than we ever imagined.

      • Bonnie says:

        The problem with your view is that you have also imagined a perfect order, in the same way you decry that others here are. You are also imagining that you perceive the truth and that others need to get on board. Pres. Uchtdorf’s words were for all of us. It’s the conundrum that we all face. The key is the spirit of apostasy. When we would seek to correct the prophet and apostles, we engage in the beginnings of a spirit that created what Joseph Smith called “Great Big Elders” that caused him much suffering in doing the work that was his.

      • Jae says:

        JennyP, if you feel your blessings have been trampled by the sharing of my thoughts, then I humbly apologize. I am sure your words held no judging or contempt, nor did mine. I am very grateful there is a forum to bear witness and share without ridicule. We each have our own experience and learning in which we base thought and opinion.

        That said, I do not in any way agree with your position of a ‘divine equality.’ Without a doubt I Know of a loving Father in Heaven who gives all that he hath to those who are obedient.
        Those who have the blessing of being in a relationship in the celestial kingdom have done all that is required of them to be worthy of that blessing. Those who do not receive exaltation need not worry of any need for equality. In the other kingdoms there are only single individuals.

        Should we women, being possibly stronger than some men, make women the dominant partner in the marriage relationship? Then if so, we could give women the priesthood rather than men. The truth of the matter is that a complete equality in the marriage relationship ordained by God already exists with those who follow the plan as it has been ordained. It is in the assignments of the two partners that are different from each other. To the woman goes the responsibility for the physical birth and for the training and upbringing of the children. To the man goes the responsibility for the spiritual birth and for the training and upbringing of the children. It is clear that no more could a woman baptize a child any more than could a man bear a child. It is easy to see that the woman has by far the greatest effect on the children than does the man. Take the priesthood away from the man and what does he become? The priesthood is meant to bring the man up to the level of the woman. Many men do not understand this principle; they attempt to bring the worldly concept of authority into the kingdom. In the world he who presides is an overlord. In the kingdom he who presides is a servant. In like manner many women do not understand this principle either, brining also the heavy issues of the world in to the relationship of man and woman causing great distress.

        In my more than half a century of church life the greatest sadness I observe is the destruction of the family within the church. LDS families are being torn apart in a much worse way than the family unit outside the Church. It is my position that the root cause of this is the pride of our people and their brining in to their sacred homes the secular and unholy ways and thoughts of the world. As it was said previously, in the last days the very elect will fall. It is also true that in the last days the cleansing will start in the Lord’s own house.

        It is my prayer that we will all withstand these times that are ahead. That we will recognize truth when we hear it. That we will love one another and build the kingdom where we are assigned. And most importantly that as we fulfill the measure of our creation we will come to respect and appreciate the assignments given to us, as women and to our brothers as ordained of God, fulfilling them with intent.

        • Paul says:

          Jae, you raise some interesting issues, and I think I broadly agree with you respecting equality. I do not understand the reference to spiritual birth, since I assume my spiritual birth happened in the premortal life. Perhaps you refer to the ordinance of baptism; while a father may baptize his children, he is not required to do so, and many children are not baptized by their fathers, while they are all given physical birth by their birth mothers.

          Personally I am not entirely comfortable with the equating of birthing and priesthood duties. The corollary to motherhood is fatherhood, not priesthood. Assuming motherhood or the priesthood is a consolation prize for not having the other (and I don’t mean to put those words in your mouth) cheapens both in my mind.

          I’m also intrigued by your judgement that LDS families are being more destroyed than non-LDS families. I’d like to understand that point a bit more.

          My own very personal and also observed experience is that misfortune comes to faithful and less faithful families. While righteous living may provide a certain shield, it is no guarantee of a positive outcome, nor can we judge those families who endure less positive outcomes as less worthy of the Lord’s protection (or so says Elder Packer, at least, and I agree with him).

          I share your hope that each of us will listen carefully to the Lord, seek His will and do it.

          • Jae says:

            Let me see if I can clarify:

            1. My position on the spiritual birth role the father plays is tied to his role in the creation of the child and his role to provide for the spiritual needs of that child. We are spiritual offspring of heavenly parents having both a spiritual and physical experience in mortality.
            2. One of the greatest blessing an LDS father can receive is the honor of baptizing a son or daughter. You are correct in that many will not take part in the baptism of their children for various reasons. While I do not intend nor desire to judge those fathers who do not participate in this ordinance, those who can and won’t or don’t make up part of the reason I express sadness for the breakdown of our LDS families.
            3. Please pardon the almost ridiculous connections I drew in my attempt to show what rearranging our various male and female assignments might look like. I am most grateful for the blessing of the priesthood here in mortality, without need for the reason The Lord saw fit to give it only to the men. In like manner I am profoundly grateful for the privilege of motherhood and womanhood. I believe man and woman to be God’s greatest creation, along with the variances of each of us. I have often felt among the sisters unhappy with this issue of equality displaying a sort of tune of having received the consolation prize. As though it was a put down in the gender sense when the Lord gave the priesthood to men and not to both men and women.

            Lastly, with regard to the LDS family. We are taught where much is given, much is expected. My position is not that the LDS family is being more destroyed, rather that the destruction seems greater. The loss is significant whether it be one family member or the whole family. Loss being inactivity, apostasy, or sometimes worse, discord with the Church or leaders within the Church. To walk away from the blessings of the gospel is tragic. Trials do come to all of Father’s children, irrespective of their chosen faith. It is the turning of one’s back on the gospel that is more unique to our LDS faith. On this note, I too speak from a very personal perspective. Having witnessed members very close to me adopt ideas contrary to the gospel, then because of their pride reject what was once true rather than humble themselves.

            Thank you for the opportunity to clarify. In my desire to be brief I left crucial points unclear.

        • Stephen says:

          I agree with much of what you wrote, but in this you are dangerously wrong:

          ” Take the priesthood away from the man and what does he become? The priesthood is meant to bring the man up to the level of the woman.”

          This is a pernicious and ugly false doctrine, but sadly common among Latter-day Saints. I would remind you that Jesus Christ was a man. Are you truly suggesting that Jesus would be less than the least woman is by her nature, merely because he is male? That he needs the Priesthood to somehow become this woman’s equal?

          I’m appalled, and frankly dubious, that any Saint would actually believe such a thing. I truly hope you don’t teach your sons such awful ideas. For that matter, I truly hope you don’t teach them to your daughters, to pollute their views of their own father, husbands, and sons. I urge you to reconsider this poorly thought-out, offensive idea.

  15. Becca says:

    I really appreciate your emphasis on seeking revelation, Bonnie.

    Gender identity has been a big issue for me in the past year or so, and I have struggled with finding a way to satiate my hunger for knowledge about what it means to be a woman (or a man, as I have a son and I believe one of my great responsibilities is to teach him what it means to be a man). In my searching, there are really only two things I feel confident enough to say with much conviction:

    1.) Gender is an integral part of my eternal and spiritual identity – Heavenly Father will be very much “male” (whatever that means) and Heavenly Mother will be very much “female” (whatever that means).

    2.) Being a woman means being a mother and being a man means being a father.

    Unfortunately, there is still some ambiguity for me on what it means to be a mother and a father, so I don’t really get much farther than that, but those are the truths that I have come to know are truths.

    And I am seeking further light and knowledge. It comes slowly, line upon line, and having the right conversation with other people – a conversation saturated with a desire for light and knowledge, for revelation – has been part of the process for me. I am always appreciative of more conversations like this, and I agree that the focus needs to be on receiving that revelation, rather than having some debate or posing some protest. The quiet deliberation of Pres. Kimball is a great example to those of us who crave knowing more.

  16. Stephen says:

    What a marvelous essay.

  17. Cheryl says:

    I had a long conversation with an uncle who is upset and convinced that more women need to speak in General Conference. I see nothing wrong with his desire to see more women speaking in General Conference, truly, I don’t. But his assertion was that we need those women leaders because the women’s voices are not heard enough.

    I told him that I remember very clearly in 2007 when one of our women leaders gave an important talk in General Conference on what Mothers know. I also remember how the VERY women who are clamoring for more women’s voices decided to mock her words, write her a petition, and tell her that she was WRONG.

    Why in the world would we be given more women leaders when we treat our current ones with such disdain? With such disrespect? With such mockery?

    This is why I loved your essay, Bonnie. We are given what we are ready for –just as the Children of Israel were not ready for the Melchizedek Priesthood, we are not ready for more. I like the idea that we should focus on what we do have, on applying faith to what we’ve been asked to do now, instead of dwelling on future events that may or may not ever happen in mortality. I don’t say this to ignore the issues, nor to assume I know better, but to echo what’s been said about attempting to follow prophetic warnings and counsels, strengthen faith, and serve TODAY.

    • Becca says:

      Amen, Cheryl.

      I, too, am not against many of the demands for equality that many women are making, but at the same time, I recognize that neither they, nor I, nor most women, fully appreciate or exercise the power we aregiven. It is interesting how women are grasping for ordination and administrative roles in the Church when we spend most of our time online putting each other down and finding reasons to be divided. When the search for equality divides us from the very women with whom we should be striving to be unified, I think there is a problem with that search for equality…

    • stacey says:

      Cheryl,

      “Mothers Who Know” changed my life. I was saddened, but not surprised by the unfriendly reaction Sis. Beck received. I was very grateful to run into her in the temple a couple of years ago to express my personal appreciation for her faith and courage and her guidance. I agree that many are not ready, which is sad because every “commandment” and suggestion from our leaders, indeed from our Heavenly Father, only has one purpose: our joy. Each “law” given is merely for our benefit in some eternal way. It takes faith, I suppose, to see or believe that, but once you gain that understanding, you do want to “run” to create Zion, instead of running away from perceived inequality or oppression.

  18. Paul says:

    Jae (the nesting won’t let me post directly below your comment — I guess the column would get ridiculously thin!), thanks for clarifying.

  19. Becca, you’re right. I don’t think we’re that much different than the early saints. But Joseph Smith was very different. He was polarizing. He attracted the ultra faithful and the ultra enemies. Our church now is very happy to have neither, but a good faithful and we don’t have mobs after us any more. If Joseph Smith came today and reintroduced polygamy by supporting gay marriage as a means to reinstate “the principle”, I wonder if the church would have ultra faithful and ultra enemies again?

  20. stacey says:

    Wish I knew you in real life! I think we are kindred spirits! You have articulated what I have felt and struggled with for years. And, spookily, I have had your exact same thoughts about ushering in Zion and the Second Coming. My 18 year old daughter is putting in her papers and is one of those that you describe. I adore her peers. They are amazing! And I know that they are going to “bring Zion” as they “run” to consecrate. This couldn’t come at a better time for me as I have just made a life altering decision about a job opportunity. Thanks for everything. I wish you, and every mother in the church, all the strength and faith we need to navigate these latter days.

  21. Book of Mormon Reader says:

    I stumbled upon this post today, not even sure how, but I must say, without intending to hop in unannounced or unwelcome, I am utterly impressed at the respectful and intelligent community here. Observing the ping-ponging of highly-emotionally-charged and divergent views and their subsequent replies, often surprising in nature, restores my faith in truly thoughtful discourse.

    It reminds me of a scene in “Fiddler On The Roof”, where Tevye and other men villagers are discussing a topic. When one man says something, Tevye replies, “You are right”. When the opposite view is offered by another man, Tevye says, “You are also right, ” to which yet another man notices the conundrum and points out to Tevye, “He is right” pointing to one and then pointing to the other “He is right”, and finally points to Tevye, “They can’t both be right, ” whereupon Tevye points to him and says, “YOU are right!”

  22. Cristal Moore says:

    I think Elder Pace summed things up pretty well:

    Glenn L Pace said, in the Diving Nature and Destiny of Women, “Sisters, I testify that when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny.”

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