I don’t usually think too much about women’s issues in the church, but my work at Beginnings New sometimes sometimes involves being aware of the many women in the church who feel oppressed, rejected, hurt, ignored, worried, angry, etc. At some point in time, I want to have done enough (is it possible to say that?) research on the priesthood in the scriptures to be able to write something that will be of worth in that discussion.
But anyway, for now, here is another go at it.
If we all are faithful, even when there is corruption in some men and women in the church then “How long can rolling waters remain impure?” Let’s think of the body of water as the collection of Saints of all kinds together in the collective “church.” If there are impurities, then we can try to drain the river or collect samples and analyze or jump out and search for others who have jumped out and keep telling more to jump out, or we can search for bleach tablets to keep putting in the river over and over again, or whatever – OR, we can try to make the water in the river roll faster and roll those impurities right out of the river. I think if we stagnate in our relation to the church, there will be impurities. D&C 121 shows that Joseph knew from way back then that most be called and not chosen, because they forget about the principles of righteousness. They receive a little authority, as they suppose, and then see how to use that for themselves. And in essence, they end up canceling their connection to the priesthood, though they may retain an outward appearance: “That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” They don’t continue in their humble conversion to God’s work. And so they become impure, and the real power of the priesthood is long gone.
So what do we want, the outer shell or the real power? And how do we maintain that power? “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. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”
So, what do we think? Holy Ghost constantly with us? Scepter? Dominion? and confidence in the presence of God? Sounds amazing. And this how “power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood” – only by those above principles. Whenever women see hypocrisy or oppression in their wards, it is a sign, I assume, of personal corruption in those men. Or perhaps even misunderstanding, if we want to be more charitable. I wouldn’t say that “the church” is harmful to women; I would say that there is impurity among the saints individually, as there has always been.
So how do we let this impurity get washed out? I would look to this line about “kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy.” Kindness, and pure knowledge.
Can’t you imagine that if more and more Saints spent their time studying the scriptures and the temple, that we would have a church that felt like it was “rolling” faster and faster, deeper and deeper? And as more and more joined the currents, how long could things remain impure? “What power shall stay the heavens?”
And what would stop us from doing this? “Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men.” If women ever, ever put this in terms of oppression or unequal status, then we are keeping ourselves back from knowledge and greatness. Who cares what men do, if the gospel is true? Let every leader in every ward be corrupt; if the gospel is true, and the Spirit is real, then “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.”
Don’t we get it? We already have power – even priesthood power – and we’re standing around complaining instead of getting to work. We can receive revelation. We can study scripture. We can have understanding revealed to us that has never been had before. Don’t we understand? I want to have hours and hours of conversation time with Sister Beck every time I read what she has to say about womanhood. Read this from BYU Women’s Conference in April:
“I’ve learned through studying the history of Relief Society that we have and live with inseparable connection to the priesthood,” Sister Beck said. No one need confuse the idea of those who hold the priesthood with the gifts, blessings, and privileges associated with the priesthood, she explained.
“Don’t confuse the power of the priesthood with the keys and offices of the priesthood,” Sister Beck said. “The power is limitless and is shared with those who make and keep covenants. Too much is said and misunderstood about what brothers have and sister’s don’t. This is Satan’s way of confusing men and women so that neither understands what they really have.”
Our responsibility, Sister Beck said, is to make sure that our homes are blessed with priesthood power, as the Primary song says, “every hour” (Children’s Songbook, 190). “It isn’t just when Dad is there. It isn’t just when Mom is there. It isn’t just when a priesthood ordination or blessing is being performed. It’s every hour as covenants are made and kept.” (quoted in this article)
Are we in this for status and power, or are we in this for truth? Do we glory in ourselves or in God? We’ve already been called to a great work. So why are we wanting something else? Do we, like Alma, sin in our wish? Isn’t our desire to enlarge God’s household? To pursue interesting truths? To love and laugh and rejoice? Isn’t this what we want?
Or what is it that we really do want?