Women, Church, and Church leaders


I was thinking last night about the Ordain Women website (again). So much of what I’m thinking about comes back to that. I think it’s because there is something so right in wanting to share your abilities to build the kingdom, in overcoming stereotypes, and so on. But then, several of the moves that organization makes don’t sit well with me. The first is that they proclaim what equality must mean, and then ask the priesthood leaders to pray for that. I think it’s a misunderstanding of prayer, before it’s even a misunderstanding of priesthood. I’m thinking of how many times in my own life I’ve felt like something was proper, good, or important, and I prayed for it, and it didn’t come. That’s part of our interaction with God, with or without priesthood authority.

Another thing that I got hung up on was that it seemed to me that their primary concern was that men make the most important decisions, and so in order to make that equal, women needed the priesthood in order to allow them to also be in those meetings to make those decisions. It seemed to me that priesthood ordination was a necessary step on the way to leadership, but it was equality in leadership that was their primary concern.

I get it. I get that those more inclined to trust whatever the Brethren say see their move as asking them to change doctrine, but I also get that those more inclined to worry about how the weaknesses of humans leading the Church have obscured truth see their move as trying to clean things up a bit. And I get that they are worried about that. Again, I worry about their relationship to prayer in how they are requesting things, but I get the move to ask: Where have we gone wrong because we are mortals leading God’s Church? I think is a faithful and good question to ask.

But, there are other answers, like Moroni’s conversation with God in Ether 12. Moroni is recognizing how his weakness will mess up the Book of Mormon and he is recognizing that the weakness of the Gentiles will mess up their reception of the Book of Mormon. (And if those two things happen, will the remnant of the Nephites and Lamanites ever get the Book of Mormon??) I see his worry. And yet, God isn’t worried. Somehow God works with us in our weakness, and I think even uses our weakness on purpose. That seems to be the message of Ether 12 to me. Also Paul says the weaker we are, the more we recognize God’s power and the more we can let it show through. There’s something to that too.

Anyway, besides all that too, I suddenly remembered this morning about an interview done with the presidencies of the female auxillaries about a year ago. In it they recounted some of the experiences they have had sitting in leadership meetings. They are in leadership meetings, working in the councils that make those many, many decisions that affect the Church. They’re there. True, they are not the presiding figure in those meetings, though they are in their own organizations. I think it’s worth appreciating their role in those top meetings that’s already in place. I do recognize the structural, built-in limitation that a woman will not be the presiding high priest over the Church. And I don’t know how to answer that one except: I think God can use this Church for His purposes anyway. That’s the best answer I can give to that one. 🙂

Here is a link to the interview. I know that those frustrated with the Church institution on this issue will find plenty of things in here that will bother them. But, starting with the question: “Do women have any influence in the top decisions of the Church?” there will be good and helpful answers.

Here is one example of what I’m talking about. I’ll comment on it below:

Ruth Todd: How do you utilize the priesthood as you are leading and guiding your individual organization?

Sister Wixom: I remember two weeks after I was called as the general Primary president, Elder Hales called me to his office and he, we had a conversation and then he said, “Sister Wixom, I want to ask you a question. What is the taproot that will anchor a child in the wind?” And I leaned back in my chair and I went to think about it, and then he said, “No, no, no. Sister Wixom, you’re going to think about this. And what’s more is that you will get the answer to that question. I won’t, because you are the Primary president.” I left his office that day feeling the mantle of my calling. The calling came from our prophet, and he was allowing me to carry that mantle, and I would be the one — with the help of my counselors and the board and, above all, inspiration from our Heavenly Father — to come to the conclusion to the answer of that question.

Now, remember the question: How do you utilize the priesthood? The answer might seem to be, “The priesthood tells me what to do.” But rather, think of what Elder Oaks explained in conference: the priesthood authorities authorize the use of priesthood in various settings. Sister Wixom had been authorized to lead that organization, so therefore, she was authorized to seek revelation for it straight from God. The “priesthood leaders” were telling her that she didn’t need them; she was authorized (by them, sure) to go forward without them. The priesthood was there to make itself obsolete, as it were. And here was an example of that a year before Elder Oaks clarified that point.

Anyway, a few thoughts on this topic this morning.

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