LDS (“Mormon”) General Conference is this weekend. A group of women who tried to gain admission to the Priesthood Session held on Saturday night at the October, 2013, General Conference are planning to try again. These women, members of a group called Ordain Women are asking The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) to change its stance on allowing women to hold the priesthood.
The LDS Church is a lay church. Except at the very top levels no one receives any pay for his or her work on behalf of the Church. All males are eligible to hold the priesthood at age 12. Depending on the office held, this allows the priesthood holder to baptize and confirm new members, bless babies, give priesthood blessings and preside in various offices.
Ordain Women believes that the male-only policy marginalizes women and excludes them from the full blessings of membership in the church. Their website has several profiles of members who profess to love the church but feel women are second-class members because they lack the priesthood. In reading these profiles one gets the sense that these people (some are men) are earnest in their belief. However in reading some of the reasoning behind their position, one also gets the sense that in one way or another they have lost sight of what the church is about.
One woman uses the examples of Peter being told in a dream that he can kill and eat animals that hitherto had been forbidden under the Mosaic law; Samuel answering the Lord’s call in the Old Testament and even Joseph Smith in having the audacity to begin a new religion. Each of these, this woman argues, went against the well-established norm but resulted in sea changes.
What these examples overlook is that in none of the cases did the person involved actively seek what was given. Peter did not ask the Lord if it was now permissible to eat previously forbidden meat. Samuel did not ask the Lord to be called. Joseph Smith did not go to the sacred grove asking for permission to start a new church. All of them were attempting to act within the status quo. Another example is Nephi when he killed Laban. Nephi did not go to the Lord with the idea of justifying murder; in fact, when he first was told to slay Laban he was repulsed.
The other thing that this approach overlooks is the nature of the church. To be a member requires a belief that God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. If you can’t believe that then the whole church falls apart. If God and Jesus Christ didn’t appear to Joseph Smith then the whole thing is a sham, one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on humanity. But if they did appear then you have to believe that Jesus Christ leads the church. There is no way to claim you are a faithful member and simultaneously deny that Jesus Christ, not Thomas Monson, leads this church. And if you do believe Jesus Christ is at the head, then by protesting the priesthood policy you are claiming to know better than the Lord what’s best for His church.
I have no problem with people wanting change. My point is that bringing publicity to the issue to force change isn’t appropriate in this situation. The church is not a democracy. Public opinion won’t change policy the way the Civil Rights or Gay Rights movements have changed policy in the United States. So the only justification for publicly demonstrating like Ordain Women plans to do is to justify their own egos or bring shame on the church. If they want true change, they need to pray and fast in secret and their Father in Heaven will reward them openly. If they ask openly for these things “that they may be seen of men [and women],” they have their reward. Matt.6:5.
Looking at the profiles of the people, most are far too young to know of, let alone remember, Sonia Johnson. She, too, began as a faithful member.