Recently the group "Ordain Women" asked permission from our church authorities to attend the general Priesthood meeting. They were denied admittance, and were reminded that this meeting is particularly arranged for Priesthood holders. They showed up to the meeting anyway, but were once again told that they would not be allowed to attend. The church leaders hoped to save the room for the male Priesthood holders who wanted to attend. They were reminded that a similar meeting would be held for the women of the church, and they were invited to attend that.
In fact, our "Relief Society" is probably the largest women's organization in the world. We have women leaders, who, under the direction of the Priesthood, run our organization and teach our classes. Instruction given during our Relief Society meetings is specifically focused on the needs of the women of the church. Similarly, the instruction given to the men during the Priesthood meeting is designed to address the needs of the men. This group of feminist women were told they would be allowed to attend the women's meeting, but not the men's, but that if they disagreed, there is a location that is set aside for protesters, and they were invited to use that area if they wished to protest the decision.
I was reading online about the group, and was interested to learn that it is an interdenominational group that is trying to get women ordained in every religion, not just ours. While some of it's members are members of our church, many of them are not. This is very telling to me, and should be a red flag to members of our church that their motives are more political than religious.
This group of women chose to not only protest the church's decision, but to do so right in front of the building wherein the men would meet. To me this is the height of disrespect. It was bringing discord and anger to a sacred place. It was an irreverent action in a sacred location. They were asked to leave, but refused.
Here are my complaints about their actions:
--They have said they want a dialogue with the church. In fact, they have had a dialogue with the church, but they don't like the answers they have been given. One person on facebook likened it to a child that keeps asking it's parent for something they want, only to be told repeatedly that they can't have it. The tantrum increases, thinking that if they just continue to ask, the parent will give it to them. But a loving parent won't give in to something that isn't right for the child. I should mention that in our religion we believe that such a decision would come from God by revelation. So in my mind, I feel they should take this up directly with God, and not continually burden church leaders with their complaints.
--I hear people continually say that there should be a separation between church and state. They don't want any church influence creeping in to their civic affairs. But they see nothing wrong with bringing their own "politics" to the church. In my opinion, church is not the location to have any kind of protest. It disrupts the peace of those who are there to truly worship. Doing such activities is a disruption of peaceful worship. At one point these women wore pants to church to "protest" the decision to not allow them to have the Priesthood. (Note: In our church, most women wear dresses to church) My comment to some of them at the time was that this kind of thinking could escalate. Perhaps men favoring same sex marriage would wear dresses to church. Or some other group would all sit backwards in church. I'm sure there are a myriad of ways people could protest in church, but at what cost? My first thought is of those who came there to privately worship, who would be disturbed by the actions of these people. Then my second thought was about what kind of message this sends to children. Please, if you want to protest, do so in a place where those who have come to pay their devotions to God will not be disrupted.
--Many of these women say that they want to be equal with men. Well, I'm sorry to tell them that unless they can change their chromosomal makeup, we will never be exactly like men. That isn't to say that we aren't equal. In my experience, women in the church are equal to men, but our roles are different. I have just as important of responsibilities. By saying that because I don't have the Priesthood then I am valued less, is to devalue the importance of my womanhood. In fact, many of my roles, such as that of mother, are MORE important than the responsibilities found in the Priesthood. And frankly, I have always felt greatly honored and respected as a woman in the church. I have been invited to sit in the Priesthood councils of our church because they wanted my input on matters related to the welfare of church members, and especially the women. When I entered the room, the men would stand to show their respect for me. They asked my opinion, and valued my opinion. My experience is that other women who hold positions in the church have received the same respect. Those who say that women in our church are oppressed are either seriously misguided, or have been duped.
--A couple of our church leaders gave talks, independent of each other, in the last general conference, and both of them independently used the same phrase "intellectual slavery". I do believe that people who get sucked in to worldly thinking can become intellectual slaves. They feel their way of thinking is superior, and that the rest of the church just hasn't risen to their level of thinking or education. In fact, they do not understand that having the Priesthood does not make you a better person, or a more important person. In fact, it is a huge responsibility that men, by nature, are suited to perform. Could women perform that duty? Absolutely, but we have other duties that we, by nature are more suited to perform. Could a man take on a mothering role? Yes, but he will do it in a fatherly way. He cannot do more, because he is male. His brain is not wired like that of a woman. He would probably do a good job, but there would be something lacking that only a woman can give. Likewise, women could do the duties of the Priesthood, but because of our nature, we would do it in a "womanly way", and the church would miss out on an aspect that men are particularly suited to do. It doesn't make them better because they are doing it, and it doesn't make us less because we aren't. But if we aren't not careful, we will be sucked in to the intellectual traps that the world offers that tell us that if we aren't the same as men, then we are less. The very actions of this group are in a sense shouting to me that what I am is not enough. Their actions are telling me that unless I have the Priesthood, I am not good enough. They are creating the very paradigm they wish to destroy.
--One woman commented that in some ways, this is an act of covetousness. I think she makes a valid point. When we set our hearts on something that someone else has that we don't, we are coveting that thing. In this case, they believe it is a matter of fairness. But honestly, I have so much responsibility in the church already, that to me, it wouldn't be fair for me to have to take on the duties of the Priesthood as well.
--Part of me feels that the leaders of this group are just relishing their 15 minutes of fame. It's more about their political motive of feminism than about the actual religiosity of the action.
--Some have suggested that they should be excommunicated. This is something the church does not take lightly. It's far easier to keep a person in the church, and try to help them, than to excommunicate them and run the risk of turning them away all together, and thereby losing any chance to have influence for good on them. But from my perspective, people who go to these measures are already on the road to apostasy, and it won't be long before they will voluntarily leave the church. But I would hope that none of them would lose their membership over this. And I would hope that if given the choice, they would hang on to the covenants they have already made and stay in the church.
The interesting thing is that in the most recent women's conference, the overall message was that we as women of the church should be united. We not only should be united with each other, but should unite with the Priesthood leaders. God's church should not be one of disunity. So although I may disagree with their actions, I still want to try to reach out and be unified in areas that are common ground. The difficult part for me is that it angers me to see them intrude on sacred moments of church worship. I have to learn to forgive and just try to help them to see what an important role in the church they already have.
But the world should know that this is a very small percentage of the membership of the church. Most of us truly understand the role of women, and the great importance of our responsibilities in the church. All of the blessings of the Priesthood are available to us. Although we may not personally hold the Priesthood, none of the blessings that come from it are denied us.