Dear Ask a Feminist,
I respect your position and thoughts about equality in the Church. I’m sure you have thought these issues through and have expressed yourself carefully regarding them–which in fact you do very well. I certainly agree with some of your comments–especially regarding the humanness of all of us who live and lead–whatever the position.
However, I do feel that some of your statements are confusing and difficult to reconcile and understand. I’m sure you are confident the Lord is guiding you in your personal decisions. I certainly do not question the process you have used nor the decisions you have made. It is your right within your personal calling and stewardship to come to such conclusions. You would have every right to be offended if someone tried to persuade you that “the many answers to (your) prayers, priesthood blessings and divine interventions” that confirm the Lord is directing you is a mistake and that in spite of your sincere and spiritual seeking of God’s guidance that you have taken the wrong course.
My question is that if you feel confident that the Lord is guiding you in your life and stewardship, why shouldn’t we feel the same confidence that the Lord is guiding our Church leaders (men and women), especially those we consider Apostles and Prophets in their calling and stewardship? I am confident that they would declare as you have that they have sincerely and prayerfully sought the Lord’s guidance in the important matters before them. If you feel confident in the inspiration you receive for your callings and stewardship, shouldn’t we Church members feel the same confidence in our Church leaders who establish Church policy and practices in their callings and stewardship?
Your extensive list of inequalities seem to be in the category of something other than “a few human errors.”
I sincerely do not want to come across as critical of you or what you say. I have no doubt of your sincerity and strong feelings, However, it is just difficult to understand and reconcile some of your statements. Even though you may not intend to, some of the statements leave an impression of superiority—that perhaps your inspiration is greater or better than others with a stewardship and responsibility of their own.
Thank you for listening and best wishes,
Left with questions!
Dear Left With Questions,
I appreciate the sincerity of your question and I think you raise some very good points. Just to clarify, I do have confidence that the Lord is guiding church leaders, especially the Apostles and Prophets in their callings and stewardships. Also, I don’t think that my inspiration is greater or better than people with responsibilities and stewardships of their own.
I am going to answer your question two ways—the first will be practical and the second specific.
First, on the one hand, everyone receives inspiration and guidance for their lives and their stewardships. On the other hand, no one on earth is omniscient. Even our Prophets and Apostles rely on information given to them from Members of the Seventy who rely on information given to them from Stake Presidents who rely on information from Bishops who rely on information from Auxiliary leaders who rely on information from Home and Visiting Teachers, etc. What I hope to do is raise awareness of some of the benefits of having a greater incorporation of voices in these information exchanges. For example, in my profession as an anthropologist I often find myself in positions where my knowledge, be it cultural, linguistic, or practical could be useful at alleviating cross-cultural misunderstandings in church settings. Due to the church structure, I am often excluded from the very international interactions that I could be the most use to. I often feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I know that my knowledge has helped individuals, missionaries, and leaders in the past, but I do not want to be presumptuous or come across as superior by giving unsolicited suggestions. Nor can I assume that there will be a day when I will be useful to the church as a ________ (fill in the blank: mission president, area authority, etc).
Do I think my church leaders receive inspiration? Yes. Do I think all would be edified if they had more cross-cultural knowledge? Yes. Finding ways to increase the information that our leaders receive (i.e. cultural, feminine, racial, linguistic, etc.) does not negate their inspiration.
That is one of the goals of LDS WAVE, to benefit the Church by increasing women’s voices.
Secondly, our leaders can be inspired, guided, and directed in all that they do, but if there is a male bias in these channels of communication (i.e. the information they are given comes directly from men, who get it directly from men, who get it directly from men, and so on) we neglect a large and very important sector of our population. The best way I can illustrate the impact of this is through a specific example. On June 8, 1978 President Spencer W. Kimball and the Quorum of the First Presidency issued an official declaration that all worthy males could now receive the priesthood. Prior to this date all black church members, male and female, were also not allowed to participate in important LDS rituals, such as attending the temple, endowment, and sealing ordinances, etc. After this date men and women of all ethnicities had full access to these saving ordinances. However, you wouldn’t know this from the official declaration which was sent only to general and local priesthood officers, addressed only to the Brethren, and the revelation said that after “witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance….that every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows there from, including the blessings of the temple” (D & C: Official Declaration 2). There is no direct mention of women, no acknowledgement of their pleading and faithfulness, no declaration of their newfound ability to enter into the temple and receive the blessings of eternal salvation. In fact, women’s inclusion in temple rites was never officially stated; it was merely a byproduct, an assumption, an afterthought of the lifting of the priesthood ban. Are our saving ordinances different than yours? If we were “equal” wouldn’t women’s access to eternal blessings merit mention? This example makes me feel like I am less important, like my ordinances are subsidiary, like I am an appendage to a man with the priesthood rather than a complete person.
Do I believe that President Spencer W. Kimball was inspired in this revelation? Absolutely. Do I think that women would have been included in this declaration if there were more female voices in the channels of communication? Absolutely. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive.
I believe that God uses all His children to bring to pass His work and not only His male children. Even without any major doctrinal changes, women’s voices could be utilized more. This would uplift, strengthen, and unify the Church in ways that we cannot even imagine. Everyone benefits from having a greater voice for female members of the Church. Everyone.
I hope you will continue communicating with me about this topic as I think your concerns are held by many. I appreciate your respect and heartfelt inquiry and look forward to this dialogue progressing.
Ask a Feminist