A defense of Ordain Women

Ordain Women has portrayed what it would look like for women to participate in priesthood functions. I had the opportunity to defend them. Photo courtesy Ordain Women
Ordain Women portrayed what it would look like for women to participate in priesthood functions. I had an opportunity to defend the group. Photo courtesy Ordain Women

A friend challenged me after I wrote an Ordain Women profile explaining why I believed in ordination of women into the LDS Church. We went relatively deep. It’s as follows:

MY RESPONSE

ME: Thank you for… your interest in my thoughts on this (rather huge) matter.

(I have responded directly to various parts of your message, but a number of items before you see that, though a couple are repeated as responses.)

First, I imagine that one reason you contacted me is because you know that I posted an Ordain Women profile.

That content gets to the core as to why I believe that women should be ordained.

Four points – three doctrinal, one historical.

Generally…

  • The Twelfth Article of Faith says that the Lord will yet reveal many great and important things “pertaining to the kingdom of God.” So if the church won’t look different tomorrow, it will in the indefinite future. (The average member would probably be shocked at how different the church is from even a few decades ago, let alone going back to the restoration period…)

Specifically…

  • 2 Nephi 26:33 says that “all are alike unto God… black and white… male and female.” This verse was used to explain the ordination of blacks to the priesthood. Females are listed in this verse too, so I don’t know why the verse wouldn’t be applied to everyone listed in the verse.
  • The church ordained blacks after there was a shortage of whites in Brazil. The kingdom wouldn’t have survived there, it appears, without a change in policy (Richard Bushman, “Rough Stone Rolling” if not one of his other writings/books). And that’s what it was, too: a policy change rather than a revelation. Blacks held the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s ministry and Brigham Young revoked it. One of the church’s recent essays talks about this.
  • Women actually receive the priesthood without even being ordained. D&C 131 is about the sealing and it says that man must enter into the “order of the priesthood (“the new and everlasting covenant of marriage”)” at least to enter the highest celestial degree. (Of course, this means woman, too.) We know that the sealing is about entering into the Abrahamic covenant, or patriarchal order. So it seems that when a woman enters into the patriarchal order, she enters into the priesthood. Thus, I believe that at least sealed women hold the priesthood. The Brethren would just need to feel the revelation that it’s time for sealed women to exercise what they have. It sounds irreverent, but it’s a “just add water” sort of thing.

That said, I believe this gets to the heart of a lot of your message: Patriarchy and “patriarchal order” are different. “Patriarchy” is the influence (dominance?) of males in society. The patriarchal order is, as the scriptures say, “the order of the Son of God,” or the order of Jesus Christ. Or keeping Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses – the prophets of the dispensations – in mind, the patriarchal order is the priesthood order in any dispensation. (To quote Preach My Gospel, a period in which the fullness of the gospel is on the Earth, and those periods have been headed by Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Savior and Joseph Smith.) I’m rather certain that the “Abrahamic covenant” as mentioned in the temple sealing and elsewhere is referring to, again, the priesthood order in any dispensation. (Abrahamic covenant = patriarchal order, in this case.) NOT patriarchy, male influence (dominance?) in society. One is a term expressing eternal power; the other, temporal culture.

It’s perhaps inappropriate for a faithful member to disclose anything about the endowment outside of the temple. But the covenants of entering into the patriarchal order is seen in the Adam and Eve portrayal, and we do that ourselves when are sealed. Both need to make a covenant/sacrifice to enter into the Abrahamic covenant/patriarchal order. Adam’s/males’ is to obey the Father. Eve’s/female’s is to obey Adam/male as Adam/male obeys the Father.

Also, I want to say near the top of my response that the Brethren have not declared that women are not meant to hold the priesthood. Any communication from the church to Ordain Women came through LDS Public Affairs, a department that is part of the institution, not the religion.

HIM: Read D&C 50, but especially 13-20. Get context and read on, but mainly those verses stuck out. D&C 107; D&C 76:57.

ME: I read all of the verses. I’m fine with all of the passages of scripture that you sent to me in terms of the ordination of women being justified.

HIM: Ezra Taft Benson, chapter 13: How did Adam bring his descendants into the presence of the Lord? The answer: Adam and his descendants entered into the priesthood order of God. Today we would say they went to the House of the Lord and received their blessings. The order of priesthood spoken of in the scriptures is sometimes referred to as the patriarchal order because it came down from father to son. But this order is otherwise described in modern revelation as an order of family government where a man and woman enter into a covenant with God — just as did Adam and Eve — to be sealed for eternity, to have posterity, and to do the will and work of God throughout their mortality. If a couple are true to their covenants, they are entitled to the blessing of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.

ME: I want to freeze here in Pres. Benson’s quote and point out that seems that Pres. Benson disavowed the idea that the patriarchal order has to do with passing down the power from male to male. And the mention of the “highest degree of the celestial kingdom” is rooted, I believe in D&C 131 (see comments).

HIM: (Pres. Benson) These covenants today can only be entered into by going to the House of the Lord. Adam followed this order and brought his posterity into the presence of God. …This order of priesthood can only be entered into when we comply with all the commandments of God and seek the blessings of the fathers as did Abraham (see Abraham 1:1–3) by going to our Father’s house. They are received in no other place on this earth!… Go to the temple — our Father’s house — to receive the blessings of your fathers that you may be entitled to the highest blessings of the priesthood. “For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84:22) Our Father’s house is a house of order. We go to His house to enter into that order of priesthood which will entitle us to all that the Father hath, if we are faithful.

I haven’t been to the temple recently, which is why I am in no position to speak authoritatively on anything gospel oriented, but isn’t the priesthood specifically referred to as the patriarchal priesthood?

I don’t know much, but I have been told the washing and anointing is worded differently for men and women, and the priesthood is the difference that allows men to WORK their way to salvation, while women have salvation promised to them in their anointing. Just what I’ve heard. Obviously haven’t experienced it myself.

ME: I know nothing so far about the difference in language of the initiatories.

HIM: If the priesthood is semantically after the “order of the patriarchs” wouldn’t that refer to Abe, Isaac, Moses? I tried to find a cutoff point to cut and paste, but starting in verse 14 in D&C 84 it makes a pretty absolute and difficult structure to that patriarchal order, after the son of God.

ME: Patriarchy and “patriarchal order” are different. “Patriarchy” is the influence (dominance?) of males in society. The patriarchal order is, as the scriptures say, “the order of the Son of God,” or the order of Jesus Christ. Or keeping Abe, Isaac, Jacob, Moses – the prophets of the dispensations – in mind, the patriarchal order is the priesthood order in any dispensation. (To quote Preach My Gospel, a period in which the fullness of the gospel is on the Earth, and those periods have been headed by Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Savior and Joseph Smith.) I believe this is what the “Abrahamic covenant” as mentioned in the temple sealing and elsewhere is referring to – again, the priesthood order in any dispensation. NOT patriarchy, male dominance in society. One is a term expressing eternal power; the other, temporal culture.

It’s perhaps inappropriate for a faithful member to disclose anything about the endowment outside of the temple. But the covenants of entering into the patriarchal order is seen in the Adam and Eve portrayal, and we do that ourselves when are sealed. Both need to make a covenant/sacrifice to enter into the Abrahamic covenant/patriarchal order. Adam’s/males’ is to obey the Father. Eve’s/female’s is to obey Adam/male as Adam/male obeys the Father.

HIM: My anchor: “In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith — History) is what Jesus taught almost non-stop.

Matthew 7: 13: “¶Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 ¶Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21 ¶Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Matthew 24:23: “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very felect. 25 Behold, I have told you before.”

ME: To clarify to answer this better, are you saying that Kate Kelly and perhaps Ordain Women leaders are false Christs and/or prophets?

HIM: My grandpa has the opinion that the very elect CANNOT be deceived. I think a majority of “the church” aka “the Mormons” are getting distracted and falling into the water instead of walking on water towards Christ. There are a lot of EXCOMMUNICATED examples setting themselves up to be a light and pointing towards themselves, instead of back to the source of light.

ME: In complete honesty, I’ve struggled with certain high-profile excommunications from the past 17 months because I haven’t understood where, according to Handbook 1 – the guide for key-holding church leaders – there is grounds for excommunication. At the end of the day, Kelly was leading a group who asked the Brethren to pray about women holding the priesthood. (And that’s the same advocacy of the group today.)

HIM: It’s well established that “the way” is faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end. Jesus taught it, Joseph taught it. Any other way doesn’t seem to cut it. Any other baptism is like Jesus in America hammering his point (in) 3 Nephi 27. Read it all, but coup de grace culminating in verse 21: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; 22 Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”

ME: We do need to remember what “enduring to the end” entails. That includes priesthood ordination at least for males. For everyone, it includes being endowed and sealed, as only sealed people can reach the highest degree within the celestial kingdom. And that’s where women actually receive the priesthood, I believe, without even being ordained. D&C 131 is about the sealing and it says that man must enter into the “order of the priesthood (meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage)” at least to enter the highest celestial degree. (Of course, this means woman, too.) We know that the sealing is about entering into the Abrahamic covenant, or patriarchal order. So it seems that when a woman enters into the patriarchal order, she enters into the priesthood. Thus, I believe that at least sealed women hold the priesthood. The Brethren would just need to feel the revelation that it’s time for sealed women to exercise what they have. It sounds irreverent, but it’s a “just add water” sort of thing. (Not in the cultural joke about baptizing someone that’s prepared, but just in the general analogy.)

YOU: Most of D&C 121, but laser-focused on 36: “That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.”

37: “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.”

ME: It seems like men or women could observe/avoid these principles.

YOU: Let me know where I need to fill in the gaps, then give me Ordain Women’s main objection to the teachings of Jesus Christ. I want to be able to approach my wife with some understanding, because right now I’m a hard nose that doesn’t understand.

ME: I’m a “hard nose,” too. (smile) But I’m REALLY glad that you contacted me and would love a reply and continue this discussion, even if it was just one more exchange.

HIS RESPONSE

ME: Thank you for the reply… I appreciate the dialogue.

(Again, not writing “you” and “me” in an effort to seemingly pit us against each other, but just to clarify who is speaking.)

HIM: I especially pause on the anti-Christ, setting themselves up as an example conversation.

ME: I don’t see how Kelly or any Ordain Women leader (Kate is not with OW anymore, as you probably know) is even a “false prophet.” I would qualify that as someone who taught false doctrine, who claimed for something to be of God when it wasn’t. Religiously, Kelly and OW did not claim anything to be God’s truths. She and OW offered ideas suggesting that women hold or should hold the priesthood and at the end of the day petitioned for the Brethren to pray about it.

HIM: My issue with Kate Kelly is not that she stuck to her guns and “stood up” to the organization; it’s that she presented herself a crucified martyr.

ME: Yes, but I do think that her tears on her day of excommunication were real, to make a rhetorical point out of a comment that could have been longer.

HIM: Kate Kelly moved, but then refused to communicate or participate in the disciplinary process. Her pride excommunicated her. Also, showing up to her own vigil for excommunication?

I understand her perspective, but she is sending the wrong message of how much she “had to lose” because SHE was giving it up.

ME: Not showing up to the disciplinary meeting and showing up to her vigil doesn’t warrant excommunication. That should be on her actions with OW, which I didn’t find to be apostate though the stake president claimed.
She also had moved (to Africa!) by the time the disciplinary meeting rolled around. And also, there may have been a member of the Presidency of the Seventy (L. Whitney Clayton) who influenced her excommunication, along with John Dehlin and Denver Snuffer’s. (If that’s true, it violates Handbook 1, which says that disciplinary action should be local. And that’s been a refrain of LDS Church Public Affairs as well, if we are going to consider their words and actions as religiously based, as many Ordain Women opponents do.)

HIM: The next step is where I see her crossing the line, using her “light” for personal gain. Again, I can see her motivation.

It’s not that she got money from people that bothers me, people can choose to donate their money or burn it or bury it in the backyard. My girlfriend was following the gofundme page and she kept RAISING her goal to get a better MacBook, bigger screen, etc.

I know from personal experience you can justify your “sins” however big or little, because they are just little choices. Flaxen cords.

ME: That doesn’t justify excommunication, and that argument is moot because Kelly did that after she was excommunicated.

HIM: The nail in coffin moment was when she was asked “if women received the priesthood, would you go back to church?” And the answer was no, and then it turned into hell no, and now she is firmly on the “it’s a cult” bandwagon.

Also, philosophies of men, not bothering to mingle with scripture, especially the current vogue.

ME: Again, I don’t know why that justifies excommunication, and that argument is moot because she did that after she was excommunicated.

Thank you again for the dialogue…

HIS RESPONSE

HIM: I have no perspective on the grounds of her excommunication, other than her general defiance of the “repentance” process. It was held by men, so it probably isn’t valid in her eyes. The missing aspect in this entire ordeal is that she never made a connection to Christ. There is no reference to Jesus. Anywhere. That is probably enough reason for anyone to reconsider the organization they belong to. If Christ doesn’t weigh into the thought process, and you are only pushing an agenda… that’s definition of apostasy to me. It’s not the local leaders she should be focused on (including up to the (Quorum of the Seventy) and prophet); what is her personal relationship with God? I don’t see that anywhere in her demeanor, her interviews. She is blinded by the organization, which ultimately doesn’t matter.

ME: You offer a theological dilemma. If you want to call a Mormon apostate out for their relationship with Christ being the problem, it doesn’t jive with the theology of Mormonism. Mormonism entails more than a relationship with Christ. Among many things, it entails following the Brethren since they doctrinally represent Christ. And then you have bishops and stake presidents that, according to scripture, are judges in Israel who represent God in a different area, with the power to receive revelation for that area. Even the First Presidency said (though not in an official capacity, e.g., General Conference) that speaking publicly against church leaders constitutes apostasy. In Mormonism, you can’t get around the leadership aspect since, again, they are supposed to be representing Christ. A scriptural root of this is D&C 1: “out of my own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” And many D&C verses about the First Presidency, apostles and seventies. Your Christ comments seem to suggest that this is not the case.

There is also a theological conflict given the LDS Church’s belief in the Godhead, where Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost are different from Christ, of course. So there are multiple relationships to be had and people on Earth to follow.

Apostasy based upon a relationship with Christ alone seem to have a place in religions like evangelicalism. But it’s fundamentally different in Mormonism.

Besides, you can’t know at least fully what Kelly’s relationship with Christ is, or how much she is working on that.

YOU: Curious timing, my current place in the Book of Mormon is Alma 1: “1 And it came to pass that in the first year of the reign of Alma in the judgment-seat, there was a man brought before him to be judged, a man who was large, and was noted for his much strength. 3 And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people. 4 And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life. 5 And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money. 6 And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart

ME: It sounds like you in saying “curious timing” are suggesting that it was meant to be to some degree. If so, we are even commanded in D&C 8, 9 and 88 to incorporate critical thinking (“mind and… heart,” “reason it out in your mind,” “learn by study”) into our process of receiving revelation. So I get concerned about “meant to be” ways of thinking since it robs the scriptural mandate of thinking.

(NOTE: (I participated in its most recent General Conference action, which included portrayals of history where women have participated in the priesthood and also a work of art featuring keys with names of supporters. Keys is a word relating to priesthood in Mormonism. I also fully support what Chelsea Shields said in a recent TEDx talk about the ordination of women to the Mormon priesthood.)

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Published by: Rhett Wilkinson

Rhett has been an evil journalist and evil-er political worker. At nine years old, Rhett wrote about Han Solo and Princess Leia getting married and having kids and a child named Ben. And also, Luke building a new Jedi Order and a New Republic being established. That all happened in the books or films, so he's still waiting for Lucasfilm to pay up!

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