Editor’s note: apologies for any typos or choppy thoughts. I currently only have internet on my phone so this has been a bit awkward to write. Links have not been provided because of my tech limitations.
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Tonight, I was reading a blog discussion among Mormon women about recent events that surround the issue of ordaining women. I suspect this has been frustrating to some, but I have largely avoided this whole topic because it is almost impossible to talk about it all without significant tensions and misunderstandings and sometimes unfortunate unkindnesses
I know women who struggle with women’s issues and I have great compassion for those struggles. I know I don’t understand their pain completely. I do believe we all have our crosses and I think for some this is their cross.
That said, in all of this, I am concerned that the risk of online voices of women who believe in the divinity of a male-only priesthood being squelched by fellow Church members is very high. Without the doctrine being discussed, without lines in the sand that talk of truth (even while acknowledging personal struggles), I think we ultimately do those who struggle a disservice, even if they might disagree. I do think we can often do better in how we share, though.
Although through the media frenzy as of late, I have felt constrained from joining the conversation, seeing several concerned and frustrated voices of LDS women who want clear and faithful discussion leaves me wanting to say this: I hope that more women who do believe can and will find places and ways to articulate how and why they do.
As Sister Oscarson recently reminded us, we need to be kind. She reminds us that people are at different places in their faith journeys and we must be sensitive to that. I think our leaders in this last General Conference addressed both the need for kindness and the need for forthrightness. I don’t think we have figured out how to walk that line yet on the whole. I know for myself I am deeply concerned that I not be misunderstood when I do choose to share my beliefs related to gender issues in the Church. I desire to talk more about the equality that is simply and purely built into the plan of Salvation, about my gratitude for the priesthood order of things and the way it functions, about why I do not believe Mormon women should be ordained. My beliefs run deep and come of nearly 20 years of deliberate study and pondering and wrestling with these issues. The process of acknowledging tensions and questions for me has been and continues to be essential in the process of discovery.
I fear that in the online world, it is becoming less and less easy to speak of doctrine in the context of pain. I think on the flip side, in “real life” church meetings, it can often be difficult to say, “I am struggling.” I hope we can do better on both accounts.
In my mind there is no more important time to keep gently and persistently pointing to the doctrine — and not just that which relates to women but the heart and soul of our doctrine which transcends gender issues. The atonement and restoration are real. They are for all people who choose to accept them. These are not just words. They are truth.
I know from experience with my own crosses that coming to know what the atonement means is so, so personal. We cannot force people to be where they are not. I truly believe in respecting people’s space to be where they are and learn by experience and wrestling with God. I also believe that there is a time and a place to share one’s beliefs with others. And sometimes it is just time to listen and be silent. Only the Spirit can guide each of us about when to speak and when to listen and how to listen and speak with Love.
We we have heard a lot lately about the struggles some have. I hope in the midst of the media frenzy that people can know and remember that there are many, many women who don’t struggle as women in the Church. Some may not think about these issues much but some of us think about them a lot. And many of us come to very different conclusions than those who clamor for doctrinal change or claim that the Church is unfair to women.
I honestly and sincerely reach out to those who do struggle. It is okay to say you struggle. But please also let it be okay for those who *don’t* to be part of the online conversation. Let us learn how we can share in ways that also show sensitivity to the pain some may feel. This will take practice. As Elder Maxwell stated, we are each other’a clinical material. (See the closing talks from the 2014 BYU Women’s Conference for the reference.)
As vehemently as I disagree with the Ordain Women movement, I do believe that having conversations about these things can be a positive. There ARE questions — obvious ones — that the Church structure elicits. We ought not be afraid of the questions. I think those tensions are important to the process of discovery about what priesthood is and why keys matter and what authority and power in God’s plan are all about.
But neither should we assume that there aren’t answers to be found. I believe there are, and that most of them will be discovered in the quiet and personal process of asking God for insight, line upon line, drop by drop. In my opinion, the greatest harm of the public and persistent clamor for change is that it implies that peace is dependent on external factors. When true elements of the restored gospel as declared by prophets are allowed to be seen as truth rather than treated as moving targets subject to public opinion, there, I believe, the potential for discovery can be more fully unlocked.