And Now For Something Completely Different

OK, I’m being a bit facetious. This is another post about–wait for it…Ordain Women! (Sorry, it’s all over the Bloggernacle right now). But this time from a different perspective.

Geoff B. at Millennial Star writes in support of the Church asking Ordain Women to stand down from seeking entry to the Priesthood session of conference.

To sum up, the Church has told a movement of dissident Mormon women who say they want the priesthood that their demands are not helping create meaningful discussions for Church members.

…Members of Ordain Women (OW) were told that they should keep any demonstrations against the Church to the “free speech zones” outside temple square, which is a subtle but pointed message to the group that their demands force them outside of the mainstream within the Church.

He continues on, explaining that the letter, signed by Jessica Moody of the Public Affairs department, identifies the group as a small minority (this claim is complicated here) and asks that they not use propaganda to make themselves out as media martyrs.

He ends with this question:Continue reading

The Church has spoken on this issue. Will the supposedly faithful members of the OW movement listen or will they move to direct opposition to the Lord’s Church?

As a faithful member who has a profile on the Ordain Women website, I suppose I can answer that question for me. No, I am not traveling to Salt Lake (a bit far, and as a man I’m not sure my presence would have the same impact), but I also don’t feel that Ordain Women’s action of asking for permission to attend the priesthood session is in direct opposition to the Lord’s Church. But I’ve said much on this already. Let’s hear from the commenters. I’m hoping to better understand the position of people who disagree with me on this issue.

Joyce Anderson is skeptical:

I’m going to go with, OW will still agitate. Because I don’t think they want to take the answer they’ve been given.

As is Michael:

After seeing a copy of the letter from the Church on my Facebook feed, I immediately went to the OW website and was shock, SHOCKED I say, that they have not made any changes to their publicly stated plans. I hope that they try to repeat what happened last October, if for no other reason than to illustrate the inherent dishonesty of the group.

Not sure how I feel about the implication that I’m inherently dishonest because I’m a member of this group, but let’s continue.

Geoff B. replies to a comment:

…Church leaders are more subtle and endlessly more patient and compassionate that I am, so I cannot say with much precision what they mean. What I would say is: “stop pretending to support the Church when you don’t which is clearly dishonest and hypocritical” and “stop evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed, which is a direct violation of temple covenants.”

In any case, I don’t think there is anything wrong with privately praying for the priesthood or discussing it with your friends, etc…but don’t agitate publicly in a confrontational way.

Well, I can’t see how to respond to Geoff B.’s first paragraph. He doesn’t know me, so I think it is an unfair argument for him to make that I and other members of the group are dishonest and hypocritical and we speak evil of the Lord’s anointed (and isn’t Jesus the Lord’s anointed?). But I think his second paragraph is a reasonable critique.

C. Rider claims:

Also OW presents itself as dedicated Latter-Day Saints but that’s only a front, most members are ex or anti Mormons.

Since I am privy to the Ordain Women private Facebook group, I would say this is an incorrect statement. There are some ex-Mormons, but as far as I can tell the majority of those with a profile are active members. I do not get the sense that any of the participants are anti-Mormons, wishing ill of the Church.

JimD is not a fan of Ordain Women:

Highly amusing to see the conniption they’re having over being asked to confine their antics at Conference to the free speech zones with all other antis. Gives ‘em a clear warning about where they’re headed and a chance to rethink their priorities.

Not a fan of the Church’s PR department generally, but they seem to be playing their hand well here.

Again, my only response is that in my experience, the participants are not anti-Mormons. If you really want to judge, go read the profiles. They are beautiful and moving. I especially like the one of the guy in the wetsuit. :)

I found rameumpton’s comment to be quite thoughtful:

I can understand how some sisters would want the blessing of having the experiences we men have in the priesthood. I sometimes ponder what it would be like to be an apostle or a stake/mission president, etc. That said, I do not actively petition the Church over it. I serve where the Lord would have me serve.

I encourage sisters having a greater role in the work of the Lord. I hope bishops seriously listen to the sisters in the ward, and give them as many opportunities as possible.

That said, we also need to honor and respect the teachings of the prophets. Humility requires that we obey the prophets, even when it is hard…

Hunter pushes back:

First, I don’t support the ultimate goal nor the methods of Ordain Women. I think they are ultimately hurting their own cause. Also, I do support the Church’s position to keep Temple Square as a peaceful place. Especially during General Conference.

But enough with pooping on the sisters who make up OW. You can announce your support for a particular worldview without having to denigrate those who disagree with you. Mostly, some here act as if this letter settles everything on these points of policy and doctrine and think it’s time to do some serious Doctrinal Wrestlemania.

Look, this letter is a direct and reasonable effort to try and dissuade OW from gathering on Temple Square. Full stop. It is not the Church’s last doctrinal word on the issue of women and their participation in the activities of the Church…

Geoff B. responds:

…To be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong with privately petitioning for changes in the Church or for more understanding or for the prophets to be guided in a certain direction, etc. But the moment that the OW movement took this effort public and decided that they were inspired while the prophets were not, they lost all possible chance of gaining respect or sympathy. And the fact that they are continuing to take this effort public for the upcoming Conference despite this letter from the Church makes it clear that they have set themselves up as opposition to the Church…

In addition, Hunter, I would say that groups that sound harmless like this have the potential to attract well-meaning sisters and affect their testimony and temple worthiness. The OW group should be seen for what it is: a group that is in opposition to the Church.

In theory, I can understand the concern about drawing members away. I just don’t know any of those members. I do know a number of active, faithful women who are in a lot of pain because of gender inequalities in the Church. I know that many of them are appreciative of the voice that the Ordain Women movement is giving them.

Hunter answers:

…In the end, if we step back and think about a sister or brother in our Ward who we fear is headed to apostasy, should we exercise charity and show them a better way, or do we just show them the door? It seems to me that too many like to play “Judge in Israel” over their fellow members.

Geoff B. explains about Millennial Star:

Hunter, upon consideration, I think you are seeing an unusual pattern on this thread and it is a bit shocking to you because it is so unusual. And that pattern is: commenters are standing up for the Church and being frank and honest about it.

…What we DO have is posts defending the Church and challenging the people claiming to be Church members who are not. And, yes, this seems strange to the average reader because it is so rare and does not follow the usual pattern.

Bruce Nielson weighs in:

Ok, so I sort of think Hunter has a point. I am not interested in saying untrue things about Ordain Women and I’m hesitant to brush their leadership with a single brush before we know to what degree they are or aren’t believers…

I have a close friend that is supportive of OW and she is a believing member of the Church. And when you know her story and background it isn’t all that shocking she’s at least somewhat supportive of OW at this time. So I’d have to admit to at least a tiny bit of sympathy due to my association with someone that sympathizes.

But I am also wondering if the point of view that the OW leadership is — perhaps not anti but — maybe non-believers might also be true. This worries me quite a bit at this time because they haven’t been the most forthcoming about their beliefs in the Church’s truth claims.

And I do NOT feel it is okay for a group of people that don’t actually believe in the doctrines of the priesthood as taught by the LDS church (i.e. only LDS church has it period) to go out and deceptively advocating for women to be ordained to a priesthood they don’t even believe in. Honestly, if that is what they are doing, they need to go find a religion that works for them — or start their own Mormon sect — and leave alone those that this religion is working for. If the OW leadership don’t believe, they have the option to leave and it won’t mean much to them (since all religions are equally true to most non-believers) but those that do believe have no equivalent option. So there is a HUGE ethical issue here if the OW leaders are in fact non-believers as they are being accused here.

Seems like a reasonable issue to raise with non-believing members of Ordain Women, although the definition of non-belief is often disputed. What is their skin in the game? I would guess the answer is that they have family and friends in the Church that they care about, and they are hoping to make things better. But I think one could reasonably ask whether non-believers have an equal claim with believers as to what the Church does.

A couple more thoughts from Michael:

It’s becoming harder and harder to accept the proposition that the OW leadership are faithful believers in the Church in any way that would be recognized by the rank and file of the Church. I have spent WAY too much time on this and have become convinced that there are little reason to accept that this group is in any way committed to the Church…

…Likewise, I think that the OW crowd hasn’t fully thought out the theological implications of their demands. If they have, they have been less than forthcoming about it. For instance, a common refrain is that they are not seeking to force all women to be ordained, but rather are seeking merely for the opportunity. This cannot be reconciled with the current practices and doctrines of the Church [later explaining that the priesthood is not optional for men--opportunity is not enough].

Bruce Nielson explains what makes for productive conversations with supporters of Ordain Women:

My friend that supports OW, the truth is I am able to have comfortable conversations with her precisely because she is transparent with her beliefs. She tells me what she does or doesn’t believe. I know where she is coming from, I know I’m getting an honest answer. That then means I can build on common ground. I can refer to her beliefs (those that she has told me she believes) and suggest how there might be another side to the argument given those beliefs. We come away from our discussions both built up because usually we both conceded that the other has a point and that in many ways the question of ordaining women is a war of two virtues (typically placing likely increased women’s voice against the likely increased male participation due to requiring their involvement via priesthood duty) with no obvious answer as to which is the higher virtue. So we end up disagreeing but agreeing on so many points.

JimD doesn’t like the confrontational approach of Ordain Women:

Trying to crash a church meeting you weren’t invited to, and to which you have no hope of actually being admitted, but in hopes that your expulsion will shame the church into compliance, is wrong. And people who apologize for such behavior are defending the wrong, even if they do come from or sympathize with a group that chooses to call itself “underprivileged”.

Hunter makes one more addition:

…if the group’s founder [Kate Kelly] is not a believer in the foundational claims of the Church, yes, that would be a problem for me, and mostly because they claim to believe! But everything I’ve seen from the leaders, with the exception of one leader (I forget her name), is that they are absolutely card-carrying, believing members. Now, it may be hard for some conservative members to *accept* that they believe in the same Church, but I’m willing to believe them when they talk about their belief in the Church. (Having said that, I know that Margaret Toscano has joined in with them at least with having a profile on their webpage, and this does raise a huge red flag for me.)

Still, “non-believer” and “anti-Mormon” can be two very different things. We owe it to each other to not be lazy, and to make careful distinctions. I’m not ready to call a supposed non-believing Kate Kelly an anti-Mormon. (Again, especially where she has claimed belief in the Church.) But I see many commentators unwilling to make the distinction between the two terms. Basically, I see lots of folks online making the illogical leap that if someone’s understanding of the Gospel is drastically different than theirs, it must be apostate/anti-Mormon, and hence worthy of ridicule. Bah!

Geoff B.’s overriding concern:

Hunter, I think you make a good point above. There is definitely a difference between a “skeptical but believing Mormon,” a “non-believer” and an “anti-Mormon.” You are correct that precise language is always better.

Here is the problem: all of us know skeptics, non-believers and anti-Mormons who have helped move people away from the Church. I find it tragic to see people being influenced this way and lose eternal blessings because of it. And the worst thing, which both Bruce and I have repeatedly see happen, is when people hide their non-belief while pretending to raise “innocent” questions about the Church.

Because i have seen this happen so often, one of my missions is simply to warn people about this. Based on what I have seen, the OW movement is in the category of “a group that will move people away from belief in the Church.” This does not mean the majority of its members are non-believers or anti-Mormons, but it seems to me that the (hidden) goal is to move people away from the Church rather than towards it.

Well, I do not feel that this is the case, but I do appreciate Geoff B.’s and other’s concerns about wanting to do what is best for the members of the Church. I guess we’ll see what happens. Somehow I get the feeling that this is not the end of the conversation on Ordain Women.





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One Response to And Now For Something Completely Different

  1. Linnaeus

    The blind spot seems to be asking what is the alternative? If OW is moving members away from the church, what would happen if OW weren’t there? I think members would move away because they would feel voiceless. Which number would be greater? That’s a really hard question, but long term I think the absence of OW would be more damaging.

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