On Ordain Women: developing thoughts

Happy Spring everyone! I don’t know about you, but the time change, the glorious sunshine, and the much-warmer weather has helped my spirits lift. Spring is a time of natural creation, of fresh starts, and of new life. For me, it is a time of reflection and analysis, and a season of goal-setting and hard working.

This last week, I had the opportunity to interview a friend of mine, Meghan Raynes. She is a woman with some very unique insight into what it means to be a Mormon feminist. We talked about a lot of things that really made me think. I will publish the full interview with Meghan on this blog in the near future; however, I would like to mention some things on this blog post that impressed me.

Meghan and I talked a lot about Ordain Women. For those of you that don’t know, Ordain Women is a movement advocating for the ordination of Mormon women to the Priesthood (for more information, visit ordainwomen.org). In the Mormon church, we believe that the Priesthood is the power of God given to man (keyword MAN) to act in His name. This power and authority allows men to perform religious rites, ceremonies, and to give blessings of healing and of comfort. It is also through this power that the Church is presided over and organized. We believe that this Priesthood has been held by all the Prophets starting with Adam, all the way down to the current Prophet of the Church, Thomas S. Monson. Not only Prophets hold this authority, however; all worthy male members of the church may be ordained to an office of the Priesthood. It is the mission of Ordain Women to extend this ordination to ALL members of the church, regardless of sex. The Ordain Women mission statement is as follows:

“The fundamental tenets of Mormonism support gender equality: God is male and female, father and mother, and all of us can progress to be like them someday. Priesthood, we are taught, is essential to this process.  Ordain Women believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of these teachings.”

In our interview, Meghan and I discussed the gender-based inequality that exists in the Church. Meghan feels that there is no immediate solution. Yes, ordaining women to the Priesthood would be a start, but it would not make men and women equal. The Priesthood is hierarchical; it is based on rank. Meghan believes that even if women are allowed to receive the Priesthood, they still would not be allowed to serve in the same leadership positions as men.

This discussion with Meghan really got me thinking about where I stand on this issue. I believe that Ordain Women is a beautiful concept; it brings to light a lot of the injustices that Mormon women experience on a regular basis. Women cannot hold significant leadership positions within the Church; if they do happen to be serving in leadership roles, they are only responsible for other women, and they are presided over by Priesthood-holding men. Women cannot participate in religious ceremonies or rites unless accompanied by a man holding the Priesthood (this is in reference to the ceremonies performed in Mormon temples). It has been my experience that woman cannot really do anything substantial in the church without a man “supervising.” This statement is fairly controversial, and many Mormon women would disagree with me. But like I said, this has just been my experience.

With that in mind, I feel that if women were to be formally ordained to the Priesthood, it would definitely be a big step in the right direction for the sake of solving the gender problems within the Church. But I, like Meghan, believe that it is not the solution to the problem, just a treatment of its symptoms, if you will. As I have mentioned in all my previous blogs, I believe that women are inherently divine, meaning that there is a part of God in ALL of us. I believe in a divine Priestesshood that is just as important as the Priesthood, yet very much different. I also believe that women are already blessed with this divine power, and that we have the ability to use it to bless the lives of those around us. I have seen this power in action in my life. I have felt it as my Mother cradled me in her soft embrace. I have felt it as I knelt in prayer, seeking revelation from God. I have felt it as I served as a missionary, and I was able to use this divine love and power to reach out and fulfill the needs of others around me. I believe in this feminine divinity. We do not have all the answers, and to be quite honest, I don’t believe we ever will while I am still around. But I do know that my Heavenly Mother lives and that Her power resides within me.

So, overall, I think that Ordain Women is a great way to bring awareness to larger issues at hand, but I don’t believe it is the solution to all of the problems. All I can do right now is use the power and love that I have been blessed with to uplift those around me.

I am divine. You are divine. All of humanity is divine. In this I believe with all my heart.

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It’s been said that well-behaved women seldom make history…

Happy March! This month is, what, you ask? Why yes, it’s Women’s History Month! 31 whole days to celebrate awesome women who have lived on this beautiful planet! (Although, I must add that I think we should celebrate awesome women EVERYDAY. I know I’m not that the only one that thinks that way.)

It’s amazing how many incredible women there are in my life. My Momma, grandmothers, friends, loved-ones. I think we can all agree that we have been influenced by really wonderful women right from the get-go, whether they be loving mothers, concerned grandmothers, influential family friends, or otherwise. We are so blessed to have women that are so strong, so passionate, so full of love, and have something precious to offer the world.

When I was a missionary living in Japan, I received a letter from my Dad that really changed the way I thought about women in history. He prompted me to make a list of all the visionary people that I could think of. Names like Jesus, Paul, Peter, Moses, Noah, and Adam came to my head. I made quite a long list actually; it took me the better part of an hour to think about who had the gift of vision. My Dad’s letter then read, “Look at your list. Not surprisingly, the list is mostly male.” I took a gander and sure enough, he was right. The vast majority of my list were men in history, men called prophets, seers, revelators. “Look again,” the letter prompted. “Look again! Look, and you will see more of the real story, more of herstory.” I tried to really zero-in on women who were within recorded history that have the gift of vision. Mary, mother of Jesus. Mary Magdalene. Anna, the Prophetess. Esther. Ruth. Mother Eve. I then thought about the women who have directly influenced my life because of their great spiritual connection with Deity. Through them, I have learned what it means to develop a relationship with God, and what it means to be in tune.

Arguably, one of the most important women of all time was Mother Eve. You may be familiar with the story:

God creates Adam and Eve, places them in a garden called Eden, and gives them several things to think about, including reproduction, taking care of the garden, and “DO NOT EAT THE FRUIT OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. Because if you do, you’ll die.” That definitely is not a direct quote; however, they got the message. Don’t eat the fruit. Or we’ll die. The story continues; Adam and Eve enjoying living in the Garden, often receiving visits from the Big Man Himself. He taught them how to live and how to love; however, in their innocence, Adam and Eve didn’t know the difference between sorrow and happiness, pain and pleasure, (spiritual) light and darkness. Fundamentally, they knew it was good to follow the guidelines God had given them, but they didn’t really understand why. They knew no evil, so they couldn’t truly understand righteousness. The story continues; one day, Eve is in the Garden doing whatever it was that she did there, and Lucifer (or Satan, or the serpent, or snake, whatever you prefer to call him) appears and tries to convince her to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Legend has it that she falls for the serpent’s temptation, convinces Adam to eat some too, God finds out, and they get expelled from the Garden, where they become subject to pain, hurt, ailments, and death.

How morbid. Most of Christianity view the Fall of Adam and Eve to be the worst thing to happen in human history. If they (*cough* EVE) had not partaken of the fruit, life would be all happy, just sunshine and smiles all day long. However, in the Mormon church, it is a common belief that the Fall was an integral part of God’s plan for us, His plan that would allow us to come to this earth, receive a body, and learn right from wrong. It wouldn’t have been possible if Adam and Eve had remained in their innocence.

I don’t know about you, but I think that there is MUCH more to this story than meets the eye. According to the King James account, God asks Adam, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? and the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Adam completely blames Eve for everything that happened. This doesn’t seem right to me, somehow.

I think that when Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they counseled together on many things, including the obedience of God’s instructions. He told them to “multiply and replenish the earth,” which nowadays means “get busy making a family.” He also instructed them to not eat of the Tree. The way that I understand it is those two commandments were mutually exclusive; in order to start a family, they had to KNOW how to do that, and because they lived in a state of innocence, they didn’t know, so they would have to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in order to learn. I believe that the decision to partake of the fruit came after much counsel, discussion, prayer, and contemplation. I believe, even though it isn’t mentioned anywhere, that Eve received guidance from her Mother in Heaven. Eve was to become the Mother of All Living. How could she have done that without guidance from the feminine divine? I believe that Heavenly Mother played a vital and essential part in Eve and Adam’s decision to partake of the fruit. They had knowledge of the plan, and they were willing to make the choice to learn to start a family.

I will admit, it is REALLY REALLY hard for me to buy the whole Adam and Eve story 100%. Why did there have to be a tree? Why did they eat some fruit and then magically know the difference between right and wrong? There are so, SO many questions I have about their lives, and quite frankly, while I was a missionary, this part was SO HARD for me to teach people.

But, what I do know is that there is reason in all things, and I feel a very deep connection to my Mother Eve. She truly is the Mother of All Living. She is divine, and she knew that. She embraced the femininity inside herself and because of that, was able to pave the way for her posterity. I know that she had a special connection to God, and that They loved her very, very much. They trusted her to do what They asked, and in return, she has become a blessing to all those that wish to learn from her example.

Happy Women’s History Month, everyone. Take a minute to celebrate the wonderful women around you. :)