Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A compelling reason LDS women shouldn't want the priesthood?

I am not to the point of thinking that LDS women should have the priesthood. I do however find reading critical analyses on it interesting. The most recent analysis I've read is "Why Shouldn't Mormon Women Want this Priesthood?" by Marian Yeates.

I wish I could sit down and have a conversation with her regarding her thoughts. I even did an online search for her to find if her contact information was online, but no such luck.

Through an analysis of history and making comparisons to other times when women have been allowed to participate in a male dominated system, she gave some insight into what it could be like if LDS women were to be granted the priesthood. Drawing on the parallel to women in 20th century America getting the right to vote, Yeates said,
Women won the vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment. No one can deny that this was a tremendous victory after seventy-two years of struggle. Yet without being a female-based social vehicle, the vote itself has done little to change the material condition of women over the long term. ...The advantage of the incorporation strategy as it applied to suffrage was that it allowed women to gain access to existing political power. The disadvantage was that once incorporated into the male system, women became part of that system and so have had difficult establishing their interests as separate or different from men's.

In describing women's accomplishments in politics between the time they achieved the right to vote and the time the article was published (1989), she points out "the dream of women voting as a block strong enough to inform the American political process remains an empty promise seventy-years after winning the vote."

Marian Yeates believes that the same would happen if women in the LDS Church were allowed to minister in the priesthood: that it would take a very long time for any significant changes to be made into policy and administration, if it ever would happen.

This is where I would like to question Sister Yeates. Since 1989, American has seen a sharp increase in the number of publicly elected women to office. Perhaps now, another 20 years after she lamented the lack of influence of women on the political process, does she see that fruits of women making substantive inroads in the male dominated system? Is it a matter of 90 years being required instead of 70? If the same thing were to happen is what we see now in the American government, would that patience and long-suffering yield the results that she hopes would have come sooner? Does having to wait that long negate the fulfillment of that success?

The warning is there to LDS women who think that ordination to the priesthood is their intended goal, though you may obtain the office are you prepared to patiently and doggedly work for substantive improvement in the way things are run?

Sister Yeates also offers an alternative option for women wishing for greater involvement, influence and say over how the church is administered. Though she does not make the parallel, I think what she may have in mind matches the way in which the Relief Society was originally organized as a separate but complementary auxiliary of the church which was almost entirely administered by the women of the church. This too I would ask Sister Yeates if this is what she was intending to suggest because she did not specifically state this as a parallel.

I really am enjoying learning about the different perspectives of women and the priesthood. I especially enjoy learning about projections of what might occur if it were to occur. So often, I feel that people think that an intended outcome is a foregone conclusion, that of course the desired outcome is going to be achieved, and little thought is given to the unintended consequences. The collateral damage can often be worse than the ailment that originally afflicted. It seems prudent to comprehensively view the possibilities that could result from an action so one is making a truly informed choice. I would like to see the general membership and leadership of the church to be open-minded and patient enough to entertain these different perspectives so the best decision with minimal unintended consequences can occur.

And now I'm off to read D. Michael Quinn's article "Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843."

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