Thursday, January 27, 2011

Not in the Lord's program

A couple of people have brought this quote from President Hinckley to my attention over the last few days and I have been seriously pondering it. Especially interesting to me was how it could be contrasted with the interview he gave with David Random with ABC Australia news in 1997.

In both statements (on and interview with David Ransom), he says essentially the same thing "Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program." However, one of the statements is much more definitive than the other. When asked by Ransom, if that could change, President Hinckley said that it could change but that it hasn't and won't because "there is no agitation for that."

My view is basically that in the quote published on, though he did not go onto state that the policy of women receiving the priesthood is subject to change, he could have. In a way, it does a disservice to the women of the church and those who care about equality for him to leave it like its a firm degree of God that women do not have the priesthood. In fact, there is no recorded revelation in the scriptures that says that only men are supposed to hold the priesthood. In my understanding of the doctrine, the scriptures are silent on that aspect of the priesthood.

Of course, him being prophet, he could have personally received a revelation saying that it was not God's will for women to hold the priesthood. Three problems though if that is the case: he did not ever clearly communicate this to the general membership of the church; he elsewhere mentioned that a revelation could be given that would change it (implying that a revelation did not set the policy in place originally); and any inspiration he had pertaining to women and the priesthood may have been applicable in that time but could be subject to change when revealed by the Lord that the time is right. For these reasons, I think its safe to say that the statement on is not authoritatively saying that it is God's will that women should not hold the priesthood. In any case, I highly doubt that he gave the matter serious attention and ever prayed to know if the current policy was God's will or not. I personally belief if he had asked, he would have received a very different answer (and the fact that he says a revelation could be received leads me to believe that he never did ask).

President Hinckley may not have been aware of the history of women and the priesthood. It would not surprise me that he hadn't read deeply into church history on that topic so he would not have known that Joseph Smith and many early Saints believed that women receive the priesthood (that is in the D. Michael Quinn chapter for quick reference).

It seems that the reasoning he is using in that statement follows like this: if women do not have the priesthood, then it must be because God revealed it to someone along the way that they are not supposed to. Because women do not have the priesthood, it must mean that God does not want them to." However, we both know how revelation works. People and prophets do not receive revelation by it coming out of the sky, but they must seek to know it. If no one ever received a revelation saying specifically that women cannot have the priesthood, then it has not been recorded and it is not contained within our scriptures. Many people speculate the reason women didn't receive the priesthood is due to cultural values of the time (though we have recorded in the Old and New Testaments instances of women as prophetesses and priestesses whether this was through the Melchizedek priesthood or not).

This is one of those cases where personal vs hierarchical revelation becomes tricky. What if Heavenly Father were to recognize that its important for a person's spiritual health to know specifically whether it is God's will for women to have the priesthood or not? Would HF reveal to a member of the church personally one way or the other? If He did, would that be different or the same as a person receiving revelation for the church or is it just for personal knowledge? Are there other examples of things that people can learn through the Spirit that may not be revealed to the leaders of the church but they can know for themselves?

I have my ideas but I want to hear yours.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Needing the gospel to be simple

The gospel is simple for those who need it to be but expansive, complex and awesomely thought-provoking for those who don't need it to be. The people who need to get by with the gospel in terms of scripture stories, parables and being commanded in all things still make it through this life having accomplished what it is they set out to do. And that works for them. Its good for them. I think of the phrase in the Word of Wisdom "adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints." If that's all they can handle, then its a good thing that there is a program that works for them. Quite honestly, the church is best at this program for these members.

Its not so good at what I call the underbelly and that's where I find myself. A friend once suggested that to me that HF/HM want and need Sunstone/Dialouge/JMHA/Mormon Stories, etc. to exist because it provides the outlet and "meat of the gospel" for those who need it. In that way, there is enough of what each group needs.

The only problem comes when the Butter Side Up and the Butter Side Down people (name that reference for 1,000 points) get on persecuting and harshly judging each other. Often it comes from feeling threatening and a perception that the "other" is thinking negatively about self and then people start jumping to defensiveness and criticism which are two of the horsemen of the apocalypse (according to marriage researcher John Gottman).

I'm happy to live and let live for the people who need the gospel to be simple, *IF* they can allow me the same respect.

We here have obviously taken the blue pill (I think the gospel=simple folks took the red pill because they are stopped in their understanding) and we have very valid concerns that we will not be treated respectfully and kindly by those who live the gospel differently than we do. We after all have the memory of excommunications for apostasy because of others' earnest desires to seek and know.

I don't exactly understand why the gospel=simple people are SO defensive and protective of their stance and why they find us so threatening. Maybe its hard enough as it is for them that the thought of something harder is unbearable?

This is kind of my thoughts taking a turn but I'll just make this case for those of us who are here: if the plan really is to be able to create, lead and sustain our own worlds, we are going to need to know and understand a great deal more than what the 72 correlated points teach us. The way I see it, those who seek the mysteries of the gospel and aim to understand the complexities are getting some progressing done here on the earth that for the gospel=simple folks is saved for much later. At point, they are going to have to mature in their thinking and understanding. But it is going to have to be on their own time, in a way that God knows best.

Its not fair for us to force it (thinking: "for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength" Mosiah 4:27) but at the same time I do believe there can be more balance, respect and openness at church for all of us to fit there. There may be times that we can introduce some of our ideas in a way that does not inflame them and I would guess that the Spirit would be able to enlighten us at those times and with the right words.

Want to try an experiment where those of us who attend church pray to know the right words/timing to say something that is near and dear to our hearts? And then report here when it happens....

Let's see if this works

There has been a great deal of debate recently among Mormons on the topic of women and the priesthood. I see basically three camps: people who think it is heresy to ask the prophets to receive a revelation, people who think its perfectly appropriate for members of the church for ask for the prophets to receive and revelation and people who do not care at all.

I count myself as one of those who do not think its inappropriate for members of the church to ask for the leaders to consult with God on a topic of particular interest, though if you read this conversation on my facebook page, you'll see many who disagree with me.

One of my friends linked to the page on that really got me thinking. In the past I had shied away from the question about women and the priesthood for my profile. I didn't feel I had a cohesive answer, but after learning about this conversation between President Hinckley (our former prophet who died in 2008) and an Australian interviewer, I felt like I had something I could finally say that didn't seem to conflict with this statement shared on

Below is the answer I submitted to my profile. I don't know if it will be approved so I'll just wait and see. I hope it doesn't meet the fate of another answer that I attempted to post to my profile (it wasn't censored but it was withheld due to a glitch). If it is approved however, I at least will have a point of reference to say that "Look, my views aren't considered false doctrine! I have the official stamp of approval from!"

One of the reasons why women do not hold the priesthood in the Mormon Church is because, as President Hinckley said in an interview with an Australian reporter is that "there is no agitation for that." He seems to imply that if the members of the church were interested in women being ordained to the priesthood that a number of them ought to approach the leaders of the church expressing their interest. One faithful Mormon created a website where Mormons and non-Mormons can express their interest in women of the Mormon Church receiving the priesthood. The URL for that site is: If the leaders take the communication seriously, they have the opportunity to show the world that the Mormon church continues to receive revelation and that the church can change its practices as it better learns the mind and will of God. It would be up to the prophet and apostles of the church to counsel and pray together on the topic of women receiving the priesthood. If they can all agree that God is telling them to extend the priesthood to women, they will share that revelation with the church and the world. It may be that God does have a reason for women not to receive that priesthood and Mormons do believe that God can reveal his reasons through the prophet.

Until that time, Mormon women have many opportunities to serve within the church. The Relief Society is known as the biggest women's organization in the world and in each local congregation there is a leader or president of the Relief Society among the women of that congregation. There is a Relief Society presidency that oversees a small number of local congregation's Relief Society as well as a presidency that oversees all of the Relief Societies in local congregations throughout the world. The women of the church oversee the youth education program (Primary) of the church as well as the young women's education program. They are actively involved in family history, temple work, emergency preparedness, and humanitarian work in local congregations and throughout the world. Each woman of the church has many opportunities to serve the members of her congregation and local area and all members of the church are encouraged to be involved in volunteer organizations in their communities as well. Mormon women also serve as teachers in Sunday School and in worship services where they have the opportunity to teach all members of the church.

As you can see, there are many ways that women can be leaders in the church. They play an active role in keeping the church going and meeting the needs of all the members of the church even without the priesthood in addition to their work as very involved mothers (generally). Some argue that because of this women do not need the priesthood for these reasons.

There's a chance that the URL won't make it through which is fine. I can edit it that out, but for those who are not Mormon and care about gender issues, it may be very useful for them to see directly the effort that is being made by members of the church.I'm interested to see what will happen and how the reviewers at will handle it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Being the woman of Proverbs 31

This woman is doing "A Year of Living Biblically" for Women this year. It sounds fascinating and I'm looking forward to following her as she spend this year literally living ever commandment/direction given to women in the Bible.

She gives some examples of these commandments:
This means, among other things,  rising before dawn each day (Proverbs 31:15), submitting to my husband (Colossians 3:18), growing out my hair (1 Corinthians 11:15), making my own clothes, (Proverbs 31:22),  learning how to cook (Titus 2:3-5), covering my head when in prayer (1 Corinthians 11:5), calling Dan “master” (1 Peter 3:5-6), caring for the poor (Proverbs 31:25), nurturing a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4), and camping out in the backyard for the duration of my monthly period (Leviticus 15:19-33). 
There will be a book and she is vlogging the year as well. It will certainly spark some interest and she definitely looking at it from a feminist perspective aw well.

Her project for this month is to take on Proverbs 31. Which I must say is laughable. She has a list of 17 things to do that would correspond to phrases from the set of verses describing a virtuous and admirable woman. But its her project and she's got a whole lot more than just that chapter to cover so I'm wishing her the best of luck on those goals.

For me, however, I would like to make those goals my goals for the year of 2011. It is not realistic for me to do all of it in one month, but if I can do it one year, I'd be happy.

So I think I'm going to try it.

Here are the phrases that I'll fill in with projects and plans:
In her hand she hold the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers (vs. 19); She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands (vs. 13)

I could take up spinning this year! I was introduced to it at the Camlann Medieval village last year and it seems like an activity to do with my hands that was neither difficult and at the same time soothing. This could be a good reason to turn it into my new hobby.

She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple (vs. 22)

I do have plans to make a Rennaisance dress in purple for myself with a linen chemise....

When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet (vs. 21)
Knitted hats in scarlet would be easy. But mittens or gloves would be better. Is this the year I learn to knit?? 
She makes coverings for her bed (vs. 22)
My bed doesn't need any additional coverings, but I can sew pillow cases...A canopy or bed tent would be cool...

She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes (vs. 23)

I do have a goal to craft (probably onesies and childrens' t-shirts with embroidery) and then sell them on an crafter collective of Mormon women*.

She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar (vs. 14) 
I will continue to shop at grocery stores... (unlike this woman

She provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls (vs. 15)
I do not have a servant girl though perhaps my mother might count since she will be earning her keep by caring for children and doing housework. And since I will be doing the cooking for her, then, yes, I would be providing portions for my "servant girl."

She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard (vs. 16)
I'm planting a garden again this year!
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land (v. 23)
Not sure what this one will take shape as...though I am helping him return to "his seat among the elders" at the university as he recovers from his illness. Maybe he will receive "respect at the city gate" if we take that trip to North Carolina for him to interview with potential postdoc advisers (which he wouldn't have even considered if I hadn't suggested it...)

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy (vs. 20)
I will continue to follow the recommendation of "The Life You can Save" to give one percent of our income to aid organizations combating poverty in the developing world, as well as craft for donations to aid organizations, pay a fast offering once a month and provide whatever service I can for community members and those I come in contact with. I am considering dividing my tithing money between Humanitarian Aid and the general tithing fund of the LDS Church. Maybe I should also make a point to carry around cash that I can give to the homeless I see around the city? My typical excuse is that I don't have currency to give. Maybe carry a stock of food in the car?

All of that, over a year is doable. What I love about the list is that it has elements of Radical Homemaking and social justice as well as female empowerment, entrepreneurship and mothering.  In fact, I think I may blog about this on the WAVE Women's Service Mission.

To be fair, these also must be added:
  • She gets up while it is still dark (vs. 15)  
  • A woman who fears the Lord should be praised (vs. 30)
  • She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong (vs. 17)
  • She provides food for her family (vs. 15)
  • She watches over the affairs of the home (vs. 27)
  • She does him good, not evil (vs. 12)
  • [She] does not eat the bread of idleness (vs. 27)
  • Her lamp does not go out at night (vs. 18)
Can I just give up right now on the getting up while its still dark!?

*This is referring to a project that will be unveiled in the near future. Courtney describes it in the comments of this post at WAVE.

There's scripture study and then there is this...

This is Willem's new favorite book. And because its highly engineered paper art, we keep it high on the shelf and only pull it down when he requests and quite honestly it never leaves my hands.

It depicts the stories from Genesis: the creation, the Garden of Eden, Noah and the Ark, the Tower of Babel, Jacob's dream of the ladder to heaven, and Joseph in Egypt. The artwork is beautiful and the information is overwhelming honestly. It has fold out books that discuss the artwork on the page, as well as other famous works of the same story. It also has background information into that story of the Bible, with verses and summarizes of the book. We have not been able to explore it completely because its for a maturer level than Willem at his 3-almost-4 years of age.

He has been getting a great deal of out of it, however.

Tonight, we looked at it for scripture study and I discovered that its the best scripture study I've experienced with him. Its 3-D, its concrete, visual, tactile, truly perfect for young cognition.

While looking at the page for the creation, Willem picked which days he wanted to read about. Under each pop-up image of the day, there is a tab you can pull out to read the verses from Genesis. Tonight, he chose separating the light from the darkness and the creation of the animals. When reading about the greater and lesser lights, we asked him if he knew what that meant.

Me: "What does 'the greater light to rule the day' mean? What is that?"
Willem: The Sun
Me: "What does 'the lesser light to rule the night' mean? What is that?"
Willem: The Moon

How's that for language arts and beginning to understand metaphor!

Next on the page for the Garden of Eden,  we asked what the story was about and he tried to explain that it was something about eating the fruit. That's a good start. I asked him if he knew what would happen if they ate the fruit, he didn't know so we talked about what the phrase "and ye shall surely die" means. I told him that I don't think it means that Adam and Eve would die instantly after eating the fruit. Its not like it was going to make them sick and kill them, but that it meant that they would leave the garden and be subject to mortality. They would live, learn, grow old and die as a consequence of eating the fruit.

I asked him which one he would pick: Would he eat the fruit and leave the garden or would he want to stay?

Such a proud mommy moment when he said he would choose to eat the fruit to leave the garden. My son would make the courageous choice that Eve made!

I then asked him what choice he thought Adam made. Did Adam eat the fruit so he could stay with Eve or did he stay? He got that answer wrong but we were then able to explain how Adam did the best he could to be obedient to God's commandment so he chose to eat the fruit to stay with Eve. He chose to break one commandment in order to keep another, otherwise, Eve would have been alone in the world and that's not the way to make babies...

But my favorite part was when we came to the page with the Tower of Bable. He started telling my husband the story of how the people built the tower to get close to God and then he said, "But they didn't need to build a tower, they needed to pray to God."

My husband and I beamed at each other on that one. I then asked a question that I was hesitant to ask because I really didn't want him to feel led into answering a certain way, but I felt it was right to ask and I also know that he's so without guile that he will answer honestly. I asked him if he felt that he was close to God when he prays and he said yes.

This is progress because I have asked at other times and bore my testimony to him of prayer on other occasions and in the past he has seemed skeptical. I have been careful to not force my beliefs on him or to expect certain answers but to encourage him to be honest with me about what he feels is right. I hope this is an example of that.

I want more than anything for the Spirit to teach him and not for him to learn the "right" answers by parroting what we say or teach him. And so often, the challenge for that with young child is through teaching in a developmentally appropriate manner. It is very hard to teach in the way that children learn abstract concepts like God, Spirit and the past. If its not right here, right now, in front of them in a way they can touch and interact with, it will be difficult for them to learn and understand. That is my biggest challenge as a mother and a preschool teacher teaching the gospel to my young children and any time I can find something that is meets that criteria, I am happy for it.

This also seems like a good time to mention this set that I have seen: a fantastic bible felt board set with 600 peices or something. Willem is almost the age where this would be a great resource for Family Home Evenings and reading the Bible as a family for scripture study. If only there was a set for the Book of Mormon...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

If ever there was a time...

If ever there was a time for a Mormon woman to give her husband a healing blessing it would be now, as I listen to my husband weeze, cough and struggle to catch his breath as he battles pneumonia.

Why is it that Mormon women are not allowed to give priesthood blessings?

That's a whole long and debatable thing, but the story that I have pieced together is this:

At the time of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the women of the church to laying their hands on the heads of their loved ones and bless them with healing. The women were well known for their faith and the miraculous ministrations that they were able to share with others (1). As the church grew, and after the Prophet died, members of the church began to question, if they were so special, being the Lord's anointed and members of God's church on the earth, why were people of other religions able to bless people with healing and health? If Mormons weren't special in being able to heal, then what made them special and different? How did they/were they going to stand apart from the rest of Christendom? The answer that members of the church came up with was Priesthood. (2) Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the priesthood (the authority granted by God, restored through the Prophet, to act in God's name on the earth). Wait a minute, do women have the priesthood? Well, the men do at least. Because of the dubious nature of women's priesthood status, women began to be uncomfortable giving blessings of healing. By 1946, the practice ended completely when the leaders of the Relief Society were told it was no longer approved “for sisters to wash and anoint other sisters."(3)

I'm not making this up and if you are interested to read where I have learned these ideas, I refer you to:
1) A Gift Given, A Gift Taken Away by Linda King Newell
2) Female Ritual Healing and Mormonism (Podcast with J. Stapley at By Common Consent)
3) Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843 by D. Michael Quinn

Hearing my husband suffer is almost enough to make me get over my fear of using priesthood authority improperly and bless my husband as the women of old did. In the name of Jesus Christ without invoking any priesthood authority.

That begs, the question: do I want the priesthood?

No, not especially. But I would like to be able to minister spiritually to my husband and children when sick. I find it upsetting that women of the church were once able to give blessings to their loved ones and they are no longer allowed. In my understanding of things, there was no revelation taking this privilege away. And its very upsetting to me that such a drastic change could take place in the church without revelation. If that is the case, and it is not the will of God to withhold that right from women, then why can't women return to giving blessings?

The obvious answer is that there is enough belief in the church that it is the will of God that any woman who did so would be both in open rebellion to God and the leaders of the church and therefore subject to church discipline and risk placing her eternal salvation in jeopardy.

And that's exactly what it feels like: jeopardy. Either I do what I feel is right for my family and risk my standing in the church or I protect my church status by withholding a known remedy from my loved ones.

I'm tired of it. I only want to care about what is right in the eyes of God and stop caring about the eyes of man.

Introducing Mother Wheel (and Outing Myself!)

This is cross-posted from Mother Wheel (a new blog where a group of LDS mothers and I lead our families in celebrating the Pagan Wheel of the Year). This post is an explanation for the why behind my participation. 

At the age of 13, I embarked on a journey of religious exploration. My parents raised me in the Unitarian Universalist Church and one of the religion's guiding principles is that each person is encouraged to be on a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning." I didn't know at the time when I set out to honestly seek to find and embrace truth that I would end up a Mormon with pagan leanings. Before I joined the LDS Church, I learned and loved a great deal about Wicca. I loved the emphasis on nature and the beauty of the earth as well as the recognition and honor of a female deity. Though I found a portion of truth I was seeking there, I did not feel it was complete and continued my search.

In 2001, I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love the doctrine of Mormon theology that families can extend beyond the grave, that life is but a short while of our existence, that there is a grand plan that extends beyond what we know and love here. The goodness of life and love continue on. Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church, and prophet of the restoration of the gospel, taught that Heavenly Father is an exalted man who in order to be exalted must be married and that his wife has also been exalted and inherited the powers, dominions, thrones and principalities of divinity. God the Father and God the Mother rule together as equal partners . In our dominant culture. very little is known or understood about God the Mother, but as a mother and woman myself, I have a desire to seek after the goodness and truth that I can know of Her. One of the concepts I love about Mormon theology is that truth is embraced wherever it can be found and that we are encouraged to seek after the things that are good, virtuous and praiseworthy because all good things come from God.

Now, 10 years after my conversion I am coming full circle. After 10 years of looking towards a better world and securing my knowledge of the afterlife and my faith and hope in being reunited with deceased loved ones, it is time for me to connect with the earth and my life here. My children are young and just starting to learn about their purpose here on the earth, part of which is to "replenish the earth" and use the bounty of the earth for the benefit and use of humankind. For my children, I want them to secure the blessings promised to them in the Word of Wisdom:

"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."

In teaching them to honor the cycles of the earth, I believe that they and I will learn some of those hidden treasures, that we will find beauty and joy in the world around us, strengthen our family bonds here and in the afterlife and live gently on the earth making our home here a heaven on earth.

I am looking forward to this year of celebration and gratitude for the blessings of nature and the love of God that is manifest in them.
So that's why I am outing myself as a Mormon Pagan. It is something I feel led to do and I am pleased to join with a group of LDS women in embracing our roles as "priestesses" in our homes. For a description of Mother Wheel, our mission, purpose and for personal introductions to each of the contributors, please visit our About Us page.

My favorite part of the introduction is, well, pretty much the whole thing. The personal introductions are also very inspiring. At least two of our contributors came to the LDS Church because of its similarities to Paganism and reading their experiences is fascinating.