Monday, February 14, 2011

Lingering Questions

I just finished reading the newest work of Mormon scholarship on women administerring blessings in the early church written by Johnathan Stapley and Kristine Wright. Its surprisingly long-85 pages- most of which chronicles examples of women giving blessings between the 1830s and 1940s. The purpose of the article was actually to trace the changing views on the practice overtime and map how the practice was discontinued. Now that I have read it, I see a few places in which questions remain and I believe are worthy of further investigation.

A few questions that are lingering for me:

The 1949 statement of Joseph F. Smith did not actually prohibit the blessing and annointing of women during pregnancy (which was the only remaining allowable activity left to women of the church), so how and why then did it actually get discontinued? Where are the statements discouraging, rebuking, and correcting those who continued the practice? And if those statements do not exist, what then is keeping women of the church from continuing to give blessings to pregnant women?

What were the reactions of women of the church to the gradual restrictions placed on their religious practice of healing? Was there upset? Disappointment? Dissent?

The authors briefly refute the D. Michael Quinn claim that there is evidence supporting the idea that women were ordained to the priesthood but do not cite a more indepth refutation. Is there a scholarly work that does argue against Quinn's thesis?

Also missing from the article is the So What? An answer to the question, What do this mean for us now as Latter-day Saints? Is it enough to be comforted by knowledge of this heritage (e.g. that somehow knowing that women used to collaborate in the blessings of women, and the sick and afflicted makes us equal)? Ought there to be an effort to reclaim this privilege? What are the thoughts and feelings of LDS women to this knowledge? What is their response to the practice being phased out?

I will likely come back and write my more personal thoughts on this topic but for now I needed to get these questions down.

1 comment:

cc said...

These are some of my questions too. I'm also trying to figure out what on earth (literally!) the priesthood is if not the power of God to heal and bless. What else do men do that they need it for? We're all set apart for our callings, so we all are entitled to revelation for those we have stewardship over. God doesn't only speak to those with the priesthood. And the rest just doesn't seem authority specific, let alone gender required. I'm having a hard time seeing it for what it really is.

The other part that struck me was the idea that women administering fell out of practice or at least became less supported because other denominations began healing rituals of their own, and that it was deemed necessary to further set Mormonism apart by claiming proper priesthood authority to do such things, a contradiction from the "every member can do this" attitude. It's these types of contradictions in response to culture and outside influence that bothers me. Where is the real answer from God, and not just the interpretations from various leaders?

And yes, I want to know where we go from here. I'm thinking I will not hesitate to perform a blessing or healing if the opportunity arrises. I won't go looking for it, but if it makes sense, I won't feel restricted, and maybe that's how change will happen, if women get a sense of solidarity in doing what makes sense and what their heart and spirit tells them is appropriate and right with God.