March 26, 2013

Back in the last millennium, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in my teens, I asked my mother what she thought of “women’s liberation,” as feminism was called in those benighted times. She answered that while it was a response to real problems, the proposed solutions would cause problems that would more than offset any good they might do.* (Or something like that. This was a long time ago and my memory is a bit fuzzy.) My experience and observations as an adult have all tended to confirm her analysis.

The feminist movement has at least two serious philosophical failings:

  • Ironically for a movement called “feminism”, it sets up the traditional male role as the model everyone should follow. To oversimplify things rather grotesquely, the “fifties” model was that men should be shallow and self-centered and focused outside the home, while women were self-negating and nurturing and home-centered. After feminism, everyone is shallow and self-centered and focused outside the home. Again, this is an exaggeration, but in the feminist world there are no women, just men with penises who are evil oppressors and men with wombs who are innocent victims.
  • Like most progressive movements, it’s excessively focused on power. The underlying assumption is that if the right people or institutions have power, everything will be fixed with the world and nothing bad will ever happen.

All this is a prelude to explaining why, although I know there are issues arising from having an all-male hierarchy, ordaining women to the priesthood probably isn’t a good idea.

  • Implicit in this idea is a privileging of the male model for participation in the church. Do we really want to abolish the female model? Nathaniel Givens explains this point better than I can.
  • Most of the arguments in favor seem to center around the exercise of power by church authorities. But the Doctrine and Covenants tells us that “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood…” Yes, church leaders don’t always live up to this verse, but when they don’t, “Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” Priesthood is much more than temporal power; it’s greatest blessing is the ability to attend the temple and participate in the ordinances there, which women already do.†

With the recent emphasis on councils, the church has taken steps to try to give a stronger voice to women. Certainly there’s more that can and should be done, but ordaining women to the priesthood isn’t it.


* Yes, I did ask her “if ‘women’s lib’ isn’t the solution, what is?” She told me it was to raise boys to treat women with respect and as equals, and that was how she’d raised me, so I’d better behave accordingly. I like to think I have.

†If we were in the temple, I would explain why I think endowed sisters already hold the priesthood, or perhaps better, “priestesshood.”