Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I Support The Current LDS Policy To Restrict Priesthood Eligibility To Men; Only The Lord Is Authorized To Change The Policy

A post on The Exponent, entitled "Guest Post: I’m Not One of Those Women. I’m Just Thinking, Don’t Worry", has prompted my own post on this subject. While not nearly as contentious as the former policy to exclude otherwise worthy males from Priesthood eligibility because of African ancestry, the continuing policy by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to exclude females from Priesthood eligibility has triggered some discussion, and occasionally dissension as well.

One such dissenter is mValient, who authored the post cited above. It should be noted that mValient describes herself as an observant member of the Church who has served a mission, so she should not be viewed as an apostate. But focusing more on equality rather than eternity, she questions the LDS Church's policy to exclude females from Priesthood eligibility. Her newly-expressed skepticism has been triggered by an article in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof that calls for an end to "discriminatory practices" against women in religion including the exclusion of women from the religious hierarchy. Kristof reports on a group called The Elders, a group led by South African terrorist-turned-President Nelson Mandela which includes women and possibly lesbians, that issued a call to all world religions that says “the justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a higher authority is unacceptable” and further “we believe that women and girls share equal rights with men and boys in all aspects of life.” You can read their entire missive at TheElders.org.

Of course, the targets of The Elders are not just Mormons, but conservative Protestants, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and any other belief system which prescribes separate treatment of men and women. Kristof's article could serve as the intellectual foundation for a fresh assault on traditional religious expression in the United States, similar to the assaults endured by Mormons, Catholics, and others for their promotion of California Proposition 8.

One commenter to The Exponent questions the doctrinal foundation of the restriction. Caroline states that she could not find anything in the scriptures that definitively precludes women from Priesthood. But while I also could not find a specific verse barring women from holding the Priesthood either, I did find a verse in I Timothy 3:2, which states, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;". This verse implies that only a man can be appointed as a bishop. And since a bishop, in accordance with LDS doctrine, must hold the Priesthood as a condition of appointment, it can also be interpreted to imply that only men can have the Priesthood conferred upon them. Ironically, the distinction was once best summed up by the late Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell, who said "Women may have a teaching ministry or a healing ministry, but they cannot have a pastoral ministry" (the Relief Society, for ladies only, can be construed to be the LDS version of a "teaching" or "healing" ministry).

But the restriction of Priesthood eligibility to males does not give men a divine license to use the Priesthood to exploit and abuse women. The Doctrine & Covenants imposes a stern charge upon male Priesthood holders; D & C 121:36-37 states the following:

36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition,
or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

In other words, the moment a husband abuses his wife under color of the Priesthood, his Priesthood authority is instantly suspended in the courts of heaven, and is not restored until the man repents. The problems generated from this system of patriarchy are not because the system is flawed, but because it is misused and abused. Also note the use of the word "man" in the last word of verse 37; this further implies that the Priesthood is to be reserved for men.

LightPlanet also reveals President Spencer W. Kimball's counsel on this subject, and why restricting Priesthood eligibility to men is not intended to be oppressive towards women. While some responsibilities are jointly shared, others belong solely to either the husband or the wife. President Spencer W. Kimball taught:

"[Men and women] had full equality as [God's] spirit children. We have equality as recipients of [his] perfected love for each of us. ... Within those great assurances, however, our roles and assignments differ. These are eternal differences—with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood—but the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 11:11). Both a righteous man and a righteous woman are a blessing to all those their lives touch....

Men and women are complementary. I have mentioned only a few of the special blessings God gives his daughters in helping them to become like him. His sons have their own special opportunities. And in his wisdom and mercy, our Father made men and women dependent on each other for the full flowering of their potential. Because their natures are somewhat different, they can complement each other; because they are in many ways alike, they can understand each other. Let neither envy the other for their differences; let both discern what is superficial and what is beautifully basic in those differences, and act accordingly. And may the brotherhood of the priesthood and the sisterhood of the Relief Society be a blessing in the lives of all the members of this great Church, as we help each other along the path to perfection."
(The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.315)

It should also be noted that no man can achieve celestial glory with exaltation without the help of a woman. Our Heavenly Father would neither be "heavenly" nor a "father" without a Heavenly Mother by his side. There are no gods without goddesses.

This does not mean that the exclusion of women from the Priesthood will be eternal. After all, since we're the Lord's church, the Lord has the right to change His mind at any time. However, if the policy is changed, it will be accomplished in one way - and ONLY in one way. The President of the Church will receive a revelation or impression that Priesthood membership be extended to worthy women, and, at the same time, each and every member of the Quorum of the Twelve will receive the SAME impression. Thus it will be a collegial decision, and not a unilateral decision. Nicholas Kristof cannot change the policy. Petition campaigns cannot change the policy. Withdrawal of tax exemptions cannot change the policy. Secular legislation cannot change the policy. No amount of earthly compulsion can change the policy.

Only the Lord can change the policy. And if the policy is changed, I will support it, not because the Brethren (General Authorities) are inerrant, but because I trust the Brethren, as a group, not to ever deliberately or maliciously lead the entire Church astray.

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