Although the timing of this campaign is a bit suspicious, considering it comes hot on the heels of the Pants insurgency and the Let Women Pray campaign, the latest push for LDS women’s ordination came after the Sunstone Foundation’s recent symposium in California, where Mormon and Catholic feminists joined together to talk about women’s roles in their patriarchal churches (read Sunstone's March 21st press release). Mary Ellen Robertson, the executive director of the Sunstone Foundation, said that the primary purpose of the OrdainWomen website is to encourage dialogue, adding that the group wants to know if male-exclusive priesthood is doctrinal, or merely the product of more than a hundred years of tradition. The fact that Jesus Christ selected only men to be his original Twelve Apostles doesn't seem to enter the discussion.
In their FAQ, OrdainWomen makes it clear that their coalition includes many devout Mormon women -- some of who who have contributed countless hours of voluntary service to the LDS Church and view OrdainWomen as a continuation of that faith-affirming service. For that reason alone, I find it premature and inflammatory to trot out the "A-word" (apostate) at this time. But their mission statement does not imply that a revelation through the President of the Church is necessary; they even twist a 1997 statement by the late President Gordon B. Hinckley, when he said “Yes. But there’s no agitation for that”, as justification for their insurgency:
The fundamental tenets of Mormonism support gender equality: God is male and female, father and mother, and all of us can progress to be like them someday. Priesthood, we are taught, is essential to this process. Ordain Woman believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of these teachings.
Last year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reaffirmed its commitment to equality: “The Book of Mormon states, ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God’ (2 Nephi 26:33). This is the Church’s official teaching.” Ordain Women embraces this statement. We are committed to work for equality and the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.
Based on the principle of thoughtful, faith-affirming strategic action, Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormon women to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.
Note the lack of a reference to the need for a revelation to change Priesthood eligibility, although they use the term "faith-affirming". However, the initial official reaction by the LDS Church is diplomatic; LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter simply explained, “It is the doctrine of the Church that men and women are equal. The Church follows the pattern of the Savior when it comes to priesthood ordination.” And that pattern was first set when the Savior ordained twelve men to be his first group of apostles.
"Equal" does not always mean "interchangeable". Why is it that only women are allowed the privileges of pregnancy and motherhood? Why is it that the most demanding physical professions are overwhelmingly dominated by men? And why is it that, in order to accommodate more women, the military services have lower physical fitness thresholds for women than men? Those variations prove that men and women were not designed to be totally interchangeable. Equality of value does not always require equality of status.
Reaction: From the insurgency side of the house is reaction on Feminist Mormon Housewives, which is currently conducting a poll. Of the 246 votes cast as of this post, 39 percent chose "I think all women should have the opportunity to be ordained to the priesthood". My own choice was "I think women are already equal to men, each have roles that are different and complimentary to one another". I have set up a simple Yes-No poll on top of my right sidebar. The Exponent has also weighed in for women's ordination, although Donna Kelly writes "Let me first declare that I believe that God’s house is a house of order and that things will be done in God’s time and according to His will. I have a firm testimony of the gospel and I honor and respect the leaders of the Church".
However, there is much greater opposition from traditionally-minded Mormons. Many women who spoke to KSTU Channel 13 outside of Temple Square said they disagreed with the idea of women being ordained in the LDS faith. “God has decided that is for men,” one woman said. “Women have a different job.” Scott Gordon, president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), said granting women priesthood would constitute a change in doctrine, requiring a revelation to the leaders of the church, and such changes are virtually never the result of public pressure. Gordon added that he respects the opinions of those pushing for female ordination, but that his group stands behind Mormon church leaders' decision about the designated roles for men and women. He points out that women serve on ward councils where they have equal say as men. Neither the Pants Insurgency nor the Let Women Pray campaign required a change in doctrine.
On A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman, Kathryn Skaggs expresses sharp and cogent opposition to ordination without a revelation. Skaggs leads off by writing "Today's Mormon Feminists are bolder than ever, likely due to the support of liberal media outlets willing to exploit, at the drop of a lace hankie, the slightest negative tale to come across their inbox that could potentially convict what they perceive as the male dominant leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- in the sacred name of social justice and gender equality". Skaggs characterizes this new campaign as the most brazen of them all, and decries the overabundance of attention given to this type of advocacy (or insurgency, as I prefer to call it).
On Sixteen Small Stones, J. Max Wilson pulls no punches. He says that Feminist Mormon Activists have encouraged a kind of civil disobedience to the prophets and apostles, and have used self-referential echo chambers to amplify propaganda and magnify the perception of support based on demonstrably faulty data and unfounded claims. Wilson suggests that these activists are engaged in the reverse-psychology tactic of "Moving the Overton Window“, in which they intentionally promote ideas even less acceptable than the fringe ideas they are currently working toward with the intention of making the current fringe ideas acceptable by comparison. He notes that the movement has both a radical arm and a less radical arm. The radical arm acts as a foil to make the less radical arm more palatable by juxtaposition, and over time they shift the norm until what was previously far outside acceptable norms can be achieved.
This is what happened with the gay rights movement; first, they wanted us to stop beating them up just because they were gay, then they wanted us to tolerate them, then they wanted access to our kids through "Gay-Straight Clubs" in our schools, then they wanted us to normalize homosexuality and celebrate them. And now they want us to recognize their "marriages". This is also what happened with the civil rights movement; first, they wanted equality, then they wanted preference, then they got affirmative action and unofficial quotas. And now they characterize every deviation from the racial norm as a result of "institutional racism", although those new rules are never applied to black majority groups like the National Basketball Association.
Undoubtedly there are many woman within LDS ranks who not only are qualified to hold the Priesthood, but would be more qualified than many of the men within our ranks. And on the day the President of the Church declares a revelation extending Priesthood to woman, I will support it without fear of favor. But because it's a doctrinal issue, I will not support it without a corroborating revelation. Our Church is supposed to be an efficient theocracy, not a messy insurgent democracy which is nothing more than mob rule. I am content to wait on the Lord.