Taylor Street does a fine job summarizing Elder Ballard's speech on The Digital Universe. Elder Ballard's objective was to confront the false preconceived notions of women’s roles within the Church often voiced by journalists and non-Mormons. Most importantly. Elder Ballard expressed five key points to provide a proper perspective about the roles of women in the Church:
(1). Our Heavenly Father created both man and woman, and that gender is eternal. Of course, this statement will be difficult for those with gender identity disorders to digest, but the bottom line is your sexual identity is signified by your genitalia. Gender identity disorders could simply be another of those challenges some chose to accept prior to mortality, which is why the Church launched a campaign to remind members to behave in a more Christ-like and inclusive fashion towards those with gender identity issues.
(2). The LDS Church is the Lord’s church, governed by leaders with divine priesthood power. Elder Ballard said both men and women are essential to the priesthood; it cannot work successfully without both men and women. But he specifically cautioned women “not assume a role that is not yours” by encroaching on priesthood roles. The latter is undoubtedly a subtle response to the Ordain Women movement.
(3). Although men and women’s roles differ, God doesn’t view one or the other as more important. "Equal" doesn't mean "identical"; it can mean "complementary". And no man can achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom without a woman by his side, nor can a woman achieve the same status without a man. This would explain why in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, the Apostle Paul states "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God".
(4). Both men and women are endowed by the same priesthood power and subsequently have equal access to priesthood keys, even though only men get ordained. The fact that only men get ordained may very well increase their level of accountability.
(5). Women are counseled to learn and understand the doctrine of the gospel, allowing them to bear testimony in a complex, troubling world. The answers to many of the issues can be found not only in the scriptures, but in the writings of previous Church presidents. A thorough understanding of Gospel principles will assure people that no blessing denied to someone in this world through no personal fault will be forever withheld; the blessing will be offered in the next world. This is why we perform proxy ordinances for the dead in our temples. We are also not expected to become perfect in this life, but merely to learn how to conquer sin.
In closing, Elder Ballard bore his testimony of the importance of women in the Church. “Sisters, your sphere of influence is one of unique spirit, one that cannot be duplicated by men,” Ballard said. “No one can defend our Savior with anymore persuasion and power than you. … The Church needs your voices now more than ever.”
Reaction: The only reaction so far has been posted on Feminist Mormon Housewives, which is not representative of mainstream LDS opinion. Many of the women who post there are pretty far gone; not only do they believe the LDS Church is a "patriarchy", but some believe patriarchy is inherently evil. Three comments capture the variety of opinion (after the jump):
Joanna says August 21, 2013 at 7:38 pm:
I love this. That talk from Elder Ballard really illustrates exactly how strange the doublespeak rhetoric is getting. All of the talk about how “husbands and wives are equal partners, yet the man still presides” and about how much the Church values the input and insight of women, and how crucial they are, yet their input as a bishop or stake president is not desired, and how we must give women a bigger role in councils because of their important input, but women must know their place (I think that was the actual phrase he used) and not argue with the decisions of the men in councils…All of this doublespeak, and all of the conflict between (as you said) the way women are treated in the Church and the unacceptability of sexism in every other sphere, is going to have to come to a head sometime. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.
Leona says August 21, 2013 at 10:23 pm:
This talk of Elder Ballard’s, for me, seemed to suggest several things:
Elder Ballard is acutely aware that a sizable group of women in the LDS community do feel or are feeling a sense of disenfranchisement and in many cases genuine and profound pain.
For whatever reason or reasons, Elder Ballard (and presumably others in the Church hierarchy) do not want this to be so. Some of the concern that he showed I found genuinely moving.
For all of that I am grateful.
I saw this talk not so much as rhetoric refined and honed to prop up patriarchy (perhaps it is…but this phrasing implies for me a level of deliberation and intent that I’m not sure I credit Elder Ballard with). I saw it as an example of a well-intentioned, elderly man of God, accustomed to the deference and privileges of patriarchy, trying very hard to understand and assuage the pain and disenfranchisement that he knows a lot of women (and some men, too) are feeling. Except that he is seeing this pain and trying to assuage it through the lens of a worldview that has, in his view no doubt, served him and those close to him well his whole life…but is also the primary source of the pain he’s trying to alleviate.
Perhaps the contradictory rhetoric isn’t so much a retrenchment of patriarchy as it is the first steps of an elderly, well-intentioned, godly group of patriarchs coming to grips with the need for something profound to change. That sounds reeeeally hopeful, but hey, a girl can dream.
SilverRain says August 22, 2013 at 6:08 am:
Or, perhaps, iniquity will abound, the Church will dwindle, those who still believe will be persecuted and hated, most people will walk by the sparks of their individual wisdom rather than relying upon the wisdom of God, and even some of the elect will be deceived.
The so-called doublespeak makes clear sense when the power of the priesthood is wielded in truth, and one seeks and finds understanding of the powers of heaven. The truth of the gospel is found in just such tensions: lose yourself to find yourself, salvation through sacrifice, become poor in heart to inherit all the Father has, submit to gain power. Those who are able to wrestle before the Lord in humility over these matters eventually gain peace and balance within the tensions.
I know it isn’t popular to claim that the greatest change we can experience in the church is within ourselves, not when so much causes us pain. I don’t doubt for a moment that my comment will be down-voted. What I have to say, my perspective, has rarely been popular here.
But I speak as a woman who has suffered greatly under unrighteous dominion, who has lost almost everything to it, who struggles constantly with some of the Church practices, who has paid in sorrow time and time again, who has been something of a scourge to my priesthood leadership since I entered Young Women’s, but who has also witnessed miracles wrought in the hearts of men through patience and charity, seen the hand of the Lord work in my life and in the lives of the so-called patriarchy, and who believes that all these things will be for my good.
I have earned my perspective through the things I have suffered, as have many others. And I can say by my own experience that we must change ourselves before we can ever hope to see change in the Church that will bring peace. The church is not the government, it is not an appropriate venue for tactics or adversarial onslaught. There are some things that will not change nor be fully understood in this life. But the important things—ministering to those who sorrow and need to feel the love of God, binding up the brokenhearted, developing a relationship to the divine and a life in His service, ministering to His children—are found in spending our lives changing our own hearts, learning to testify of truth to individuals face-to-face in humility, meekness, and power, not in trying to change the church through activism.
In the end, I predict that those who are unable to see past “the Patriarchy” and three pain in their own hearts, who hold their love and belief hostage to certain prescribed conditions for the church, will ultimately hurt themselves most. The Brethren and many others will sorrow deeply over it. In the end, however, they can only testify to truth. Salvation can only be worked out between the individual and Christ.