Here it is, the weekend of the 183rd semi-annual world General Conference of the Mormon church. Members from all over the world congregated in churches, homes and at Temple Square in Salt Lake City to hear the words of who the church members recognize to be their prophet and leaders. In these meetings, council is given to church members, as are reminders of commandments, regulations, and beliefs held by the group. Generally, nothing new is presented, as the church members agree that they have much to do in order to simply keep up with the requirements they already have and are perhaps not ready for more information. This weekend, however, a protest group emerging from inside the scene calling themselves “Ordain Women” met outside the men’s priesthood session on Temple Square requesting to enter in. It seems that this season’s Mormon General Conference became a stage for a priesthood debate by at least 200 females as the church continues to refuse giving the priesthood to women.
What is the priesthood? In the Mormon, or LDS faith, the priesthood is thought to be the power of God bestowed upon men, to give blessings, heal the sick and perform miracles. This “power” is gifted at the age of 12 in a young boy under the name of the Aaronic Priesthood, after the order of Aaron, from the scriptures. When a boy has come of age, at the age of 16 usually, he is then ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, another historical prophet. Information coming through the lines of church leadership has maintained, since the church was organized, that the priesthood “power” belonged only to men and that women held other important roles, such as service to each other and child rearing.
Lately, women within the church are starting to recognize that all ought to be equal in the church as they feel they are in the eyes of God. Should the priesthood still be reserved only for men in this day and age? It used to be, until only 1978, that blacks were not allowed to hold the priesthood. After questions raised by members and much prayer and consideration by the church leaders it was “revealed” that God had thus given permission for blacks to then hold the priesthood. These women who claim to be a part of the organization they call “Ordain Women” hope the same sort of prayers and revelation will come for women in the church.
Some female church members hold to the idea that the priesthood is for men and they are content not holding it. Other women want to be able to perform the same acts as men, such as blessing others and administering to the sick. Several points of view could be taken on this whole issue for which all women in the church ought to consider.
First – the idea that any special power has to be “given” to you for it to be real could be recognized as “bogus.” If a power exists that allows one to bless someone else, then by the very nature of that power, it is available to all who would believe on it and choose to tap into it. There should be no “trusting in the arm of flesh” deciding whether or not one has said power, but rather trust in the innate inner knowing that such power is within all beings all the time. Permission need only be given by the inner voice of spirit, abiding in all men and women.
Second, within any structure, any religion, any organization, especially one where men are so involved and derive much strength from responsibilities and inter-dependence on one another, it ought perhaps be respected that men actually need a place where they feel special and empowered. Maybe the real reason for the males to hold said priesthood is so they feel they are part of an important team, one that recognizes them for who they have the capacity to be and highlights inner wisdom, inner clarity, and interconnectedness with other men. Men who gather for priesthood meetings and classes feel a comradery with other men that is rare to find in society today. If the women take that from them by professing and fighting for the need of equality, this could disrupt and harm the male sense of purpose that can be found in such a structure.
The Mormon General Conference continues to hold the refusal of the church to give the priesthood to women, highlighted by the turning away of hundreds of women from the priesthood session this weekend in Salt Lake City at Temple Square. Where this group of 200 women, growing, will take this debate is uncertain at this time. All that can be said is that they feel equality unrecognized within the church for good reason. Will the LDS church make the decision to “give” the priesthood to women? For now it looks like the answer is no. Where this debate will go from here, only time will tell. Is this just another age-old religious rule come outdated? Or is there real truth in barring women from said priesthood? Can one really be kept from a power originating from who they believe to be the Source of all? These are the questions.
Written by: Stasia Bliss