Priesthood Restrictions–Shall we Protest?

Junior Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley and Ruffin Bridgeforth, October 19, 1971

Junior Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley and Ruffin Bridgeforth, October 19, 1971

June 8, 1971—an important day. Three black men, Ruffin Bridgeforth, Darius Gray, and Eugene Orr met with three junior apostles: Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and Boyd K. Packer. This was all under the direction of Joseph Fielding Smith, the president of the LDS church. The issue for Gene Orr was priesthood. “These were negotiating meetings,” Gene says in the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. “We wanted the priesthood.” Darius Gray did not believe that he would be ordained to the priesthood in his life, but wanted respect in the religion of his choice. He had been called a N–ger on his first Sunday as a Mormon, and had seen deacons manipulate the sacrament tray so as to avoid touching him in any way. Ruffin Bridgeforth had sons headed for trouble, and wanted support for them.

These meetings were held twice monthly. In October 1971, the three black brethren were invited to attend the General Priesthood Session of General Conference. However, this did not go smoothly.

As Gene Orr approached the entryway to the priesthood meeting, the usher drew the red rope across the doorway and hooked it. Gene looked at it for a moment. He reported to me, “I did the only thing I could do—the right thing. I stepped over the rope.” He went directly up to Elder Packer on the stand and reported what had happened. Elder Packer talked to a security guard and had him send an intercom message to all ushers: “There will be two more.” Yes, three “Negroes” attended the Priesthood Session before 1978.

The priesthood restriction was very much on the Church’s radar then, and had nearly been overturned in 1969. President David O. McKay systematically undid the restriction for various groups including Phillipino Negritos and many South Africans. In his 1954 visit to South Africa, President McKay saw firsthand the complications of the restriction. Converts were required to trace their ancestry to prove that there were no black Africans in their genealogy. Many, knowing they would indeed discover black progenitors, simply refused. This lineage trace was a problem worldwide, where even people in Scandinavia discovered Black roots in their lines and were either told to not exercise their priesthood or to say nothing about that lineage. President McKay said, “If they look white, ordain them.” In Brazil, with so many converts of mixed race, the complications continued. Clearly, the enforcement of the restriction was a tangle as missionary work expanded throughout the world. Only recently did Professor W. Paul Reeve point out that the basis of the restriction (never canonized) was almost certainly mis-transcribed. Brigham Young as governor of the state made his famous speech to the Territorial Legislature declaring the restriction, as written verbatim by his scribe, George Watt: “If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ [that] spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called Negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are; I know that they cannot bear rule in the Priesthood.” When Wilford Woodruff summarized Young’s speech, however, he added a phrase, which has survived in many if not most historical accounts: “Any man having one drop of the seed of Cain in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other prophet ever spake it before, I will say it now, in the name of Jesus Christ, I know it is true, and others know it!” This version of Young’s words, including the “one drop” rule founded the policy of restricting priesthood from anyone with the slightest indication of African features/ancestry until President David O. McKay started making exceptions.

In 1973, Lester Bush’s article on the priesthood restriction was published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and read by President Kimball, who soon asked others in the Quorum of the Twelve to study the issue in their minds, to research it, and to come to the temple prepared on June 1, 1978. Did they receive revelation on that day? Absolutely. They had prepared themselves to receive it—even those who had defended the restriction boldly. The end of the restriction was made public on June 8, 1978–seven years to the day after that first meeting of the three black men and the three junior apostles.

Many of us long ago concluded that the restriction was simply wrong. It certainly did not come from Joseph Smith. Some have left the church over this issue, concluding that if the leaders could be wrong on something so significant, then they could be wrong on anything. Others of us have remained. These others include the three who met with those junior apostles in 1971. Ruffin Bridgeforth died in 1997, and his funeral was attended by then church president Gordon B. Hinckley and senior apostles Monson and Packer. Gene Orr moved to Canada and remained faithful. His son has served in various church leadership positions. Darius Gray remains actively LDS on the strength of his testimony, which he freely shares—that he had personal revelation telling him “This is the restored gospel and you are to join.” We all remain because the core of our faith is not in Brigham Young’s words or in church policies, but in the atonement of Jesus Christ. We remain because our world view accommodates fallibility in church leaders.

The experiences of these three black men who comprised the Genesis Group presidency, established on October 19th, 1971 as a support to Latter-day Saints of African lineage, should provide instruction for those seeking women’s priesthood ordination.

1) Bridgeforth, Gray and Orr met directly with those who had the power to change things. They scrupulously avoided protests or public confrontations.
2) The black men and the church leaders educated themselves on the history of the issue, not relying on the institutional memory but returning to actual records, which indicated that several black men had been ordained to the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s time, one reportedly by Joseph Smith himself.
3) The leaders had personal relationships with Genesis group members. In fact, President Kimball and his wife attended a Genesis group picnic. They were returning to their car when President Kimball said, “Wait. I forgot to kiss the children.” He returned to kiss them. Later, he personally delivered Christmas baskets to each member of the Genesis presidency. Thus, he was contemplating the issue in his heart as he reached out to these members of color, and in his mind as he considered the research on the issue. (See D&C section 9.)
4) All relationships were founded in love, not in coercion.

The parallels with the women’s issue are present, but not as deep as one might think. Blacks were deemed cursed because such was simply the thought of the 19th century, and was part of the justification for slavery. In the LDS faith, Eve, the representative of all women, is heroic, a huge leap from how she is perceived in other faiths. In Moses 5, we find these verses:

10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.

However, it is true that women in 2013 do not have some of the privileges they once had. Rather than detail the change in policies regarding women, I refer the reader to this abstract, which includes a downloadable paper by Jonathan Stapley and Kristine Wright on women’s ritual healing ordinances in the early Mormon church.

I personally recognize my own priesthood as I officiate in the temple and as I participate as a patron. I recall a sealer telling the couple at the altar after their marriage: “We have just given [the bride] the priesthood. She holds it with her husband.”

I won’t be surprised to see more priesthood privileges extended to women in the near future, but this will not happen through press conferences.

Finally, let me warn any who give this easy answer to the question of female ordination: “Women don’t need the priesthood. They are better than men. Also, that’s why there will be polygamy.”

Be careful. Don’t be tempted by the pedestal. Strangely, the pedestal is not far-removed from the slave block. It gives a message of inequality. Refer back to Moses 5 and note that Adam and Eve labor together. This paradigm, then, becomes the challenge to all male leaders. How are women being included in ward/stake leadership? Why do many Mormon women feel dismissed or ignored? The question demands long contemplation before any quick answer is uttered.

For all who seek change of any kind in the church, I urge patience and faith. Cling to the things you value and don’t forget them as you seek positive change. We are not the Church of the Infallible Prophet, nor the Church of Your Particular Issue, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are a community, still learning lessons in loving one another and providing support for each other in our various journeys.

As for me, I’m here for the duration, unashamed.

About Margaret Blair Young

Margaret Blair Young teaches literature and creative writing at Brigham Young University. For the past fifteen years, she has specialized in the history of blacks in the west, particularly black Mormons. She has written six novels and two short story collections, but has lately become interested in filmmaking. Her current endeavor is a film to be shot in Zambia called Heart of Africa (www.heartofafricafilm.com)

  • Kate Kelly

    You have mischaracterized Ordain Women’s Oct. 5th action as a protest in order to dismiss it. Although I respect your careful scholarship on the issue of the 1978 revelation, you have not paid us the same courtesy to diligently study our methods and intentions.

  • mariannefirth

    Brilliantly put. Thank you for such a well thought out response to such a tender issue. I’ll be bookmarking this to share with others!

  • Crazywomancreek

    It breaks my heart to read this, Margaret. Do you believe that women have not been writing, calling and requesting an audience for decades? How callous to turn it back on women when the story of the apostles meeting with men has no parallel in the quest for women’s ordination. What are these women asking for except prayerful consideration? How lucky they would count themselves to receive a sincere audience. Failing that you would have them repress their pain? I can not countenance that from you – I know you to be so thoughtful and attuned to the pain of others. I am sorry to not see you exercising that gift here.

    • Jonathan Kyle Harline

      And how can you disregard so fast her very thoughtful advice? She acknowledges the pain, but she moves past the pain, she moves past the issue, and sets up an even handed view of the issue. There is still much to be seen in this discussion, and she says lets not lose our heads, even tho we feel pain.

      • dankrist

        Well, she isn’t actually offering any advice here to advocates of women’s ordination. She offers a brief, selective history of the activities and events that led to universal male ordination, presupposes that advocates for women’s ordination are not acting in love or working in loving relationships with their accessible leaders, makes some awkward allusions to the idea that women may or may not already exercise/hold some form of priesthood, and then, finally, tells everyone in general to be patient. She doesn’t actually engage in any way with the methods or history behind OW, nor does she offer any advice. So. You can’t really disregard advice that hasn’t been given in the first place.

        • Jonathan Kyle Harline

          Well, differences in opinions are allowed, but I’m honestly scared for your eye sight if you can’t see that the urging love and patience, and the parallels she draws between Project Genesis and OW, is actually advice. It’s very clear to me that this is the case, and as I read your comments, I start to think we haven’t read the same article. Or if we have, that you’re willfully disregarding the things she is saying.

  • Kate Kelly

    Those interested in the action to which this is a response, please study our site for yourselves http://ordainwomen.org/join-us-oct-5th-for-the-priesthood-session/

  • Nancy Ross

    In the first paragraph of this article, you mention that Bridgeforth, Gray, and Orr had meetings with three junior apostles to negotiate blacks receiving the priesthood. If the Ordain Women movement had any inkling that church officials would meet with them to discuss the issue and/or negotiate, I am sure that they would take that approach in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the message we so often get is one of dismissal at every level of leadership and reminders that motherhood is equivalent to priesthood. If it was just a matter of presenting archival evidence and waiting patiently, women would have had the priesthood in the 1980s or 90s. This method has not worked for us and so, aside from prayerful pleading to Heavenly Parents, we need to employ other methods.

    • Jonathan Kyle Harline

      Maybe then the thought you should entertain is that woman are to not have the priesthood. The rhetoric on the ordain women website is to the effect of “this is right, we already know it, hurry up and get with the program” and that is not same as desiring just a prayerful consideration of the subject. it’s hostile and conflicts with the process of revelation.

      Or the answer could be “not yet, you/the world is not ready.” If these are not considerations in your heart, then how can you gain true revelation? You have to reason out every aspect and path.

      If revelation comes to ordain women, then what can we argue? That is the word and will of God, and we’ll all be better for it.

      (p.s. when I use ‘you’ I mean it in the general sense, not the specific sense)

      • dankrist

        Given that women who were raised in the church or those who converted have been taught from the very beginning that priesthood is a boys only club, it’s more than a little absurd for you to counsel that we should entertain the idea that women are not to have priesthood. I know I never needed to provide for that possibility: it was my default assumption. Instead, I had to make space to imagine different realities and to ask my Heavenly Parents “could this be different? should this be different?” And the response I have received time and time again, even when it seemed scary and bizarre, has been, “Yes. There is more than this. Yes. You need to work so that others may see what you see. You need to keep asking.”

        • Jonathan Kyle Harline

          What then of the people who ask and get the assurrence that this is not the path? Why is there a conflict here? I’ve broken it down a thousand different ways: the doctrine doesn’t add up enough to really suggest that, as OW asserts, that priesthood ordination is essential to the church. For one, things that happen in the temple, and second, no one should or needs to seek any administrative authority. That is still control and coercion.

          It is not a club of boys, that suggests that we only get together to shoot pool and talk about sports, and seems irreverent of the fraternity of service that is the priesthood. To realize our full potential as saviors on mount zion, men need the priesthood. Women are born with the ability to clothe the spirits of God in flesh and thus are, inherently, saviors on mount zion. This greatest calling is not fully realized until after marriage anyway, suggesting that men and women need to have complimentary roles to become one unit.

          The plain rhetoric that OW asserts that it has already decided that women need the priesthood and that the church needs to fall in line (FAQ page of the OW page, with some paraphrasing) denies that these are just simple, ponderous questions, flys in the face of the idea that the default assumption that it is not the case for woman to hold the priesthood. So yes, this article is a needed reminder to be faithful, to ask with a sincere heart, not a predetermined bias.

      • Adamo

        To be fair, the members were simply wrong about race and the priesthood. There was no doctrinal basis for the general attitude and revelation (IMO) was required not to grant priesthood to blacks but to change the attitude of members that followed the false traditions of their fathers. It could be that we have the same wrong attitude about women and the priesthood, though the doctrinal evidence at least in ritual practice at the very worst indicates that for ritual worship in ordinances gender proxy plays some role. But I suppose I could be wrong. I think the priesthood operates in two different spheres. One is the actual authority to be a proxy for Christ in a symbolic ritual. The other is be a type of Christ. The second is much more important and clearly doesn’t preclude women right now. We should seek to expand the role that and influence that women play in the second space, even if it is the case the gender is an important part of proxy component of ordinances.

        • Jonathan Kyle Harline

          I agree completely that we should seek to expand the role of women in priesthood service. But priesthood service and priesthood administration are different. It could be that we have the wrong attitude, but I doubt it. If it comes thru that yes we have had the wrong idea, OK, I have faith in the process of revelation. But as it stands, without further light and knowledge, the doctrine doesn’t add up.

  • GizmoGomez

    Way to go sister young. :)

    -Baxter

    • Margaret Blair Young

      Thanks, Bax.

  • hkobeal

    Two thoughts:
    1. This is not a protest. Anyone who characterizes it as such is seeking to dismiss or malign us.
    2. A wise and dear friend recently told me about a discussion she had with her college students wherein they read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”–penned by MLK, Jr. in 1963 (for full text: http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html).
    This snippet of the letter seems particularly apt here:
    “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
    It pains me to draw this comparison and to leave this message here.

    • lorie

      MLK’s letter has informed my activism, particularly as of late. It cuts to the core. I very much believe that King was right: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We refuse to tolerate discrimination in our secular lives. Why do we aquiesce to it, try to repackage it, or call for patience for it in our religious lives?

      In many ways, I am Ordain Women’s answer to the question, “Isn’t this call for women’s ordination precipitous?” For nearly 40 years, many of us have written and spoken about this issue and thought seriously about what constitutes appropriate religious, as opposed to political, action. My Mormonism has informed my activism. As Mormons we believe that we are radically free, moral agents, which, I believe, means we can choose either to perpetuate injustice and inequality by inaction, or we can work with God to bring about a more just and equitable world. I would love to do the latter in partnership with the leaders of the church. It is difficult to have patience, however, when you’ve seen little to no change and many young women walk away. Margaret, how many women must we loose before we’re invited to move beyond the red rope? Is there never a time when we simply must step over it?

      • Jonathan Kyle Harline

        But there is the issue. You call it discrimination, and others say it’s the order of God. It is OK to question whether or not it is the order of God, that is not what any intelligent and informed opponent of OW is saying. What is contended is the semantics of the words, the meaning of what’s at stake.

        What is it that OW seeks for? an activated priesthood role for women in the administrative purposes of the church. That is a thing that no man is supposed to seek for, so why would we tolerate it in anyone else? Let me be clearly understood: it is righteous for a man to seek to use his priesthood power to bless the lives of as many people as possible, and it is righteous for a woman to seek to use the same priesthood power to bless the lives of her family, her sisters in the faith, and her predecessors, and to seek more ability and authority to do so in new and expanding ways.

        But no man, and by extension no woman, is ever condoned for seeking power that they are not called to. No man is commended for seeking to be a bishop, stake president, or even sunday school president, or to be any administrative position in the church, so why should we be OK with women seeking these roles?

        OW rhetoric is at best contradictory. It talks about the high and lofty aims of seeking the priesthood to better serve in the church, but then explicitly states that it seeks administrative authority for women. It claims that they don’t seek power to coerce and control, but to serve and bless. But this is something they already do! It even asserts that women don’t have ritual authority through the priesthood, which they do.

        Of course, One may disagree with me semantically and rhetorically, and that’s your right, and this article simply, very clearly states that whatever the outcome is, lets not lose our heads, remember love and faith, and follow the loving and faithful example of those who came before.

        • Carey

          As you point out elsewhere in this exchange “when I use ‘you’ I mean it in the general sense, not the specific sense”

          I believe the same thing could be said of the OW movement – its not asking for the priesthood individually per se. Now, I realize that yes individually they do want it as well, but they are not going to their individual Bishop’s and demanding it instead they appear to be doing this as a collective speaking to the church at large.

          • Jonathan Kyle Harline

            Which they should be able to do without fear of being ostracized, they should be encouraged to feel like their opinions will be heard without judgment. That’s the part of this movement and past ones that I can get behind.

          • hkobeal

            I guess we’ll soon see whether we are encouraged to feel like our opinions will be heard . . .

  • Jessica Finnigan

    I don’t think OW is saying that women are better than men. I think they are trying to step off the pedestal. Equality demands no pedestals.

  • mofembot

    Margaret, with respect to “scrupulously avoiding confrontation” — the possibility of being able to directly meet with those in authority has greatly diminished since 1971. Add to this fact that church leaders at all levels have been counseled to “face the right way” (i.e., to communicate only top-down messages and never to present the views of the rank-and-file to their file leaders)… well. What avenues besides public discussions and actions are available to at least draw attention to these issues?

    • Jonathan Kyle Harline

      But there’s no record on OW.org or in the various news reports that the OW movement has even tried this avenue. So what now?

      • http://ittybittyurl.com/32dd Exponent II April

        Before any public action was taken, a letter was sent to general authorities requesting that they prayerfully consider the ordination of women. You can read the letter here: http://whatwomenknow.org/all_are_alike/

        • Jonathan Kyle Harline

          Thank you for posting that! That greatly enhances my scholarship of the issue, and is very informative. I just have to comment tho that it does nothing to improve my faith in this movement. Some of these motivations are admirable. Others seemed inspired by a complete lack of understanding…

  • Camadamastor

    “I did the only thing I could do—the right thing. I stepped over the rope.”

    I think this is great. And yet, OW isn’t even being this bold – they will not enter the meeting if faced with the velvet rope. So why are you trying to undermine their approach?

    • hkobeal

      Indeed. Frankly, the fact that so many people are acting like this event is “radical” and characterizing it as a “protest” is evidence of the crazy power differentials deeply embedded in Mormon culture/doctrine/hierarchy.

      We saw some people go apesh*t in December when a bunch of Mormon women decided to wear pants to church.

      So now women standing in a line, silently, is considered *transgressive*?

      And miles to go before I sleep.

      • Jonathan Kyle Harline

        I am honestly sure that no one will deny you access to priesthood meeting. I just hope that the other men in the line reat you with respect and not try to belittle you or fear you for trying to get in. That much I can say I find no inherent fault in.

        • UT_Skeeter

          I am honestly sure you were wrong about whether we would be denied access.

  • Adamo

    It’s clear that, and now canon that there was no doctrinal basis for restricting the priesthood based on race. Is the same true of women. I’m going to narrowly define the scope of this as women standing as proxy for Jesus in ordinances.

    All priesthood actions are proxy actions. In proxy ordinances for the dead, do we have examples of men standing proxy for women or vice versa? Is it possible that the proxy function of the priesthood in ordinances is reserved for men simply because they are standing as proxies for Christ in a specific ritual. Whereas the broader more spiritual aspects of the priesthood are a joint function among the sexes to represent the marriage of Christ to His church? When women stand in proxy in temple, (at least as I’ve observed) they’ve stood in proxy for other women. Men stand in for various men, not just Jesus.

    So I guess my clarifying question is does expansion of the priesthood mean expansion of the the parts we play in proxy? Or is it an expanded role in leadership?

    • lorie

      This is one of the major reasons the Catholic leadership gives for denying women ordination. Women, they say, cannot image Christ. Most Catholics and Mormons I know find this notion galling. Christ is the spiritual model for both men and women. We are all invited to be like Him–to image Him, if you will. Those who insist on gendering priesthood fail to grasp the expansiveness and equity that are foundational to Christ’s teachings and, I would assert, to the best of Mormonism.

      • Adamo

        Honestly I really don’t disagree with you. I’m only asking the question of whether or not their is ritual importance–just for the ordinances to have the participants be gender proxies because ordinances are kind of like plays. Men don’t and can’t represent Eve, for example. I wonder if the women don’t represent a divine woman while performing certain rituals. I think gender is important. I’d like to see an expanded role for women in leadership, and certainly they are types of Christ. I’m asking a doctrinal question that I don’t know the answer to: Is gender an important part of ritual ordinance? I don’t think there is any doctrinal evidence to indicate that gender is important to spiritual development and leadership. But there is some evidence (weak though it may be) that indicates it has a role in ritual Women stand in proxy for women and men for men. Men don’t (and I assume can’t?) stand in for women. Is observing the ritual as a symbol to teach us something diminish the actual divine and spiritual potential of men or women? Does an expanded leadership role for women require that any gender can stand in proxy for any person man or woman in ritual?

    • dankrist

      In order to fulfill his role as Savior of the world, Jesus had to experience the full breadth and measure of human experience. Through his atoning work, he necessarily transcended sex and gender. What’s more, he explicitly calls all of us to do the same as there is no male or female, black or white in his kingdom, only radical equality and love between us all. I imagine we should try a little harder to invest his image and example into the work of his holy priesthood.

      • Jonathan Kyle Harline

        but sex and gender are still a eternal and divine aspect of our eternal personalities, so inherently they are eternal differences.

  • Jonathan Kyle Harline

    Just a thought: Even if woman are to be ordained to the priesthood, it will be a different priesthood, it won’t be equal. I say this because it’s inherent in the titles of the offices of the priesthood: the female analog of a priest is a priestess, and I don’t even know what it would be for and Elder. Point is, a woman would never be ordained as a high priest, she would be a high priestess, and if that’s to happen, it would be an entirely new role and we don’t know what that looks like. So while we’re praying for a divinely inspired outcome in this question, we shouldn’t presuppose what it all will look like or what it all will mean.

    • hkobeal

      Indeed. And I have yet to hear anyone from Ordain Women presuppose anything–unless we’re talking about presupposing that our heavenly parents did not mean for us to set up an unequal, patriarchal church structure.

      So yeah, I presuppose that.

      • Jonathan Kyle Harline

        And there is the disagreement: the church structure is not unequal. It is different, but it is not unequal. Fact.

        • hkobeal

          “Fact”?

          Umm, okay . . .

        • Straubhr

          I’m curious to hear your definition of the word “fact.”

          • Jonathan Kyle Harline

            I assure you its the same as yours. The position of men and women in the church, different as they are, are still just positions, as in justly assigned to the genders. That’s something plainly taught in the scriptures and the temple. Do we have the fullness of those roles? Probably not, but that’s the question we should be asking, not to change temple ceremonies, reject portions of revelations, and presupposing that women need to be ordained, rather than asking in faith and love what the next step is.

            And taking a look at the FAQ and the letter they sent the first presidency, they presuppose a lot, and not a few of which things fly in the face of revelations received and doctrine preached.

  • rockyrd

    Great article Margaret. You have a wonderful perspective. For the hundreds of LDS women I know, I do not know one who wants to hold the priesthood or who would try to attend a meeting they weren’t invited to. I can’t see myself showing up for the General Relief Society meeting. I have great sympathy for women’s issues, but to try to force or hurry a change like this is not a good approach. That’s not how change will happen in our Church. I notice as I study church history and the scriptures that the fullness of the gospel is revealed “here a little and there a little.” The day will come when we understand what the fullness of the gospel means as related to all things including women’s roles. Whether that includes holding the priesthood or not, no one knows, but it will be even more grand and glorious than it is now. It reminds me of a time a new stake president was to be chosen in a particular stake. One brother being interviewed told the presiding general authority, “I am to be the new stake president.” He did not receive that calling. That good brother went on to sustain and support the new stake president. Good things happen, if they happen, in the Lord’s time, not our own. Although many who read this will disagree with me and Sister Young, I wish all of them well and pray for the Lord’s choicest blessing to be upon each of us as we all strive to be better than we are.

    • http://ittybittyurl.com/32dd Exponent II April

      You presume to know a lot about the private feelings and hearts of “the hundreds of women you know.”

  • Lindsay P

    Margaret, I’ve been sitting on this comment for some time because I
    respect you tremendously and I wasn’t sure how to take the sting out of
    my words. It is very hard to mask
    my complete disappointment with this post. It feels rooted in shaming
    women and dismissive of their choices and experiences that vary from
    yours. It is incredibly ironic that you use your credibility and your
    work with black Americans as a white woman to build a platform to look
    down at the Ordain Women movement. You yourself are a woman of
    privilege in the church, more than most with your academic and
    leadership ties. Your instructions and suggestions to others border on
    elitism in a sense you seem blind to. I urge you to not trample other
    women under your feet while you continue on your path. There are other
    ways to disagree while not throwing some of your Sisters who are in pain
    under the bus. Love is manifested in multiple ways some of us believe we are standing with our Sisters in the gospel in love, the way the Savior would do. This is not an act of coercion for me but of solidarity and sisterhood and mourning with those who have long been mourning over not having a voice or an avenue to make that voice heard.

    • Jonathan Kyle Harline

      Some times the truth hurts even those who are still in pain. I cannot find in her entire article that does anything like shame women or throw them under the bus as you say. Her remarks are even handed, and do not seek to be a definitive statement on the issue.

  • Camadamastor

    To use your own words (from another post) against you: “Well, Ma’am, your intentions don’t cover your insensitivity, do they.”

    • Jonathan Kyle Harline

      Don’t confuse candidness with insensitivity.

      • Camadamastor

        Don’t assume candor and insensitivity are mutually exclusive.

        • Jonathan Kyle Harline

          I won’t, if you don’t forget that candor and insensitivity can be separate.

  • http://marketing.trucounsel.com/ Greg Hamblin

    I have two thoughts.

    First: Thank you for leaving behind the obsessiveness of those on the FMH blog. Unlike them, you have made a positive contribution and approached the question from a standpoint of faith. Bravo.

    Second: I have often wondered if women do hold the priesthood, but are not ordained to an office in it.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      Yes, we do.

      • Adamo

        I’d say it’s pretty clear. I also think that ordination is separate issue from standing as proxy in ordinances. I think ordination is inevitable (I’m thinking of a certain promise made to women in the temple). I’d be curious to know if you think that gender is important in proxy. Should women stand in for deceased women, for Eve, for other important women (perhaps divine) unnamed. And in the same right the men play the parts of other men and stand in proxy for deceased men and for Christ.

      • http://ittybittyurl.com/32dd Exponent II April

        Priesthood without authority is dead just as faith without works is dead. Because male priesthood holders have this authority, they are authorized to participate in many sacred experiences such as performing ordinances, holding callings that are only open to priesthood holders, and being called upon to perform priesthood blessings. These sacred experiences lead to personal growth and help the priesthood holder become closer to God over time. These are the kinds of experiences that I think would benefit me and other women like me.

        • Straubhr

          This gets at a crucial double standard that comes up often in discussions of female ordination.

          Men in the LDS church commonly discuss, publicly celebrate and unashamedly enjoy the opportunities they have to participate in priesthood service for their families and fellow church members. This is seen as not only acceptable, but encouraged–it’s a form of testimony bearing. Yet women who express similar yearnings are seen as power hungry. Why? Why are yearnings to serve and bless others less holy when felt by women?

          • Jonathan Kyle Harline

            I support an expanded and active role for women in blessing children and people, like what happened in the early days of the church, but no man or boy is encouraged to seek administrative authority, so why should we idly stand by and approve of women doing it?

    • hkobeal

      Frankly, the notion that women have the priesthood, but simply cannot use it because we don’t have an office through which to exercise it is so ridiculous, I cannot even countenance it.

      What good is any kind of power if you can’t exercise it? Or if no one recognizes it?

      • Jonathan Kyle Harline

        So much the worse for your eyesight or perspective if you think you cannot exercise it. You do have offices, and you do have the ability to bless and serve. You do use it, personally and thru male priesthood holders, but if you haven’t realized that, I’m sorry.

        • hkobeal

          1. I do not use it. There is no official mechanism in the church governance structure (save the temple) in which I am allowed to use said imaginary priesthood.
          2. All I need to do it “realize” that I can “exercise” the priesthood “thru male priesthood holders”? Umm, thank you for pointing out the entire problem. One of the most beautiful founding ideas of the Mormon church is the notion that we can have direct access to God; we don’t need intermediaries.

          I love that idea. And I embrace it wholeheartedly. I don’t need to exercise the priesthood *thru* someone else. That’s not the same as having it and exercising it myself.

      • Margaret Blair Young

        Do you not exercise it, HKBeal? I do in many way. Even in my prayers. What good is power if you can’t exercise it? Syria is providing some good illustrations. Yes, we have the power. Should we exercise restraint, or should we unleash the missiles of our strength? There are much smaller examples, of course, but that one is current.

        • hkobeal

          Umm, no, I do not exercise any sort of priesthood anywhere except perhaps the temple.

          I’m quite sure that if I were to start exercising the imagine priesthood that I have by, say, giving priesthood blessings to my children/husband or offering to bless the sacrament, I would be disfellowshipped or excommunicated.

          This whole notion that I have the priesthood, but am just too confused/misguided to realize it is completely and totally baffling to me.

          I might as well say I have veto power in congress–yet another office/power I truly do not have. ???

        • Straubhr

          I do not see how the potential for abuse of power (i.e. the current potential conflict in Syria) discredits valid questions regarding equal access to the use and exercise of power.

  • Arn

    Lester Bush was my father’s roommate at UVA and introduced the gospel to him.

  • Heatherly

    I read your blog post about the priesthood and women. I do not feel like I am lesser or missing out
    on something. Perhaps it is because I feel I have equal access to use the
    priesthood. The temple has taught me many things. As I have served there as a
    worker for over 3 years. Much of what I have learned is too sacred to share. I
    think that if more people diligently and faithfully attended the temple and
    opened themselves to learning, a lot of things would make more sense. I feel equal. I know my responsibilities are
    not the same. I do not have all the same callings that men have. I will never
    get to be a bishop, but I do not want to be. Besides, I feel like women do a
    lot of the same things a bishop does in helping and serving others. How many
    times have friends come to me with their worries or concerns? How many times
    have they cried with me as they share their darkest secrets and anguish? Have I
    not been able to comfort them through the power of the Holy Ghost, to bear
    testimony of truth or encourage them to talk to a bishop? I look at the
    priesthood as something I use all the time, through callings and other responsibilities.
    I have had so many amazing experiences, as a missionary, as a temple worker and
    in my callings.

    I do believe I hold the priesthood with my husband; we have
    to work together for it to work in our lives. Men cannot really fully use the
    priesthood without us. I feel like we are a whole together. If I was exactly
    the same as he was and did all the exact same things, how would we complement
    each other? Would we really need each other then?

    The temple teaches me so much. Each of us has different responsibilities
    there as we serve those who come. I have
    never felt more equal and a partner with my husband than when we serve at the
    temple. It is a beautiful work and reminds me of what will someday be. Perhaps
    at the moment things are limited–women may not fully participate in the
    priesthood as we will one day–but I feel there are reasons for that.

    One thing I do feel is that we will never be exactly the
    same as men. I feel like that would undermine the plan of God. We each have
    different–yet equal—responsibilities. We will work together to support each
    other in the eternities. I am not sure what it will be like there, but I feel
    it will be more like the temple. To me, the temple is the closest example of
    how things are meant to be.

    I am way too busy working on growing and drawing closer to
    the Lord with my husband to spend time wondering when I will get to use the
    priesthood more or if will have more responsibilities in it. I do not want to be a man. I am a woman and I
    like who I am.

    I personally feel like it is a matter of timing, and when we
    are less wicked as a people, more will be revealed. There are so many nations without the gospel
    and wars abound. That which is sacred is
    trampled underfoot. I do not see how the Lord would reveal more to us or give
    us more until we prove we are worthy to receive it. There are books not yet
    revealed and many truths. For now, I
    feel we as a people and even as a church live a lesser law. Though we have more
    than the children of Israel (who through their wickedness were given but a
    portion), we still do not have all.

    I am not the best at expressing all that I feel, but I try. I do not know all things. I can only share
    what I personally have learned or feel.
    Many likely disagree with what I feel or believe, yet I feel at peace. I
    feel the abiding love of my Savoir and I rejoice in the opportunity to help
    build his kingdom here on earth.

  • beezers

    So, we should start ordaining women to the priesthood and… what? Start praying to Heavenly Mother, too? I’m sensitive to the desire some women have to be ordained to the priesthood (and their belief that this is equality), but they don’t fully understand the gospel or the role gender plays in the eternities. I suppose when these women are exalted beings creating worlds they will command their children to pray directly to them, huh? Perhaps their messiahs will be women.
    For some reason, it isn’t enough to explain to these women that they do hold the priesthood, that its function is different than that which is given to men, and that those differences are of equal importance to the plan of salvation. I’m sorry this can’t be said any kinder, but Satan has deceived those in the OW campaign, and they are instruments in his hands destroying the faith of many others.

    • Straubhr

      You bring up possibilities, like praying to Mother in Heaven or the idea of a female messiah, as if they were so ridiculous as to discredit themselves. Why? What’s so crazy about those ideas?

      • beezers

        It isn’t crazy to you… and that’s why I can’t possibly explain it to you. You’ve been so deceived by this view of “gender equality” that denies the truth that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” If it is true that our identity and purpose is determined and guided by our gender, then men and women clearly have different identities and purposes. What do you suppose those identities and purposes are?

  • ClintonKing

    The thing that women have, isn’t it called “priestess-hood”?

  • http://ittybittyurl.com/32dd Exponent II April

    I appreciate this post. It is a reminder that priesthood restrictions can be and have been lifted and that gives me great hope. I greatly admire Ruffin Bridgeforth, Darius Gray, and Eugene Orr. I also admire people Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, who worked toward equality in a manner that was more public. I think it would be hard to deny that the public work of civil rights leaders like King and Parks paved the way for the success of the private negotiations of Bridgforth, Gray and Orr.

    As an advocate for women’s ordination, here are my take-aways from your numbered list:

    1. Meet directly with church leaders. I think that would be delightful. Please let me you if you know any willing to meet with us, besides my own local leaders (whom I have already spoken with). Also, avoid publicity. I am less sure about this one. General Authorities speak to us publicly through speeches and the LDS newsroom, and so it seems logical to continue this discourse on the public forum.

    2. Educate about history. If you visit Ordain Women, or the website I contribute to, Exponent II, you will find extensive resources about women in church history that demonstrate, as you point our in your post, that women have lost “privileges they once had.”

    3. Utilize your connections with high ranking church members. I think that would be great, but I have no such connections.

    4. Love, not coercion. The Ordain Women action planned for Priesthood Session is not coercive. It is a way for women to demonstrate our desire for ordination by presenting ourselves before church leaders as prospective elders. We have scrupulously planned to avoid any disruption of worship. If admitted, we will reverently attend the session, if barred, we will peacefully leave. We are writing to church leaders about our plan to attend and requesting tickets, not surprising them with some sort of protest.

  • Tresa Edmunds

    We founded LDS WAVE three years ago with the Genesis Group as our model. We scrupulously avoided confrontation, reached out to leaders, and have gotten no response. We’ve done some great work with local leaders wanting to improve things in their congregation, but nothing with Salt Lake.

    Occasionally we’ll hear from someone who has a meeting with a GA on another issue and wants to be armed with information about the MoFem movement. I am always happy to help someone prepare, but in my head there is always a voice saying, “If someone wants to know what the Mormon Feminists think, why aren’t they asking the Mormon Feminists?”

    Since WAVE’s founding I personally have been beating every bush available to me to meet with any and everyone in leadership positions. I’ve called in every favor I can, gone through avenues both public and private, secular and religious, popular and familial, and I cannot get a meeting with anyone above the level of Stake President. You know how many picnics of mine have been attended by General Authorities? Zero. My child remains unkissed.

    In case anyone in a position of authority happens to see this comment, I will meet whenever and wherever it is convenient. I’ve been waiting to hear from you. You can reach me at media at ldswave dot com.

  • lindasdf

    I sometimes think that women don’t realize what power they have, or how to use it. It reminds me of Brigham Young and his many wives. He refused to keep them “barefoot and pregnant” as so many want to believe. He sent one, and maybe as many as three, of his wives (depending on who’s history you believe), back east to medical school, hoping to bring back a physcian. The one we know of (I forget her name off the top of my head) didn’t make it all the way, but sounds like she came back as the equivalent of a Physician’s Assistant. He also encouraged his wives to go into business for themselves, and to become teachers. Several of his wives lived under one roof, and at one point, he had 10, count ‘em, TEN teenaged daughters living under one roof. Science has shown that when more than one adult women live together, their cycles follow the “alpha female”. Now, can you imagine all those women, together, all on the same cycle? It makes me respect Brigham Young all that much more, to be so brave as to be able to live in those circumstances!
    One of my very favorite passages of scripture is D&C 121:41-45. I believe that if everyone, especially all priesthood holders, would take this passage to heart, there would not be the need for women to be wanting the priesthood.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X