Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Two Penn'orth on the Ordination of Women

by Anna Jones Buttimore

Much has been said over the last few months about Kate Kelly and her Ordain Women movement. For good or bad, everyone has had an opinion, and mostly those opinions have differed wildly. About the only thing everyone agrees on is that it hasn't been good for the church. That makes me very sad.

Thousands of miles away from the epicentre, however, the effects have barely been felt out here in the UK. Many members of my ward are completely unaware that anything has happened. The newspapers, by and large, haven't reported on it, and it's only those of us with American Facebook friends who have any idea of the controversy that rages so far from home. Being so far distanced gives me, I think, some perspective, so I'm finally going to weigh in, and thereafter hold my peace.

Another thing which gives me perspective on this issue is that prior to joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I was a member of the Anglican (episcopalian, I think) church. In fact, my (now ex) husband was a Vicar, a paid minister of that church, albeit briefly. The movement for the ordination of women was in full flow during that time, and I was involved in it.

I was firmly in favour of women's ordination in the Church of England. 

Fast forward twenty years, and as a Temple recommend holding convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I find myself learning of a similar movement within my new church family.

I am firmly against women's ordination in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Why the difference? Why am I no longer in favour of something I once fought for? ("Has the Mormon brainwashing really been that good?" Puh-lease!)

In the Anglican church, being a Priest (either as a vicar, rector, curate or any in other office) is a job. They are paid for their service, and they do everything. In the parish where my husband was Priest-in-Charge he conducted every service, preached every sermon, organised every activity, oversaw every house group, class and organisation, did every home, prison and hospital visit, and made every decision. It was a full-time job, and he was well paid for doing it, including being provided with a large house and generous expenses to run his car. This all varies from parish to parish, and many priests will have the assistance of curates and licensed lay people, but unlike in the LDS church it is a career choice, albeit one which should be accompanied by a sense of vocation and calling.

The reason the Anglican church hierarchy gave for not ordaining women to the priesthood was,essentially, tradition. For two-thousand years, starting with the twelve disciples, all priests had been men, and they didn't want to change the status quo. But I felt that times had changed since the first century. Women are no longer chattels with no legal status, no voice and no rights. Jesus himself respected women far more than the men of his time did, and it was time to honour that respect because of course women can do the job just as well as men, and of course they should not be barred from this career choice simply due to gender. I felt that the "tradition" argument really didn't hold up very well.

In the LDS church it's different. Everyone serves, and no one is paid. The Bishop may have overall responsibility for the ward, but others preach, visit, make decisions, organise and care. The workload is fairly shared between all, men and women. The Priesthood is not a job in the church, it is a responsibility, and a frequently onerous one at that. And the LDS church is not using the "tradition" argument.

The argument the LDS church is using against ordaining women is that God has not told us to. We are a church led by a prophet who has authority to receive revelation for the whole church, indeed the whole world. When God wants women to be ordained He will tell His prophet. What God has told us, in fact, is that women have many other areas of responsibility which are equally as important.

I think that's a pretty darn good argument. It certainly beats "tradition".

My husband has been a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since he was 18. He served an honourable mission to Russia. In all that time he has never served on a Bishopric. The last time a new counsellor was called to our Bishopric and it still wasn't him I whispered to him, "Do you feel overlooked, or do you feel you dodged a bullet?" He replied, "Yes".

What should he do? Should he go to the Bishop and demand to know why he wasn't chosen after twenty five years of faithful service in all his other callings? Of course not, because the decision isn't up to the Bishop. God calls whom He calls and, for whatever reason, He didn't feel Roderic was the right person to be on a Bishopric, yet. Were my dear husband to truly feel snubbed (he doesn't) the right course of action would be to gently and privately enquire whether the Bishop might consider putting his name before God next time there is a need to call someone new to the Bishopric, but he should then abide by the answer. If he sustains the Bishop as God's chosen servant, and believes that this is Jesus Christ's church (which he does), then he will accept whatever answer is given, even if it means he is once again passed over for this dubious honour.

That's what Kate Kelly should have done. She should have used the appropriate channels to privately ask the Prophet whether he might enquire as to whether the time has come for women to be ordained to the priesthood. There is precedent for this (although remember that we got the Word of Wisdom this way, so be careful what you ask for!) If she sustained the Prophet then she should have accepted whatever answer was given.

What she should not have done is to organise a protest group, march on Temple Square, ridicule and oppose God's chosen servants, waive confidentiality so that she could rope the media into her smear campaign against the Lord's church, and effectively start her own offshoot of the church.

I have never felt undervalued as a woman in the church. Quite the opposite. My callings have including Primary President, Young Women President, Adult Sunday School teacher, Public Affairs Rep and now Seminary teacher. Those are big, influential responsibilities with a great deal of authority and autonomy. I have always felt encouraged to contribute my ideas, questions, thoughts and talents, and I have never felt it unfair that I couldn't have more responsibility in the form of the Priesthood.


  1. Loved reading your post, Anna! (I actually snuck a peek of it in draft form before you posted because I was so curious, and I couldn’t wait to read the whole thing.) You make some very good points from a unique perspective.

    I was at a meeting last night for Public Affairs Councils of the church, for all of the stakes in our mission. It was held in the High Council room and as I looked around I counted 7 women in attendance, 6 men. While a stake president present presided (that’s a tongue twister), a woman ran the meeting and all voices were heard equally. I was reminded once again of how much respect women have in the church, and when both the stake president and the mission president had to leave to attend another meeting before certain matters were decided, they essentially said that they trusted our decisions and felt that we had everything under control. These were not small decisions that were being made- they had to do with how the church was being portrayed in the media and about local efforts to use media exposure as a missionary tool. I did not feel micromanaged in the least- they had complete trust in and confidence in us, and even seemed to think in some cases that we would do a better job of the tasks at hand than they would.

    It does sadden me that the discontent of a very slight minority has gotten such a disproportionate amount of attention. The squeaky wheel, I guess...

  2. This is very well said, and I agree completely, Anna. No one should ever feel like wondering and sincerely asking are a no-no, because they're not! (And no one should make someone feel like they are.). But once the answer is given, it's time to move on and pray to be able to, if that's what it takes. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. I think essentially the LDS reasoning is tradition too. Kate Kelly was denied an opportunity to ask her question in private, that is why she started OW.

    There has still been no clear answer that the Prophet has even asked the question about female ordination, only repetition of what is the current position.

    We all know that in order to receive revelation from the spirit that we need to think about it seriously ourselves and then it be confirmed through a feeling. That is the same for the Prophet, if the idea is dismissed before even asking God, because of tradition/ideas of the past, then the revelation will never come.

    Also, General Authorities are paid for their services and the higher up the church you go the more men there are.

    There are examples of great wards and stakes where those who preside allow women to serve and have a voice, but there are also others where that doesn't happen.. It's always up to the Priesthood holder (man) to decide.

  4. Thank you for this post Anna. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I read so many Mormon feminist blogs and I feel that they misinterpret people's intentions. We need to rely on revelation from God through the prophet, and ask God ourselves for confirmation.

    I've been talking with my husband, and we decided that priesthood equates to service. It is the responsibility of humble men to serve others. Men who abuse their priesthood will pay for that sin. And we women serve also.



Related Posts with Thumbnails