Latter-day Jane

A happy diversion of life, love and sisterly advice for Jane Austen fans everywhere. [There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart. -Jane Austen]

Ordain Women: A Great Divorce

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{My final thoughts on Ordain Women, for my LDS brothers and sisters.}


Bright, beautiful flowers, a vibrant green shade tree, and well-groomed shrubbery, all nestled into a carpet of chocolate-colored mulch: this is what I see from the front window of my home — a living painting, composed of nature’s expert brush strokes. It’s one of the things I love best about where I live. It’s not like the farm-girl version of Jane Austen’s Pemberley, where I spent my childhood, but it’s beautiful all the same. When I sit on my porch and look at the green branches swaying gently in front of me and the flowers reaching sunward, I feel at peace in my little corner of the world.

This peace has been threatened.

There’s a vine growing up through the soil and amongst the foliage. I first took notice last spring when it seemed only to populate a decorative outcropping of rocks, nearly covering the formation. It was pretty in its own way, occasionally producing a small white flower between its twisting ropes. But as spring turned into summer, the vine suddenly appeared everywhere, advancing on the flowers, the bushes, the cone-shaped topiary, even the trees. I saw it traveling up stems, through the middle of plants, and around trunks and branches. Discouraged by the onslaught, I pulled away the most insidious growth, stuffing the winding green ropes into garbage bags. They left an unpleasant smell on my hands, along with a light stain that required scrubbing. For awhile, it seemed the vine had been tamed, but every couple of weeks, it would announce its presence again. Underneath it all, a hardy root system remained.

This year, as the first signs of spring were made manifest, a hundred little vine shoots popped out of the soil, ready to begin their quest for domination anew. I’ve spent a lot of time ignoring them, but as I know from experience, they must be addressed before they take over the entire landscape.

“I’m afraid we’re going to come back home one day and find we no longer have a home,” my husband laughed. “One day, the vine is going to wrap itself around the house and pull it straight into the ground.” I chuckled as he described the potential takeover, but for good measure, I started to pull at some of the twisted mess — just in case.

When Ordain Women (OW) first launched a little more than a year ago, I was quietly curious. I didn’t feel that it threatened the landscape. It added another shade of green to the picture and seemed content to grow on the proverbial outcropping of rocks until invited further. This is simply about asking questions, it seemed to assure those looking out at the scenery. It’s a request for prayerful consideration of something essential to our survival.

But somehow, without invitation, those original rocks have been all but abandoned, as the vine has spread, wrapping around every stem and branch within reach.

Although I thought it relatively harmless at the onset, Ordain Women has evolved into something far more detrimental to the landscape I love.

From the literature they make freely available:

  • “Ordain Women believes women must be ordained…” (OW Mission Statement)
  • “We are committed to work for…the ordination of Mormon women…” (OW Mission Statement)
  • “…we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need…” (OW Mission Statement)
  • “Ordain Women is committed to creating a public space to advocate…” (OW FAQ)
  • “We welcome all who support our initiatives and public actions…” (OW FAQ)
  • “We call for the ordination of women and their full integration into the governance…” (OW FAQ)
  • “…The Church’s Proclamation on the Family…preserve[s] an antiquated and unequal model…” (OW FAQ)
  • “We refuse to tolerate inequity…” (OW FAQ)
  • “…priesthood must be re-envisioned as a power that transcends gender…” (OW FAQ)

In several sections, I find the following tucked away, almost as an afterthought: “We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.”

I see claims and demands: we believe, [you] must, we intend, we assert, we call for, we refuse. I see colorfully-designed marketing materials, discussions, and guidelines. I see notices for public forums, web discussions, protests, and vigils, along with suggestions about where and how these might be best carried out in the public eye. I see the promotion of new followers’ testimonials. I see videos, press releases, and an endless array of statements and counter-statements. I see the clamoring for media attention and interviews.

What I don’t see is “just asking questions” in the spirit of sincerity and respect.

On June 28, 2014, The First Presidency and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a statement, addressing the priesthood, members’ desires to ask questions about church practice and doctrine, and apostasy. In part, it reads:

“Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.”

The questions are not the problem.

The asking of the questions is not the problem.

The possible answers to those questions are not the problem.

The problem is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders.

I don’t have an answer to the question about priesthood ordination for women, nor do I personally feel compelled to seek one. I don’t know if it will be extended to women soon, or years from now, or after this life, or at all. I do, however, firmly believe that, “…the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women…” as stated by The First Presidency. I also trust that my Father in Heaven has a plan in all things. Further, I trust in and sustain our living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, who is the designated steward to watch over and guide Heavenly Father’s children here on earth.

Whatever the original intent its founders might have had, Ordain Women, as a movement, has taken on a life of its own. It has become as invasive, persistent and determined as the vine in the landscaping around my home.

Though their actions and beliefs may be different than mine, I hold no contempt for those who are choosing to take part in the movement. I still firmly believe that they are our sisters and brothers.

I do, however, grieve. I grieve for the course that has been chosen. For those who are suffering. For those whose minds burn with questions. For those whose hearts ache with confusion.

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis wrote,

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.”

It is my intent to be the first kind of person.

Which will you be?

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Author: latterdayjane

www.latterdayjane.com

12 thoughts on “Ordain Women: A Great Divorce

  1. You are an amazing writer! Loved this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Kate Kelly is our sister | Latter-day Jane

  3. Your point is well stated. So asking difficult questions shouldn’t lead to excommunication. And this policy is backed up by statements from many past and current church leaders from Joseph Smith, to Hugh B. Brown, to Dieter F. Uchtdorf. The church says that questions are welcome and encouraged, but how well is that principle actually being followed? In the majority of cases I’m familiar with, people with difficult questions are sadly treated with judgment, fear, and rejection, and their questions dismissed as unimportant, irrelevant, dangerous, or evil by both leaders and members. Instead of being welcomed, loved, and having their questions answered directly, they’re encouraged to avoid asking those types of questions, and sometimes told that doing so is a bad thing. Many find a safe haven at places like mormonstories.org, where difficult questions are explored without judgment, but with John Dehlin’s recent notice of possible excommunication, it’s unclear how much the church actually does welcome questions that aren’t easily answered by the correlation department. How do we solve this problem in the church so that everyone feels welcome, and members no longer feel threatened to explore all sides of an issue, or fear the judgment of others if they express a doubt about a certain teaching? When will all truly be welcome regardless of the strength of their testimony?

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    • @Brandon, It seems like members who have serious questions need to take another look at the letter published by Kate Kelly to distinguish what moves people with questions to those flirting with apostasy and excommunication. There isn’t any danger in having or discussing gospel questions. There isn’t even a problem having opinions about gospel principles outside of what has been revealed. The issue for both Kelly and Dehlin was taking their opinions that were outside of church doctrine and teaching them as revealed truth. Add to this proselytizing for their cause, organizing media demonstrations, and lobbying the church leadership. It seems to me that questioning isn’t the problem, but what member activists are doing after their questions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can see that for Kelly’s case, where she’s created discusses and led demonstrations, etc. But with John Dehlin, I don’t see where he’s campaigning for change or teaching false doctrines as truth. He’s just asking questions and interviewing people. He does share his feelings, but not as truth or doctrine, or to gain followers or start a movement. Are we not all entitled to have opinions and share them publicly, as long as we allow others to have their own and share them as well? Because of John’s sites like mormonstories.org and staylds.com, thousands of members who otherwise would have left the church, have been able to reconcile their faith and stay. It is for these members that I worry, who may no longer feel like they have a home in the church if John is excommunicated. If questions were truly allowed, then John would not have been asked to take down his website.

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    • Hello,
      I can understand where many people are questioning the issue regarding John Dehlin. His case has definitely not been as public as that of Kate Kelly’s. One of these less publicized things is the letter from John’s stake president to him requesting the meeting. You can search for it online under “stake president letter to John Dehlin.” In that PDF, it is explained that brother Dehlin has stated that he no longer believes many of the fundamental truths underlying the religion, that he has asked for his name to be removed from home and visiting teaching roles, and that he has asked for his home ward to cease contact with him. That’s a little more than just asking questions and having open public discussions.

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  4. @ Brandon Pearce
    It has been my experience in the church that we are all welcome regardless of the strength of our testimonies. I have been a mild feminist over the years, laugh with my sisters about how a still crowded, brand new stake center (an “only in Utah” problem, right?) “must have been planned by a man” and how we (women) would do more than a few things differently if we were in charge. All these statements, while sincere are presented in jest. I do not now or ever wanted the Priesthood. I never saw that as a solution to any of these problems. Men have the priesthood to keep them close to God, and compared to many other men in the world, righteous LDS priesthood holders are still the cream of the crop, regardless of their “poor” planning! 😉 I have asked hard questions, and those answers may not always come during temple recommend interviews, but most assuredly always come from General Conference.

    Jane – the weed sounds like morning glory (very clever comparison, BTW). As you have found, about the only remedy is to keep pulling it out whenever it rears its ugly little head, and be sure to never let it go to seed and drop them! I read once that if you gather it in a clump and soak the leaves and vine in a jar of round-up for a day, then move on to another clump and repeat, especially in the fall as it is dying back, it will suck the poison in and you’ll have some relief. If you diligently persist with the roundup, you may be lucky to annihilate it for good. Good Luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I don’t know why women would want the Priesthood either. 🙂 And I’m glad you’ve had the experience of feeling like your questions are welcome. Unfortunately, in my experience (and in the dozens of cases of others I’ve met and read), this is not the norm. Here’s one person who wrote about his experience in this regard, and I feel for him: http://seekinggoodness.com/2014/06/24/the-evolution-of-welcoming-questioners/

      When questions (whether about doctrine, history, policy, or whatever) are disregarded, or brushed off as unimportant or dangerous to ask, instead of being answered directly and honestly, the effect is that it often leads the questioner to feeling belittled, and many of these members end up leaving the church. If we don’t have answers, then let’s admit it. If we do, then let the church make official publications explaining them instead of leaving it to 3rd parties like John Dehlin and FAIR, and then excommunicating those who’s explanations we don’t like.

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  5. Jane, thank you for writing so beautifully on this subject. I, like you, have seen that the ‘fruits’ of this effort are far different than simply having questions. I love your CS Lewis quote, too. Very apropos.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “The Church is like a great caravan—organized, prepared, following an appointed course, with its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in place.

    What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travellers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.

    Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.

    Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.

    Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan moves on! [Bruce R. McConkie, “The Caravan Moves On,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, p. 85]

    Like

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