Questions and Answers (about Mormon Women and Priesthood, or…)
This week here at Mormon Women, we’ve been exploring some of the concepts surrounding the doctrine of the priesthood – priesthood keys, authority, and power. We’ve shared a little about the Church organization and the purpose of the restoration of keys and authority to and through the prophet Joseph Smith and how those keys and authority are operative today. We’ve shared what I believe to be insightful reflections from the Relief Society training on the reality of priesthood power and the blessings of priesthood that are available to all of God’s children through receiving the ordinances of the gospel and by keeping gospel covenants in faith.
I’ve also shared some personal insights about asking questions in faith…about the divine process of asking, seeking, and knocking (see Matthew 7:7-8).
I hadn’t planned on sharing content on these topics a week ago, but now it seems as though these two concepts deserve some shared, colliding space. That is the purpose of today’s post.
First I want to say that I do plan to share more links and posts about priesthood here over the coming weeks. It’s a topic that is both simple and yet also layered and deep and rich. It’s a topic that our Church leaders clearly want Church members to understand more (e.g., see the Worldwide Leadership Training or Elder M. Russell Ballard’s recent Conference talk). It’s a topic I’ve spent a good portion of my life studying and seeking to understand, and the more I study and ponder it, the more I cherish the doctrine.
And yet, I understand that priesthood in the context of Mormonism is also a topic that makes some people uncomfortable. It raises questions. (Some see that as a bad thing. I believe it can be a good thing. It is okay to have questions!) Because only men hold priesthood office in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on the face of it, the topic of priesthood in Mormonism doesn’t necessarily match the world’s definition of “gender equality.” Equality in cultural, social, and political terms tends to focus on limited opportunities within organizational structures and equality in other more mortally- (by mortals) measurable ways.
Some even within our church insist that the Church is wrong to not ordain women. It is probably clear from the tone and content of this site that I (and those who sponsor this site) do not share this point of view. Future posts may explore more of my personal feelings on this topic, but for now, I want to say that I do understand and sympathize with the pain people may feel about topics related to gender. And while I disagree with translating personal questions and struggles into public activism to try to change the Church, I respect that personal, sacred process of asking questions. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that the questions exist. (As a side note, I think our leaders have made it clear that they know they do. People may not always like the answers they give, but I do believe they know the questions are there.)
I also want to say that our intent here at Mormon Women is not to ignore or mock the pain some may feel with relation to gender issues or other charged topics. Neither do I want to be misunderstood as thinking that such questions can (or even should) be quieted through simple, pat answers.
But I do not believe that the doctrines and teachings of Jesus Christ are facile or “pat answers.” I believe the doctrine of the restored gospel and the power that comes of making and keeping gospel covenants is what can unlock the answers to the deepest questions of the soul — whether those questions be about gender issues or about the purpose of life or the reality of God or why bad things happen to people who do and are good (or why good things happen to people who are doing bad things).
I will take it a step further and say that I think sometimes the very issues that seem to bring the most questions and tensions are the ones that can provide the most opportunity for us to come to understand more about God’s plan for and love for us. I believe it’s often in the process of leaning into tensions and pain that we can find more about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His grace, and about our eternal destiny and divine, individual worth and potential as children of heavenly parents.
But strong feelings about my faith aside — even if you do not currently believe in or are currently struggling with Mormonism — my hope is that wherever you are, whatever your questions may be, however you may study the questions out in your mind, go first and most often and boldly to your Father in Heaven. He is real. He knows you. He loves you. Take to Him the questions or concerns or frustrations or fears or pains that may exist in your life. Share your joys, too, and your gratitude for the good you see and feel. Pray vocally. Pray in your heart. Pray through the written word. Pray through song. Pray through other means of expression that resonate with your soul. Pray with attention to detail about what you are thinking, wondering, feeling.
I believe we learn the most from God not when we have answers and comfort, but when we have questions and struggles. And we learn when we act on whatever answers He may give.
I know from personal, repeated experience that that He is real and He listens to and answers prayers. Some — many– of those prayers have never been uttered. Some are so deep within me that I can’t find words for them, just as Paul acknowledges can happen (see Romans 8:26). I have found that the process of having answers distill can take days, weeks, months, years, even decades. I believe coming to know God and to recognize what God’s answers feel like and look like in our lives is the journey of a lifetime.
But oh, what a journey it is.
God bless you in your own journey of faith, whatever that path may look like for you. God bless you in your process of asking questions of and seeking wisdom from Him.
I know He will, in His way and time.