"Airtime or Error Time? The New York Times and the Ordination of Women."
First of all “Air Time or Error Time”? That's a pretty elementary school-level burn. Anyway, this blog will simply take various quotations from this Meridian article and briefly respond to each with a few bullet points.
“They say this isn’t a protest, but that is how everyone else will read it. They are playing semantics. They have a complaint. They want to pressure the Church in their self-styled direction and they hope to use the media as their tool.”
- She uses words like “protest” and “complaint” and “pressure” and “self-styled direction” because she wants to highlight the fact that what Ordain Women is doing is not normal.
- We get it! These things are taboo in our authoritarian culture. But we have bigger things to worry about than your stuffy social taboos. If we are bold it is because we have learned the lessons from our history with the racial priesthood/temple ban.
- In the absence of a specific revelation on the matter, church members have no way of knowing for sure if Ordain Women’s position is any more “self-styled” than the position of the Church. In other words, the gender-based restrictions could have more human origins than the desire to eliminate them. And the desire to eliminate them could be more divine in nature than whatever process instituted them. We have no revelation on record to say either way. And if the racial priesthood/temple restrictions are any indication, the status quo is not always divine, even in “the kingdom of God on earth.”
“It is about a transformation in the foundational theology and understanding of the gospel.”
- How foundational is the all-male priesthood to our theology? How foundational is the concept of gender-differences to the gospel?
- “male and female...all are alike unto God.”
“…in a church of 15 million people, they are the merest handful of people…”
- 13 percent of men and 8 percent of women in the Church believe that worthy women should be eligible for the priesthood. This is a minority for sure, but in a Church of 15 million, it is more than a mere handful of people - we are talking about a figure in the millions.
- Furthermore, how do we know how women feel if we never talk about it? If we never ask them, and if we constantly tell women that it is improper to express any opinion that is unfavorable to the status quo, how would we know what they really think?
- Although Ordain Women is a small group, many more support ordination, and perhaps an even larger number would if they were truly aware and considered (in an atmosphere of free expression) what Ordain Women has to say.
“I am certain that the publicity they hope to generate and the plighted picture it will paint of Mormon women will turn some away from ever considering the saving truths the gospel offers.”
- If people stay away from the Church because they became aware of the gender-based priesthood restrictions, the blame lies with the problem of inequality itself, and not with those who called attention to it in an effort to address it.
The Secular Media’s Assumptions, According to Meridian:
-An individual creates her own set of values. The most important thing is to be authentic. You can be “spiritual” but not religious.
-If there is a God, we are free to imagine or create him in our own image, rather than the reverse.
- The secular media really doesn’t have an opinion on these matters.
- But even the truest of religious institutions has, from time to time, been guilty of "creating God in (their) own image, rather than the reverse." This is not just a problem of rogue individuals... in fact it is way more egregious when an institution does so, because the damaging effects are spread so much farther and wider.
-This is a materialist world with no external or moral truth that obligates us. Science and the latest study is the final source of answers.
- The secular media has an obligation to report observable facts, this is a good thing.
-Men and women are equal, meaning the same. Any differences between them have been constructed by a society that did not have the best interests of women at heart.
- This sounds more like a criticism of feminists than the media, either way it is a straw man. Feminists do not argue that men and women are the same. They do however argue that they should have the same rights and privileges, that they should be treated equally by society. Again this is a good thing.
“It is my faith that the Lord knows what He is doing with us and why things are designed as they are.”
- You are entitled to your own beliefs, but frankly, where female ordination is concerned, your faith is not based on any recorded revelation. And yet you are using it as an authoritative launching point from which to attack those you disagree with. I think that is problematic.
- The same was done with the racial priesthood/temple restrictions.
“We are limited and myopic, unclear and unschooled. Our experience here is brief and narrow and we have not the knowledge of how to build a utopian, happy society let alone tap our own potential to become as God envisions us. Look what we do on our own!”
- Indeed, look!
“Does the prophet speak for the Lord and receive continuous revelation to guide the Church or does he need the input of those who would pressure him?”
- The answer is yes… both. The question is framed in an either/or format, setting up a false dichotomy. The implication is that these two things ‘revelation from God’ and ‘input from fellow humans’ are mutually exclusive. These things are not mutually exclusive at all.
- To speak of “those who would pressure him” is to use strong words in Mormon parlance. Again, she is highlighting the fact that this is a social taboo which has the effect of arousing negative feelings in members regarding the movement. The fact is, if we are bold, it is because we have learned from our Church history.
“Yet, when we are talking about the ordination of women, something so truly foundational, do they really suppose that this can be accomplished with pressure politics? Did they find themselves called to advise the prophet?”
- “When we are talking about the ordination of women, something so truly foundational,” don’t you think we SHOULD seek a specific revelation on the matter, and not just go on assuming that the status quo represents the will of God?
“What if each of us formed a pressure group behind an issue that we either didn’t understand or didn’t like? We could be divided and fragmented—the farthest thing from being of one heart and ready to build Zion.”
- Actually, “the farthest thing from being of one heart and ready to build Zion” is inequality and intolerance of diversity. This theme is present in D&C. Although it is talking about financial inequality (another subject we have completely ignored in the past 6 decades or more), I believe the principle of gender inequality also makes it difficult to be of one heart and one mind and “build Zion”. We are not hearing the voices of half of our minds, we are not including half of our people in the decision-making process as much as we should, etc.
- It is inequality that divides us, not the people that merely call it to our attention.
“If the kingdom of God were shaped and recast according to our own desires instead of the leadership of the Lord Himself, wouldn’t we have lost the greatest treasure on earth and eternity?”
- This question assumes that the status quo was itself shaped and cast by the leadership of the Lord himself. Where is the proof? Where is the revelation on the matter?
- The same assumption was made of the racial priesthood/temple restrictions. If it was false in that case, the same is possible here, and we should not rush to such an assumption.
“They state on their website : ‘We are demonstrating our desire for both the blessings and the authority of the priesthood and asking LDS Church leaders to prayerfully consider the ordination of women.’ The question becomes, how do they know that this hasn’t already happened?”
- Because, as I’ve already pointed out, like the racial priesthood/temple restrictions, there is NO revelation on record establishing a gender-based priesthood restriction. Like the racial restrictions, it has always just been assumed that the status quo is the revealed order. Frankly, we don’t want the Church we love to be run based on mere assumptions regarding such significant, life-altering questions.
- Why do you, and other critics of Ordain Women, always ask this question, which implies that this has indeed already happened, when there has been no recorded revelation on the matter? The burden of proof is on you, not ordain women.
The ‘Martin Harris and the Lost 116 Pages’ Analogy:
- Have we been told “No” by God, even once? If not, then this is NOT a valid analogy.
- If we always interpreted the story like this, as a way to discourage people from asking difficult questions – before they have even had a chance to receive a revelation on the matter – we would never ask difficult questions and we would rarely receive revelations on anything. How many times are we told to “Ask” in the scriptures: “if any of you lack wisdom, ask…” “ask and ye shall receive…” “Study it out in your mind, then ask…” “ask God, the Eternal Father, if these things are not true”
- This oft repeated and supremely important admonition, a key to revelation and a fountain of great wisdom, is the very foundation of the Restored Gospel. Your foolish interpretation of the ‘Martin Harris and the Lost 116 Pages’ story is a stumbling block to immense spiritual growth.
“Still, I cannot assume that the prophets are too spiritually dull or backward to see the important questions or to ask them.”
- It is not safe to assume that they have recognized the questions and asked them and been open to the answers.
- Study the history regarding the racial priesthood/temple ban… such a dullness or backwardness would not be unprecedented.
- "Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it, and those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it." -Dieter F Uchtdorf
“As I’ve said before, the implication of their agitation is that they don’t believe that the prophets act with real authority—the very priesthood authority they are seeking for themselves.”
- First of all, Proctor fails to distinguish between "the priesthood" and the men who hold it. All who are ordained or commissioned are still capable of acting out of harmony with the gospel, or missing the mark in some way.
- D&C 121: 33-46 illustrates how having the priesthood conferred upon you is no guarantee that you preside with perfect righteousness and does not necessarily prevent you from making serious mistakes: "That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we ...exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”
- Second, as I mentioned earlier, Ordain Women is asking the prophets to specifically seek revelation from God, something that they haven’t yet indicated that they have done… Asking them to do seek a revelation is a sign of faith in the leaders, as well as a sign of faith that God will validate their cause.
- It is always useful to remember that the leaders of the Church don’t speak on difficult topics until they have reached some consensus. Therefore, their relative silence on this subject indicates a lack of consensus. It may be that the different apostles are at different places in their search for an inspired answer to this question, as was the case with the racial priesthood ban for many years. For further reading on the priesthood ban I recommend Lester Bush’s 1973 article for Dialogue, and Edward Kimball’s more recent article for BYU Studies. Given the stark parallels, it is vital for us to understand the processes that result in the creation and eventual transformation of such an important Church policy. It is clear to me that Proctor lacks such an understanding, and this has immense consequences on her and many Mormons' approach to current issues. .