It's been a while since I've written an actual thoughtful post. I guess it's about time to put the old thinking cap on and actually get serious for a minute.
My nephew Josh is serving a mission in Guatemala. Today I was catching up on his letters home on a blog his mom keeps up on his behalf. As he was relating an experience he had with an investigator, he said this:
"I think one thing I've come to learn on my mission is
how Heavenly Father feels when men mistreat His daughters. From what I've seen in situations like this
and caring for the sisters in my district or zone, I can tell that, wow, it's
That struck me so hard. I got teary-eyed here in the office I'm working in today, and was glad no one could see me. The truth of that statement went to my very core that YES, Heavenly Father loves me and the women of this world so much, and He is so saddened when we are mistreated by men. (This is truth for all of God's children, of course. But I'm talking specifically here). I thought about the women Josh works with, both the women in Guatemala, and the sister missionaries he works with as a zone leader. I thought how lucky he is to be learning this poignant, life-changing lesson right now by watching someone else's experiences and not by his own mistakes. I then realized how sad God must have been when my marriage was ending, and throughout when He saw things I didn't.
Then my thoughts led me to this place, and not for the first time. I have not spoken much publicly (aka Facebook or other social networking forums where this is a hot topic) about the whole women and the priesthood issue in the LDS Church. I haven't felt the need to. There are already too many people's thoughts out there about it, for better and worse, and I am not well-read or researched enough, nor do I care enough to get into a major debate about it all. But I will say this. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ LOVE women. They love us. First and foremost, Heavenly Father
loves us because we are his daughters. Period, end, done. We don't
have to do anything, be anything, get married, have children, have a
great job, or "earn" His love in any other way we think necessary. He
loves us because we are His. I believe that we do have many divine qualities that are unique to our gender that were purposefully given to us because we are women. Those qualities keep the world turning in partnership with men and the divine qualities they have. God is so smart.
Certainly not the reason why we are loved, especially since so many women don't, can't, or will never have the opportunity for this in life, but food for thought nonetheless: We, as women, are integral to the progression of life. We give life. Literally. There is no more important task on this earth. And we have it. I think that is a privileged place to be in. I'm not comparing motherhood to the priesthood. I don't even necessarily think they are related. What I am saying is that Heavenly Father loves us so much, and holds us in such high esteem, that He has trusted us enough to give us that task- to be the primary givers of life. If you think about it, that is incredible! God says to us, "Here. Here is a spirit child of mine, that I love so much. Carry him/her inside you, and be the conduit for the essential life and progression that this spirit needs." It's astounding to me what an honor that is, in the big picture that I believe in.
That may be kind of a side note, but here is my point: God and Jesus Christ would never relegate us to second class citizen status. No way. It would not happen. Following this logic, since I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be Christ's church and the modern day vehicle for the gospel in its pure form, I have to conclude that the LDS Church would not do that either. The holding of the Priesthood, in and of itself, is not so arbitrarily important that it places more significance on one person over another. Neither do all the responsibilities that come with the holding of said Priesthood, like certain leadership positions in a congregation, or the giving of blessings. I just don't believe that to be true.
Is there gender inequality in the culture of the church, even down to some of the traditional ways a meeting is conducted? Yes. I am the first to say that there are improvements that can always be made, and the progress I have seen has been appreciated deeply. I hadn't even thought about the fact that a woman had never prayed in General Conference until it happened for the first time, but you better believe I cried like a baby when it did, and thought, "Finally!" I love my congregation in NYC because more often than not, a woman is the concluding speaker in Sacrament meeting, instead of it always being a man. That's always kind of bothered me.
I also believe and validate that there are many women in the church who have had truly terrible experiences with priesthood holders supposedly acting under that mantle; none of my thoughts are meant to refute the validity of those experiences. I know those things happen, and going back to what Josh said, I would think Heavenly Father grieves even more for His daughters in circumstances where the priesthood is misused.
I am saying that humanity is very imperfect, and that goes for the membership of the church. In fact, people are idiots and jerks a lot. We make mistakes, use bad judgement, take advantage of a small amount of power (D&C 121: 34-40), and do all sorts of other things. But the doctrine of the church is still true, and beautiful, and pure. And that is the priesthood I am talking about. The fact that men hold that priesthood and I don't, doesn't bother me. Because of my testimony, I am content to know that there is a reason for it, though I don't know it now. I'm content that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love me, and would never NOT give me the priesthood because I am unworthy of it as a woman. I'm content in my knowledge that I am just as important and crucial in this church as a man, even when I sometimes experience a man indicating otherwise. I've been blessed in my life to be able to discern between culture and doctrine pretty easily, and I don't take that lightly. I've also been blessed to be, for the most part, surrounded by wonderful men who respect and use their priesthood for the benefit of others, and do not make me feel "less than" in any way.
So, I guess I'm lucky. Many women struggle with this issue much more than I do. I try to be understanding, and I have no desire to negate their experiences, like I said. But these are my feelings on the subject, and it all comes back to this: Jesus Christ loves women. We are so important to Him, specifically as women. Because of that, I don't believe for one second that He would send us to the back seat in His church, of which I believe I am a part. Therefore, the priesthood and me? We're doing just fine, thanks.