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|A Different Priesthood Question|
Apr. 25th, 2011 at 9:07 pm
Radically enough, I believe that Heavenly Father loves his daughters and sons equally. There is really no question in my mind on that. I suppose that the vast majority of Mormons would agree (there are always a few outliers). One of the most important aspects of our faith, I believe, is that we teach that all can have a direct and personal relationship with God. There is no need to pray through the Pope or hope that others’ prayers will enhance your chances at heaven: you can do it yourself. Male and female. With or without knowledge of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Even without knowing about or believing in Jesus Christ, Heavenly Father is, indeed, your loving father.
There is this other thing we call the Priesthood. We call it the Power of God. And only a few of us are granted that Priesthood. Yet we are taught it is necessary. Through it, fathers bless their babies. Mothers just bless their babies by action and the word of prayer. The sick can be healed with this Priesthood, yet we are also taught that faith heals us and that surely that mother home alone in the blizzard with the feverish child can ask for healing in prayer and without Priesthood and still be heard and answered. Have not miracles occurred in distant times and places, performed by the power of God, but with no Priesthood line of authority in sight? It is hard to believe they have not.
There are some women (and men), Mormon women, Catholic women, all manner of women, who hunger for the Priesthood. They argue (in part) that having the Priesthood would prove that Heavenly Father loves them as much as He loves their lazy 13-year-old brothers who pass the Sacrament. I do not condemn those women (or men), although I do not share their desire for the equalizing ordination. Generally the question asked of Priesthood power and women is: when will women be extended the priesthood? [Some still ask "if" but here in the bloggernacle, we are more of a "when" crowd.] Maybe that is the wrong question.
And hey, haven’t we all asked the wrong question?
What if we ask this: how long will men need the Priesthood?
As a female, I have always felt like a bit of an A.P. Mormon. I could, after all, go to the Temple without the Priesthood. Both when I was 12 and when I prepared for my mission, my male peers needed that Priesthood to have the exact same experience I guess I was just ready for. There is that crazy, nagging, notion that women are somehow naturally more spiritual. I have never bought it myself. But why can I do this stuff my brothers can’t? Let’s flip it. Maybe women are not actually value-added men with a natural spirituality that men need to get added on after-market when they get ordained as deacons, teachers, priests, and elders. Maybe men just have this natural or nurtured need for the Priesthood.
When I was training in Kenya for a few months, I collected a number of very official-looking certificates. Often, they were simply certificates of participation–I earned them for sitting through a training meeting or making it to all three sessions of a seminar. It amused me that the culminating activity of any event was an elaborate bestowal of these print-outs. It was very serious. I asked one of the Kenyan trainers about it and she explained that Kenyans put a lot of stock in those card-stock papers: they collect them, laminate them, display them, and include them on their C.V.s. “If we didn’t get them after a seminar,” she explained, “we would feel like we had not been there or were wronged by someone.” I didn’t get it. Since her cross-cultural knowledge was superior to mine, she offered this: “Americans really like their birthdays, don’t they?”* Of course I agreed. “How would you feel if no one mentioned it was your birthday on that day?”
So to an American, having your birthday noted is a personal validation. Kenyans, or a certain sub-set of them, like the validation of Certificates. What if the Priesthood and the bestowal of it, is an official validation that some crave?
Of course, some women may need or want that kind of validation, too. And maybe they’ll get it. I don’t know. Or maybe, at some point, we’ll graduate beyond needing that kind of validation. We’ll get to be like the aged who enjoy their every day, not just their birthday, and don’t really need it to be observed. Or the Kenyans who eventually accumulate so many certificates, their egos don’t need more.
What if the equalizing force among Heavenly Father’s daughters and sons is subtractive rather than additive?
*Many Africans don’t know their birthdays. This is mostly because they do not use birthdays, as we do, as a point of personal identification. They also do not need gifts or songs on their birthdays, which is good, because, as mentioned, they often don’t know them. In my experience, those Africans who do are city-dwellers and actively adopting western customs, like using the F word and developing a taste for skiing.