Friday, October 11, 2013

Power: Authority vs. Influence

There is no question that women have made valuable contributions in every area of art, science, and religious study.  From time to time a small vocal female minority may ask why women are not given higher positions of authority in the LDS Church.  A few of these LDS women have argued that women enjoyed a more equal role with Men in authority, governance, administration, and ministering of blessings in the time of Joseph Smith than women do today. 

First off, we must remember that the LDS has has a lay clergy.  Callings in the Church including Bishop and Stake President are by assignment and unpaid. Higher General Authorities receive a very modest living stipend and live in church housing many times. However, this pay is tied to their fulltime work during the week managing the business affairs of the Church and not really assiciated with their ministry.  They don't receive extra compensation for going on speaking tours, for example.   The LDS Church also hires legal, construction, printing and other services and pays Church male and female employees for their professional services. 

What is the nature of women's participation in the LDS Church?  In addition to paid professional positions, women in the church hold positions of authority over their Relief Society organization, Young Women's organization and Primary organization.  Women hold callings in the Cub Scouts, music, and can be Gospel Doctrine and Sunday School teachers.  LDS Women also give the Sunday sermons, and prayers during the communion services. Women are not silenced (1Tim2:12) in the LDS Church.

In the LDS Temple, there is wonderful equality were women reveive all the same ordinances and blessings as the men and the women even officiate these priesthood ordinances for the women.  In reality, women receive all the blessings, ordinances and power of the priesthood without many of the outward responsibilities of the priesthood.

When General Authorities (Twelve Apostles and  Seventies) and local authorities (Bishops, Stake, Mission and Temple Presidents) are called, a married couple is interviewed together and called together.  The authority wife is called with her husband and in many cases travels with her husband and they speak and minister together.

What does not happen to women in the LDS Church?  LDS women are not ordained to the priesthood and not given the primary calling as Bishop, Stake Priesident, Seventy or Apostle.  However, as was explained above, if their husband receives a principle leadership calling, they are called with him and minister along with him.  But no, female Bishops and Apostle are not called. 

Remember too, LDS Bishops are not "preachers" and are not paid.  Anyone, men and women, can be called to preach and teach from the pulpit.  The job of Bishop is to make assignments, collect and count tithing, and keep the meetinghouse clean.  Bishop's also receive confession and determine ritual purity.  Bishop's have to sometimes disfellowship and discipline members.  Like I said, if women want this job, I say let them have it.  However, God has determined that the men have to be stuck with the duty of "bad cop" as a "Judge in Israel".

Why does God reserve priesthood authority to men? 1. Men and women are created different and have different talents, spiritual gifts and abilities.  2. The differing talents and abilities allows men and women to focus on different tasks that need to be done and assume certain gender-optimized roles.  3. It is much more efficient for most women to focus their efforts and attention to the duties within the home while men focus on the work outside of the home. 4. Men and women should assist one another in our roles but role specialization is much more efficient way to operate than a 50/50 division of labor. 5. Because church government requires focus outside the home, these responsibilities fall under the male responsibility.

LDS Priesthood authority amounts to receiving assignments to take out the garbage.  Seriously, is this what LDS Women want?  Do they really want trash duty?  Paul says that "If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work".  However, Bishop is a exceptionally difficult and time consuming calling. If it were up to me, I'd let women do it.  I am positive that women would do an exceptional and even better job doing many of these tasks.   However, it's not up to me and Heavenly Father has more respect for women than wasting their divine talents on counting tithing and making assignments.

I and many others truly believe that God reserves the priesthood to men only because if women were assigned to the same tasks, they would do it better and leave nothing for the men to do. Men need something held in reserve for us to do.  Men need oportunitues to serve even if it involves talking out the trash, vacuuming the church, or counting the tithing.

Men in the Church also are given authority to give priesthood blessings.  

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (New Testament, James, James 5:14)

Now in LDS Church History, there are a great many beloved stories of LDS women laying their hands on the sick and blessing them im the name of Jesus Christ.  Pioneer women crossing the plains have raised dead and dying oxen; returning them to perfect health.  LDS Midwives blessed mothers and newborns.  

However, I would just point out that in most of these situations, there may not have been priesthood present to administer to the sick.  Also, healing is by faith, and there is nothing preventing any woman even today from calling upon the name of Christ and praying and fasting and even blessing the sick in the name of Jesus Christ if no priesthood was present. Nothing has changed in this regard since Joseph Smith except there is much more availible Priesthood.

But, when priesthood is present, it honors God and God's priesthood authority for women to look to the worthy men around them to administer.  The men need the opportunities to serve. LDS men need to be ready and worthy to exercise our priesthood at any time and place. Sure, in the event that no priesthood is present any woman at any time has the rights to call upon the name of Jesus Christ. But where priesthood is present, women demonstrate greater faith and respect for God's system and the duty and role of men by calling upon the Elders.

Now, my main point of this post is to teach the following principle.  What women and everyone really desire is not authority.  Ultimate authority is not really the end goal.  I mean, who wants all the authority in the world and no ability to make a difference, to change things for the better, and to help others?  Who wants authority but no power?  Authority without power reaps blame.  And who needs all the blame? If you really think about the question you will realize that it's power to serve others and not ourselves that we are all righteously seeking.

The secret here is that power in the LDS Church is not necessarily derived from  authority.  And it's not just the LDS Church that operates this way.  Being the "deciderer" alone very rarely equates to much power to do good. 

The President of the United States of America is arguably the most authoritative and potentially powerful position in the entire world.  However, despite being the ultimate "deciderer", the POTUS actually doesn't make very many decisions.  The POTUS is dependent on his many advisors and their think tanks. Also, as we all know  various big business and non-profit foundations also exert enormous influence on the political process.  

My point is that a person can achieve just as much power, and more, through influence than they can through authority. 

Jesus Christ taught the principle of influence over authority when he responded to the mother of James and John (Sons of Thunder) who requested that her 2 sons stand on Christ's right and left hand.  In response to this great mother's ambition for her son's to be given positions of authority, Christ taught his disciples the principle of power through righteous influence:

but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. (New Testament, Mark 10:43-44)

Obedience, virtue and faith are the real power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Virtue empowers our moral authority, and by tirelessly, humbly, and patiently serving one another any member in any calling or position in the church can exert an enormous righteous influence in their stewardship and even upon their congregation and ultimately the entire Church.  Through selfless Christian service anyone, LDS or other, can evoke the blessings and powers of heaven.

Let me give you several examples of what I mean.  While attending a BYU singles ward, I was called as the Ward Activities Co-Chair. The Bishop may have decided what happened for 3 hours on Sunday.  My activities committee decided what happened all the rest of the  day and all the rest of the week.  And plan we did.  I made it a point that in addition to the fun and sporty activities, we also participate in weekly and monthly service projects.  

Our singles ward had a long-term involvement at a local nursing home which we visited at least every week.  We also planned regular well-structured monthly events.   The result? Our ward members worked and served and played along side each other and then they married each other. Over 35 marriages occurred  the coming summer.  Mostly ward members getting hitched with other ward members which included myself and my co-chair.  I really felt like I really enjoyed a wonderful influence  in that calling that made a miraculous and joyous difference to so many people I love.

Other callings in the Church can really "take over" so-to-speak.  Everyone knows the power of a Relief Society President.  But also my wife as home teaching coordinator has owned several wards.  We have had several Bishop's who would call my wife all the time because she literally made it a point to know every sister in the ward (active and inactive) and their life situation and details.  My wife owns that calling.  She has had it several times.  Any other calling can be just as powerful: Young Women's President, Primary President, Compassionate Service.

If you desire to be a miracle in the lives of others  and be the person that makes a difference, you don't need authority.  You can have the influence and witness the power of God through righteous obedience, faith in Christ, and devoted service and sacrifice.

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