Sunday, April 06, 2014

"All Are Alike Unto God"

I really enjoyed Elder Oak's talk on women and the priesthood in General Conference teaching us that women are set apart and given priesthood authority, power, and blessings.  Women are not ordained to offices in the priesthood or given administrative keys. However women are authorized to serve as full-time missionaries, officiate in the temple, and many other callings.

I would add the ideas that 1. the LDS Bishop is not a "preacher" but is an administrative position to take out garbage, lock the building, count the tithing, and receive confession.  He is also president of the Aaronic Priesthood and works with the young men.  Women atready preach the sermons and teach Sunday School. 2. We know women can do many things better than a man. God has made a divine division of labor where men administer in the Church and women administer in the home.  Both men and women are to "minister" in the home and the Church. You don't need a special calling to minister.  3. Also, a person can experience more power via Influence and ministration than authority and administration.

In the last year there has been a small but vocal minority of LDS women who have been pushing for what they say is greater gender equality in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have several cousins that are part of this movement. This faction has recently compiled a list of suggested policy changes in the Church.

The "All Are Alike" faction is open about their end goal of seeking for the ordination of women.  However, what they are saying now is that until Church leadership is willing to consider women pastors, they have a list of policy change requests.   Some of these ideas are actually pretty good ideas.  Some others are not good.   

The unfortunate thing is that it can be difficult to even have a dialog with the leaders of factions because they can be actually really closed-minded and unreasonable.  They will get offended and play victim at the drop of a hat and refuse to accept well reasoned explainations about why such-and-such idea is not a good idea.  The tragedy is when well-intentioned followers get sucked into a faction with leadership that has a hidden agenda to damage the Church and not help it.  

How can you tell when leadership is well- or evil-intentioned? You have to judge people by what they do.  In the debate, one way is to see if leadership are intellectually honest.  Do they happily aknowledge and support when your side has made a good argument?  Or do they dogmatically and divisively resist and counter every argument without any attempt to build consensus? 

In an attempt to build consensus I wish to go through the "All Are Alike" suggestions and give my take on which ones are good and which suggestiins are not good:

Encourage partnership in marriage and eliminate the idea that husbands preside over their wives.
[Yes and No, This partial statement doesn't necessarily reflect Church teaching.  It is Church doctrine that husbands "preside over their families in love and righteousness"...."as equal partners". This means that Men are directed to preside spiritually by "leading out"  in family prayer, scripture study and FHE. The Church never teaches, "you have to do what I say woman because I am the man."  I agree that in a paternalistic society, the LDS Church could do better clarifying this] 

Create parity in the Young Women and Young Men organizations through equivalent budgets, educational programs (leadership, career, and spiritual training,) and activities (sports, service, and outdoor events).
[Yes.  We are talking about Boy Scouts here vs. Activity-Day Girls.    With 4 girls of my own, I agree that Activity-Day girls could be much better organized.  In reality, the best activities don't have to cost any money. Also remember the budget for the Elder's and High Priest's quorums in my wards have been zero.]

Balance the stories and images of boys and men in church publications, talks, and other media with stories and images of girls and women.
[Yes, I can support more pictures in the gospel art collection about Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Hagar, Rachel, Bilhah, Zilpah, Leah, Tamar, Ruth, Abigail, Hannah, Mary, Martha, Junia, etc.  I think LDS artists and especially LDS women's activists should create or commission more literature and art focused on women.]

Invite women in Church leadership positions to speak and pray during General Conference in numbers equal to the participation of men.
[Yes.  I like seeing more women give prayers and talks at General Conference. When GA's travel, I like to hear from spouses as well.  Maybe GA wives should be called together with their husbands?].

Encourage leaders to use gender-inclusive language whenever possible.
[Yes.  It is not Church policy to use gender exclusive language]

Recognize that girls and boys, women and men are equally responsible for appropriate sexual behavior, and avoid reducing morality to sexuality, and modesty to a preoccupation with women’s and girls’ clothing.
[Yes.  This is already Church policy.  "For the Strength of Youth" discusses all areas of righteous conduct for boys and girls]

Instruct bishops to refrain from asking Church members probing questions about sexual practices and experiences.
[Yes, it is already Church policy for bishops to ask questions about worthiness to encourage confession but not to probe for inappropriate details.  Appropriate questioning can assertain the extent of sin without delving into specifics]

Call women to perform pastoral counseling, particularly for women and girls who have been sexually abused.
[Yes. This type of counseling should be done by professionals.  For general support, women have visiting teachers and young women's advisors that already do this work]

Choose a General Relief Society Presidency and General Board that reflect the diversity of viewpoint and circumstance in the Church, and establish frequent meetings between the First Presidency and the General Relief Society Presidency.
[Yes, The Relief Society already represents the unity of viewpoint of the women of the Church. The Relief Society already meets regularly with the First Presidency. I think what you mean is you think the Relief Society may not reflect all of your views.]

Include the Stake Relief Society President in Stake Presidency meetings, and appoint women to meet with the High Council.
[Yes. Stake young women's, primary and Relief Society leadership could attend more meetings. Their ideas, talents, and input is always appreciated and very valuable]

Delegate more expansive supervisory authority to the Stake and Ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies, including approval of personnel, programs, and activities. 
[Yes.  The Church already encourages all presidencies to plan their own activities, agenda, and make  personnel suggestions (submit names).  However, the Bishop has to review the requests because he is the only one who knows about worthiness issues. Having an organization where only one person knows the dirt on everyone in the congregation is actually a real blessing in my opinion.]

Include women among stake and ward leaders who hear evidence and offer judgment in Church disciplinary councils.
[Yes and No,  I don't think women necessarily need to be involved in Church disciplinary councils. This is an administrative task like counting tithing, locking doors, taking out the garbage.  However, my wife has accompanied several single women for their disciplinary councils who have worked through their repentance process and has been a great support for them.  She didn't need a special calling for this]

Include the local Relief Society president in all bishopric meetings, and rotate the planning of Sacrament services among the Relief Society president and members of the bishopric.
[Yes, turning over the planning of Sacrament Meeting to the Ward Council has been very inspired. I love it.  On the other hand, the Relief Society Presidency doesn't need more meetings than she already has.  RS already is on the Ward Council and can meet with the Bishop at any time.  LDS Bishop's are not preachers.  Their role is more administrative. Membership teaches the sermons and Sunday School lessons already.]

Examine all Church positions to determine whether they can be filled without regard to gender.
[Yes. I have worked in the nursery and primary and cub scouts. Men obviously cannot not serve over the Young Women and Relief Society.  Women make great Gospel Doctrine teachers and maybe Sunday School President]

Appoint women as presidents of Church universities and heads of administrative departments.
[Yes.  This is already the policy of the  Church if there is a qualified applicant. The Church isn't going to practice affirmative action. Jan Sharman at BYU and Sherri Dew at Deseret Book are great examples.] 

Expand hiring practices in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and within the religion departments at Church universities to provide women the same placement, advancement, and tenure opportunities as men.
[Yes.  Women are already early-morning seminary teachers all over the world and religion teachers at BYU.  As far as Utah Seminary goes, I don't know their policies.  Utah Seminary is already overly competitive for such little pay.]

Call young women as well as young men to serve missions at the same age and for the same length of time, and afford women the same opportunity as men to function as district leaders, zone leaders, and assistants to the president.
[Yes and No.  Women are called at 19 because the age difference helps prevent attraction and distraction. Most missions already call Sister missionaries to zone leader-like positions to supervise the other sisters.]

Lift the prohibition on women's participation in the blessing of their children.
[No.  I am not necessarily against women doing anything that men do in the Church. But God would have to okay it. Also, as I have said, women could do everything better, but God has the save somethings for the men to do.]

Change temple marriage policies so that men and women have equal opportunity to be sealed to their second spouses after they are widowed or divorced.
[Yes, I can see this can be a difficult situation. Women can only be sealed to one man.  This doesn't mean a women won't ever see her children from another spouse.  We have to have faith about why God has organized families this way. It may just come down to the order of resurrection.  In heaven you live with your eternal companion and your children live with their eternal companions.  If you already believe in sealings, you must believe that God has worked all this out. I have compassion for anyone in this situation.]

Consider further wording changes to temple ceremonies and ordinances such that both men and women make the same covenants and enjoy the same promises.
[No, God would have to be the source of any changes like that. Maybe we just need to understand better.]

Recognize women as witnesses for baptisms and marriage sealings.
[Maybe, Women do officiate in the Temple under the authority of the priesthood. Again, some of this administration in the Church vs. administration in the home has to do with a divine division of labor and reserving a few things for men to do.]

Restore the former institutionally-accepted practice of women giving blessings of healing and comfort.
[Maybe.  I am not necessarily against this. Women can fast and pray for their children and can bring down more blessings by showing respect for and honoring God's system.  Also, as I have said, women could do everything better, but God has the save somethings for the men to do.  If God is for it, I'm for it]

After reading these suggestions, I have 2 constructive suggestions of my own for the "All Are Alike" group.

1. I would love to see the "All Are Alike" group put together a project were they create beautiful artwork of women in the scriptures.

2. Also, the "All Are Alike" group should create a curriculum and manual with numerous low-cost projects for Activity-Day Girls. 

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