A patient family member, after learning that I am LDS (Mormon), mentioned that her daughter had interviewed a local LDS bishop as part of a school project. The family member told me that her daughter asked about women and priesthood. The family member wasn’t really asking a question, and I didn’t have the time nor circumstance to respond. But if I had the opportunity, I might have shared some of the following:
Janitor vs. Principal
LDS Leadership positions are primarily janitorial in nature. Priesthood responsibilities reserved for males literally and figuratively involve mostly accounting and “taking-out-the-garbage”-type duties. LDS leaders operate more like janitors as opposed to principals. Like a janitor, our priesthood leaders are said to have keys. Janitors typically possess massive key rings with numerous keys, allowing them to keep every part of a building clean and maintained. LDS Leaders serve as spiritual janitors in our religion. Jesus Christ is our Principal.
Preacher vs. Bishop
LDS Bishops are not “preachers”. Most LDS priesthood positions are unpaid and involve more janitorial, procedural and accounting tasks. LDS Bishops are not paid to give weekly sermons. In the Mormon Church, weekly sermons, gospel doctrine, and Sunday School classes are given by both women and men.
Women serve as presidents and in leadership positions over the Church’s children, youth, and women’s organizations. Female presidents, presidencies, boards, and councils function at the local, regional, and global levels. Women also serve in both volunteer and paid church education, and professional positions. Couples are called together and serve together as humanitarian, service, temple, and missionary positions. The highest positions of Temple President, Mission President, Seventy, Apostle, and Prophet are callings extended to and involve both a husband with his wife. The wife may travel with her husband and will routinely teach and speak. In the case of a mission president or temple president, the wife has specific and unique duties (e.g. Temple Matron).
Possessing and fulfilling an LDS leadership position is a great blessing to those who are called. However, being a bishop doesn’t get you early into LDS heaven, or grant any extra heavenly blessings more than any other calling. Christ likened his Church to His body and taught that every part was important and no part should think itself more important than another (1 Cor 12:12). LDS Men and women may have different jobs in the kingdom but receive the same spiritual blessings now and eternal rewards later.
Administer vs. Minister
Administration involves planning, accounting, and janitorial tasks while ministering involves the more inspired work of succoring the needy, sick and afflicted and bringing souls unto Jesus Christ. Women are naturally more given to and gifted in ministering than men. So, the LDS Church doesn’t waste valuable time or resources by calling our women to managerial positions when there are precious souls to nurture, minister to, and save. LDS keep our women on the front lines in this spiritual battle and give the desk jobs to the men. On the other hand, I believe God reserves administration duties for men with the intent that men will minister more as they administer.
Women demonstrate that they can administer as well as and even better than men. LDS women’s organizations such as the Relief Society is, without exception, much better run than any LDS men’s organization. Part of God’s plan to preserve leadership positions for men is likely just to save something for men to do so men feel needed. Men in the Church, like in the home, tend to “rise to the task” and respond well when they think they are needed. Unfortunately, if men think that they are not needed, the opposite is true, and men tend to withdraw.
Authority vs. Influence
What women really want, expect, and deserve is equal power in the Church of Jesus Christ. Women rightly desire power to effect change, to heal souls, and to make a difference. But having authority isn’t the only path to power. Anyone, man or women, could wield great power in Christ’s Church through their righteous influence.
The same is true of the President of the United States. Often it is his economic and political advisors and special interests through lobbying and political donations that can exhibit more power to shape policy through their influence than his position of authority. My wife and I both have had callings of low authority/high influence where we both felt like we “ran the ward” without being the bishop (mine: activities chair in BYU single’s ward; Ruth’s: visiting teaching coordinator).
LDS Women are exerting an even greater influence on the local, regional, and global level as they participate in youth, ward, stake, and general leadership councils. The Church has recently looked for ways to involve more women in more ways in church decision and its policy making process. We already have been greatly blessed and benefited from these changes.
Umbrella and Door Holding
If you prefer a man to hold open a door, or hold the umbrella during a rainstorm, it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand why a large majority of LDS women feel at peace with the role differences in God’s kingdom. Ultimately, Elder Bednar taught, that it is unknown why God choose men to be holders of the priesthood at this time. The Atonement of Christ is like an umbrella that shields us from the rain. The umbrella shaft is like the priesthood. You don’t have to be holding the umbrella to be shielded by the rain. In fact, a sinful male leader can be holding the umbrella and still get soaked if he fails to stand under its protection.
The scriptures report that at certain times God determined priesthood be given only to the oldest son, or to only a specific tribe. In the Last Days, God as selected all worthy males to exercise it. It is likely, in the future and in heaven, that men and women’s roles in the priesthood will be even more equal like they are in temples. However, we wait on God and revelation to direct any changes. Knowing that our current arrangement is God’s will for now, LDS women joyfully serve, minister, teach, preach, exhort, minister and administer along-side men and with their husbands in God’s kingdom. LDS Women don’t mind if worthy LDS males are being called to “hold the spiritual door” open for them.