Posts Tagged 'LDS doctrine'

Are Mormon Women Really “Shut Out” of All-Male Meetings?

The things people complain about.

I’ve spent the better part of my life looking for ways to avoid Priesthood meeting, which is the final hour of the standard 3-hour block of Sunday meeting for Mormons.  I’ve had my reasons from time to time, but usually it is just a matter of having religious “tired head” and not feeling inclined to sit through another lesson.  Besides, there always seems to be somebody moving, and I end up getting guilted into moving a sofa sleeper.  So, sometimes, I don’t exactly make it all the way to the classroom.  Not proud of hiding in plain sight in the foyer, pretending to some dreaded illness, but I’m not denying it, either.

And now women are protesting that they don’t get to attend?  This is obviously a case of not knowing what you are asking for.

Sunday meetings aren’t really the issue here.  Women come into to Sunday Priesthood meetings all of the time…usually to hand a screaming baby and a diaper to their husbands.  During the last hour of Church, they attend the women’s organization, called Relief Society, and the men attend Priesthood.  Both groups are taught out of the same manual, but the emphasis is likely different because of the different perspectives of men and women.  But Relief Society usually smells better, and sometimes they have cookies.  Priesthood almost never has cookies.  We need to reconsider that.

No, the issue is our twice-a-year “General Conference.”  The week before General Conference, there is a “General Relief Society meeting” that the women can attend personally in Salt Lake City or by satellite at the chapels (or, I think, over the Internet, but I’ve never checked).  The meeting is presided over by the First Presidency of the Church, and there are a whole bunch of talks about various gospel topics.

The following weekend is General Conference, held on a Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday has two “general sessions” and one “Priesthood” session.  Sunday has two general sessions.   The general sessions are broadcast on BYU television, by satellite to local meetinghouses, and over the Internet.  The talks later can be accessed on the Internet at any time and by anyone, and all of the talks are printed in the official Church magazine the following month.

Until this year, the Priesthood session was unique in that it was only available, initially, at the local meetinghouses, although the talks were made publicly available after conference.  The men and boys over the age of 12 in the Church actually get up and go to that session.  I never understood why it wasn’t on TV or a live stream, but I’ve recently learned that it was seen as a good bonding experience for fathers and sons and an opportunity for them to share a spiritual experience.  LIke the General Relief Society meeting, they sit for two hours and listen to a whole bunch of talks about various gospel topics.  Usually there is a lot of discussion about the performance of priesthood duties, particularly focused on the young men.  There are usually a bunch of father and son stories shared.  Having five daughters, I usually excuse myself on that meeting on the grounds of relevance.  Again, not bragging about my disobedience.  Just giving full disclosure.  But I have gone to the General Priesthood meeting gobs of times, and I have to say:  It looks like any other session on conference, except nobody pretty is there.  And no cookies.

Well, some women in the Church are protesting that they are “shut out” of this meeting, with the implication that there is something really cool going on in that meeting that they just can’t bear to miss.  (The real reason for the protest is that these women want to be ordained to the priesthood, which isn’t permitted under LDS doctrine.  Apparently they want to get the priesthood so that they can tell other people to follow the priesthood…except when you don’t like what they say.  You would think that Salt Lake City is integrated enough now that they could find (or form) a Church more to their liking, but where’s the fun in that?).  Never mind that there is absolutely nothing secret that happens in these meetings, and that all of the talks are on the Internet and are printed in Church magazines.  If there is a secret, it is the worst kept secret since Paul’s Christianity.

The Church did make the common-sense approach to broadcast the General Priesthood meeting over the Internet beginning with October 2013, giving me one less excuse to miss it.  So, if women in the Church can’t find anything better to do than attend an extra session of General Conference, they are now officially free to knock themselves out.  But that wasn’t enough.  A couple of hundred women showed up at the Conference Center in Salt Lake and demanded that they be allowed to sit through the meeting in person.  Now, that’s just rude.  There are only so many chairs, right?  If you have access to the meeting on the TV, or that phone that is right there in your purse, do you really need to take up the seat of someone for whom the meeting actually is intended?

Again, the issue here isn’t access.  It’s about a group of people who have a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between LDS doctrine and much of the rest of Christianity.  Mormons believe that doctrine is revealed, meaning that when God wants us to do something, he tells us that by giving inspiration or revelation to his appointed authorities.  In many other Christian churches, doctrine is established by committee (or, in the good old days, by killing people who disagree with you).  If you don’t like something, and you throw a big enough fit, and get other people to join in your fit, then you can vote out, or in, whatever new doctrine you like.  Or you break off and form your own branch of that denomination.  That’s why we have so many denominations of Christianity:  A few folks start clamoring for cookies, the local minister is a diabetic, and next thing you know there are two churches in town, one with the lovely scent of Tollhouse cookies wafting gently from the belfry.

If the day comes that women receive the priesthood in the Church (and, in my humble Sunday truant opinion, just about everything in the Temple ceremonies suggests to me that they eventually will), it isn’t going to come because of a bunch of protesters raising a fuss on the sidewalk.  That just isn’t the way the Church is supposed to operate if we really believe in continuing revelation.  The Lord didn’t fire Moses because he was doing poorly in the polls on the “manna” issue.  If you believe in a living prophet, then might I respectfully suggest that you act like it?  I think one’s energy is better spent trying to mold oneself into the image of Christ than insisting that the Church mold itself to fit your particular issues perfectly.



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