Recent events, especially the movement of “Ordain Women”, has caused me to seriously reflect upon the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints and it’s administration.
Let me state a few things before assumptions are made:
- I don’t have any fundamental problem with women having the priesthood, in fact it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if someday that revelation was given.
- I am well aware of the huge role women play in the church. I have watched all of my leadership efforts absolutely pale in comparison to my counterparts with names like Eva, and Heather, and Mariana.
- This post won’t deal with all things “inequality”, but we will get to that in another post.
So what is this post about? What are we talking about here? We are simply talking about activism and the LDS Church.
What do I mean when I say “activism in the church”? It’s really quite simple actually. It is the efforts of groups of members of the church to put pressure on church leadership through the tactics usually employed in the political arenas. Protests, social media campaigns, traditional media campaigns, speeches, petitions, “walk ins”, and other such activities all fit into the definition of activism.
Activism is a powerful tool, it’s been used to do much good in the world. It’s also been used to do much evil in the world, though we don’t usually call it activism in those cases. Activism definitely has it’s appropriate place in the political arenas of states, and man made organizations. But we aren’t talking about the entities of mankind – we are talking about the Church of God. We are talking about the church whose head is Christ. Christ, the Savior of the world, the creator of all things, the very God of heaven and earth.
I expect the first response to this will be: “But the church of Christ is lead by imperfect men, who are not infallible”. This is a good point. But let us talk about what that means. We know that the leaders of the church are imperfect humans, we know that they are allowed mistakes, but we also know that God will not allow them to lead us astray. So where do we draw the line? Do we get to decide when the brethren are just being imperfect, and when they are leading us astray?
Recent activism in the church has called for the ordination of women to the priesthood. And don’t be mistaken, this is full on activism. It is protests, walks-ins, stand-ins, social media, traditional media, speeches, and websites – it is activism in every sense of the word.
But let us go back to this line that we are drawing. This isn’t a small thing we are talking about. We aren’t talking about where to put a temple, or what to include in the Sunday School manual, or what the age of missionary service is. We aren’t even talking about something more serious, like who the leaders of the church auxiliaries will be, or even what the programs in the temple will be like. We are talking about the very power to act in the name of Christ. The system by which Christ directs His kingdom here on earth. It is hard to imagine something more important to the administration and leadership of the church than this subject. Yet we believe that the leaders are not in tune with the will of God on the matter?
We believe that they know what should be included in the temple ordinances.
We believe that they know what to say at conference.
We believe that they know where to send our child on his or her missionary service.
But we don’t believe that they understand how the priesthood should be administered?
We believe in prophets, seers, and revelators, but we don’t believe that they are actually seeing or receiving revelation?
We believe this is the church of Christ, but we don’t believe that it is being administered according to the will of Christ?
We believe that Christ can come to His house to direct the prophet, but we believe that for some reason He hasn’t done so – and thus He needs our help in pushing the cart along?
Christ needs our pickets and protests? Christ needs our Facebook page and websites? I am sorry, but He doesn’t. As He has proven in the past, Christ doesn’t even need the church – the church is for our good.
In addition to all of this, we also believe that the already spoken words aren’t enough? We need more?
What happens when we get more instruction from the brethren? What happens if we get what we are asking for: If the prophet announces that he has specifically prayed in the temple concerning the matter and has received revelation that the priesthood will not be extended to women? What then?
Do we say “Thank you.” and pack up? Do we shut down our campaign, and delete our websites? Do we admit that our actions have caused division in the church, that we were wrong, that we now accept the word of the Servant of the Lord?
Or do we raise our banner higher, and make our voices louder? Do we make our lines at Temple Square longer? Do we do more interviews, and write more website articles? Do we push harder to receive the answer we desire? Do we, in fact, believe that we are dealing with the unjust judge?
What if, on the other hand, the prophet announces that the priesthood will be extended to women? What then? Are we then satisfied?
I doubt that the technical change of the priesthood being extended will actually be enough. Technically women have the same rights in the workforce of America. Technically the civil rights movement ended almost 40 years ago. But we still see debates about and problems with inequality in those realms. So do we continue to campaign? And if so, when do we stop? When there are 50% female bishops? When there are 50% female stake presidents? Or how about when we have our first female president of the church – is that the finish line?
And do we really expect Christ to call leaders in the church according to the precepts of our activism?
When does our social and digital stoning of the prophets end?
The church can’t be lead by activism. Bringing awareness of things that should be considered, is a different story (and a future post). But, when the church begins to be led by activism it is no longer the church of God, but instead just another church of man. The possibilities of what different interest groups could call for are endless. And when the brethren are constantly tormented by the cries of mortal man, how will they ever have time to hear the revelations of eternity?
And let us remember the real significance of our particular cause. We call the church imperfect when it suits us, but then we expect it to perfectly cater to our specific needs and wants. But in all honesty the brethren’s priority list most certainly doesn’t match ours. They lead a worldwide church of 15 million members, over hundreds of countries and countless social, political, and cultural conditions.
What about the needs of the members in the Ukraine, the members in Argentina, the members who have suffered in the Philippines over the last year! What about the millions of members whose annual income does not match the amount of money our families spent on movies and popcorn last year? So while we sit here in the comfort of our American indulgence, let us remember those whose only good thing is the gospel, and let us try to remember that our cause might not actually be at the top of the priority list!
I am sorry that your political views, social expectations, or particular cause isn’t exactly matching up with what you see in the church right now. I really am sorry, I wish I could just fix it for you – I really do.
However, in reality, the church does not provide perfectly personalized care. Local leaders try to do the best they can – but they are mortal too. The fact is, that the only personal, perfectly customized, care available in this world comes from Christ. Our relationship with Him, our ability and desire to call upon Him and use his atonement. And even then, with the perfect succor of Christ – we don’t always get exactly what we want.
When we try to guide the church we very likely miss the mark. And are so likely to ask for something we really shouldn’t have. Despite our best intentions, despite our kind hearts, despite our hopes, we are – and listen carefully – also imperfect. Only one can steer the helm at a time. With too many trying to right the ship, the ship will only sink – dashed upon the rocks. I prefer Christ to be my helmsman.
It would be amazing if the church could be everything to everyone. But churches who attempt such feats are fractured and scattered – and still don’t accomplish it. It would be wonderful if everyone always felt perfectly comfortable, it really would be. But the church isn’t salvation. No, it is just a temporal organization placed on earth to help us towards salvation if we will allow it to do so. Remember, there are no “mormons” and “non-mormons” in the Celestial Kingdom – there are only Joint Heirs with Christ.
Perfection of the church in this world is not the goal – perfection of ourselves through Christ, in the life to come, is. Whatever the condition of our hearts, Christ is our solution.