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Shall I Lament God’s Impotence, Decry His Immorality, or just Denounce Mormonism?

March 19, 2014

Ordain Women At The Door

If you think of yourself as someone who keeps up with progressive Mormon issues and you haven’t heard of Ordain Women, then I’m not sure how much time I can afford to spend to catch you up to speed. So, instead, I’ll assume that you already know of them, and will just dive in to one of the latest items to hit the progressive, liberal, and uncorrelated Mormon scene – the LDS Church’s Public Affairs Department letter to Ordain Women.  Jeff Spector at Wheat & Tares wrote a summary of the letter and its contents, and the question on many people’s minds has been: what will Ordain Women do next?

There have been several blog posts from those sympathetic to Ordain Women, many of which have lamented that the Ordain Women supporters were compared to regular anti-Mormon hecklers at General Conference. Even when the image of the OW movement’s faithfulness is a sensitive issue, those who don’t believe are also writing in support of the OW movement ideals.

However, what has driven me to write this post is a comment that Jeff made to his own post at Wheat & Tares:

There will still be hurt feelings.While this probably will generate more publicity for them, If the Lord wants them to have the Priesthood, it will happen in His own way in His own time, maybe never.

Remember, it is THY will be done, not my will. Even Jesus respected that. this is clearly a matter of pride, the wrong kind, IMO.

There was something about this that rubbed me the wrong way. The thing is…I just don’t know which way the wrong rubbing was.

So, the basic message from Jeff’s comment, as I understand it, is that ultimately, whether women are ordained to the Priesthood is something that God decides. Thus, it cannot be forced by public opinion or by the demonstrations of (wo)men.

I am fine with a statement like this. Even if I don’t believe in God or believe in the inspiration of the LDS church’s claims, I can understand that from the framework of faith, this is how things go. I can also understand that faithful members of Ordain Women would see things the same way — that’s why they continually express their actions in terms of “sincerely ask[ing] our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.” 

Maybe I’m reading more into Jeff’s words than he intended, but I get this sense that he thinks that the OW supporters’ actions are inconsistent with “His own way in His own time.” That instead, what Ordain Women is doing is “clearly a matter of pride, the wrong kind.”

Reading Jeff’s comments brought to mind a comic I occasionally see posted by my Christian friends about injustice in the world:

Sometimes I'd like to ask God why he allows poverty and injustice in the world. But then I'm afraid he'd ask me the same question.

In case the image is  down, it’s two guys sitting around. One guy says, “Sometimes, I’d like to ask God why he allows poverty, famine, and injustice when he could do something about it.”

The other guy asks, “What’s stopping you?”

The first guy answers, “I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.”

I have seen this exchange in slightly varied formats (such as someone actually speaking with God, and God actually asking the question back.) Usually, when I see the exchange, my mind races to challenge it. (Well, you know, I’m not an omnipotent being, so that’s why *I* allow these things.)

But I understand the basic point. We must become the change we wish to see in the world. Alternatively, much of the injustice in this world (and that’s before we even get started about natural evils, but that’s another conversation as well) is from us, by us.

Yet here we are with something like a sex-exclusive priesthood and when someone sees this as injustice and does try to change this, their efforts are shot down as “a matter of pride.”

The worst part about this is that it’s not unheard of in Mormonism to view doctrine as being something that can change. After all, Mormonism, unlike many other religions and denominations, does have a concept of continuing revelation.

Additionally, it’s not unheard of in Mormonism to suppose that leaders might be fallible, and continuing revelation is a process that can be assisted by the contributions of members and others. (I understand that it’s a more controversial point to try to pinpoint any one revelation as being caused by any one group — people will disagree, for example, on what process led to the expansion of the priesthood and temple to black members of the church.)

But no. Ordain Women’s efforts are “clearly a matter of pride.”

I respect the folks of Ordain Women who do what they do out of an abiding faith in the church. However, for me, I read comments like Jeff’s, letters like the LDS Newsroom, and I think — what shall I do?

For all the folks who will persist in faith, there are going to be folks, like me, like Alison at Main Street Plaza, who have asked or will ask at some point in their lives: what shall I do?

And with the way the church keeps responding to issues like this, “stay in the church” is not going to be one of the compelling options.

Instead, what are the compelling options?

Shall I lament God’s impotence?

Shall I concede that perhaps the divine creator of the universe really can’t convey a message of justice and equality and fairness to those who claim to be his adherents?

Shall I decry God’s immorality?

Shall I recognize that maybe equality is not the Lord’s will? Yet, even if I recognize this, I must also recognize that deep within me beats a message that this is unjust and cannot be acquiesced to. If I must go my days forever decrying the creator’s immorality, so be it!

Shall I denounce Mormonism?

Or maybe my framework has been too narrow. Maybe that internal sense that there is something better is not a false implant…maybe God does recognize equality (even if I can’t recognize God) and he reaches out to implement it…but the Mormon church just ain’t on board.

…Here’s something I feel that conservative religious types have to know about liberal progressive types who may end up disaffecting or disaffiliating from religion — these are the options we see. When you call folks like us to come back to the fold, or when you call us to repent, we might glance back at you and your congregation and your doctrines…but what we see is some horror. We see the horror either that you represent God’s failure, God’s basic injustice, or simply your own.

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