Priesthood? No, Thank You.
This weekend was a pretty historic one for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Following polite "protests" and appeals to the church leadership, a woman has given a prayer in a session of General Conference for the first time. (Two women, in fact, in two separate sessions.)
I missed this momentous occasion on account of being on a transatlantic flight, and then comatose, for much of proceedings, but I shall endeavour to catch up with the entire conference, including the prayers, via the internet once I am awake again.
There may be those somewhere out there who imagine that allowing a woman to take part in proceedings in this way was some kind of tremendous climb-down or back-pedalling on the part of the church hierarchy. Not so much, however. A statement made by a President of the Church (too lazy to find the exact reference right now) decades ago explained that there was no reason a woman shouldn't offer a prayer at any church meeting or gathering. It seems that the reason it had never happened in General Conference is because the honour is usually given to priesthood leaders, and they are all men. Giving a woman the chance to direct the prayers of the entire church membership was something which was almost accidentally overlooked year after year.
So, what next for the Sisters of the church? Well, the movement is already taking strides in a new direction and asking why it is that the priesthood is open to all worthy male members of the church, but not females. Why is it that every boy turning twelve gets ordained and thus blessed with power and authority to act on God's behalf while his mother and sisters watch from the sidelines? Why are women unable to pass or bless the sacrament, pronounce blessings of healing or comfort, baptise or confirm, or serve on Bishoprics or Stake Presidencies?
I was an Anglican (a vicar's wife, no less) for many years, and the women priests debate was going on in that church at the time. I was entirely in favour, and was delighted when the General Synod decided that women could indeed be ordained and thus earn a stipend working as Vicars, Rectors, Curates, etc. Yet here it is a couple of decades later and I find that I don't support the idea that LDS women should have the priesthood.
I'll say it again, just to be sure you understood. I don't want the priesthood.
You may think it's because I'm a bit of a Molly Mormon and I'm toeing the party line and sustaining the status quo. Not so. The reason I don't want the priesthood is that I have quite enough responsibility in my life, and I really can't handle any more.
Each day I am responsible for ensuring that three human beings are woken up in time for various schools, and have clean uniforms to wear and packed lunches to eat. I have to get them to those schools with all the books and equipment they need, and collect them again at the appropriate time. In between school runs I have to work for five hours a day and keep a house clean and tidy, laundry washed, dried and folded, wet beds changed, pets fed, walked and cleaned up after and gardens presentable. I have to ferry everyone to ballet, gymnastics and horse riding, seminary and mutual and kids' parties. Every single day I have to prepare a balanced meal which everyone will eat, and ignore the snub when they turn their noses up at my efforts, get themselves sandwiches or cereal and leave plates, cups and bowls all over the house.
I have to empty bins and put them out on the right day, alternating recycling and rubbish correctly. I have to remember birthdays and send cards and/or presents, and I have to do the weekly shop (three times a week in our house). I have to iron shirts, wash pans and empty the dishwasher. I have to clean out the fridge, oven and microwave regularly, find shoes and put away toys. I have to remember doctors appointments, insurance renewals and car repairs. I have to go to parents evenings and school plays and help with homework. I have to know where everything is, always, because a child will ask and I need to be able to say, "You left it in the garden" or "It's in the wash".
I am responsible for all this. Me. Yes, I have a very good husband who helps me despite working at least eight hours and day and commuting for at least another two, but ultimately all this is my responsibility. If I don't make dinner we don't eat and it's my fault. If the laundry isn't done and eldest child doesn't have her Morrison's uniform to wear to work, I'm to blame. No one else.
'New man' is all very well, and many men do a good proportion of the housework, but running the home and raising the children remains essentially the responsibility of the woman and probably will for many generations. I don't mean to complain about my duties, because I love being a mother and making a nice home for my family, but the fact is that they are my duties. Ladies, if you think they're not, consider whether you thank your husband when he hoovers the carpet. Why, when it's his carpet too? Does he thank you when you do it?
Sometimes I bow under the weight of my responsibilities I cannot handle any more. If you want to give me the additional burden of having God's authority to perform ordinances and run His church then first you are going to have to absolve me of the burden of running a home and raising children.
I admit that women already hold callings which are in every way as time-consuming and onerous as those held by men. I've been a Primary President, I know. I recognise that there are super-women out there who want to have it all and prove that they are in every way better than a man by single-handedly balancing career, show-home and priesthood duties. I take my hat off to them. I admit that extending the priesthood only to men can look to as though men are in some way more favoured by God, or better than women. Personally I am happy and confident in my womanhood and my standing as a daughter of God and don't see it that way.
Holding the priesthood is an honour and a privilege, but it's not one I seek. I'm a mother and a home-maker, I have all the honour and privilege I can handle. Let the men serve the women in this one thing, given that we do everything else for them.