I have a lot of conversations about the priesthood. Most of these are about women’s ordination to the priesthood. I can’t tell you how many times in these conversations that people have reverted back to the old trope that women are more spiritual/service oriented/closer to God and so they don’t *need* to exercise the priesthood. Men, they say, need to be the officiators of the priesthood because they need the extra motivation to stay engaged in the building up of the kingdom of God. Apparently, if men share priesthood responsibilities with women, they would thereafter only be found at home, on their couches, in their underwear, with food crusting in their unshaved beards.
Obviously this rationale is insulting to men. But the other big reason that I’ve always cringed when being told I am more spiritual than my male counterparts is that I don’t *feel* it. I don’t identify at all with these supposed inherent gifts.
When I read 2 Nephi 4:17-20, I feel that. As I read, I join Nephi in wallowing in my imperfections, and I feel in my heart the importance of turning to the Lord for strength and guidance.
When people say that women are more service oriented, all I can think about is my own selfishness.
When I read about the man of great possessions told by the Savior to give them all away, I identify with his struggle because I am often reluctant to make difficult sacrifices. I understand his sorrow, because I too often wonder if I will ever be good enough to give enough.
When people tell me I am naturally closer to God than men are, I think they just don’t really know me.
When I read about Enos, and his heartfelt prayers and desire to draw closer to the Lord and experience redemption, I think he knows me. I understand his struggle because of all the hard work I have put into drawing closer to the Lord.
Saying men exercise the the power of God on earth because they are less deserving than women is like saying first year medical students should perform all craniotomies because they need the experience more than seasoned brain surgeons. Hopefully you can see how this is problematic for the student, the surgeon, and the patient. This analogy just highlights how inapplicable this reasoning is to priesthood doctrine.
Men are not more amateurish at developing God-like qualities than women. In fact, there are men in my life that I know are more loving, more Christlike, more faithful, and continually drawing closer to the Lord than I am. And I know more than a few women who have a lot of work to do. We need to stop making men out like they are always on the brink of failure. It is a disservice to them, and a disservice to the God that created them.
Women are certainly not experts. If there are women who are edified and enlightened, and who always appear to you to be examples of Christ-like attributes, please understand that these women have probably worked very hard at developing these attributes. Just like a brain surgeon, they have put in the effort and time to be who they are. It is dismissive to set them aside and tell them that someone with fewer skills needs to take over. It is just as horrible that we inadvertently devalue the spirituality of men by telling them that they will never be as in tune with the Spirit as women are.
And we all deserve to be administered to by people who are not otherwise perceived as bumbling idiots. This is the Power of God we are talking about. This is the force through which we believe all saving ordinances are performed; the will of God is made known, people are healed, and lives are saved. I no more believe that God entrusted this important gift with the less capable half of his children than I would a hospital administrator would allow a first year med student to perform a craniotomy.
The truth is, neither men nor women come to earth with any more inherent power or gifts than the other. (We can certainly find individuals with these gifts, but it is not gender related.) So it doesn’t make any sense to allow only men the opportunity for service and growth that comes with yielding priesthood power.
When you tell me that I don’t hold the priesthood because I don’t *need* to hold it, I know this is a falsehood. You’re denying me much needed opportunities to learn how to be more like my Savior when you pretend I don’t need those opportunities. For all the same reasons he does, I need to hold the power of the priesthood as much as any man. I am praying for those opportunities because I can’t reach my potential without them.