I recently attended a conference in which Richard Bushman, Fiona Givens, and Terryl Givens fielded questions from an audience. One of the questions dealt with female ordination to the Priesthood. Fiona Givens answered that she disapproved of such efforts. Her belief is that ordaining a female into a male priesthood is problematic. As a self-identified feminist I find myself agreeing.
On Wear Pants to Church day I proudly wore a purple tie in support. When it was time to request prayerful consideration of women praying in conference I wrote in encouragement. With all of that said, I cannot get behind current efforts to ordain women into the Priesthood.
Now, before some of you call me a sheep in feminist clothing, let me elaborate. To give context to my views we need to explore the discipline of critical race theory (CRT).
Critical race theory is legalistic in nature but has implications outside of the legal realm. Legal scholar Roy L. Brooks gives a good summary of CRT:
[CRT] focuses on the various ways in which the received tradition in law adversely affects people of color not as individuals but as a group. Thus, CRT attempts to analyze law and legal traditions through the history, contemporary experiences, and racial sensibilities of racial minorities in this country. The question always lurking in the background of CRT is this: What would the legal landscape look like today if people of color were the decision-makers?
Aspects of critical race theory inform my opposition to ordaining women. Theorist W. J. T. Mitchell claims that a, “‘color-blind’ post-racial world is neither achievable nor desirable. Against popular claims that race is an outmoded construct that distracts from more important issues, Mitchell contends that race remains essential to our understanding of social reality. Race is not simply something to be seen but is among the fundamental media through which we experience human otherness. Race also makes racism visible and is thus our best weapon against it”
CRT contends that assimilation can be oppression. While colorblindness and, in my view, blindness to gender is seen as benevolent; in reality it can be oppressive. America has a history of integrating other racial traditions into another to reinforce white male supremacy. This presupposes that white male tradition is superior and should be dominant.
Similar to W. J. T. Mitchell I see evidence that being in a sex-blind post-gender world “is neither achievable nor desirable.” What I see is a growing trend to institutionalize the dominance of white male tradition. I think ordaining women to a male priesthood would only further that cause.
However, while I don’t support giving Mormon women the Priesthood I hope for and push for equality in the Church. What I would like to see is a better and more equal celebration of the LDS women faith tradition. And while I don’t see motherhood as something that equals Priesthood, I think strong women leaders could make a tradition that equals male Priesthood tradition.
To achieve that I urge Mormon women everywhere to claim the power that you can access. Our doctrine allows for Priestesshood and a Heavenly Mother. Our doctrine allows for strong opinions and strong blessings from women that are equally important and valid and can breathe new life into a living Church. While I have always been taught that the Priesthood is the power of God given to men to act for and in behalf of others, we need a similar view that women have just as much access to the power of God to act for and in behalf of others as well. There is absolutely scriptural and historical reason to support that kind of equality. Our canon is the only canon that, instead of segregating into more than and lesser than, specifically states that all are alike unto God.