A week and a half ago I was struck by inspiration in the bathroom (always the shower with the inspiration). The house was blessedly quiet, as I was on Molly-nap-guarding duty while Tom walked with the older girls to the church you can see from our back windows. I was thinking how glad I was to have recently prioritized Molly’s mid-day nap over punctuality for church (especially when she’s been sickly).
Probably now is a good time to say that when it comes to the priesthood, as much as I dislike it when women say (or feel like they have to demur that) they don’t want the priesthood because it’s just more work or they don’t want the responsibility, etc, the truth is that I really don’t want most of the priesthood or authority as it’s exercised, either. I’m not asking to be the bishop! No, really! (I don’t want Tom to ever be a bishop, either, but that is because I am selfish and want him all to my family’s self.)
What I would like is . . . here’s a story:
Angelica’s husband is an engineer, and one day he came home from working with metal shavings all day and feeling fine. Later that evening, though, his eyes started to hurt. The pain was bad enough, by the time the kids were all in bed, that they were looking up online the treatment for metal shards in the eyeball, and wondering about a trip to the emergency room to stave off imminent blindness. At one point he was lying in the bathroom weeping, the pain was so bad.
Angelica sat on the floor in there with him, cradled his head on her lap and prayed. She prayed and prayed and prayed. Moments later he remembered that his coworkers had been welding in the corner of the shop during the day and he realized that what he was experiencing was flashburn, an extremely painful, totally temporary condition and that he was not going to lose his sight.
Now you can say that I should just stop there and agree that the power of God is in the priesthood and in prayer and everything is okay (and it is, and okay), but what about the other things?
What about Primary?
That Sunday ten days ago, I realized that perhaps that was the day our Primary chorister (a wonderful, otherwise-sensitive man) would devote Singing Time to the boys’ practice of A Young Man Prepared for the sacrament program. We had already spent the majority of a different Sunday on the song, and by “we,” I mean that the boys and he had worked on learning the song while the girls and women sat dumbly, numbly, mutely along. That introductory Sunday included a lot of motivational commentary about how awesome and “Superman”-like the priesthood is and how “nothing is better than the priesthood.”
I am sure that these things are all true. What then, is there for girls? Are girls obviously and naturally then inferior, unworthy? But wait, women also have a God-given power — that of giving birth, of creating life itself.
And so what struck me in the shower was that I should liken that song unto myself and my daughters, in preparation, and in hope that I would not end another Sunday, sobbing quietly, ugly, deeply, out in the hallway.
Here is the original:
A Young Man Prepared
Though a boy I may appear, yet a man I soon will be.
If I prepare and live clean in every thought word and deed
I will be worthy to hold the sacred priesthood of God.
So I now prepare myself, I will serve my fellowman.
Being armed with the truth, with the scriptures my guide,
I’ll go forward a young man prepared.
I’ll go forward a young man prepared.
And here is mine:
A Young Mom Prepared
Though a girl I may appear, yet a mom I soon will be.
If my womb can expand and my egg be fertilized
I will be worthy to hold the sacred uterine power.
So I now prepare myself, I will snare a handsome man.
Pray for fertility, with the moon as my guide,
I’ll go forward a young mom prepared.
I’ll go forward a young mom prepared.
Tom and Avery were not amused, when I passed them my lyrics as the boys sat and sang, and stood and sang, with great gusto. When I explained, on the way home, that I knew it was ridiculous, the point was how ridiculous!, Tom said, why don’t we have Avery write a version that is not ridiculous, and then submit that somewhere. I said (and say to you, my challenge to you) go for it!
Instead, in the ensuing days, Tom has had what I would call a feminist awakening and has politely pointed out to our Primary President that perhaps the all-boy focus in singing time is a bit sexist and insensitive, and that perhaps having 40+ boys sing a song in the Children’s Sacrament Meeting Presentation is not even prescribed in Handbook 2. (Pending bishopric oversight, of course.)
But even if they stopped singing it for twenty minutes straight with a captive audience, and even if it got nixed or balanced by equal girl time, this whole thing only highlights the fact that this song is in the Children’s Songbook and is the only song in there (as far as I can tell) that is for only one gender.
Because the priesthood is for only one gender. And, yes, men can only use the priesthood to bless others, and yes, in the temple . . . somehow . . . women . . . but that’s not what the song says! That’s not what anything in the daily life of the church says! (on the temple thing, not the daily life thing; most of the time, in my experience, good men use the priesthood to bless the lives of others.)
Does it matter? Can’t I just accept that men and women are different with different roles and different stewardships? Here is a pretty compelling work around the motherhood /= priesthood equivalency, arguing that motherhood = fatherhood and as such, motherhood administers physical birth and fatherhood (thanks to the supplement of priesthood) administers (through ordinance) spiritual birth.
Couldn’t I just pray long enough to see that This Explains Everything?!?*
Maybe I could, but I find myself even more compelled by this:
“Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior.” (Nicholas Kristof, at the end of an excellent column about The Elders)
“The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God,” Mr. Carter continued, “gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.”
Of course (of course!) I don’t think our church is that bad. (Though sometimes I do think modesty madness –>victim blaming is on a par.)
In contrast to women across the world and time who experience the horrible fruits of power corrupted, I have an indescribably easy and blessed life in a rich, peaceful country with education and food and leisure and the freedom to write these things at my fingertips.
I also have a husband I would be proud and happy to submit myself to. Yes, really! And you know why? Because he would never ask that of me.
Have you read these?
Neylan McBaine To Do the Work of the Church at this year’s FAIR Conference and Stephanie (Mormon Child Bride)’s response.
Rebecca J Why I don’t like the priesthood-motherhood analogy and My feelings about not holding the priesthood.
*I’d like to see this taken to its natural conclusion — that women should administer physical birth at all levels, e.g. midwifery reinstated as a spiritual calling and all-female ob’s. Meanwhile, I cannot get past the plight of infertility in this analogy, among other things, one being, isn’t this trying a little too hard/relying on sophistry/violating Occam’s Razor?