[This is a guest post from Deborah Rowley, a Latter-day Saint woman sharing her perspective on the subject of women and the priesthood. These comments are Deborah’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of FairMormon or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints..]
I am a woman. I am also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am aware of the events surrounding Kate Kelly, her excommunication, and the Ordain Woman movement. Many people both inside and outside the Church have been asking questions like, “What are the leaders of the church thinking?” or “What is Kate Kelly’s bishop thinking?” Those on the other side of the controversy are asking, “What is Kate Kelly thinking?” or “What are the members of Ordain Women thinking?” While these are good questions, I think they’re the wrong ones. No one in the swirling social media frenzy surrounding this situation is asking the right question.
Here is the right question, “What is God thinking?” I know how that must sound. Just stay with me for a second. Let’s just assume that the priesthood leaders at the head of the Church are telling the truth. They have said that only God makes this decision about who holds the priesthood. And they have told us that God said, “Not women.” That answer may change in the future but for now, the answer is no. You may not believe that those men are speaking for God and that is your right. But I do. My faith depends on it. Otherwise the leaders of my church are lying. If they are lying, why would I want to be part of their organization or hold the priesthood anyway? Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that they are telling the truth and that God said no. That is where my question comes in.
The right question is, “What is God thinking?” Einstein famously said that he wanted to know God’s thoughts. I am no Einstein but I think I know my Heavenly Father well enough to know what he is not thinking. He is not thinking that his daughters are undeserving or unworthy. He is not thinking that his daughters couldn’t do the job as well as his sons. He is not thinking that he loves his daughters less than his sons or that he values their growth and development less than that of his sons. He is not thinking that he wants to drive women away from his church or hold them down or keep them subservient. I am conﬁdent that God is not thinking those things.
So what could be God thinking? I don’t want to be struck by lightning for the presumption of thinking like God or for God, but I really like that question. As I’ve pondered that question sincerely, I’ve come up with several answers that make sense to me. They may not make sense to you, but below are three possible reasons that I came up with. (God is not in the habit of letting me read his mind so feel free to take this with a grain of salt if you want.)
I started my thought process by acknowledging that God thinks in the big picture. He looks at the long term and can see perfectly how thumping that one domino will set in motion a stream of events that we cannot even begin to see. God knows the consequences down the road that are hidden to us with our limited perspective. Can he see that what seems like one positive to us right now would result in even bigger negatives in the long run? What could those negatives be?
First, perhaps God is saying no because he is protecting his youngest and most innocent children and wants to safeguard a mother’s very limited time in the home. Second, perhaps God is saying no because he is concerned about the growing distortion in our understanding of men and women’s unique roles. Perhaps giving the priesthood to women would further blur the distinction between men and women and jeopardize our Father’s plan for all his children. Third, perhaps God is saying no because he is aware of negative consequences to his sons.
Many boys are struggling in a world of violence, pornography and fatherless families. Perhaps this decision would further marginalize boys which in turn would negatively impact their wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. You may agree or disagree with my three points and that is just ﬁne. I am not trying to argue my points as definitive answers because I don’t know what God thinks. But I think it is very probable that he has different purposes and reasons that I wouldn’t even understand if he were to try to verbalize them to me. Nevertheless, it has helped me to think of some reasons that make sense to me. You could do the same. Why do you think God would be saying no?
Whatever the reason, I trust God. I trust that he has my best interests at heart, that he loves me and is thinking continually of my needs. He knows what those needs are and how to fulﬁll them far better than I do. He knows how to fulﬁll them better than a group of women activists or a group of priesthood leaders. I do believe that God is behind this decision and I trust him. I believe that conscientious leaders have prayed to him to know if now is the time and God said no. I don’t speak for God, but his prophets do. You don’t get too far in reading the Bible before realizing that the prophets’ words are never popular. Why should that change in our modern day?
The unpopularity of their teachings should conﬁrm rather than discount their validity. I do not see denying women the priesthood as hurtful to women. I do not see this decision as holding women back. Why would a loving God purposefully hurt his daughters? From where I sit, I see women in the church thriving and continuing to grow and progress without the priesthood. I see powerful women who lead with strength and purpose, who express their views openly and honestly. I have never been asked to shut up or sit down. Quite the contrary. I have been asked time and time again to step up and speak up. I feel nothing but respect from my priesthood leaders and I admire and respect them in return.
I will continue to give my all to the religion that I believe in. I love being a woman in the Church. I believe it is the place where I can reach my fullest and highest potential and where I can most fully develop a relationship with God and with his Son Jesus Christ. One day I will know God’s thoughts and I will see how this decision ﬁts into his eternal plan. For now, I will not tell God what to think or what to do. I will trust him and exercise my faith.