I have a particular reason for mentioning the toaster however. I've never quite outgrown my fascination for exploring things, perhaps even things that I am not supposed to get into. Since a friend of mine introduced me to the campaign Ordain Women, I have enjoyed exploring the importance of gender in the context of the gospel. Here I want to share a few ideas encountered in this exploration because they have helped me to ﬁnd so much peace amidst the confusion and misunderstanding that sometimes swirls around gender discussions. None of the ideas I have encountered are new or obscure. Revelation for the church is the province of those who we sustain as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. I hope this will be taken as a conversation from one friend to another, for that is what prompted my search in the first place.
As I have interacted with my friend I have come to admire her deep faith and strong desire to seek for truth in her life. My associations with LDS feminists have led me to want to be a kinder, more accepting, Christlike person. They have continually inspired me to seek for a deeper understanding of the truth and this has led me to an increased testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and of His restored church. My gratitude extends to them as well to all who share an interest in seeking after these truths.
Trying to butter two sides of a piece of toast simultaneously is a nearly acrobatic feat for one person. It’s hard to do well and it’s hard not to make a mess in the process. Those who dispense with political correctness usually assert that they are trying to be straightforward rather than couching their dialog in sugar-coated euphemism. Too often this is used as license for incivility rather than for clear discussion. As a person who loves feminists but does not support the ordination of women to the Priesthood, I hope that these thoughts will be both straightforward and kind. I will try to accomplish both sides of this discussion without making too much of a mess. I do not write in the spirit of contention but of sincere desire for reconciliation between all seekers of truth. I believe that all of us feel there should be no schism within the body of Christ.
If these ideas are wrong, which I admit is possible, I hope that those who read this will look upon it as my mother looked on me when I was screaming on the counter, toaster-plug in hand: "There's David, trying to be a big kid again. Look, he's just discovered electricity!" So, with every chance of saying what everyone else already knows, I present why I believe women should not be ordained to the Priesthood and why I think it brings us closer.
Considering the Doctrine of the Fall in the Context of the Plan of Salvation
When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they were faced with an incredible opportunity and an incredible choice. In their paradisiacal condition they had the ability to live forever, however they did not have knowledge of good and evil, nor could they become parents. The Lord had given them several commandments:
1. A Commandment To Be Fruitful and to Multiply and Replenish The Earth
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…”(Genesis 1:27-28)
2. A Commandment Not to Partake of The Forbidden Fruit
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”(Genesis 2:17)
In these verses we are faced again with a situation that seems perplexing until brought within the context of the Plan of Salvation. Adam and Eve could not keep both of these commandments. Many times throughout my life I have heard people question why God would give two contradictory commandments to our first parents. It seems puzzling. The key to understanding this puzzle is gaining a deeper understanding of the Plan of Salvation. Knowing that God’s whole purpose is to bring about, “the immortality and eternal life of man”, helps us see things more clearly and turns what seems to be a confusing contradiction into a clear and loving manifestation of God’s love.
The sequence of the first two commandments is instructive. The first commandment was to multiply and replenish the earth. In Adam and Eve’s unfallen condition they were unable to do this. I’m sure they wanted to start a family. They probably dreamed of having a family, but they were incapable of doing this.
“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.”(2 Nephi 2:22-24)
Adam and Eve had to fall if they were ever to be able to obey the first commandment of God and become the parents of the human race. In Eden it was as if they received the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth along with a list of instructions on how to obey it. The first item on the list of instructions was to fall.
The forbidden fruit was a sinless way to transgress a formal rule that was wrong only because it had been officially forbidden (mala prohibita) rather than violate a commandment which was inherently wrong (mala en se). Because God is just, he does not expel any clean thing from his presence. Therefore He would not force Adam and Eve from the garden unless they transgressed a law. He gave them the choice to partake of the fruit and enter mortality or to remain forever in the Garden of Eden.
If we were to compare the two commandments, we would see a major disparity in their respective levels of importance. The first commandment held eternal significance and foreshadowed the couple’s potential for everlasting posterity. The second commandment was a formality that had been instituted for the express purpose of facilitating a transition into mortality. Although important in its role of helping Adam and Eve enter mortality there were no grandiose reasons for them not to eat the fruit. With their minds and hearts set firmly on obeying the paramount decree of God to begin a family, Adam and Eve partook of the fruit and fell. This in turn enabled them to begin having children. This furthered God’s work to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Seeing the first two commandments within the context of the Plan of Salvation clears up any perplexity that may have existed. They are a progressive series of instructions, the second vital to the fulfillment of the first. Many of the details of the Plan of Salvation become confusing if we lose sight that His plan is designed to bring to pass the eternal life of man and to help us receive a fulness of joy.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to Eve who partook first of the fruit and to Adam who followed. Eve will be forever honored by those who truly understand the Plan of Salvation as a heroine who bravely stepped into a new world in order to fulfill the will of God.
Considering the Doctrine of the Priesthood in the Context of the Plan of Salvation
Like all other doctrines of the gospel, the Doctrine of the Priesthood must be seen within the full context of the Plan of Salvation to be truly understood. Questions, doubts or perceived injustices fly away in the light of truth when any honest seeker of truth begins to see any doctrine of the gospel in its true fullness. With this in mind, let’s consider the Doctrine of the Priesthood from the eternal perspective we gain from the Plan of Salvation.
God’s plan provided us with the opportunity to come to earth, passing through the joys and trials of mortality. He also provided a means whereby we might escape both spiritual and physical death, the inevitable consequences of our mortal experience. Jesus Christ was chosen as the Redeemer of mankind.
In the greatest act of love that the world has ever known, Christ gave himself as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Christ’s love for and union with the church was so complete that the scriptures often use the metaphor of a marriage. Christ is the Bridegroom and the church is his Bride. Marriage was the only mortal union that could begin to convey the extent of his love. This selfless union was also meant to show us what an eternal marriage could be like.
The symbol of the church as the Bride of Christ pervades the New Testament and early Christian theology. In the Book of Common Prayer we read just one well-known example of this principle set forth:
“DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church” (The Book of Common Prayer, 1928)
The strength of this symbolic union was one of the principal reasons why divorce was barred by the Catholic Church for centuries. Christ would never abandon his Church, thus marriage was absolutely indissoluble. To the Latter-day Saint the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church has largely been demystified through modern revelation. We are linked to Christ by covenant. Likewise we are linked to our spouses by eternal covenant.
If we return to Eden we can learn a great lesson about the Doctrine of the Priesthood from the events that transpired there. It’s a principle that I think is important because it can help families become closer together and closer to God.
When Eve partook of the forbidden fruit she took upon herself a symbolic role. She represented the faith that each of us demonstrated in stepping from the pre-mortal world into this fallen world. Eve knew full-well the ramifications of this glorious choice. She single-handedly moved forward the Plan of Salvation for all mankind. And think for a moment the trust she placed in God and in Adam; for if Adam had not followed Eve in partaking of the fruit, if He had not joined her in leaving the garden, she could not have had children. More importantly the promised Savior could not have come to earth to provide the means for mankind’s return to live with God. Eve was unshakable in her faith.
I believe each of us faced a similar decision in the pre-mortal council when we chose to follow the plan of Heavenly Father. We could step out of paradise and put our full trust in Jesus Christ’s promise to redeem us, or we could have chosen to follow the plan of the adversary and forfeited our chance for mortal life and our second estate.
Symbolically, Eve is each of us, male or female. We are Eve. We chose to leave our paradisiacal home trusting on God as our only means for returning to him.
Adam also faced a choice. He could have remained in the Garden of Eden forever, but he would have remained alone. Adam knew that the Plan of God required him to leave Eden and join Eve in the fallen world. The thought of not spending eternity with his beloved helpmeet must have proven unbearable. Without each other, the plan could not continue. Together, they could create a family to which in time the promised Messiah could be sent.
Adam left his paradisiacal home to be with Eve, knowing that only together they would be capable of making it back. He wanted to be forever with Eve. He wanted to start a family. He wanted to fulfill his part in the Plan of Salvation. The only way for him to do this was to join his Bride in the mortal sphere.
Symbolically, Adam is Christ. Christ chose to follow us from pre-mortality to this fallen world so that all of us might have the ability to return to the presence of God. Without Christ even our brave demonstration of faith in choosing to come to earth would not have been enough.
Importantly, this symbol does not exalt men and degrade women. Men did not come to save women! Christ came to save all of us. Adam and Eve’s marriage is an incredible symbol of this to me. Their marriage is meant to point us to Christ. Their conduct both in the Garden and beyond carries immense symbolic significance. It lends clarity to the principles presented by Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…(Ephesians 5:22-25)
Such a relationship is not one of inequality when truly understood. It is a relationship of divine equality. It is a symbolic relationship. It is the relationship that we have with Christ, and there is no other relationship that compares in scope or depth to the love that Christ has for us.
I believe that the Lord wants us to have the opportunity to have a marriage like Adam and Eve. The Lord extends to each couple married through covenant the chance to become a type of Christ. Both the man and the woman is necessary to teach their children of the family’s absolute reliance on the Lord.
Imagine the effect this type of union would have on children. They would grow up in a family where the relationship of their parents continuously points them to Christ. The father loves and honors the mother as Christ loves and honors the Church. The mother loves and honors the father, as we love and honor Christ. In conduct toward each other and in shared purpose of being a family for all of eternity, the Priesthood would bring them closer.
In families where there is no Priesthood holder present, the Doctrine of the Priesthood still brings the family closer. Such circumstances draw upon the ward family ensuring that no families are left isolated.
There are no differences in physical, mental, emotional or spiritual capacity between men and women that would preclude females from holding the Priesthood. There are no differences between men and women in their ability for spiritual strength or dedicated service. Both are equal before God and equally dependent upon the Atonement of Christ.
Men are ordained to the Priesthood so that they may act in the name of Christ both in their symbolic role within a marriage as well as in their clerical role in the Church. Women do not hold the authority of the Priesthood so that they might perform the equally important service of pointing those around them to Christ. By making clear their dependence on the Priesthood faithful women are symbols to the world of each of our complete dependence on Christ.
When we chose to follow the Plan of God in the pre-mortal existence both men and women were foreordained to fulfill specific missions in this life. Men who followed Christ were foreordained to be bearers of the Priesthood. Women who followed Christ were foreordained to point others to Him by not holding the Priesthood. In doing so, they followed Mother Eve into a brave new world. We importantly recall that in the pre-mortal council that we shouted for joy because of this plan. I promise that same joy can be ours as we gain a greater testimony of God’s plan and the part we play in it.
In a world calling for us to be increasingly independent, I am calling for us to become more dependent: dependent on the Priesthood, dependent on Christ and dependent on each other. As we rely more fully on others and become truly interdependent, bonds of trust will form. They will make us ever more unified and the Priesthood will serve to bring us closer.
I know that the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as the Holy Priesthood has been restored to the earth in our day by heaven. My testimony is that the church is in the right course and is guided continuously by revelation from on high. No group needs to agitate an issue in order to help the brethren get it right. Doctrine does not change as new Apostles and Prophets are called. Women are not disenfranchised in the Restored Church; indeed, the Doctrine of the Priesthood helps us understand the vital part that women play in advancing the Great Plan of Happiness.
I invite those who have questions relating to the ordination of women to the Priesthood to earnestly study the Doctrine of the Priesthood. From personal experience I know that this is an incredible source of truth and peace.
I also invite those who have been advocating the ordination of women to the Priesthood to end this campaign. Regardless of the intentions of their cause, it is creating a schism within the body of Christ. Let us be reconciled together through Christ, for then the Priesthood will truly bring us closer.