Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Women and the Priesthood - Book Review

Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes by Sheri L. Dew My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.5 stars

I find myself in a peculiar situation as a Moderate Mormon Feminist against advocating for the priesthood, in reality I find peace in waiting patiently for the further light and knowledge regarding women's priestess-hood. So I really don't feel like I have a dog in the actual fighting going on around the "Ordain Women" movement, and obviously this book is in response to that.

Even though I don't believe in advocating for the priesthood, I'm still a feminist who wants to be a part of positive change regarding policies in the procedures of the church to eliminate gender inequality. Men and women are not the same and shouldn't be treated equally, but they should be treated equitably.

I will attempt to summarize the whole of Sheri Dew's book in a paragraph: She doesn't understand why people think women don't have anything to do in the church: LOOK! We pray and speak and lead our own organizations! The doctrine of Jesus Christ holds equality in women and men, but quit trying to be treated the same! If you understand who you are as a daughter of God you will stop being confused!! Be rooted in the gospel and quit worrying about these things, or else your roots will be weak! If you understand the plan of Salvation, you understand that women are to have children and men are to have the priesthood. We don't know why, we accept it with faith. We have our gender roles and that's what we're supposed to do. And Christ is at the head of the Church so STOP questioning it! I will provide no discussion at all about the mistakes and infallibility of human leaders of our church. Quit asking for the priesthood, we are already doing a lot: we are praying and leading organizations and teaching and stuff - and some churches don't let you even do that. So why are we complaining again? We are so vital to the work. We have all the access to every blessing the Lord has promised us. She has access to priesthood power as a single, endowed woman in her home, please stop telling her she doesn't. As for women having power in the early days of the church to lay on of hands, well, it's likely it all could have just been a mistake - or we were doing it wrong until we locked that practice up exclusively in the temple. She explains in a really awesome way the difference between keys, authority, and the power of the priesthood. We don't talk about Mother in Heaven because we're protecting her. Motherhood is a doctrine and you don't need kids to be a mother. If you just immerse yourself in the Gospel, you can change the world and be saved.  

Now here is my response: Wow, what a mixed bag for me. I actually did learn a lot about the priesthood. In fact most of the book was very uplifting to me. She had some pretty insightful discussions about how women's path in life are ambiguous in the Church while men's paths are set. About how our goal in finding out our purposes in life may not include the Sunday School answers. But near the end I felt like she was really negative about people who disagreed with her, regardless of her earlier quotes of it being okay to have different opinions. She implied if you don't understand it her way you won't qualify for the celestial kingdom, that if you are confused you are ridiculous and 'absurd'. The main reasons women have questions about ordination are quickly dismissed or not even discussed at all. I disagree that if someone has a different opinion that they don't understand the plan of salvation. I very much don't agree with her opinion about celestial silence being necessary for Heavenly Mother, especially since it's not based in scripture or any leader ever of this church. It's a myth debunked. BUT I respect her with all of my heart. Her beliefs and interpretations are the product of her life and experiences - just as mine are.

I have a much more in depth summary of my notes on the book and my responses to points made over at my blog. All in all I'd say there is insight to be gained in this book, but by in large it reflects the traditional beliefs in the Church about gender roles and our places in the organization. I certainly understand this perspective. She stuck to her own script about how to explain away Ordain Women, but I wish she would have spent some more time on their actual concerns and questions - and not just why she thinks they are wrong doctrinally. I spend a lot of my time defending OW as not being apostate against really mean people - and this book doesn't help my case, because in a round about way she implies that herself. I'm not sure if this does anything to help the dialog about women and the priesthood than to reinforce people's already held opinions and interpretations. There just doesn't seem to be any attempt at understanding that it is possible to be a Mormon feminist and faithful at the same time. And if you are, well - you're just all caught up in Satan's distracting influence.

I actually am grateful for the OW movement, even though I disagree with them because I think they are prompting a conversation we should be having.  A real and hard look at gender and the church and the priesthood.  I know I've been more sincere and earnest in my study this year regarding this topic, especially inside the temple, because of it - and I'm grateful for it.  I don't want to focus on what we're doing wrong, but what could we be doing better?

I recently told my husband the reason I am a feminist is because I am a mother and because I cherish that role. Because I care so deeply for my daughter and her experiences in life, I do feel prompted by the Spirit to try to change gender inequalities. And because I am a faithful Mormon feminist, there is nothing any human can do on this earth to take me away from the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know He lives and loves me. I know that all things will be made right in the end. I know I will see my Father and Mother in Heaven face to face and every question I have now will be answered in the next life.

p.s. Can I just say Sheri Dew is my hero, and long for the days of her exhorting and expounding over the pulpit, even if we do disagree sometimes.

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I am almost done, and so far all I can say is: Deseret Book, you have the worst ebook reading app I have ever used in my life. AWWWWFFFUUULLL. Seriously so much info technology in the church that this is embarrassing :-) View all my reviews

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