Here I think it's important to talk about what priesthood is. I liked Sheri Dew's definition of it being the keys, authority, and power to act in God's name. But there are two distinct and separate areas this power is exercised: ritually and administratively. Most of my feelings on this matter are very well encapsulated by a post found here (On Being Needed Vs. Being Necessary), it has thoughts that I believe that most of the conversation going forward shouldn't be based on "equality" but on a fuller understanding and expression of "accountability and responsibility." I'll quote and try to summarize below.
"In the Church, possession of priesthood is not solely about the proper legitimate performance of spiritual rites and ordinances, but also about the right to speak and be heard, the power to make decisions, to be endowed with full accountability and responsibility, not just at an individual level, but also at an institutional one. Lacking these things can and often does lead to the alienation and brokenness these women have experienced solely on account of their gender."
"New practices and policies.. could be instituted in order to improve women’s and girls’ experience in the Church. But no matter how much women are included in general processes and individually listened to by priesthood leaders, the fact that they must be included and listened to in the first place demonstrates that, de jure and de facto, women stand outside all formal decision-making, at both the general and local levels."
"Our sisters, wives, daughters, and friends deserve to be represented at every level where they have a stake in ecclesiastical decisions and events that affect them..... Merely asking for the opinions of some women would not inform our response like having women with the power to shape and mold it alongside the men they work and serve with."
"Though we believe the Church was instituted by God and its leaders can and do receive divine guidance on its behalf, it is nevertheless a human institution run by and peopled by human beings. I think this is the underlying theological defense of the status quo, that if God wants something to change, God will simply see to it; therefore, the gender of the decision-makers is insignificant because, as stewards of God’s power, they will simply receive divine instruction and all will be well, all wounds will be eventually be healed, all problems resolved, in the Lord’s own time."
"However, priesthood does not make of its holders passive receptacles of constant streams of divine revelation, but makes them responsible to make decisions of their own will and wisdom, in hope of divine ratification. How can we not include women in this process? How can we not empower women as vessels of such responsibility? Women cannot be regarded as fully human until the full measure of responsibility and accountability is theirs. This is where the charged rhetorics of modesty, pedestalization, and singularity and specialness of gender are mutually embedded–in the wonderful-terrible blessing and burden of cultural, institutional, and religious responsibility and accountability, or lack thereof. This is also why the rhetoric of “equality” should be replaced with one of responsibility and accountability. Responsibility is what is really at stake with this kind of empowerment, and it is really what we mean by “equality.” Responsibility is the decisive and irrevocable difference between becoming angels or becoming gods."
"Cultural identity that Priesthood has produced is what really is at stake for both the men who balk at extending priesthood authority to women and the women who insist that they would never want priesthood–not really because they can’t imagine passing the sacrament or doing Tithing Settlement but because they don’t want to be men, full stop." (PS this will all be addressed in Part 3!)
"But the institutional Church is nevertheless of vital importance to its members. It could never cause so much pain, joy, sense of community, and alienation if it were not. If there is another way to irrevocably and formally fold women into the decision-making process at the local and general levels, I’m all ears"
"In the end this is an argument for formally and radically weaving women into the heart of the ebb and flow of Church life, giving them voices that are systemically necessary, a part of the conventional function of the Church, the equals of men in speech, institutional power, and responsibility. The current priesthood-driven structure seems to insist that ordaining women might be the only present way of really doing that, though what seems paramount is ultimately seeing the realization of these fundamentally necessary goals, regardless if priesthood is the vehicle to make that happen."
I very much apologize for block quoting - but . . . he speaks what my heart feels. Please note that I don't place any timelines or stipulations on changes or improvements. . . But I agree with my cousin yesterday who commented 1) we discount how long God waits until the population is open to receive further revelation before giving it and 2) the doctrine of our Gospel and teachings in the temple whisper very much of a shared power dynamic. Much of this belief comes from the commandment that we have to become ONE upon marriage. The we have God the Father and God the Mother***** who are one . . . I don't know when changes or revelation or anything will come.
But I do believe now is a good time to have respectful discussions about these issues - AND all voices should be included in these discussions. This is not currently happening. The scriptures are replete with examples of prophets questioning things they thought were always true (Nephi having to kill Laban) or prophets who wrestle with issues before God (Enos). The scriptures teach me that questions and wrestling with them is okay. That my faith has been strengthened and deepened through my questions and wrestling. And everyone's path in faith back to God is different. And we should respect each others' journeys.
*************The Reference for "God the Mother" is found in the comments below