Over the years I have been asked by many people about my faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The questions vary but some are reoccurring. One such question is:
How can you believe in a church that denies women the priesthood? They expect you to stay home and take care of the kids as if women's rights had never become available.
Yes, I hear that often.
First of all, I have NEVER, I repeat NEVER felt as if I have been denied anything in my life or faith because I am a woman. In fact, it is more likely that I feel like there is no way to live up to the position on the pedestal women are placed in this church.
And that is why I chose Quentin L Cook's talk from the Saturday morning session of General Conference. I knew from the moment he started talking that I would share this talk.
Our women are not incredible because they have managed to avoid the difficulties of life—quite the opposite. They are incredible because of the way they face the trials of life. Despite the challenges and tests life has to offer—from marriage or lack of marriage, children’s choices, poor health, lack of opportunities, and many other problems—they remain remarkably strong and immovable and true to the faith. Our sisters throughout the Church consistently “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” 11This is so true! That's why I get so tired. I always feel like I could have, SHOULD have done more. Not because someone is telling me I should, but because I feel like I should be able to help everyone.
One Relief Society president who acknowledged this extraordinary service said, “Even when the sisters serve, they are thinking,‘If only I could have done more!’” Though they are not perfect and all face individual struggles, their faith in a loving Father in Heaven and the assurance of the atoning sacrifice of the Savior permeates their lives.
Ok, now that I've given you a quote from the end of the talk, let's go back to the beginning.
Author and historian Wallace Stegner wrote about the Mormon migration and gathering to the Salt Lake Valley. He did not accept our faith and in many ways was critical; nevertheless, he was impressed with the devotion and heroism of our early Church members, especially the women. He stated, “Their women were incredible.” 1 I echo that sentiment today. Our Latter-day Saint women are incredible!Elder Cook goes on to talk about the faith of pioneer women, how they sacrificed their homes to trek across this country to find peace with their families in the West. Many lost their families along the way, but found strength in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God placed within women divine qualities of strength, virtue, love, and the willingness to sacrifice to raise future generations of His spirit children.
I often think how grateful I am that we do not suffer the same persecutions as those in the early days of the church. Would I have been faithful enough to leave my home? Would I have stayed strong in the face of death after death of loved ones?
The blessings of the priesthood are available to men and women equally in our church. As a woman I do not exercise the right to bestow those blessings. This is the point that has bothered friends over the years, but not me. I like to think of it this way--my responsibility is to love and nurture my children and others around me. This generally comes naturally to women. We are all about relationships.I believe the women of the Church today...are every bit as strong and faithful. The priesthood leadership of this Church at all levels gratefully acknowledges the service, sacrifice, commitment, and contribution of the sisters.
Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of women. Whether in the Church or in the home, it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society (our women's organization) work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us.
Men, not so much. I mean they want relationships and feel their importance, but it's on a different level. They can sit in a room watching THE GAME not speaking to each other and be perfectly happy. True? True.
So in my mind, Heavenly Father knew men needed something to encourage them to reach out to others. He gave them the priesthood. They can only use this power to bless others, never themselves. See, it brings the men up to our level. *insert wicked grin*
Recently a delightful and very capable woman on a newspaper editorial board asked for a description of the role of women in the Church. It was explained that all of the leaders in our congregations are unpaid. She interrupted to say her interest had diminished significantly. She said, “I don’t believe women need any more unpaid jobs.”Elder Cook talked more about the role of women in the church and within families, but because this post is getting long I'll encourage you to go read the whole article. There is even a neat button on the right side for audio so you can listen! (it's 16 minutes long)
We pointed out that the most important organization on earth is the family, where “fathers and mothers are … equal partners.” 8 Neither one is financially compensated, but the blessings are beyond description. We of course told her about the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations that are guided by women presidents. We noted that from our earliest history both men and women pray, perform the music, give the sermons, and sing in the choir, even in sacrament meeting, our most sacred meeting.
I want to answer my opening question. How can I believe in a church that denies women the priesthood?
It's easy when you understand how men and women work together under priesthood direction. I am not denied any blessing, and goodness knows I participate in my church. I play the piano (poorly, but the need is greater than my inadequacy), I have given talks in our sacrament meeting (comparable to when the preacher gives his sermon in other churches), I have served as President of the children's organization and the women's organization, been teacher to men, women, and children. Currently I teach our high school aged youth the scriptures at 6 am Monday through Friday.
In all of my service I have learned how to love, pray, and feel the guidance of the spirit. I know that my savior Jesus Christ lives, that my Heavenly Father loves me and all of His children on earth. I hope and pray every day that those around me can feel His love for them by my kindness.
And now, if you are interested in hearing about some other talks from the conference, here are the links to those participating.
Annette Lyon: “Desire”
Annie Cechini: “The Spirit of Revelation”
Ben Spendlove: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Chantele Sedgwick: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Charity Bradford: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Jackee Alston: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Jenilyn Tolley: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Jennifer McFadden: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jessie Oliveros: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jolene Perry: “It’s Conference Once Again”
Jordan McCollum: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Kasey Tross: “Guided by the Holy Spirit”
Kayeleen Hamblin: “Become as a Little Child”
Kelly Bryson: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Krista Van Dolzer: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Melanie Stanford: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Michelle Merrill: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Myrna Foster: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Nisa Swineford: “Desire”
Sallee Mathews: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Sierra Gardner: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Tamara Hart Heiner: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”
The Writing Lair: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”