Linda & Richard Eyre: Women and the priesthood in Mormon theology
We are in Bali, Indonesia, as we write this column, and while we love so many things about Bali, parts of its culture are distastefully male-dominated. It's causing us to appreciate our own ever-more-equal-but-still-a-long-way-to-go American culture.
“Getting over” the affliction of thinking that, even in a small way, men are better than women or should control women in any manner is part of our maturation as a culture. We wish it could accelerate. In fact, we wish it could happen, completely and totally, right now.
But there is one problem that pervades the feminism culture and that is actually working against the ultimate and worthy goal of total equality. It is the notion that equality means sameness. In actuality, striving for sameness will never produce equality, because there will always be small variants and no two people will ever be the same.
True equality comes only when we realize that two very different things can be precisely equal in importance, in beauty and in ultimate potential.
It’s a simplified comparison, but the corporate vice president of production and the vice president of marketing could be exactly equal but do totally different things.
That kind of completely equal but completely different notion gets much more exciting when we apply it to men and women. As the French say, “vive la difference!” The whole universe is energized and held in check by the combination and the difference of the masculine and feminine, of the yin and the yang, of two complementing forces synergistically joined.
Within that context, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints need to be better at explaining, both to themselves and to others, why women don’t “hold” the priesthood and how husband and wife share and jointly “own” one priesthood within the oneness of their family. Such an explanation also helps others understand why the LDS Church's definition of marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
In Mormon theology, neither a man nor a woman is a perfectible entity. Neither can realize full potential alone or achieve the highest heaven. Together, though, in a new kind of oneness defined by interdependence rather than independence, they can form something “exaltable.” Mormons believe that every person will, either here or in a later sphere, have the opportunity for that oneness.
In such a union, striving for that kind of oneness and that kind of salvation, two priesthoods would be redundant and divisive. One priesthood, the power to bless and to call down divine help, shared as indivisibly as the power of procreation, is indispensable to the growth and progress we seek.
We, as members of the LDS Church, follow a religion that teaches that family and eternal life are our ultimate goals and that, as the prophet Harold B. Lee said, “the church is scaffolding with which we build eternal families.” Within this church and within this doctrine, “priesthood” is a family power, shared and used and “worn” by husband and wife together.
Understanding this, and raising the dialogue to a spiritual level, may defuse the debate and allow people to be less judgmental and more tolerant of one another’s views.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at EyresFreeBooks.com or valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."
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