Babies or the Priesthood?

Feminist Mormon Housewives has assembled an excellent series of posts on the occasion of women’s history month. I am particularly impressed by Carol Lynn Pearson’s A Walk in Pink Moccasins, which reverses the gender roles in a general authority’s conference speech. Leveraging the golden rule, Pearson claims the theological high ground by pointing out that Mormon men would not want to be treated like Mormon women.

A common rejoinder, advocated by Hugh Nibley, for example, is that the exclusively male priesthood cannot be shared with women for females can have babies. The priesthood barely puts males on a level playing field.

People might disagree whether or not gender equality requires that women have the priesthood. However, the argument that women do not need the priesthood because they can have babies is problematic insofar as analogous statements can justify every gender inequity.

For example, one can argue that women don’t need as much money as men because they can have babies.

One can justify that women have to veil their bodies head to toe because they can have babies.

One can insist that women have to pray in the outer areas of the mosque because they can have babies.

Surely, we all agree that this is nonsense. Every healthy woman can have babies regardless what religion, culture, or ethnicity she belongs to. Some non-Mormon women have even been known to be competent in child rearing. Yet we would not accept other cultures’ gender inequities with a feeble reference that women get pregnant.

Sex is important. So is institutional power. The lesson of liberal democracy is that human beings prosper best when there is a balance of power.

I am sure that there are excellent women’s programs somewhere in Mormonism. That would be the result of local righteousness and initiative. Results would be more consistent, however, if women played an equal role in decision making.

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4 Responses

  1. Hellmut says:

    Just to be clear, I won’t trade my babies for an office either.

  2. CWC says:

    The last sentence of your post is devastating in its simple straightforwardness. These discussions, amongst mormons or post-mormons, always bog down in a number of people, often even the majority, talking about how great the church is and how they’ve never been in a ward like that, or had bad leaders, etc. It’s a cruel society that insists that people fit in the mainstream or keep their mouths firmly shut. There’s not a lot of moral high ground there, certainly. It can still make me sad.

  3. fta says:

    I always said, The equivalent to motherhood is NOT priesthood: it’s FATHERHOOD.

  4. JulieAnn says:

    I am so glad you provided the link to CL Pearson’s piece,Walking in Pink Moccasins. It brought tears to my eyes, realizing the subtle ways in which women are diminished in the Church. Last I checked, she had over 96 comments from LDS women saying about the same thing. Changed my paradigm even more. I hope every LDS man reads it, including the church Big Wigs.

    Your examples were excellent. I have been reading up on Blacks in the priesthood, and wonder how many prophets fasted, prayed and anguished over women not having it? Hm, let me get out my finger…

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