Last month there was a fascinating exchange of ideas over at Millennial Star about the hype surrounding a resurgence of interest in feminism among some Latter-day Saints. Eventually, the comments were closed, as they were becoming acrimonious. My only contribution to that thread was a sarcastic jab, so here are some of the more substantial thoughts that have stuck in my mind since then.
The Mormon feminists (if I may lump them into a monolithic group for argument’s sake) don’t respond well to a major issue raised in the original post: the undeniable fact that most Mormon women are happy with the status quo…without being oppressed Stepford wives. The first thing I’d like to hear them address is this: how do you know that your crusade to alter doctrinal emphases and the priesthood won’t result in unwanted burdens for the majority of LDS women? Most importantly, can anyone address this need without resorting to insulting their sisters (“They just don’t know what they want / They need to have their eyes opened.”)?
Or, to put it another way, have the feminists tried to account for the law of unintended consequences? For example, would a universal priesthood result in an expectation for young women to all serve missions, as young men do? Wouldn’t that naturally follow? If so, how might this impact the college graduation rates of young women, or the increasingly precarious nature of dating and marriage for Mormons in their twenties?
Also, if there’s a disparity in church activity between men and women, where women are usually the more active in the church, and this gender gap only seems poised to grow in the future, might a universal priesthood weaken the opportunities for men to bond in brotherhood, and further weaken the faith of men inclined to falter? Might it also restrict the chances women have to be together without men? What would be the role of Relief Society in a universal-priesthood church?
One commenter on the M* post compared Mormon feminists to Abraham imploring God to save Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s a revealing analogy, especially as it seems to work against the feminist activists. Abraham went straight to God and asked for blessings for others. The Mormon feminists are agitating earthly Church authorities for things they want for themselves. So, my second concern is this: how can you be sure your objectives are fair when you have such a vested interest in them, even to the point of ignoring what the majority of women want?
Third, doesn’t expecting Church leaders to change things you don’t like imply that this church is just another human institution and not divinely led? After all, Abraham had the faith and spirituality to go right to God. Circumventing that route suggests that current church authorities can alter doctrines at their choice and convenience, an apparent supposition which creates problems for feminists who ask mainstream members to respect their position. If your feelings are right, why not implore God for justice, as Abraham did? Don’t you have faith that He wants what is best and is ready to bless you with it?
I suppose my fourth and final question relates to that seeming self-righteousness and its paradoxical, apparent lack of faith. If Jesus Christ came down in the middle of General Conference and said that women should have the priesthood and we should all worship Heavenly Mother, I’d have absolutely zero problem with it. I’d get 100% on board right away. But if He said just the opposite–that it was wrong, would never happen, and to stop bugging the Church about it–would the Mormon feminists comply just as eagerly? If not, why not?