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COLUMN: What Ordain Women opposers won’t tell you

On April 2, 2014

If you don't know, the Mormon community has been full of some heated debates you don’t engage in much with Mormons on social media. For a while now, the feminist group Ordain Women has planned their second protest at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints General Priesthood Meeting, which is for males only. While the protest itself will be fairly peaceful, it hasn’t stopped some passionate debates on the subject. One can hardly open up Facebook without being bombarded with strong opinions on the matter.

When I look at the many comments directed towards those who support this cause, I've realized how awful we can be at talking about our disagreements and doubts. Forget for one second how much you agree with one side or another, and look again at the comments and observe the words we use in these conversations. I've seen many: "ridiculous," "narcissistic," "misogynistic" and "foolish." I've seen many condescending phrases imply some members by virtue of their opinion are superior in their faith than others. I've seen people suggest they should leave the church or don't belong with the very church they love.

Whatever your opinion on the matter, it would help to get a little context of an organization in which women played a more active role in the priesthood than they do today. That is the Relief Society — the women's organization in the church — in the early LDS church.

While not all historical sources are clear, we have evidence Emma Smith and her councilors in the Relief Society were “ordained” as a presidency and not “set apart,” as is the custom now. Ordain is a word reserved in the church for receiving the authority of a specific priesthood office, not callings. The fact the word ordain was used implies these councilors had some part in the priesthood.

For those who think the wording was just a fluke, there is further evidence Joseph Smith had something more in mind. In an address to the Relief Society, Smith said he was "going to make of this society a kingdom of priests … " Some believe this was just figurative speech, but it makes sense if you realize it was not unusual for the sisters to give blessings of healing and comfort. Joseph Smith knew of the practice, and apparently he didn’t have a problem with it.

This sounds strange to those who are used to those acts being associated with males and the priesthood, but this practice continued on throughout the 19th century church and into the beginning of the 20th century. Eventually the practice was abandoned and forgotten, but to those who support the movement, this is evidence women were always meant to receive the priesthood.

Not knowing what may happen, I wonder how we would all feel if a leader made the announcement to make all women eligible to receive the priesthood. Those who have justified the standard gender roles with every fiber of their being would quickly change their opinion and pretend they never felt otherwise. Since Mormons believe God “has yet to reveal many things,” and I don’t know what the future has in store, I’ll be content with keeping my mind open to priesthood ordination for women: That way I won’t look like a jerk one day.

Bradley Robinson is a junior psychology and guitar performance major on a mission to defend science, logic and fun. He loves reading and talking about everything. For more, email

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