Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ask Lola: Women and the Priesthood...or the lack thereof.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I have just started going back to church (we've both been inactive for 10 years) Currently he's advancing in the Priesthood. Going through this process with him is making me feel like my role as a woman in the church isn't as important as his.
During meetings with the bishop and missionaries they hardly even talk to me or have me set goals or work on anything. I feel ignored.
All the focus is on my husband.

I feel like all I'm suppose to do is provide meals and smile.


Is this normal?

This was kind of a scary question for me. It pulls away from any sort of "logical" argument I could make and forces me to rely solely on what I've felt... and quite sacredly so.

Let me start by directly answering your question.
YES. This is normal. Furthermore, you are completely entitled to these feelings because, well, you are FEELING them, and regardless of why you are feeling them, they should be honored simply because they are there. Period.

They probably aren't having you set goals or working on anything because, well, you are already doing great. ;)

Now, by way of sharing my own personal experiences of being a woman in the LDS church, let me say this: I don't think you'll ever meet a bigger feminist than me. Annie Oakley's "Anything you can do, I can do better" song doesn't even scratch the surface when it comes to my (humble...ha ha) opinions regarding my abilities vs. the abilities of all men on the planet of earth. (Scary, I know.)

But when it comes to the Priesthood, I have been blessed to receive a personal testimony that my role as a woman in this church is incredibly sacred, honored, and special. There is no station in the church that is revered more than that of "mother." And we get to be mothers. (A position I would take over having/receiving the priesthood any day of the week.) And I am also grateful to have a husband whose priesthood blesses our lives on a daily basis.

I was sort of at a loss when I tried to answer your question at first. I tried to think of logical arguments or ways of helping you see how important YOUR role is, but nothing really felt right. I went to bed that night with a prayer in my heart that Heavenly Father would show me how to convey what I feel deeply, but am struggling to express.

The next morning, a dear friend of mine published a blog where she had interviewed a photographer she admired:

"Tell me about the moment you knew you were not going to ever be able to go through life without shooting." Was one of her questions.

This was the photographer's response: "My neighbor was expecting a baby that had been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder and the baby was not expected to live long after birth. They asked me to be at the hospital with them after his birth and take pictures of his short life. That experience changed me as a photographer and as a human being. At baby Paul’s funeral, the pastor spoke about Paul’s short life affecting the lives of many, and I remember being overwhelmed with the realization that it had forever changed mine."

She then directed readers to this link. (Go ahead, go there. We'll chat afterward.)

WOW, right?
This was a huge answer to my prayer for guidance.


Because it reminded me of why my role (and yours) is so important in the church.

A few years ago, I was called to be the second counselor in my ward's Relief Society Presidency. Now, being that I am EXTREMELY social in nature, this was a dream calling for me. I loved visiting new sisters every Wednesday. I loved weekly meetings. I loved planning enrichment activities, and parties, and socials. One day, very early on in my new calling, my dear friend who was 1st counselor in the RS presidency called and said that we were going to visit a sister in our ward (who I had only spoken to a few times) in the hospital. This made me nervous.

You see, she was pregnant with a little girl, and that little girl had been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. Trisome 18. IF they were lucky enough to have their daughter born alive, they would only have minutes and maybe hours to spend with their precious little one before she passed out of this life. It was heartbreaking.

I was nervous about visiting her because I didn't have any words. (Pretty much a first for me.) I didn't feel AT ALL equal to the task of providing this wonderful mother with the support and encouragement she needed at this time. I had no idea what I was doing.

When we got to her hospital room and settled in, we just talked. It was effortless. I was surprised to find that this sister was smiling and sweet even though she was facing the labor and delivery of a child that she would not have the privilege of raising in this lifetime. We visited WAY longer than I ever thought we would. We talked about normal, everyday things, and we even had a few good laughs. I realized very quickly that I adored this unbelievably awesome girl. Our conversation eventually shifted to the baby. The young mother explained how things were going to proceed the next day. (Induction, delivery, a medical team working like mad to get her little girl hooked up to as many life preserving machines as possible, followed by giving her a name and a blessing right there in the hospital room, and then enjoying the very limited time they had with her.) I was in awe of her strength. I couldn't believe that she could even talk in coherent sentences. Sure, she's had some time to let the diagnosis sink in and to "prepare" herself, but can you really ever prepare for something like this? (Answer: no.)

Sitting in that hospital room, and visiting, and laughing, and crying with my new friend as her little girl's heartbeat beeped rhythmically on the monitor in the background was one of the most sacred experiences of my life.

Another was when I attended the funeral.
Another was when we were privileged to provide food for the family after the funeral services.
Another was when I realized that I had become friends with an incredible person whose friendship I still cherish to this day.

My point is, we are sisters. We are sensitive, and intuitive, and smart. We know innately how to lift the hands that hang down and bring joy to a heart filled with sorrow. Plus, we can "mourn with those who mourn" like nobody's business. Case in point, I have spent the last 20 minutes bawling in my bed for the loss of the sweet family in that video. I also cried myself to sleep the night that the little Idaho girl who drowned in the canal passed away. I've never met either of those families, nor can I fully comprehend their loss, but somehow, their pain is my pain. This is no small thing.

In closing, (so much for my "few short paragraphs" huh?) I just want to say. I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU! Getting involved in the church after 10 years of inactivity is also NO SMALL THING and I applaud you for it. Mostly, I am excited for the Relief Society as a whole. It will be one person stronger, one person better for having you in it. Thank you for being so honest! It's refreshing and pretty much just completely awesome.

As I said at the beginning, an understanding of your value in the church cannot be explained, it has to be felt. And you will have PLENTY of opportunities to feel it in the future (I'm sure). But for right now, if you still have any doubt, I would highly recommend that you ask for yourself. Your Heavenly Father loves you with a love that is beyond comprehension. Your worth is infinite in his sight and there is not a hair on your head that He has not accounted for, and He will tell you so, if you let Him.


Celeste said...

I love you.

That movie, as touching as it was did not make me cry (just call me hard hearted hannah), but your last paragraph did, you answered that exactly as you should have. Like I said. I love you.

marylee said...

I love having you as my daughter-in-law. This video was great and your answers were wonderful. I only hope your message was received by the writer as well as it was received by me. I am very soft hearted and I cried through the whole experience of reading and seeing this letter.

Nikkie Shepherd said...

So here I am at work and it seems like everything I listen to, read, or think about this morning is making me cry both sad and joyful tears. Hey- we are women-women are emotional-and we cry..a lot. Heavenly Father made us this way :) Anyway, the April session of General Conference came to my mind while reading this and I'd like to share my notes and quotes from what the General Authorities of the church said. The FIRST talk of all 4 sessions of conference was giving by Boyd. K Packer and the VERY FIRST thing he said was this: " The Priesthood will loose great power if the sisters are neglected." Not that the woman who asked the initial question of your blog is being neglected, but it is so true how both the Priesthood and womanhood work hand in hand. And truthfully it's beautiful :) That same Saturday morning session M. Russell Ballard said this, " There is nothing more powerful and breathtaking than a righteous woman." AMEN! I couldn't agree more with you Laura that I would take being a mother rather than holding the priesthood anyday. What an incredible, sacred, and personal blessing we have!!! Our gender was pre-chosen (don't know if that is the right word to use or if that is even a word haha) but we are a female for a reason. We play a special role in Heavenly Father's plan and what an honor it is to be able to bring souls to this earth to recieve their body and teach them the keys of the Gospel to return to our Heavenly Father. Another note that I have beening thinking about: Men are simple minded. Women are more complex. My stake president told me to not look for the perfect guy, duh no one is perfect, but he also told me to expect to take on a huge project when I find my eternal companion. Where would men be without women? Who would they be? What would this world be? Kinda scary to think about...Anyway what I'm trying to say is that men need more help than women do ( well most of the time because everyone needs help.) I think it's AWESOME, AMAZING, and INSPIRING that she is becoming active in the true church again. How proud I am of you-How proud her husband has to be of her-and the joy that Heavenly Father is feeling because of this decision is unfathomable :)

"Miss Kris" said...

Women have this gift that men don't. As much as we have tried to change the roles of the sexes, the truth is that women are more nurturing, more fit to give comfort and love because we are BUILT to do so. Our very bodies are tools to create another human form and help it grow, deliver it and raise it to something greater than we could ever imagine. If that is not part of the priesthood, I don't know what is.
My point is this: Women have a God-given gift since birth and men were not given such gifts. Therefore, they have a different way of being equal to women and it is through the priesthood that we know today.
It bothers me when, both, men and women underestimate the role of a woman. That is a demonstration of their lack of knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The greatest examples of humility, power, knowledge, strength and beauty were those stories of women in The Bible, The Book of Mormon, Church History and other stories.
I think that most bishops and counselors spend more time counseling men because they simply don't comprehend how to counsel a woman. We are difficult to understand and relate to for many reasons. Not only that, but he probably has more confidence in what she can do than the husband because of his experiences he has had with his wife, mother, sisters, daughters, etc.
I am not a wife, nor a mother but I know what I can do and what I have been promised and I have seen and felt these things in my soul because of what I am.
My opinion based on doctrinal study, temple and church attendance, etc. is this: I am no better than a man--we are equals. However, it is natural in women to have such gifts and it is our responsibility to keep it going. Men... they need the priesthood to be our equals.
Sorry that was so long. I just can't stand it when women are seen as, somehow, the lesser sex when it is the most contradictory thing.
Thanks for letting me write, Laura. I loved reading this one. It make me more proud and thankful to be me. :)

Anonymous said...

As the author of this question, I just wanted to thank you. Your response and the comments that followed were exactly what I needed to hear.
Sisterhood at work, right here on the blog! I can see the power and beauty in it now and I'm so grateful to be a part of it.
Thank you all for your advice and words of comfort.
P.s. You ruined a good make-up job this morning with that slide show!