Priesthood Ordination and Autonomy
Dear President Nelson,
My son, William, recently turned eight. His baptism was scheduled for this week, but his baptism has been postponed indefinitely. Once again, it has become a matter of priesthood logistics that has put a strain on our family.
To fill you in, my husband has experienced a faith transition, and has lost his desire to participate in the LDS community at this time. Those details are not mine to share, yet the results of his shift affect me as a non-ordained wife. I sympathize with him. There was once a time I lost faith in God, specifically Heavenly Father. Yet, during that time my husband still had the autonomy to participate in the LDS community, independent of my faith status. However, now that the pendulum has swung I have not been afforded the same autonomy to participate in the LDS community, independent of my husband’s faith status. Much of that has to do with priesthood ordination. Once again, I have been asked to wade in the waters of patriarchy without a patriarch.
My job as a mother would be significantly easier if I were ordained to the priesthood. I have work to do, yet I am denied the tools to do it. Why must I disproportionately depend on another gender for political priesthood access? Why is my desire for ordination something to be treated with skepticism, but a man’s desire for ordination is to be celebrated?
I don’t understand how my desire to be ordained to the priesthood can be manipulated into a twisted urge for unrighteous dominion—as if I’m vying for an authority to hover over other fellow Saints. I don’t have a desire to be president of the Church, an area seventy, a stake president, or even a bishop. Political priesthood management is not my desire, nor skillset. I seek not to rule, nor be ruled. My primary motive for ordination is to have the same autonomy within my religious community that my husband has been afforded—to baptize and bless my children.
To be honest, I’m not even sure I want that anymore.
I have given, and given, and given. Is it even ethical for me to give authority to the institution that doesn’t want me, fails to empower me, and thwarts my divine potential? It feels like falling in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. Sometimes I’m angry with myself for how much I love my church. If I didn’t love it so much, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so badly when I’m othered by my own people for being queer and a woman.
What hurts most is that I still believe in Mormonism, the stories I was told as a child, my people, and Zion. Since I can remember, my testimony has been built upon love, not some literal belief in an exclusive path toward celestial glory which leaves some of the people I care about behind. Even as a child, I can’t remember believing in a literal Noah’s Ark, Adam and Eve, golden plates, or magical stones. I stayed with my church out of love, not out of loyalty to literalism. Loyalty without love is dangerous. I stayed because I believed—I believed in priesthood power, which cannot be equivocated to political priesthood ordination. I was taught that priesthood power was the power and authority to act on behalf of God, and priesthood power should be used to bless the lives of others. If that is the case, you don’t control priesthood power. It’s God’s authority, not yours. If your priesthood keys exclude me on account of my gender, I cannot believe that is God’s desire. Am I not an heir to God too? The scriptures say I am, moreover I believe God meant for Their daughters to bless the lives of others with priesthood power too, but that would be significantly easier if you believed in us enough to ordain us. If no one believes in our priesthood power, it won’t work. Priesthood power operates according to faith. It’s the ultimate placebo, if you will. I mean no disrespect, I say that with sincerity and reverence. We must believe in the priesthood power of God if we are to become Gods. Isn’t that the point of Mormonism?
Some will consider me blasphemous for suggesting that priesthood operates as a quasi-placebo. Others will mock me for maintaining any faith in priesthood power, but even so, I maintain. For me, faith is the only thing that makes sense after secularism, atheism, and nihilism. Proof in the miraculous only comes after belief that proof is possible. But in the journals of academia, how do I cite a feeling? How do I cite the spirit? How do I cite my heart? How do I cite faith? They say my feelings, my heart, the spirit, my faith are unreliable confirmation biases, but to me, what I feel is the only thing I really know. All other knowledge I might gain depends on my subjectivity, biases, and feelings. I cannot deny my feelings anymore than I can deny my logic. I have a feeling that tells me there is more to my existence than I currently understand, and it comes by a power greater than myself. Perhaps it is faith in those feelings which will be the pathway to proof. If priesthood power is the ultimate placebo, why not put all our faith in it? If we want the power of God on earth, why not believe it enough to act like it?
To be fair, you are not the only one to be held accountable for sexist discrimination of priesthood ordination policies. You, along with others in leadership, are still bound by the masses. Your authority is dependent upon the lay membership. I understand the quandary. We all have agency, and you cannot share a revelation that membership would reject, at least not without hurting the institution and your own position of authority. You and I both must wait until the masses have given a sign of their clear consent for political change. Revelation is up to you, but it’s also up to them. Thus, our policies will be sexist, so long as we hold sexist attitudes.
However, I feel as though I have convinced as many as I can. I don’t know how many times I can say the same thing over and over while having any significant impact. You have an impact on the membership that I don’t, yet you do not use it to help me. You speak of your respect and high regard for women, yet you leave me and my children at the whims of the men we are associated with for political priesthood access. How can I be a full member of the LDS community when you exclude me from full participation in the LDS community? I understanding we don’t get to participate in all the ways we want, but tell me, who is going to baptize my son? If not his father, shouldn’t it be his mother? Should I really ask another man to participate in my husband’s stead as if I were a widow? Is that what our religious rituals have come to—tradition for the sake of tradition without regard to the growing needs and feelings of the membership?
It’s quite tragic really. I cannot think of another desire more celebratory at this moment than the desire of God’s daughters to baptize our children in God’s name. What could be a source of sublime celebration is now a source of suffering.
I’m trying. I’ve been trying. I’m doing everything in my power to participate in my church as a queer woman, but I’m running out of options. I honestly don’t know what to do. In this moment, I wish not to love my church anymore, because waiting for my church to love me in return is too painful.
Sincerely, a queer Mormon sister