“Why would you want the priesthood anyway?”
Even though I'm not a member of ORDAIN Women, and I'm not a huge fan of their tactics, I have sympathy and understanding for their aims. I even agree that it would be just fine if women were admitted into the formal priesthood hierarchy/organization. Our history is full of changing doctrine and practice, and it's not outside the realm of possibility that this changes, too.
So, even though I'm not part of ORDAIN Women, my leanings aren't exactly a big secret, and many people ask me why women want the ability to exercise priesthood authority in more visible and official ways. The entire situation is nuanced, and because we are all individuals, the motivations, desires, and reasonings of women are varied and complex. My own feelings on this matter are far from settled.
As a result of all of this, I did find it interesting when someone shared the results of research that asked women whether they wanted authority to exercise priesthood power, and what they thought they'd use that authority for. I don't know how scientifically rigorous this is, and I can't find the information to properly attribute this one, so take it with a grain of salt, I guess. But I think it's worth looking at — at least when you're considering why 10 percent of women in the Church want the ability to exercise priesthood authority in a more official way.
Here's the breakdown:
So why do some Mormon women want the priesthood? It looks like a number are interested in being able to bless their own children, participate equally in policy decisions, and serve in pastoral care and counseling type positions. There are a few opportunities for women to participate in some ways (such as becoming chaplains), but in every day situations, most women just can't do some of the things they'd like to do.
And I find it interesting that many of those who are so insistent that the priesthood is meant to be a form of service turn around and act as though when Mormon women want the priesthood, they are talking about a power grab. Why can't they want more opportunities to serve — just like men?
Of course, others point out that it's not just about service; some of it's about decision-making. And there are times when it would be nice to have more women in place to influence decisions. You can talk about inspiration and leading with the Spirit all you want, but the truth is that many decisions in the church are made after a lot of discussion and wrangling. Many women think it would be nice if their voices were included. And truly encouraged.
If women and men are so different (and we're taught that they are), why is it, then, that the female perspective isn't more represented? And if women's approaches and men's approaches to life and spirituality are so different, and our needs are so different (and we're taught that they are), why aren't more women engaged in spiritual counseling and ministration of other women?
This is one of the reasons I find most compelling on that list. Women want to be able to minister to other women. Let's be real for a moment. There is something a bit wrong about men counseling women about their deepest spiritual issues, especially when it involves some sort of discipline that might leave a woman alone with several men counseling her in “love” about what she needs to do. I'm sorry, but if we are so different, and we need such different things to be fulfilled, it makes sense that women should be able to take care of these deep issues with other women.
At any rate, I find it fascinating that most of those surveyed don't really care about being bishops or apostles or prophets. They just want to minister in ways they can't now. And many of the ways they want to minister (e.g., counseling other women, blessing their children) are in line with the nurturing that the Church teaches is the eternal characteristic of women. So why are they barred from these priesthood duties?
It's a question worth asking.