26 March, 2014

OW - Liken the Scriptures

Sorry, this post isn't one of my fun ones, but I wanted to put it out there anyway.
If you want the music that is stuck in my head occasionally, you can listen to any of the Liken the Scriptures song (like this one, or my favorite one). The basic idea behind these movies is that you can takes stories from hundreds of years ago, and the teachings associated with them apply to us today. I'm going to try a version of that today.

We read through Numbers, chapter 16 from the Old Testament in my institute class recently. It struck me how much the dialog of 4000 years ago matches the dialog going on today.

I won't claim to understand everything in the Ordain Women (OW) movement, nor to be a master scriptorian or theologian, but here is the version of Numbers 16 that I would say I see happening today:

Chapter 16
1 Now [April Young Bennett, Debra Jenson, Kate Kelly, and Hannah Wheelwright of the Ordain Women movement] took men:

2 And they rose up before [President Monson], with certain of the children of [God], two hundred and fifty [bloggers and women] of renown:

3 And they gathered themselves together against [President Monson] and against [their priesthood leaders], and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the [women] are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the [women of the church]?

4 And when [President Monson] heard it, he fell upon his face:

5  And he spake unto [OW] and unto all [their] company, saying...

7 ... and it shall be that the man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye [daughters of God in the OW movement].

8 And [President Monson] said unto [OW], Hear, I pray you, ye [leaders of the OW movement]:

9 Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath [given you the responsibility of motherhood, of governing beside your husbands and building a righteous home]?

10 And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy [sisters, the daughters of God] with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?

11 For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the Lord: and what is [your priesthood leader], that ye murmur against him?

I tried to change as little of this dialog as I could. You can double check the original text too. Like I said earlier, I was struck by how similar the case that Korah and his supporters was to the case that OW is making today.
As a quick summary of the rest of the story, Moses tells the leaders of the movement to stand in front of their tents, and the 250 others to come stand before the Lord. The leaders are swallowed up in the earth with their whole families, and the 250 others are consumed with fire from heaven.
Epic bible painting!

I thought it was interesting that in the letter sent to the OW movement the church spokeswoman asked them to stand in specific areas: the "free speech zones adjacent to Temple Square". Now, I'm not predicting that the Lord is going to cause a localized earthquake to swallow these leaders up or send fire down from heaven to consume them, but I do feel like we've got a lot of parallels in the situations.
Maybe I'm going too far. Maybe I am trying too hard to see parallels as I "liken the scriptures", but I take strength from the end of chapter 16. The children of Israel complain that Moses was too harsh on those who were simply asking for the priesthood. God's response is to send a plague which kills 14,700 of the people. Got made it very clear that Moses wasn't being power hungry and denying the Levites the priesthood so that he could keep it all for himself. Moses had been chosen by God, and was acting in the organized way that God had defined. Maybe my interpretation is too far. But then again, if it isn't, I definitely know which side of the story I want to be on.


  1. I don't agree with the OW movement in the slightest, but I can imagine the frustration that some of them feel not having an avenue to seek redress. "Going through proper channels" does not place them in contact with church decision makers. Sending letters to church headquarters only results in them being return to their stake presidents. And now public announcements or gatherings only result in press releases from the Church's PR department. There are numerous instances of the church reversing doctrinal positions based on popular public sentiment (polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, pre-1990s temple ceremonies) and I think that that is all the OW movement wants: consideration. Not to be continually rebuffed and made out to be some radical group of anti-mormon protester in the orwellian-named "free speech" zone.

    I read somewhere recently that best response that opposing groups can have for each other in emotionally charged situations is empathy. Insinuating that the OW movement could be consumed by some wrathful act of God is not very empathetic.

    1. Anonymous,
      Thank you for making this into a discussion! I always hope my thoughts do more than make people go "humph!" and move on. You do bring up some very good points. A couple of comments which I would make in response:
      I agree that there is probably a lot of frustration with the situation. My heart does go out to those who feel like they are voiceless. I also want to make sure that it's clear (because as I reread my post, I'm not so sure that it was) that I'm not advocating silence or subservience. There is great strength in the LDS Church in part because people are able to bring suggestions and promptings to their leaders as a suggestion. That being said, I feel like the fact that the headquarters of the church is located in a country with a democracy which offers (arguably) the most religious freedom on earth makes people believe that the Church is a democracy. It has never been and never will be. There is an organization to how change comes about in Gods way a couple books back in the Old Testament from the Korah example:
      Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, came to him and first they "asked each other of their welfare..." then they "rejoiced for all the goodness the Lord had done." At that point, Jethro sees Moses going about the Lord's work in a way that he feels isn't good. He approaches Moses and says so, but how he does it is key. He outlines how he thinks things should be and then says "If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so..." He wasn't demanding that Moses change a policy. He wasn't organizing a protest to bring about the change he thought there should be. He made a suggestion and then exercised faith that, if right, God would confirm it to His prophet and only then should a change happen. (Exodus Ch. 18)
      I feel like that is where the OW movement has pressed too far. I don't deny that there have been very major changes in policy over the past (though I don't believe doctrines themselves have been revised or reversed). Many of those could definitely be correlated to public sentiment, but changes come through established channels which start with God communicating to His prophet. It’s only conjecture, but I would imagine if black members had organized pickets out in front of the Tabernacle in the days of the civil rights movement, demanding the priesthood, it would have been an example that we, as a people, we were not ready for the change which Official Declaration 2 heralded in.
      If President Monson (or one of his successors) announced that God had declared a change in the policy regarding the role of women in the church, I would personally pray for confirmation that that is inspired revelation, and when that confirmation came (as I'm confident it would), I would support it 100%. Until that hypothetical event in the future, I believe that protesting and "public appeals" process is trying too hard to turn The Church into a public institution. It's not. The Church has never been a democracy where the will of the mass is king.
      I may be accused of being too unfeeling for that stance. I do want to try and approach every interaction I have with love, this included. That being said, empathy involves being able to say “I understand your position based on my own experiences which I feel relate to what you are now experiencing.” In that case, no. I don’t have empathy. I can honestly say that I have never been in a position where I have directly opposed what the prophet of God has said was the Lord’s will. I can empathize with those who feel unimportant, or who feel like it isn’t possible to connect with the leadership of the Church, but I can’t empathize with what they are seeking or how they are seeking it, which is what my post was originally about.