Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"There Would Never Have Been an Infidel if There Had Never Been a Priest"

     When I was active in the LDS Church, I never felt compelled to ask why women didn't bear the priesthood. Most of the traditional answers regarding how the priesthood related to gender roles were ok with me at the time. When I first heard about the Ordain Women movement, I didn't particularly have feelings about it one way or the other. I had already stopped attending when the movement gained momentum, and I was surprised by the reach of its voice. When I decided to read the website for myself, I was amazed at how respectful and sensible it was and how much it resisted being angry or pushy. While some have claimed that it was the way Kate Kelly carried out the conversation that caused problems, I can't imagine anyone engaging the conversation in a more respectful, humble and honest way.
     Yesterday was a really bad day for a lot of people, myself included. I composed about five different blog posts in my mind and deleted them all. I had the strangest feeling all day, which I'm still struggling to pin down and articulate. I was frustrated that I had such strong feelings about Kate Kelly's excommunication. On the one hand, it has nothing to do with me. On the other hand, it hit too close to home to ignore. I didn't feel I had anything relevant to say because my feelings on the matter are inevitably marked by my belief that the Church is fundamentally false. Nothing I have to say has any bearing on those who see the Church as true; so what is there to say? All I could think of was what it is like to be judged by people who don't know your mind and heart. To be told that someone knows what's best for you better than you know yourself. It just burns.
     When I was younger, I remember being struck by a line in a Gordon Bok song. "She knows what's in her heart like she knows her name." I was so moved by this thought; the idea of knowing oneself so completely and intuitively. It describes a person being powerful in their core. There is a place inside each of us that is sacred and divine, a place that no one else can access, see, or measure. It's the place where we find that thing we have so many names for.  Our conscience, the still small voice, or a higher self. It is our only connection to the divine, and cannot be known or judged by anyone but ourselves.
     I suppose I can't have a whole lot to say on Kate Kelly's excommunication because as an organization, the Church has the legal right to include or exclude who and what they choose; they have the right to manage their boundaries. But having the right to do something doesn't make it right. I understand the Church's desire to keep their doctrine pure, but I think this need is a symptom of man's ego, not God's influence. It's the need for control. I see this pride and need for control more as the cultural backdrop of the Church; an unintentional peek into the flaws of a patriarchal culture that has become a system of power. Like any government or organization, it's simply an imperfect system that leads to imperfect outcomes; sometimes downright harmful outcomes. I don't necessarily blame the individuals who primarily see the good in the system and are working within it to try to do the right thing. (i.e. individuals within the Church, including those responsible for Kate Kelly's excommunication.) I don't care about blame, or whose fault it is. I just can't bring myself to support an institution who makes it its business to regulate conscience. Thomas Jefferson said it better than I could-

     Our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. I have ever thought religion a concern purely between our God and our consciences, for which we were accountable to Him, and not to the priests. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. But this does not satisfy the priesthood; they must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel if there had never been a priest.

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