The Ordain Women Profile

Two years ago, I took a big gulp and submitted my Ordain Women profile. The Mormon church has a policy of only ordaining “worthy” men of at least 12 years to be holders of Priesthood power. Believing and advocating for something other than what is current practice, especially something as profound as the Priesthood, is seen by many members of the Church at best as unfaithful and at worst as apostate.

I knew my family would vehemently disagree with my position, but I wanted to add my number to the scores of women that felt belittled by the fact that they were kept from such an essential and valued piece of the gospel.

For the record, I didn’t share my profile anywhere else, and when Ordain Women tagged me its their social media post, I removed the tag. If it were to be published today, my handling of it would be very different, but at the time, I was concerned that my family and my Church leaders would see my position as a betrayal.

http://ordainwomen.org/project/hi-im-taylee/

Full transcript below:

I’ve been an active member of the Church my whole life. I was married in the temple to another life-long member two years ago and we are now expecting our first child. We both serve callings in our ward mission after having served in primary and music callings. We attend Church every week and pray together every night.

I believe whole-heartedly that women should be given the opportunity to be ordained to the priesthood. I didn’t come to this conclusion suddenly. In fact, I came to this conclusion while conducting targeted study toward convincing myself that women shouldn’t receive the priesthood, that the current order of women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was indeed God’s will (revelation) and not based on a prehistoric prejudice. In the end, I couldn’t shake the foundation of my testimony, which is that God and Christ see men and women as equals; And for that to be true, neither gender can have systematic authority over the other.

I gained this belief by reaching several important conclusions:

First, motherhood is not equal to the priesthood. Men are introduced to the priesthood at a young age, and are taught to use it to become closer to God. They are asked to maintain their worthiness to hold it, and are able to actively participate in the institution of the Church with it. Women aren’t given the opportunity to be mothers until they are adults (assuming they follow the prescribed religious pattern). That is assuming they even have the biological ability to get pregnant, which sadly, many women do not. Though being a mother is beautiful and powerful, it doesn’t require maintaining worthiness, and it doesn’t allow a woman to participate in the institution of the Church.

Second, the Church’s hierarchy, while necessary, needs female voices. I don’t believe it will ever truly include female voices to the full extent that it respects male voices until women have the opportunity to hold the priesthood. Women have so much to offer this Church, on a broad, expansive level. They have so much insight and wisdom to share with all members of the Church, if given the chance. They have the ability to have so much influence for good, if only they could be part of Church-wide decisions that have the potential to make members’ lives better. While women can currently hold a number of positions within the Church, they are always, ultimately, subject to a man’s approval. They are always presided over by a man. Even within the family, the father presides, which negates the phrase that “husband and wife are equal.”

Finally, if this Church truly doesn’t believe in the curse of Eve, then there is no reason to withhold the priesthood from women. The only doctrinal basis I can find for the current policy is what is learned in the temple/bible. According to the scriptures/temple, God states that because Eve was the first to partake of the fruit, she will have to covenant to hearken to her husband’s word while her husband hearkens to the word of God. Meaning, she became subject to her husband rather than God as a punishment for her transgression. Perhaps this is the doctrinal basis for why the Church keeps women from that direct line to the power of God; But I don’t believe this happened, I don’t believe God cursed Eve for making a courageous and necessary decision, a decision that has been applauded multiple times by Church leadership.

I believe that women should be ordained.

 

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Putting the Hate in Hate Crime

In November 2015, the Church of Jesus Christ put out a policy, later described as “will of the lord” by a Church leader, that prohibited children of same-sex couples from receiving the same ordinances as other children in the Church. I cried. It seemed harsh, unfair, and exclusionary, particularly to the children who have no control over the choices of their parents. Initially, I thought it couldn’t get any worse and I took a hard look at my membership in the Church. It hasn’t gotten better.

When considering the November policy change, it may seem like a minor issue for the Church to put out an opinion on a Hate Crimes bill in the Utah senate, but I see it as another and even more drastic way to discriminate against the LGBT community. The Church has made clear, through actions and doctrine, that it doesn’t see LGBT individuals as worthy of the same marriage equality as their heterosexual counterparts. But would the Church really oppose legislation that would prevent those individuals, and all individuals, from receiving judicial justice?

Turns out it would. The Church’s statement regarding the new Hate Crimes legislation, known as Senate Bill 107, was short and vague, mentioning only that it didn’t want to “harm the balance” that was struck with last year’s fair housing for LGBT bill (which was really just a small concession by the Church so it could continue its discriminatory policies at Church-owned entities). But based on that single statement, we have no choice but to assume that the Church believes that because the LGBT community received fair housing legislation, they shouldn’t receive any additional freedoms without the Church collecting something in return. Quid pro quo. This is not about the Church trying to protect religious freedom for all religions in order to uphold the constitution, this is about the Church being able to continue discriminating, legally, against LGBT individuals under the guise of “religious freedom,” because the proposed Hate Crimes legislation would protect more than just LGBT individuals, it would protect Jews, Blacks, Muslims, even White people who could be discriminated against for the lightness of their skin, or Mormons who are persecuted by non-Mormons for their religion. So why doesn’t the Church support the bill?

Because according to Derek Monson, Director of Public Policy for the Sutherland Institute, hate crimes aren’t an issue for the Church. That’s right, because Mormons aren’t affected by hate crimes in Utah, at least as much as they’re affected when they’re asked to treat LGBT individuals like everyone else. Mormon Senator Todd Weiler agrees with the Church and Derek Monson, he said, “If they get hate crimes this year, what are they going to be coming back next year for, then the year after that?” As if prosecuting a perpetrator for targeting your community with a hate crime is some kind of gift, or a privilege, or a concession rather than a basic element of democracy and justice. What are they going to ask for next? Protection against discrimination in the workplace? Heaven forbid they want the freedom to adopt a child!

You may still be wondering how this could be worse than the policy change in November. In my view, at least the people that were affected by the policy change were in some sense choosing to be Mormon. Though there are a lot of elements that are out of their control, they could essentially leave the Church and choose not to be subject to its policies (though I understand the argument that children aren’t always able to make such decisions). But when the Church makes a statement about a piece of legislation, a statement that affects how probably nearly 50 percent of Utahns vote, they are taking the choice away from not only their members, but also from people that have no connection to Mormonism, people that just happen to live in a mostly Mormon state.

If the prophet receives a visitation from God and is told that the passage of a certain piece of legislation would lead to the utter destruction of mankind, then I would certainly want to hear about it. I think everyone would. In fact, I bet Thomas S. Monson (or one of his more able-bodied apostles) would stand at the pulpit, bang his fist and loudly declare that he had seen God and had been revealed His will. He would certainly encourage us all to vote a certain way if he had such certainty and truly had God at his back. However, we didn’t hear anything from Thomas S. Monson, nor from one of the apostles. No one mentioned the will of God or a revelation. We just got a walled off statement that expected to receive a certain level of credibility because of the Institution from which it came.

As much as the Church wants it to be, the world is not Mormon. Not even Utah is Mormon. And even if it was, people need to vote with their own discernment. No one should be making decisions, especially decisions that have such profound ramifications for the equality of Utah’s citizenry, based on a string of words, disconnected from any person, and without any specificity or explanation.

Getting to Know Me

I was somewhere in my mid-teens attending high School in the San Joaquin Valley of California. I went to a mostly hispanic high school in a rural, suburban city and we were in the throws of the Prop 8 fight. As an ardent Mormon (and I was ardent at that time), I heeded the counsel of my religious leaders and strongly opposed the legalization of gay marriage. I was chatting about it with some of my fellow conservative friends and I specifically remember saying, “I don’t care if gay people want to be together, seriously. But don’t call it marriage because that’s NOT what it is.”

If I could go back and wash those words out of my mouth, I would. I’m embarrassed by my ignorance and ego. I was the worst back then, truly. I would let out really loud and obnoxious coughs (fake) when I passed anyone that was smoking to make sure they knew that they were gross. I would pass families at the mall and think “you don’t really love your kids. How could you when you don’t belong to the Church that values family more than anyone else?” I would make sure to compliment the girl at school the day she wore non-skinny jeans as if I was training her to dress more like me, to wear the clothes I thought looked nice.

I was stuck up and felt superior to other people in a lot of ways. I thought I was smarter, more talented, and definitely more moral.

I’m glad to say (or at least I’d like to think) that I am a very different person now. In fact, I’m proud thinking that my teenage self would be really disappointed in me if they met me today. For one, I’m a democrat and a pretty far left-leaning one at that. I am a feminist. I have three piercings in my right ear. I occasionally shop on Sunday. I own a crop top, and I no longer take at face value the religion that my adolescent mind found such a profound superiority in.

But not all things are different from what I envisioned for my future. I have a husband that I adore. I have the cutest toddler on the planet (it’s all relative). I work in a high-rise building downtown, something I always dreamed about because it seemed so glamorous. I own a home, can afford to eat out every now and then and visit my family out of state.

I spend my time writing, working, Facebooking-ing, letting my toddler use my head and shoulders as a racetrack for his toy cars, and trying to fix the world in my own little ways. I also eat cookies, like, lots and lots of cookies.

 

Introduction

I know, I know. The name for this blog is a little unruly: Adventures of an Agnostic and Mostly Religious (Though Not Spiritual) Mormon. There were shorter options, like simply “Agnostic Mormon,” but it didn’t quite capture the…unique…position that I’m in.

  1. I’m agnostic because I don’t know if God exists, and I’ve decided not to put too much energy into finding out. We’ll get into the why at some other time.
  2. I’m religious because I attend the same church every single week. Every. Single. Week. Not only that, I play the piano when we sing hymns and I teach the youth Sunday School. Every. Single. Week.
  3. And yet, I’m not spiritual. I hardly pray anymore, not because I don’t see benefits in the practice, but because I’ve never received “an answer” and I’ve learned to handle my stress in much healthier ways (i.e. binge Netflix-ing and pretending everything is just fine).

I’ve started this blog for the main purpose of cataloguing what has been a very gradual transition from conservatism and orthodoxy to liberalism and a “Jack Mormon” status – and the implications. But another reason is to explore agnosticism, humanism, and secularism while remaining an active member of a demanding faith tradition.