By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. (Psalms 137:1)
As a teenager, many Sunday afternoons were spent singing with my family, whilst my mother played guitar. I became familiar with the round ‘By the Waters of Babylon’, in which Israel laments its captivity, long before I ever got to hear Don McLean singing it. Prior to being taken into captivity Israel underwent a reformation of worship practice; reforms which, amongst other things, banished a female deity from the temple. Margaret Barker suggests, in her work, that the Israelites blamed this reform for the Babylonian conquest they later suffered1.
Over the past year, I have been reading what I can find about the Priesthood and Priesthood organisational reforms in the LDS church, and the way in which women were involved with things that are now considered solely the remit of male Priesthood function, and which at the time that women were involved, might or might not have meant women had some form of Priesthood power. Considering that we claim a restored Priesthood, our discourse surrounding what the Priesthood actually is, and the position of women in relation to that Priesthood, is incredibly confused. For me this confusion was highlighted further in the talks given during the recent General Conference. I’m going to have to read them once the text is available, and hope to make more sense of them than I was able to do listening. Nevertheless, the overwhelming impression I have gained from my study is that the authoritative position of women prior to correlation was superior to our position now. And I mourn the loss of a time when husbands and wives were permitted to bless their children together, when wives could bless husbands as well as husbands their wives.
Whilst I have been studying, other women have been seeking to improve our position in the church; suggestions at FAIR 2012, followed by Wear Pants, through Let Women Pray, to the recent OW action requesting admittance to the Priesthood Session of General Conference. I’ve been wearing trousers to church ever since Wear Pants, but I don’t have a profile on Ordain Women. I’ve not been sure what I feel. I’ve always protested being shoved into that ill-fitting box labelled ‘innate feminine attributes’. It makes me want to spit, and I do not care how unrefined that might be. I know I don’t like our current hierarchical Priesthood structures. I would vote in favour of eradicating all titles rather than begin addressing women as President. And I seriously dislike ideas of a separate female Priesthood, because well, I just don’t feel comfortable in an all female environment. But I feel closer to ordaining women as a solution than I do to Neylan McBaine’s ideas.
I have watched the actions of Ordain Women with interest, and with some awe at the courage it must have taken to get them to the action of Saturday evening. Like Kate Kelly, it seems I must really have believed these women would have been permitted to enter. When they were turned away, to paraphrase Elder Holland, it delivered a psychic blow so intense, coming as it did after recent heart-felt struggles in trying to carry out a new calling at church, and colliding with Priesthood authority at seemingly every turn, I lay down and wept. And have been weeping since, for the current captivity of women in Zion.
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. (2 Ne 28:21)
1. Yes, I had noticed the recorded complaints are from the refugees in Egypt rather than the captives in Babylon. The point still stands.