Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Inherent Power of Women

Tonight I read a post by Valerie Hudson Cassler about women and their power. The post was actually in response to Ordain Women in 2013, but now that that's mostly dead, it's interesting applying what Cassler said now.  I'm just saving the quotes here for future reference.

As a feminist, the idea that men would ever have the right or ability to give women divine power strikes me as deeply anti-feminist.  Are we saying that only with the permission of men and by the hand of men can women partake of divine power?  And that since male permission has not been forthcoming to this point, women in fact possess no divine power at present?  That we women are reduced to pleading with men to give us our power?  A laugh wells up in me at the sheer irony of this “feminist” position, but at the very same moment, I also feel to weep bitter tears in the realization that only a profoundly toxic culture for women could produce a situation where good-hearted women and men advocate an anti-feminist position as a step forward for women.
I hadn't thought of that before: why should women need power from men? Shouldn't they get it straight from the Source? Haven't we been given any power that we already need?
Please do not misunderstand.  I am not opposing the ordination of women to divine power.  Not at all—I am suggesting they already possess divine power and authority, and not by the hand of men and not by the “permission” of men.  Dorothy already has those ruby slippers on; she just hasn’t realized it yet.  And it is plain no man can tell her this truth; she has to learn it for herself.  When she does learn, she will then seek to fully hold her birthright, and no longer mistakenly plead for a man to bequeath it to her.  As women more fully wield their birthright of divine power, our community will finally be able to approach Zion
Takes me back to the concept of women living beneath their privilege. Can we discover what that privilege is and act upon it. Is it rearing children, is it more than that?

Men should not hold a privileged position in shaping the world in which women and their children and loved ones must live.  This principle of equal voice must extend beyond the family: women should be equally represented in the leadership of towns, cities, nations, and the world.  The world will never find sustainable solutions to its problems without the input of women, who weave the threads of life.
Yes! This coincides beautifully with the paradigm of Big Ocean Women. Women need a voice; they will contribute greatly to finding "sustainable solutions" for society's ills.

She added several paragraphs about what she thought would happen in the future within the Church regarding how women & girls are treated. The thing that's nice about Cassler, is that she doesn't offer her opinion with an ultimatum for change. She just sets it on the table, and if people want to believe the same, they can. She'll patiently wait any changes, but just puts her thoughts out there.
I anticipate that we will see the Personal Progress Program for Young Women be modified to include preparation in real-world life skills that young women need.  Just as the Young Men (in Scouts) are taught merit badges such as communication, citizenship, and so forth, so we will begin to see that our Young Women need such important skills as well.
Interestingly, as I've prepared to be the Young Women camp director this summer, we already do have a program that teaches "real-world" life skills; it's all found in the camp manual. When we do not use the camp certification program, girls miss out on these skills. Many people don't even know about them.
It is high time for a change of heart among women. We must start believing that women possess a divine power and authority that does not originate with men, though it is foundational to our partnership with men.  We must not only say we are equals, we must walk and talk as if we truly are. 
It's up to us to claim our power and know we are something.
This change of heart starts in our marriages and our homes; indeed, it must, for that is where we live the life of the heart most fully.   What would you as a woman do if you truly and deeply felt you wielded the divine power and authority of your Mother as her apprentice?  Would you not first reach inside and seek to learn what this power and authority is and how to wield it?  Would you not then begin to reach out, even if tentatively at first, to use that power for the good of those you love?  And then extend that circle beyond your family to become a Mother to the whole world?  Would you not seek to ensure an equal voice for women in all spheres of human decision-making, even at the national and international level? And would you not then strive to ensure young women learn these truths at their mother’s knee?
When I went to the Big Ocean training, I LOVED that Carol Allen said we must first meet the needs of our families, then if there's something left over, we can reach out to our communities, and then the world. But, we must do it in order or things fall out of balance.
Again, the great key is this: instead of allowing our culture to remake our doctrine, we must allow our doctrine to remake our culture.
She says the Church already teaches us that men are not above women, so some of us should stop acting like they are.
We take nothing away from our brethren to exercise our own divinely bestowed power and authority alongside theirs in partnership; indeed, we only increase the store of blessings available to the children of God as we women begin to consider ourselves as beings with divine power.
She said this in reference in offering a prayer of faith concerning a child.
It is time for women to rise and shine, sure in the knowledge that it is our divine destiny to do so, and also confident that our brothers will be our most heartfelt cheerleaders.
She believes men will not hold women back in claiming their influence.  Among men I know, I believe she is right.
Because women typically are subordinate and treated as inferior to men in much of the carnal world, men also have much to gain from the establishment of Zion, perhaps more than women do.  For so long as men exercise dominion over women in an order of unequal power, so long as men receive greater esteem and respect than women, and so long as men enjoy greater wealth than women, men will suffer darkness in their lives and their lives will be impoverished.  Indeed, it seems that often those who dominate suffer more spiritually than those dominated, those who esteem themselves better than those esteemed less, the oppressors more than the oppressed.
It's fascinatingly true that by oppressing others we miss out on the great contributions they, too, can make. It reminds me of Half the Sky.

A friend posted on Facebook tonight that her 8-year old son was taunting her 7-year old daughter that she would never have the priesthood. She asked how others would handle the situation. Interestingly, her post appeared right as I was reading the above article. I mentioned that V.H. Cassler would tell him, well he'd never be a mother. I admit, even 6 years ago I'd think that was a lame comparison to holding the priesthood, but as I learn more, I better understand the great creative power and influence of women. The hand that rocks the cradle really does rule the world! My old attitude says that I did not fully value motherhood because had I valued it, motherhood would have be an acceptable comparison to priesthood. Other people responded stating she could teach him that the priesthood is a tool for service, so he's got his "power" all confused. Additionally, someone commented that once endowed in the temple, a woman also is endowed with priesthood power. I know some people interpret that as women holding the priesthood, but I don't think that should be confused with holding priesthood office. The temple does not ordain women to priesthood office, yet it helps a woman recognize the role of the priesthood in her life and everything about it. She does everything under priesthood power and authority.

Oh yeah, one other very interesting thing Cassler pointed out was a slightly definition of priesthood on one of the LDS Church websites. We are familiar with the standard: priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on Earth (and we usually leave off:) to act in all things for the salvation of mankind. This new/other definition states: "The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of our Heavenly Father. Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and earth. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children. He gives worthy priesthood holders authority to administer ordinances of salvation. All of Heavenly Father's children can qualify to receive these ordinances and access the power and blessings of the priesthood." Therefore, it is His power, and it is used to create, redeem, exalt, and administer ordinances. All His children can receive these blessings and many, women included, help give these ordinances.


swedemom said...

There is so much about what Cassler says that I want to like but ultimately, I feel like she makes up what she wants the doctrine to be instead of what it really is. I just can't read her anymore because she is really out there in my opinion.

Emily said...

Yeah, I deliberately left out the parts I was less sure about. I do appreciate though that she doesn't have an aggressive approach to her ideas. She seems to just put them out there for people to choose from, if they wish.

swedemom said...

Agreed, Emily. She doesn't push her ideas as the be all-end all. I liked a lot of what you pulled here.

Her ideas in The Two Trees analogy were very off-putting to me because I felt like she presented them as fact and obvious and if they were true and obvious, we would not be having the conversations about gender and such that are happening within the church. Ultimately, while her ideas were intriguing and thought-provoking, I felt I couldn't accept them

swedemom said...

My problem with the priesthood/motherhood comparison is that priesthood doesn't actually require a woman to be exercised. It can operate entirely by men without any influence or authority from women. Whereas motherhood-at least in the sense of physically bearing a child cannot exist without a man. And a woman can become a mother against her will-in cases of rape. Another issue I have is that to receive the priesthood, you must be worthy--at least pass a worthiness test of some sort. Nothing is required for a woman more than biology. So it doesn't feel equivalent to me. I consider fatherhood/motherhood more equivalent.

swedemom said...

Another thought: perhaps with the priesthood/motherhood thing maybe it comes from actually not valuing fatherhood. Sure a man's actual contribution to pregnancy is small, but being a partner--protecting his wife and providing for her so she can actually carry that pregnancy to term are really important facets. After the baby is born, she continues to need the protection and provision so she can focus on the baby. I don't know. I'm still working it out for myself. Thanks for your patience!