Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sexism and Ordination Discussion

Truth will prevail?  Not in this instance, it seems.  Perhaps political correctness is what serves now in the Times and Seasons blog, just as it seems to dominate in so many other forums.

Well, once again I failed to restrain myself from arguing in a more public forum.  The context was regarding the "Ordain Women" issue, which strikes a touchy nerve for me in the first place.  I am prompted to recall from my most basic biology instruction in college, where we learned that irritability is one of the primary factors that characterize life. I know that irritability is certainly one of the primary characteristics of my life.

The post was basically soliciting information about Gospel Doctrine teachers in the Church, in the context of some sort of panel discussion about the "Ordain Women" group.  The author maintained that women get short shrift in "more important" teaching jobs in the ward, and more men tend to fill these sorts of "more important" jobs.

The author asked,

Why are so many Gospel Doctrine teachers men, when it appears that they should, in a random universe, be almost all women?

Of course, the correct answer would have to be that no part of this assumption is accurate.  No other numbers were offered to support the broad assertions inferred in the question.  The premise appears derivative from class-envy arguments that are so integral to Marxist/Socialist philosophy and assumptions.

There was no clear consensus in the responses.  Some were as apt to say that their Gospel Doctrine teacher was a woman as a man.  Many responded that it is a "team teaching" arrangement, some with husband/wife teams trading off for different weeks.  I did not notice any that appeared to assert that they had never seen women teaching Gospel Doctrine.

The premise seems to be that women always get the lesser jobs, like Primary teachers and Nursery helpers, that tend to be associated with lesser status.  This as apparent justification for jealousy and envy over who gets what calling.

I bristled at the suggestion, because I for one have never been particularly inclined to track specific numbers for such callings.  And I quoted from Dallin Oaks in the recent Conference.

At this conference we have seen the release of some faithful brothers, and we have sustained the callings of others. In this rotation—so familiar in the Church—we do not “step down” when we are released, and we do not “step up” when we are called. There is no “up or down” in the service of the Lord. There is only “forward or backward,” and that difference depends on how we accept and act upon our releases and our callings. I once presided at the release of a young stake president who had given fine service for nine years and was now rejoicing in his release and in the new calling he and his wife had just received. They were called to be the nursery leaders in their ward. Only in this Church would that be seen as equally honorable!  (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood)

From my perspective the idea that Church callings represent a level of importance or status in the Church community is a shallow and superficial premise that effectively serves to denigrate some types of service while elevating others.  While it may be true that such misplaced ideals can be found in LDS groups, it clearly violates the teachings of Church leaders, as the Oaks quote indicates.

Another misperception that was voiced was regarding the role of inspiration in the callings extended to ward members.  The inference was made that bishops tend to approve callings subject to some degree of their own personal bias, and not are not particularly moved by inspiration from God.  In response, and in the context of this discussion, I wondered if the author of the post could estimate a performance rating that measures the relative level of inspiration a typical bishop might be receiving.

My concern at that point was that I regard inspired acts to be the sine qua non of Church leadership, and it is not possible to grade any particular performance level.  Nobody in Church service has ever been regarded as functioning perfectly.  I quoted from Elder Holland on this issue.

Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.  (Elder Jeffery R. Holland, "Lord, I Believe")
Exactly how those who complain that bishops do not always receive a full measure of divine inspiration would propose to measure such things was not explained.  Nor is it readily apparent how such issues are related to whether it happens to be a man or a woman.  Does the imperfection of Church members limit the power of God to fulfill His purposes?  If it does, there is no need for further discussion, since the Church amounts to little more than a social club anyway.

One other point that raised my eyebrows was in reference to the ideal of love and compassion.  In the words of one commenter,

Ideally, when someone says “I hurt,” the response would be along the lines of “how can I help?” rather than “oh, it’s not that bad…”

Not at all.

Many times, with my own children, "Oh, it's not that bad" was exactly the comfort we offered.  When a child falls and skins his knees and elbows, what he needs is assurance that such hurting is limited, and that they are not permanently injured.  Offering a temporary distraction from the hurt is prudent.  Asking a fretting child, "How can I help" in such an instance would be inappropriate to the point of ludicrous. And of course, in the instance where a compound fracture has been sustained, the "How can I help" response would be equally ludicrous.

In my opinion and experience any such tentative approach tends to be superficial and hypocritical, and generally issues from those who are mostly fulfilling their own need to satisfy doubt about  regard for themselves.

Most often in my own case, the expression of compassion is reflected when people just pitched in and helped.  I have been in such circumstances many times, of late.  In my experience, those in great need seldom understand fully why they are hurting or how they need help.

Responding to a complaint from Ardis Parshall that my comments constitute "trolling", and that I ought to just shut up and go lurk under a bridge somewhere, I commented,

The emphasis in this discussion seems to be on numbers and percentages. I’m wondering how that translates into questioning the bias of my bishop, and ultimately, the power of God. The tone of rhetoric does not appear to reconcile with Elder Holland’s admonition to Church members. That’s all.
Am I trolling, because I am so impertinent to presume to ask such questions?
I realized during the 2012 political campaign that Ardis would prefer not to hear from people like me. Nor is she alone. I have not ventured to comment on her space since then.
Yes, I am just another imperfect being. But I can still talk somewhere, can’t I? Should I just withdraw from public presence, because my backward foolish and unpopular ideals are such an embarrassment? I do write things on my blog, but intend this more as a personal journal. Does this forum not more represent the public square?
FWIW, perhaps it would be instructive to review the etymology of “trolling”. I think perhaps it does not mean what you think it means. :-)

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