Lately there has been a lot of press about the Ordain Women movement, which is advocating for the extension of priesthood to women in the Mormon church. I haven't added my thoughts to the debate, because others have written much more eloquently about it. I think this post by biggins comes closest to capturing my thoughts. However, this post isn't about the topic of women and the priesthood, instead it's about how we talk about things like this.
In my opinion, the most disturbing thing about the Ordain Women movement has been the reaction of those who disagree with them. These women have been accused of being on the road to "apostasy." Mormons generally view the world in pretty black and white terms - you're either with us or against us. This view of the world lacks a lot of nuance. Just because someone sees something differently than you doesn't mean they're wrong.
One of the metaphors Mormons use a lot is that of the "Iron Rod." This is a story from the Book of Mormon which tells of a dream shared by the prophet Lehi (and then later seen by his son Nephi too). The Iron Rod represents the road to salvation, and you have to cling to the rod and "press forward" to reach the Tree of Life to receive salvation. Although this is a great story, and I don't mean to quibble with the prophets, the story also breeds a certain moral absolutism. If you are not on the "straight and narrow path" that is next to the Iron Rod, then you have wandered from the one true way and are lost. This kind of thinking can be very problematic in both a religious and political context.
What could be a better metaphor that would encompass different points of view? I've been thinking that Psalms 24:3-4 might provide an answer. That scripture reads: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully."
Instead of thinking about the road to eternal life and salvation as an exclusionary path where it's "my way or the high way," allow yourself to think of the road to eternal life as a mountain or hill we all must climb. Each of us sees different sides of the mountain, but we're all striving towards the same goal. You may not have seen the boulder of biogtry in your path, but your sister on the other side of the mountain may feel her way is blocked by that insurmountable obstacle. JUST BECAUSE YOU DON'T SEE IT DOESN'T MEAN THE BOULDER ISN'T THERE FOR HER. Each of us is trying to reach Zion, where dwell the pure in heart. You can't assume that because someone sees sexism in the church culture or feels excluded from church riturals that she doesn't want the same things you want. She is pure in heart, and you are too.
As another post put it, the pain is real. There are women I know who do feel that pain, who feel that there are insurmountable cliffs that form a barrier to their service and activity in the church. Some of them have already left, and some of them feel their path is simply too hard to struggle up any more. We can help the stranded hikers, or those about to give up - we can ascend to the hill of the Lord if we do it together, in unity, love, and understanding. We can try to understand their pain, their obstacles, even if we don't have them in our own path. We can do what we can to shoulder their burdens and understand, instead of blaming them for pointing out those things that are holding them back. Let's not lift up our souls to vanity, but instead cleanse our hands (and hearts) of any malice towards those who struggle, who yearn for zion, but see it with different eyes than us.
In short, let's love one another. And think about constructive ways to address the pain many women feel. Here are some good thoughts.