Sunday, February 19, 2012

Motherhood is not analagous to priesthood

I've often found that people are uncomfortable answering a question with "I don't know." Instead, when faced with a question they don't know the answer to, they try to come up with something plausible sounding. I think that's what people are doing when they posit that the reason that women don't hold the priesthood is because they get to be mothers.

This analogy breaks down on further analysis, though. Motherhood is not some grand female priesthood equivalent. The priesthood is available to all righteous male members of the church beginning at age twelve. No particular familial status or other life circumstance is required. Motherhood, on the other hand, has no connection to righteousness. There are faithful women who, either through biology or life circumstance, will never be mothers. And there are plenty of unfaithful women who will have that opportunity.

This leads to another bad rhetorical move. In realization of the fact that not all women will bear and raise children, some people posit that all women are mothers simply by virtue of being female, and that whatever women do is a manifestation of motherhood. This devalues the very real sacrifice that mothers do make. By reducing motherhood to femaleness, the hardship of gestation and child rearing is swept aside as just a fact of life. It also devalues the lives of women who aren't mothers by saying that what they're doing with their lives is somehow less-than and needs to be called "motherhood" in order to be worth anything.

Motherhood is analagous to fatherhood. Female parenting and male parenting. Priesthood is analagous to... I don't know. I await the revelation that answers that question.


Rozy Lass said...

Priesthood is analagous to Relief Society! Both are service organizations for accomplishing the work of the kingdom. A man may be a priesthood holder but not a father; a woman may be a member of the RS, but not a mother.

Keri Brooks said...

Rozy Lass, thank you for your comment.

You're conflating the priesthood (the authority to administer ordinances and act in the name of God) with priesthood quorums (groups of priesthood holders). While a priesthood quorum might be analogous to the relief society, the priesthood itself isn't. The relief society is an organization. The priesthood is an amorphous concept.

The way I see it, there are three possible answers to the question of why women don't have the priesthood:

1. The priesthood isn't really that important, so women's exclusion from it isn't a big deal.
2. Women have (or will get in the future) something different from the priesthood but just as good.
3. Women will at some point in the future be ordained to the priesthood.

Option 1 is theologically untenable, as it would undercut the restoration. (If the priesthood isn't important, there would have been no need to restore it and we could all just go be Protestants.) So that leaves options 2 or 3. Option 2 seems to be more popular among the church membership, which leads to people trying to make analogies that end up failing.