Sunday, October 06, 2013

LDS Leaders Defend Traditional Marriage And Oppose Female Priesthood Ordination At 183rd Semiannual LDS General Conference

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its 183rd Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City on October 5-6, 2013. This also includes the General Relief Society Meeting which was held a week earlier on September 28th. While President Thomas S. Monson announced that Church membership shattered the 15 million barrier and that in the year since lowering the minimum age requirements for missionary service, the number of full-time missionaries has increased from 58,500 to 80,333, capturing even more public attention was the fervent defense of traditional marriage between one man and one woman and opposition to female Priesthood ordination expressed by a number of speakers. There was a minor protest by an estimated 150 activists associated with Ordain Women when they unsuccessfully sought admission to the all-male Priesthood Session of conference on October 5th, but this quickly dissipated. Kate Kelly, the chief organizer of Ordain Women, posts her response HERE.

Ordain Women has been trying to stampede the LDS Church into granting priesthood ordination to women. However, since reserving priesthood for men is doctrinal, this can only be changed through a revelation from the Lord to the President of the Church, after the same manner the priesthood ban against black men was lifted in 1978. There is no known Biblical or Book of Mormon history of women as a class ever being granted priesthood, although individual women may have been ordained from time to time. 1 Timothy 3:2, which states a bishop shall be the husband of one wife, seems to indicate that priesthood should be reserved for men, since a bishop is a specific priesthood office within the LDS Church.

Links to Conference talks and photos:

-- Video and audio archives; written transcripts will be available by mid-week.
-- Deseret News summaries of the talks.
-- Official LDS Photo Gallery
-- Deseret News Photo Gallery

As usual, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve led the charge in defending traditional values; he is the most outspoken culture warrior of the leadership. Elder Oaks decried political correctness as one of several things that are often being served ahead of God. But Elder Oaks was just getting warmed up. He stated that, as an essential part of His plan of salvation, God has established an eternal standard that sexual relations should occur only between a man and a woman who are married. He added that the importance the Church places on the law of chastity explains its commitment to the pattern of marriage that originated with Adam and Eve and establishes God's pattern for the procreative relationship between His sons and daughters for the nurturing of His children. "There are many political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God's decrees about sexual morality and are contrary to the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and child-bearing. These pressures have already permitted same-gender marriages in various states and nations", Elder Oaks continued. He then cautioned that laws legalizing so-called same-gender marriage do not change God's law of marriage of His commandments and standards. Elder Oaks acknowledged that the LDS stance against same-sex marriage might be misunderstood, elicit accusations of bigotry, or trigger invasions of our free exercise of religion, but said we needed to remember our first priority -- to serve God.

Elder Russell M. Nelsen of the Quorum of the Twelve echoed Elder Oaks' counsel, saying "Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood or misconstrued." Elder Nelson also noted that while we are to emulate our Savior’s kindness and compassion, and value the rights and feelings of all of God’s children, we cannot change His doctrine, because it is not ours to change. His doctrine is ours to study, understand and uphold. So although we can accept homosexuals, but we cannot accept homosexuality. We can lighten the darkness, but we cannot call darkness "light".

Elder Quentin L. Cook indirectly addressed the antics of the Ordain Women insurgency and implicitly criticized feminism. Elder Cook decried the forms of cultural bondage and subjugation that victimize people and turn society evil. He identified one of the most universal forms of subjugation in our day as ideology or political beliefs that are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He noted that substituting the philosophies of men for gospel truth can lead us away from the simplicity of the Savior’s message, and that Gospel truths are often rejected or distorted to make them intellectually more appealing or compatible with current cultural trends and intellectual philosophies. If we are not careful, we can be captured by these trends and place ourselves in intellectual bondage.

Elder Cook explained that of particular concern are philosophies that criticize or diminish respect for women who choose to make the sacrifices necessary to be mothers, teachers, nurturers or friends to children. While he is thrilled with the educational and other opportunities that are available to women, and treasures the fact that the back-breaking work and domestic drudgery required of women has been reduced in much of the world because of modern conveniences, and is pleased that women are making such magnificent contributions in every field of endeavor, he warns us that if we allow our culture to reduce the special relationship that children have with mothers and grandmothers, and others who nurture them, we will come to regret it.

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve more directly addressed the issue of Priesthood ordination. He sought to downplay the excessive association of Priesthood power with men in the Church. He stressed that the Priesthood is the power and authority of God given for the salvation and blessing of ALL -- men, women and children. Elder Andersen confessed he did not know why Priesthood ordination is currently reserved for men, but said he knew God loves all of His children, even though he does not know the meaning of all things. But he said that although God loves all of His children the same, He did not create men and woman exactly the same; sacred responsibility is given to each gender and, from the beginning, the Lord established how His priesthood would be administered.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve also fired a shot across the bow of feminism, speaking of the pernicious philosophy that undermines a woman's moral influence by devaluing marriage and motherhood and homemaking as a career. "We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career -- we all benefit from their achievements -- but still recognize that there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family", he remarked. Elder Christofferson added that attitudes toward human sexuality also threaten the moral authority of women, explaining that sexual immorality and revealing dress not only debase women, but reinforces the lie that a woman is defined by her sexuality. The apostle also addressed those who, in the name of equality, want to erase all differences between the masculine and the feminine. The distinct, complementary gifts of men and women that produce a greater whole are being blurred. He pleaded with women and girls to protect the moral force within them.

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