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Ardishood: The View from 2010

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 09, 2010

Which is larger?

The set of all whole numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4 …?

Or the set of all whole even numbers: 2, 4, 6, 8… ?

They’re the same. Each set is infinite. One is not twice as infinite as the other.

That may be counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Only an immature and limited human perspective protests, seeing the gaps in one sequence and insisting that the other sequence is fuller, larger, more complete, more perfect, more privileged.

-oOo-

I am a Mormon woman. I have gifts given to me by my Maker. I seek to magnify those gifts and to serve in the temporal Kingdom of God and to take a place some day in the eternal Kingdom of God.

I do not hold the Priesthood – I do not administer the ordinances of the Gospel, nor will I ever serve as a bishop or a priest or an apostle.

I am not a mother, literally nor in any meaningful metaphorical sense – I love children, and care for the aged, and try to serve those in between, but they are not my children and I am not their mother and no attempt to wrench the meaning of the word mother will ever change that.

Which set of gifts – mine, or a priest’s, or a mother’s – is largest?

They’re the same. Each set is infinite. One is not more infinite than another.

That may be counter-intuitive, misunderstood by the gentile world, and even protested by some Mormon women and men, but it’s true. Only an immature and limited human perspective sees gaps in the set of my gifts and insists that another is fuller, larger, more complete, more perfect, more privileged.

[I know this is a weird post, and I’ll try to have something more interesting up a little later this morning. This is simply a response to someone else’s trivialization of Mormon women’s gifts and service that I didn’t care to post as a comment on another blog.]



72 Comments »

  1. Ardis, you have risen infinitely in my esteem.

    You’re an amazing and wise woman.

    Comment by SilverRain — November 9, 2010 @ 7:23 am

  2. Which set of gifts – mine, or a priest’s, or a mother’s – is largest?

    From my immature and limited human perspective, I’d vote for your gifts.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 9, 2010 @ 7:33 am

  3. I have been wondering if that other blog had run its course. That would be sad, since it was the place that I met all of the original Keepa community, so it has been nice to see some rousing discussions once again.

    I happen to live in a place far from Utah that is much more chauvinist than the church, so I have a hard time getting all upset about how repressed Mormon women are. And as far as questions of gender and responsibility, I think that we carry a large burden due to our culture and it’s sometimes hard to separate that from things that are actually intrinsic to the gospel and principles of salvation.

    Comment by Researcher — November 9, 2010 @ 7:34 am

  4. Ardis, this is by far the best post I have ever read in all the bloggernacle. Mes hommages, chère sœur.

    Comment by Bryant Beck — November 9, 2010 @ 7:50 am

  5. I think I’m voting with Matt W. on this one Ardis!

    Comment by Mark B. — November 9, 2010 @ 8:53 am

  6. I am better for having read this. Thank you.

    Comment by Dustin — November 9, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  7. Thank you.

    Comment by Rachel — November 9, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  8. Huh. Well, you’ve given me something to chew on with the interesting metaphor in this post.

    It’s amazing to me that, in an area that has been hashed and re-hashed, you could get someone to look again at the issue of gender roles. Yes, you have a gift, Ardis! Thanks.

    Comment by David Y. — November 9, 2010 @ 9:22 am

  9. Ardis, well done.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 9, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  10. Ardis, Thanks for expanding our eternal view. Too often we are the blind, feeling only one part of the elephant, and never understand that in mortality, priest/mother/self may seem different, but they are all the same from an eternal perspective.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 9, 2010 @ 9:56 am

  11. Keepa, so often the place to find something really meaty to think about.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — November 9, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  12. When everything else is crazy in real life and the bloggernacle, Ardis, you continue to provide a space for sanity and peace that is often lacking elsewhere. Another great example of your infinite gifts at play here. Thank you. We all kind of depend on you for thoughts like this.

    Comment by kevinf — November 9, 2010 @ 10:05 am

  13. Thank you for writing something that is so thoughtful. I love reading things that make me think, and that give me an little ‘ahhh, that feels so right’ feeling. Have a great day!

    Comment by Karen — November 9, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  14. Ardis: I am also glad that you occasionally go gang-busters on somebody like you did on the other thread. I feel less lonely that way/ :)

    Comment by Chris H. — November 9, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  15. Amen and amen.

    Comment by Rechabite — November 9, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  16. Thanks for posting this, Ardis; you really do make a difference.

    Comment by Alison — November 9, 2010 @ 10:45 am

  17. Ardis,

    Thanks. Well done.

    Comment by Paul — November 9, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  18. I’m with 8 and 12

    Comment by Clark — November 9, 2010 @ 10:51 am

  19. Ardis,

    Your point here is beautiful on its own, but coupled with your comments over at Times and Seasons toward Jack, it’s rather jarring.

    Comment by Dan — November 9, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  20. Er — maybe not the best metaphor. Perhaps I shoudn’t mention this, but Georg Cantor famously proved that some infinite sets are larger than others — specifically, that the infinite set of real numbers is larger than the (also) infinite set of whole numbers ….

    As you say, that may be counter-intuitive, but it’s true.

    [Cantor’s set theory is not universally accepted, in part because it relies on definitions rather than on mathematics. In some ways Cantor’s argument is like Euclidean geometry’s parallel postulate — you have to accept it to make the system work, but it is neither axiomatic nor provable; as non-Euclidean geometries eventually demonstrated, it was not “true.”

    But that’s a mighty heavy load to throw at a metaphor in a blog post. — AEP]

    Comment by DLB — November 9, 2010 @ 11:49 am

  21. Your metaphor makes sense only if you believe in infinity and have an eternal perspective. Good stuff.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — November 9, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  22. Ardis, this is a wonderful post which describes the wonderful point of view that you (finally) got to in the comments. I’m sorry there was an unhappy exchange between you and Jack. I think it’s beautiful that you were able to refine your argument, de-commission the artillery and post a wonderfully inspiring post. I’m grateful for your insight, and for Jack’s too… Sometimes things get out of hand, does anyone have a reset button?

    Comment by psychochemiker — November 9, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

  23. I fail to see how understanding the infinite justice of God absolves us of the responsibility to strive for our best vision of earthly justice (finite though that vision may be).

    Comment by GLH — November 9, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  24. That. Was. Inspiring. I’m filing this away for future use, if that’s okay.

    Comment by Joshua — November 9, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  25. I don’t know which of the properties of parallel lines Ardis refers to in her editorial note to comment 20, but when someone called the other day asking for directions to the church, and said he was near the intersection of Myrtle and Willoughby, I did wonder for a moment how far into space one would have to go before those two parallel streets intersected. Might it happen in Yaphank (which raises an altogether different question about how that “ph” should be pronounced–is it Yap-hank? or Yaf-ank?)? Or would you have to go past Montauk?

    Comment by Mark B. — November 9, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

  26. There are, in fact, different levels of infinity. For example, even though both are infinite, the set of all real numbers is of greater cardinality (size) than the set of all integers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleph_number Thus saying that both men’s and women’s roles are infinite does not de facto prove that they are equivalent. That being said, I am not sure which role is equivalent to which infinite set.

    [David, your comments went to the spam filter; I don’t know why.

    You and the earlier commenter refer to real numbers, which are not identical to the whole numbers of my metaphor. That makes a difference in set theory. In any case, there’s evidently no poetry in the soul of either of you — see my earlier rant on scriptural literalism. AEP]

    Comment by DavidH — November 9, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

  27. “It’s amazing to me that, in an area that has been hashed and re-hashed, you could get someone to look again at the issue of gender roles.”

    Here, here.

    I really, really liked this post, Ardis.

    And bah on those who are trying to “disprove” her math. Even IF there is a theory that could “prove” something different, this definitely was not about math, but created a great basis that most people can get their heads around for understanding what equality means in an eternal sense.

    And I disagree with 23 as well. I think that temporary equality efforts can sometimes actually get in the way.

    Comment by michelle — November 9, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  28. Ardis,

    You are neither unappreciated nor unloved. I guess that’s creepy coming from a stranger, but I promise I don’t know where you live and I’m not looking. Anyway…
    Your talents are real, and I have certainly benefited from your web presence.

    I’m very that you sometimes seem to feel out of place in the blogiverse, but I for one have appreciate the many times you have spoken with compassion, moderation, and good sense. So, I’m pulling for you?

    Comment by Moniker Challenged — November 9, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  29. Sorry. I’ve very sorry that you…blogiverse…

    Comment by Moniker Challenged — November 9, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  30. Is it ok if I geek out on you Ardis? There are actually two sets that are equal that are even harder to believe are equal: the natural numbers {1, 2, 3, 4, …} and the rational numbers (all whole numbers, plus all “fractions”, in other words, all numbers that are [some integer]/[some integer], so 1/4, 55/4, 2345/765849, etc).

    However, there are infinities that are NOT the same size. So there are actually *fewer* integers than real numbers, even though there are an infinite number of each.

    I’ve been planning on a post talking about this but thought maybe people would (a) think I was crazy (b) think it was totally irrelevant. :-)

    Comment by sister blah 2 — November 9, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

  31. You aren’t crazy, and it isn’t irrelevant, but be prepared to have people miss your point in their eagerness to challenge your math. For instance, I challenge your second paragraph, at least in its relevance to my metaphor, because I spoke only of infinities of whole numbers, not of real numbers that are not whole numbers.

    I am a geek. You are a geek. Which of us is the bigger geek? Does either’s geekiness approach infinity? Is the geekiness real, or is it imaginary — the square root of a negative two geeks, perhaps?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 9, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

  32. Ardis, I just saw this! How funny. My SciH was about this same thing. Great minds . . .

    Comment by SteveP — November 9, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

  33. Steve, I saw that and thought I might have inspired it! But I like the parallel thinking even better. (By the way, could you direct some of your asides to Pisces? Puh-leeze?)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 9, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

  34. This was a very insightful post. Trust you to think up something like this.

    Comment by Maurine — November 9, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

  35. Before I read your explanation, I interpreted your metaphor as applying to individual differences rather than gender differences. Seems to me there is wider variety between individuals than between the genders as groups. (Obviously the Priesthood runs along gender lines, but there aren’t many other things that do.)

    Anyhow, I liked imagining the exercise of trying to measure anyone’s infinite worth: add 2 points for holding the priesthood, deduct 2 points for a caffeine addiction, add 3 points for a high-profile calling, deduct 2 points for falling asleep during sacrament meeting.

    Comment by Amy — November 9, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  36. What a wonderful post! Thank you for this.

    Because this is close to my field of study, I can’t help but to make few comments on your comments in # 20. Doesn’t all mathematics rely on definitions? Think of modern algebra: one defines what a group is, one defines what a field is, one defines isomorphism etc. Euclidean geometry is axiomatic. Those axioms are just not the only ones “working”. Of course this doesn’t affect anything your saying.

    I’ve often thought if understanding different infinities might help one to understand how it is possible to progress eternally in all kingdoms of glory, and still not to reach the level of progression in a higher kingdom. Here I refer to different infinities as cardinality of integers differs from that of reals.

    Comment by Niklas — November 10, 2010 @ 12:27 am

  37. Adris:

    this is about as well put as i’ve seen it. and i’m pretty sure even the “gentile world” can understand what you are saying here.

    we understand that your sandbox is large enough to contain whatever castle you could ever wish to build. sure, the mens sandbox is a little bigger, but that’s of no consequence to you. it’s no sand off your pile.

    but the question you leave unanswered is this:
    if these differing sizes of sandbox make no practical difference, why not equalize the sizes and avoid the appearance of sexism? because that is certainly what is appears as, at first glance.

    Comment by palerobber — November 10, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  38. Ardis,

    I love how profound and simple this is. It’s perfect. Thank you.

    Comment by B.Russ — November 10, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

  39. The sandboxes are NOT of disparate size, palerobber. That’s the point — all are of infinite size and none is larger than another.

    But if they were of different sizes, and if someone did think the sizes should be equalized, we would still have no more power to transfer the priest’s sand to my pile than we have the power to transfer the mother’s sand to either of the other piles. That’s another point.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 10, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  40. I appreciate your point that all are of equal worth and value but you’re not taking on the next logical thought which is: what is wrong with a world, a church and a group of people who make others feel of less worth and value? What needs to be done to help the heartache of those who are treated as something less?

    By ignoring it, you mplies that all is well and nothing needs to be done–that when women feel they are of equal worth that it won’t ever matter to them if they are treated as if they aren’t.

    I think we’ve all heard a variation on “no one can make you feel a certain way, that’s a choice you make.” My goodness the cruelty and harshness that can be justified in that vein.

    The truth may be that we are all of the same infinite worth, but until we are all treated that way, our “through a glass darkly” reality doesn’t match “the infinite and eternal” Reality.

    Comment by Jenne — November 10, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

  41. I should stick to my original intention and not debate anyone who doesn’t get the point. I’ve slipped from that a time or two, but I’m going back to it.

    Know that I have read all your comments whether or not I respond to them. Disagreements are fine, but the more the disagreements are explained, the more plain it is to me that my basic point was not understood. I’m sorry about that.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 10, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

  42. Disagreements are fine, but the more the disagreements are explained, the more plain it is to me that my basic point was not understood. I’m sorry about that.

    In seeing, they see not, in hearing, they hear not, lest at anytime they should understand, and be converted that Christ may heal them. It’s not your fault Ardis…

    Comment by psychochemiker — November 10, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

  43. Perhaps to make all those who are confused happy, maybe you should say that women are all the even integers and men are the odd ones (we are, after all, a rather odd lot).

    Then each has an infinite sandpile that is different, yet still infinite.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 10, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

  44. Ardis,

    Thank you for this perspective. As someone who doesn’t quite know what to make of gender complementarity arguments, I appreciate the elegance of your metaphor and your ultimate desire to lift women up as equals (in some sense.)

    However, I’m trying to wrap my head around this metaphor. (I don’t mean this as an attack, these are just honest questions.) If my set of gifts is infinite and my husband’s set of gifts is infinite, doesn’t that mean that we end up in the exact same place in the end? Because infinite to me means without limit. No constraints. No boxes. I’m not sure how that works with the even vs. all numbers idea. Are you saying that men will always, for all eternity, have a whole different set of gifts that they will perpetually be accruing that women do not? (or vice versa?) I personally am drawn to the idea that divinity ultimately bursts beyond gender constraints. Would you agree in some sense?

    Like Jenne and palerobber, I also question what this perspective means for this life that we live now. Maybe things will all even out in eternity, but I’m also interested in the here and now. And if in the here and now one group of people is excluded from certain gifts through church policy, we have something to think about, IMO.

    Comment by Caroline — November 10, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

  45. This is both simple and elegant. Thanks, Ardis.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — November 10, 2010 @ 10:17 pm

  46. Yes, the cardinality of even numbers is the same as that of the whole numbers. However the set of real numbers IS larger than the set of whole numbers. So, one can easily argue that the opportunities given to men are that of the real numbers, while that given to women are the whole numbers. Ergo, women have less opportunities to serve than men. And, I have proved it using transfinite arithmetic!

    Don’t worry, there is no upper bound on the cardinality of transfinite sets, so there’s plenty of room at the top for God.

    [Once again, I note that my metaphor refers only to whole numbers, not real numbers, and as I have acknowledged multiple times before, the distinction affects set theory. One can easily argue many things that are irrelevant and/or untrue. — AEP]

    Comment by David Clark — November 11, 2010 @ 8:18 am

  47. Thank you Ardis for articulating this so wonderfully.
    I wish more people could/would understand. Then more people would treat each other and themselves as beings with infinite worth and infinite potential, and less people would read in a slight when it wasn’t meant.
    Any time now that someone belittles me or the service I give I can remember this truth, maybe they don’t have a proper understanding of infinity.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Zee DM. — November 11, 2010 @ 8:23 am

  48. **sigh**

    I wonder why objectors are concerned only about the presumed handicap of women and priesthood? Why is no one concerned about my presumed handicap where motherhood is concerned? or a priest’s lack of motherhood, for that matter?

    Are you sure you really understand my point?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 11, 2010 @ 8:34 am

  49. Wow. Who knew so many keepaninnies were theoretical mathematicians? I’m also laughing at

    I’ll try to have something more interesting up a little later this morning.

    As usual, the posts with insights into Ardis thoughts are always tops! I vote for more of these “boring” topics.

    RE:#48, It’s because motherhood is perceived as being more hassle than it’s worth, while the priesthood is viewed as status and power beyond the effort contributed. I’m not sure either of these assumptions is true…

    Comment by Clark — November 11, 2010 @ 8:47 am

  50. “Why is no one concerned about… a priest’s lack of motherhood, for that matter?”

    Because priests are not prevented by church policy from having fatherhood. And fatherhood, in my view, is absolutely equivalent to motherhood. I have no mystical mother bond with my children. I am a parent. As is my husband. Any differences in how we relate are due to personality and experience, not gender, in my view.

    The age old analogy that motherhood = priesthood just doesn’t work for me. Motherhood is equivalent to fatherhood. Priesthood is equivalent to priesthood. IMO.

    Comment by Caroline — November 11, 2010 @ 9:36 am

  51. Motherhood is better and more important than fatherhood. I am not saying this in the context of priesthood=motherhood, which I think is cheesy if not just stupid.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 11, 2010 @ 9:43 am

  52. Caroline, I fully agree with you about the non-equivalence of priesthood and motherhood … which is one reason I split motherhood out from both priesthood and individual-hood. And although I keep saying I’m not going to debate, I do appreciate your thoughtfulness and *tactfulness,* especially in your first comment.

    I do think that the exclusive focus on women and the priesthood is a deadly trap that keeps us focused on mortality rather than eternity, on a too-often-undefined gift of “something” that we don’t have but which we’re told we must have or else, with all the relentless unreason and manipulation of a Madison Avenue campaign. And I’m not sure you don’t have a mystical mother bond with your children — you pick up the same children from Primary every week, don’t you? you wouldn’t be satisfied with assuming responsibility for any old random children for the week instead of your own?

    I’m sure that regardless of any mother bond, there are gifts you exercise and develop through the experience of being a mother that are as unavailable to me as the priesthood currently is to you, yet no one has expressed any sense that I am missing anything important, or any determination to obtain those gifts for me … either because they don’t recognize them as gifts, or don’t care about them, or don’t think I’m important enough to be concerned about, or some equally thoughtless reason.

    And why isn’t anyone interested in defining and exploring the spiritual gifts of any particular individual? Why is our attention always focused on what we think we don’t have, rather than on developing what we do have? Why is “what we don’t have” always answered by “the priesthood” and not by other gifts that specific individuals may not have?

    Why is someone’s lack of a gift of discernment, or healing, or faith or patience or music or organization or tact not protested as injustice with a demand that the Church immediately distribute those gifts justly and equitably? Because those gifts aren’t distributed by human agency, of course — what does it say about our belief to demand that the right of holding the priesthood be distributed by human agency?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 11, 2010 @ 10:06 am

  53. “I’m not sure you don’t have a mystical mother bond with your children — you pick up the same children from Primary every week, don’t you?”

    :) I do. But so does my husband. My point is that my bond with our kids is no different than his bond with our kids. He loves them just as much, nurtures just as wonderfully (if not better.)

    “I’m sure that regardless of any mother bond, there are gifts you exercise and develop through the experience of being a mother that are as unavailable to me.”

    That’s probably true. I don’t know if I’d use the word gifts, but certainly experiences I have. Of course, what you miss out in in your lack of motherhood is similar to what men miss out in in their lack of fatherhood. And for men and women that want parenthood, my heart goes out to them. How I wish that this crazy matching game that is courtship could work out beautifully for everyone and that everyone has those opportunities they yearn for in life.

    Which is one reason why I am sympathetic to women who feel called to exercise gifts of involving church administration and leadership. There may not be much we can do in this life to give every human that chance for parenthood, but we can do something about giving people chances for contributing to their faith’s communities in the ways they feel called to.

    In answer to your question, I am interested in exploring spiritual gifts. Very much so. “Why is “what we don’t have” always answered by “the priesthood” and not by other gifts that specific individuals may not have?”

    I suppose because one can always hope to work and develop spiritual gifts. I think the scriptures give us hope that that’s possible. So it’s in our power to some extent. And when it’s not in our power, despite our best efforts, there’s nothing that can be done about it. We can only hope to talk to God about it someday and then as we progress toward divinity, to acquire every possible gift, I think.

    Ordination, however, is something that can be given in this life, can be done, so long as our leaders are prepared, ready and feel that God would like this for all God’s children. I believe that the vast, visionary, and inspiring message of Christ’s life was about tearing down boundaries and including everyone, in the fullest sense, so that they feel whole valued and limitless in their possibilities. That’s my hope for all my sisters and brothers in the gospel.

    As for demanding the right to holding the priesthood, I don’t think I do that. I do express hope, however. And when enough people express hope, or question the status quot, I have every expectation that our leaders will sit down and ponder and pray. And when that happens, the possibilities are limitless.

    Thank you for engaging with me, Ardis.

    Comment by Caroline — November 11, 2010 @ 10:54 am

  54. And thanks for the way you have engaged, Caroline.

    I think sometimes that I specialize in history posts because they tend to be less contentious than posts on contemporary life, and as abrasive as I am known for being around the bloggernacle, I really, really, really do not like fighting. I dread bringing fights to Keepa, and having commenters be rude to me and to each other and make unfair accusations against the church. But if everybody could handle the questions as kindly and peacefully as you do — you do know that’s one of YOUR gifts, don’t you? — I would be less hesitant to bring up some topics.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 11, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  55. Thank you, Ardis, for such a gracious and kind response. You have made me smile. And I absolutely understand the desire to avoid contention. There’s nothing worse than people assuming the worst about you and writing you off as someone unworthy of conversation or consideration. So I do my best to engage meaningfully and generously (though I often fail), and I appreciate when others, like you, do so as well.

    Comment by Caroline — November 11, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  56. Ardis, I apologize if my tone came across as rude to you. In my frankness, my respectful attempt engagement with you was misinterpreted. I understand wanting to avoid engagement and I appreciate your conversation with Caroline. As I get to know you better on the bloggernacle, I’ll better know how to tailor my responses to your personality. You were the lucky recipient of my enthusiastic directness, which is appreciated by some, is not by many.

    Comment by Jenne — November 11, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

  57. Ardis, as I’ve pondered this, I wonder if you could also say it this way:

    Women’s infinite gifts are as the even numbers

    Men’s infinite gifts are as the odd numbers

    Together, they combine to make the entire infinite set of numbers in the gospel, yet both are still infinite.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 11, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

  58. I’m a spineless wretch without the strength to keep resolutions …

    No hard feelings, Jenne; you were not offensive in any way — it only appears I took offense because your comment was almost the only counter-opinion in that group to whom I didn’t really respond. That was only because you commented in the space between my resolving not to debate, and my giving in to the temptation to debate again! I appreciate enthusiasm and directness. I suppose I enjoy it more when it’s enthusiastically cheering something I’ve said rather than disagreeing — but I’m human. No hard feelings at all, I assure you.

    Rameumptom, you’re certainly welcome to take my metaphor and run with it, but this particular running with it isn’t quite where I would go, mainly because my issue isn’t entirely related to gender. I genuinely do believe that each individual, totally disconnected from gender, has been given a set of gifts from God to develop and bless, and which are *sufficient* to each individual regardless of whether or not each individual shares the gifts that others have. Those gifts have no end, and the life in which we have to develop those gifts to their fullest have no end. I think it is a mistake to focus only on gender, or only on marital status, or only on whether one has children, or only on whether one can potentially serve as a bishop, and to envy those gifts possessed by others, curse our own for being insufficient, or whatever else it is we are doing when we focus on priesthood being conferred only on men.

    So your reworking of my metaphor is one possible way of using it, but it — despite its focus on the infinite — is much more limited than I intended it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 11, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

  59. Ardis,

    Point well taken.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 11, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

  60. Ardis, I am not disagreeing with you, but I do think it takes enormous amounts of faith to see the eternal picture when temporal inequities seem looming. You appear to have great faith. Yes, others who are still struggling are probably struggling from “an immature and limited human perspective”, but I don’t think that necessarily warrants clear dismissal of them or their concerns.

    Comment by Stephanie — November 11, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  61. Stephanie, perhaps not. But it does require us to have faith in God, regardless of whether we are LDS or of another religion. There are many inequities, trials and tragedies in the world that are beyond our control. At times we need to just trust that God will fix anything that needs fixing, and focus on the blessings and good things currently in the system.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 11, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

  62. I reject the idea that we should except inequalities as something we just do not understand. However, inequalities within a voluntary organization are not the most pressing or of the most concern to me.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 11, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

  63. Rameumptom, well definitely. My comment was more directed toward how we interact with others who don’t share the same perspective.

    Comment by Stephanie — November 11, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

  64. Great post Ardis. I also agree with what you’ve said. Your point brings to mind the words of Christ, “My kingdom is not of this world.”.

    To start quantifying the blessings and responsibilities within the infinite and boundless Gospel of Jesus Christ into the physical realm of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” is extremely short-sided. The mortal sphere in-which human beings operate under the guidance of revelation and faith is but one small stepping stone in the infinite magnificence of Eternity.

    I did not fully understand this concept until I experienced the work and teachings within the Temple. The blessings and privileges which we can be granted by our Father in Heaven are limitless. They can’t simply be counted on our fingers and put through a calculator to display some sort of inequality in the temporal realm.

    Any Priesthood holder who deems himself “better” or “greater” than a woman who does not bear the same responsibility, as the Doctrine and Covenants put it, “Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”.

    This is why I have difficulty in understand why someone would feel some sort of jealousy for this. Priesthood power and responsibility isn’t a badge or an award to wear. It is a power that can only be “maintained…by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned”. There is no need to feel “less” than someone else, precisely because the animosity and jealousy is most certainly not reciprocal by the humble, worthy, Priesthood holder.

    As a father and husband I feel the utmost respect and honor toward my wife and mother of our children. She is light-years above me in both gifts and righteousness. I am humbled by her innate ability to nurture our children, run our home, and comfort me in a way that I could never understand. She did not need an external power granted upon her to obtain this gift – it was something she was born with.

    In my opinion, if God requires men to receive a gift through the laying on of hands based on requirements of righteousness, yet a woman needs no such external bestowal or requirement for her gift, it says quite a lot about which gender is the predisposed higher being in the eyes of God.

    Comment by CF — November 12, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

  65. TR — I cannot post your comment, if that’s what we want to call it.

    This post is not about any one specific person — it’s not about Jack, and it isn’t even about me, in particular. (I made up the silly “Ardishood” because I so hate the word “personhood.”) It’s about all of us, individually, and anyone’s individual set of God-given gifts, regardless of gender, regardless of priesthood, regardless of parenthood, regardless of any other quality which we use to separate each other into groups.

    I’m not calling anyone — including Jack — immature, at least not in a way to distinguish one person from every other mortal. All of us, in mortality and probably for a very long time hereafter, are immature and have limited perspective. How can anyone claim to be other than immature, or have a perspective other than limited, or think that I’m claiming to be otherwise myself, in the context of infinity and eternity? My mortal immaturity on occasion makes me long for certain gifts I don’t have, rather than developing those I do have, or remembering that one day I’ll have any necessary opportunities that I lack today. That longing, which sometimes sinks to coveting, is a common consequence of occasionally losing sight of eternity.

    And no, I don’t have it all worked out, and no, I don’t claim to have resolved all the difficulties in my life or yours with regard to womanhood and priesthood and motherhood and any other kind of -hood. I can *know* something deep in my soul without always understanding it with my head or feeling it with my heart. I falter at times, just as I suppose you do. I can *know* something is right without having the wisdom and strength to live up to it all the time. You can’t possibly guess how hard or long or often I have struggled and still struggle to find practical resolutions for the problems and paradoxes you claim I am glossing over.

    And finally, no, I don’t endorse all the comments left here, even when I haven’t specifically argued against them.

    As for your parting shot, good luck with that.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 13, 2010 @ 11:41 am

  66. Ardis,
    The concept (if we get it at all) of “infinite and eternal” changes everything in our linear perspective of the universe.

    You have given me a fundamentally new perspective on something: totally surprising, delightful, and astonishingly simple. Once you see it, it is so simple, you feel foolish that you didn’t see it all along.

    Comment by Jeff — November 13, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  67. What you said, and, anyway, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Also, about not seeking a place at the head of the table but at the foot.

    I’d just like to be in the room where the table stands.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — November 13, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  68. […] One writer whom I have tremendous respect for, wrote the following: Which is larger? The set of all whole numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4 …? Or the set of all whole even numbers: 2, 4, 6, 8… ? They’re the same. Each set is infinite. One[set] is not twice as infinite as the other. That may be counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Only … limited human perspective protests, seeing the gaps in one sequence and insisting that the other sequence is fuller, larger, more complete, more perfect, more privileged. I am a Mormon woman. I have gifts given to me by my Maker. I seek to magnify those gifts and to serve in the temporal Kingdom of God and to take a place some day in the eternal Kingdom of God. I do not hold the Priesthood – I do not administer the ordinances of the Gospel, nor will I ever serve as a bishop or a priest or an apostle. I am not a mother, literally nor in any meaningful metaphorical sense…. Which set of gifts – mine, or a priest’s, or a mother’s – is largest? They’re the same. Each set is infinite. One is not more infinite than another. That may be counter-intuitive, misunderstood by the gentile world, and even protested by some Mormon women and men, but it’s true. Only … limited human perspective sees gaps in the set of my gifts and insists that another is fuller, larger, more complete, more perfect, more privileged. […]

    Pingback by Thoughts inspired by Elder Gong’s talk on Temple Mirrors | Andrew and Lizzie — November 27, 2010 @ 7:16 pm

  69. I like this. Thanks.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — December 2, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

  70. I have been a fan of the transfinite numbers since my first encounter with with them in elementary school (a book I read at the time called M.I.T.S., W.I.T.S. and Logic). I have also been a fan of Ardis since my first encounter with her posts on Times and Seasons. This means that there is a one to one correspondance between the transfinite numbers, cardinality Aleph sideways 8, and Ardishood.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — December 3, 2010 @ 7:07 am

  71. One of my all-time favorite comments, Eric! Thank you.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 3, 2010 @ 7:15 am

  72. I am a couple years late, but found this very meaningful. I have had a number of months “confined” physically, and that confinement while not infinite (if nothing else I will die some day), it is ongoing. It can be easy to fall into comparing myself now to myself 2, 4, 10 or more years ago, and lament those things that I can’t do. Even when those things blessed the lives of others, those opportunities still came from God, independent of my worth.

    Reading this I thought of a comment, written in frustration, that I feel like I am only catching every third or fourth thought, and only every tenth chance to serve. Increasing this analogy, even every third, or every tenth number still goes on to infinity.

    Thank you. I needed this now.

    Comment by Julia — November 25, 2012 @ 1:49 am

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