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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.]

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72 Comments »

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. “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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. Ardis,

    Point well taken.

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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. […] 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

  19. I like this. Thanks.

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

  20. 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

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

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

  22. 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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