Posts Tagged ‘ministering’

Mormonism, the Priesthood of Believers, and Maxine Hanks

July 28, 2013

Interesting, from the article linked below, that at least part of her going back to the LDS church had to do with the idea of lay priesthood. It sounds like, as she says, she “pulled back” in her studies or from being ordained (?) or couldn’t go through with that, perhaps because the idea of a priesthood separate from the laity didn’t fit well with her Mormon background. That would make some sense. And so she re-discovers to her relief the point of a completely lay priesthood, and goes back to the LDS church.

I’m not sure how that works with any feminism, given that the LDS church’s priesthood is decidedly patriarchal, in focus and largely in practice. But yeah, one of the things that attracted me to Mormonism as a convert was the LDS church being led by laity at the local level. My DW thinks that men performing priesthood blessings of healing and comfort is one of the most beautiful things about Mormonism.

Of course, what’s really pulling at me these days, in the wake of the NYT piece on Mattsson, is how empty Mormonism was for me spiritually and intellectually as a practicing Mormon. Couple that with the rigid authoritarianism, the paleo-conservatism, and the intense, cognitively paralyzing and emotionally crippling indoctrination techniques used in the LDS church (members who question LDS church dogma are essentially coerced into staying in the LDS church, sacrificing sacred matters of individual conscience because they don’t want to lose marriages or family ties), and the LDS church seems an odious place.

For me now, considering my experience in the LDS church and considering the Mattson affair, I think about the obvious virtues of a theologically and historically educated class of pastors, ministers, priests, etc., who can REALLY perform actual pastoral work and discussion in the wards. (The experience of sitting in a LDS chapel on Sunday morning is mind-numbing, so one starts to wonder if there are any seriously wise and well educated ministers out there worth listening to each week.) The pastor is paid for pursuing his vocation, rather than a ward or stake having a necessarily puffed up full-time accountant or podiatrist or business executive doing part-time pastoral and ministering work (as though these were after-thoughts!). And he or she is not part of a special priestly class (a la Catholicism) that is understood to specially mediate sacred teachings for the members. For example, I can see where a born and raised Mormon would pull back from Catholicism, or maybe ordination in a church in the Anglican or Lutheran line of Protestantism, but a Calvinist, Baptist, or Presbyterian church doesn’t doctrinally separate off the laity from the priesthood (“of believers)” like that.

In practice, Mormon priesthood is largely symbolic and empty. A pro forma affair where men run around doing Important things; they lay hands of blessing on people; they perform ordinances. But actual pastoral work is often reduced to checklist interviews for “worthiness,” or “pray about it, read your scriptures.” Gee, thanks. I mean, when one is going through a faith crisis in the Mormon church, one is a bit naive to go to one’s Bishop, although that’s exactly who the LDS church hierarchy wants you to go to. And why? Because he’s their man in your ward. He’s there primarily, in the last analysis, as the Handbook of Instruction says, to “protect the good name of the Church.” He is not there first and foremost to counsel, to heal, to offer real advice helpful to that individual. If he does any of those things, that’s just a matter of luck. There’s no design in Church hierarchy and administration for real pastoral work, for an honest grappling with doubts or trials of faith, to actually happen. That’s partly why the LDS church is in such a mess now: Faithful people with serious doubts or questions go in to the Bishop’s office, struggling, and they more likely to be berated, chastised, mocked, looked down upon, than they are to be treated with consideration, compassion, understanding, and true ministering.


[Relevant quotes from the SLTrib article:

Hanks rejoined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February.

On Friday , during a popular evening session of next week’s Sunstone Symposium, an annual meeting for Mormon intellectuals and observers, Hanks will detail her 20-year spiritual sojourn as a feminist theologian and chaplain, which brought her full circle back into Mormonism.

“Given who I was, there was no place to go but out,” Hanks said in 2003, on the 10th anniversary of the excommunications. “Mormonism was limiting to me, so I needed to test the limits — to see who I and the church really might be. … Excommunication opened the door to a larger cosmos, inside and outside myself.”

From that point on, she explored various Christian teachings and practices, assisted clergy with religious services and served as volunteer chaplain at Holy Cross Chapel for 13 years. In 1999, she joined the Interfaith Roundtable for the 2002 Winter Olympics, where she enjoyed the association of representatives from various faiths and led the annual Interfaith Week.

She studied “traditional, sacramental Christianity and priesthood,” Hanks said this week. “But when I got to the point of priestly ordination, I pulled back. I moved into recognizing the value and power of a lay priesthood in the body of Christ and Christian community. My searching was complete. I had my answers.”


Doubting Mark

An atheist's adventures in a land of faith

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