Ordain Women is changing the name of their teaching platform from “Six Discussions” to “Conversations” in reaction to criticism that the name of the original program demonstrates their desire to evangelize LDS toward female ordination. The term “six discussions” is, after all, reminiscent of the former missionary program used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This title change is bringing the expected banter—claims that the name switch is as silly as the women behind it and other similarly dismissive things. As a non-member of OW (but then, OW doesn’t have a formal membership) who has participated in an online “conversation” group regarding these “discussions” (I’m confused), I recognize some validity in the charge that the Six Discussions are evangelical-ish in their appeal, but only insofar as any argument attempts to make its case convincing. It seems to me the silliness resides in the initial accusation that the Six Discussions were designed to convince others. Not because the accusation is wrong, but because making the accusation is, in itself, an act of silliness. Its a “duh” and a “so what?” Nearly every human conversation is designed to convince, to open or alter minds, to change ideas and, sometimes, hearts. In some ways, argument can be considered the engine of free agency. It is essential.
I’ve not read the sixth conversation yet (that’s scheduled as part of my Sabbath reading), but I’ve read the five that precede it and discussed them in my online group. (I will be writing more of that experience after we review together the “Be the Change” material this week.) While some written aspects of the discussions do attempt to manipulate, the charge that these women can convert anyone is as silly as the charge that our missionaries convert new followers. Remember, fellow Mormons, that we ask those investigating the church to study and pray. Remember that we condemn the missionary who thinks s/he converts and quickly point out that conversion is an experience that is brought about by the desire of the investigator, according to the Holy Spirit. Again, the missionary doesn’t convert anyone. And if the missionary doesn’t convert–if conversion is what happens according to the desire of the convertee–then Ordain Women should not be considered responsible when someone comes to understand and accept their thinking on female ordination because they have studied and considered OW material.
And yet the question is leveled like an accusation: “Do these Conversations change people’s minds about female ordination?” I’m sure they can. But I’ll say it again: That change does not occur because the Ordain Women board wrote down and published the information. If a change in perspective occurs in a participant, it occurs because s/he applied her/his mental faculty, studied, (hopefully) prayed, and reached an individual conviction. If you don’t give a missionary credit for a religious conversion, you really have no place giving credit to (or blaming) Ordain Women if someone listens to, processes, and ultimately accepts the organization’s view. If you do assign the change in the individual to the power of the organization, you exalt that organization, and, at the same time, degrade the individual whose perspective has been altered. It’s as if you suggest, through implication, that the man or woman who changes perspective is not fully responsible, not fully capable, because of the power and influence of the organization. Remember, Mormons, individuals own their choices. Always. It’s integral in the LDS plan of salvation.
Ordain Women will never please a certain crowd: This crowd complained about the name “Six Discussions,” pointing to it as evidence OW is evangelical. In response and (I esteem) out of respect, OW changed the name to avoid confusion. But now these same people are complaining the change of name proves that OW is evangelical or they wouldn’t have had to change the name. Um. Ow. Maybe my mind isn’t strong enough to handle this conversation …
This is silly. Whether OW calls the information they offer “Discussions” or “Conversations” or “Stuff to Jaw About” is of little import.
In fact, I find it almost amusing that Ordain Women submitted on this issue. But then, perhaps they hoped to agree with their enemy while they were in the way with them. The problem is, that won’t work because…(hold for it)…the two sides aren’t enemies. Not really. You can’t be an enemy to someone who shares your goal to follow the will of the Lord. And make no mistake, that is a shared goal among us even if our perspectives and understanding varies. OW and traditional Mormons share an affinity for following the will of the Lord in the same way liberal and conservative citizens want to buoy up their country.
I’m not sure there is a scripture to guide us through this one, except maybe the one about how a house divided cannot stand. And yet we are standing. This suggests to me that what is happening here is not a division that will fell a house, but a renovation, an improvement. Or so I hope.
Regardless of what you think of female ordination—if you think it will never come, if you think it might come but will probably look differently than male priesthood, if you think it will come and mimic for women what we see today for men—we must be one in our desire to know the mind and will of God. Then whatever it is we are creating, whatever movement Heavenly Father is making in our culture, in our hearts, and in the formal organization, whatever this moment is, it will make us stronger and better prepared for these latter-days.
We must keep the faith in Him even when we have little faith in one another. But keeping that faith requires us to seek out the good in one another. Controversy over a name misses the mark entirely.
For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek they good. (Psalm 122: 8-9)