There are a lot of heart-felt opinions on both sides of the issue of whether or not to allow women to hold the priesthood in the LDS church. I think where the primary disconnect happens for a lot of people on both sides of the issue is around one primary thesis: morality can be discovered outside of a religious context.
I remember at one point in my life arguing that atheists cannot be moral because systems of morality can only be divinely inspired. I was completely comfortable with the idea of words of the prophet being my absolute guide as to what is moral and what is not moral. I no longer hold that position. I've become too aware that morality often transcends religion and can come from many sources. The best proof of this for me is the deeply moral lives that people lead outside of Mormonism or even a religious context.
This understanding forced me to reevaluate my entire moral system. It wasn't enough simply to try to find consensus among the leaders of the church on a given issue to know the moral answer to any question. I had to search it out myself. The teachings of church leaders still served as a primary source of instruction on morality, but it was no longer my sole source. Sifting through so many different voices and opinions to try to carve out personal values and moral standards is incredibly messy and often discouraging, but also rewarding at a very fundamental level.
At first, I found very few contradictions between my personally discovered morality and the moral positions of the church. My first big split was gay marriage. I found the moral arguments for gay marriage to be increasingly compelling. As this was at the time of proposition 8, the church was making very clear their opposition to gay marriage. I experienced a deep disquiet as my personal morality fell seriously out of line with the morality taught by leaders of the church for the first time.
Although I had a consistent impression that things would work out in the end, I could never quiet shake this disquiet and it continued to grow as I further developed a personal morality. I found that all too often my personal morality contradicted the morality taught by the leaders of the church. This divide ended up being the primary reason I have left the church.
I understand that many faithful members of the church cannot understand why women would continue to insist that they want the priesthood when ordained leaders have emphatically asserted that the priesthood is only for men. Members are free to think independently, they assert, but when the prophets reach a consensus on an issue, as they have on the issue ordination of women, the issue should be closed.
For me, at least, although I assume also for many others in the Ordain Women movement, the equality of the sexes is such a fundamentally self-evident moral imperative that no amount of unity among the leaders of the church will make them comfortable with what, for many, is clearly a discriminatory structure. A discussion about whether excluding women from general leadership (not just being leaders of other women and children) is inherently discriminatory is a debate I am willing to have, but for me and many others, the discriminatory nature of a patriarchal leadership is abundantly clear.
I invite those who do not understand the Ordain Women movement to consider how they would respond if the church began teaching something that was directly opposed to their own moral system. I recognize the inherent difficulty of doing so, because, for so many, the morality taught by the church and their own personal morality is so closely aligned that they might not even recognize a separation between the two. I wont suggest what issue might cause difficulty for you, because everyone has their own moral system, but try to think of something quite fundamental, something that you would consider unequivocally wrong, and then imagine that the church started teaching something deeply contradictory to what you believe to be a moral truth. It might be easy to say, "Oh, I would be fine changing my position" or "The church will never teach anything like that." That might be true, but for many faithful members, living with this contradiction of moralities is a daily reality.
It is really difficult to convey the despair of having the church you love teach something that goes against what you consider to be an objective moral truth, and the ensuing crisis of identity and belief that accompanies such a moment, unless you have experienced it personally. But that is the situation that has confronted thousands of faithful members of the church in the past few years (and I imagine for decades before on any number of issues). You can either stay and be a traitor to your morals or you can leave and be a traitor to your faith. I can readily accept that leaders of the church are men, and imperfect, and make mistakes, as President Uchtdorf so lovingly urged on Saturday. What I cannot readily accept is that when real moral contradictions arise, I should simply put away any personal my moral beliefs and fall in line, but no other viable option is offered to those who wish to stay.
I know it hurts when someone you love says "I believe that, on this issue, the leaders of the Church are wrong" especially when you think they are not. It can feel like an attack on your own faith or morality. It is not. It is simply an attempt by honest seekers looking to live a morally responsible life. It can be simple to dismiss these women, and the men who support them, as desiring power or hoping for a religious endorsement of their political opinion. However, the true issue runs much deeper, and stems from the basic spiritual need of having what is taught in your place of sacred worship align with what is taught by your sacred voice of inner conscience. And, as I've learned from personal experience, for many it is not just a matter of feeling comfortable in church on Sunday, but a matter of survival for the very faith they hold dear.
Disclaimer: I'm not in a great position to comment on the issue of ordaining women, because I am fairly removed from the church, and I am also a man. But I think this distance allows me to perhaps to offer a perspective that others who might share this perspective could be hesitant to express for fear of being deemed apostate or at least unfaithful. I do not in any way claim to speak for the movement or anyone but myself.
Photo credit: Stephanie Lauritzen, or whoever her photographer was. If you happen to read our blog, I hope that you feel it was used in good spirit.