There has been much discussion about the role of women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Especially with respect to women and the priesthood. I have pondered, studied, and discussed this complicated topic for at least the past 4 years with numerous friends and acquaintances.
However, recently. I got hit with the question from someone who doesn't know the history, the movement, the excommunications, the buzz words. I am a primary teacher in my local congregation. I teach the 8-9 year olds each week about the scriptures for about 45 minutes with my husband. I also teach the 8-11 year old girls twice a month in an activity based enrichment program (Activity Days).
A few weeks ago, the lesson topic was the restoration of the priesthood. So we talked about the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods and when Joseph Smith received them and by whom.
Then one 8-year old girl asked innocently and in an open-minded way, "why don't girls have the priesthood?" And I immediately thought, "How-stupid-am-I-for-not-thinking-someone-would-ask-this-and-prepared-a-better-answer!!" I don't have kids. I don't know how to answer this question. There is so much, but this isn't a deep philosophical debate - this is "I'm a girl, I know the priesthood is important, why don't girls have the priesthood, too, if it's so important?" It's not an opportunity to be putting baggage on her and explaining injustices.
So, how did I answer? I answered to the best of my ability at the time. I explained that men and women are given different roles, and right now, women don't need to be ordained to the priesthood in order to exercise the priesthood. I explained that even though I don't hold an office in the priesthood, I was called to be a primary teacher through the priesthood and I exercise the priesthood each week when I study, prepare, and teach my primary lesson.
She (and the class) seemed satisfied, and she said, "oh okay." And we moved on and played whatever game we had planned to end the lesson.
I still wonder if I said the right thing. I don't know what I would say differently today. Although I believe there are inherent issues that come with a male priesthood leading a global church with 15 million members and more than 50% being women, I feel confident that I understand my purpose in life, and I continue to try to be an influence for good however I can. Currently, that is exposing the primary girls I work with to many different experiences including engineering activities, world religion exploration, social emotional learning, and career opportunities.
I don't remember any of my Achievement Days (similar program) leaders nor any of the activities that we did. But I hope that as we explore a variety of opportunities, the girls will know that it's okay to be interested in math and science, try new things, and want to develop a career and life that fulfills them.