You guys are super awesome and have shared a lot of interesting, thoughtful ideas about women and the Church, and I'm really glad. Also, I'm in a much better place mentally than I was at 2:00 a.m., so it's easier to look at a broader perspective and whatnot.
I want to mention some of the ideas that I found interesting, for the benefit of anyone who cares or has questions like I do. Maybe something will click for you!
First, I really enjoyed this article a Facebook friend referred me to. I felt validated to hear that many others feel the way I do, and I liked seeing some of the author's suggestions on how to make the Church more inclusive. It's a long article, so... yeah. TL;DR: many women feel hurt and confused about seeming inequality in the Church, and there are ways we can make it much better.
A few of you pointed out that in your experiences, women in your wards have been referred to as "President Person" instead of "Sister Person," and that your ward councils are very supportive of the female leadership and the ideas and concerns they bring up. That makes me really happy! I guess my experiences have just been a little more negative than yours, unfortunately.
An idea that my mother-in-law and husband have previously mentioned is the "women=physical responsibilities, men=spiritual responsibilities" idea. What they mean by that is this: women are in charge of bringing children into the world and nurturing them (especially physically), and men are in charge of bringing children back into the presence of God (so, Priesthood duties). I find this idea very interesting. My husband suggests that perhaps either a) women were given some sort of Priesthood authority before coming to earth, so they could "officiate" in their womanly duties, or b) women gain some sort of Priesthood authority from covenants and ordinances to officiate in womanly duties. Or maybe the "power" is something different altogether. But still: this resonates with me and feels pretty okay. (Also, this makes me wonder: is childbirth an "ordinance" that women "officiate" in? 'Cuz you can't get any of the other ordinances if you're never born, so... )
A thought that goes along with this is the "women have certain innate qualities that help them return to God, but since men don't have them, they need to learn them" theory. So, men need to serve in Priesthood offices in order to gain traits that women typically have naturally: nurturing, self-sacrifice, etc. (and, men have to receive the Priesthood for exaltation, whereas women do not). I've heard this before in Church and several of you brought it up to me. I think the idea has merit, and could at least partly explain the division. One thing I do recognize is that Priesthood holders are not directly benefited by holding the Priesthood; it is all about serving others. This does bring me great comfort.
Also: well, I've obviously never been a mother. Duh. So I haven't had any of the cool experiences related to that calling and gift and until I have fat little babies, I won't understand. Maybe I'll finally feel more valid and appreciated when that time comes. My frustration with motherhood and the Church is that people in the Church only seem to praise women when it comes to this calling, and try to make it sound like it's totally perfect and awesome all the time. Maybe it is, but it looks like a lot of poop and crying to me. Maybe that's more awesome than I've been lead to believe. Poop, after all, is one of the best words ever invented, and it's fun to use. But my point is, until I'm a mother, it's hard to understand who else and what else I can be, in the eyes of Church members. I want to do and be a lot of things, but with my current situation, I can't do a lot of that, and I often feel like I slip between the cracks and am viewed as broken or something. I want to be recognized as a full human being even though I'm not a mother right now. I want to be valued and appreciated for who I am right now.
What I really want to know is this: what is the REAL REASON that women do not (appear to) use the Priesthood on the earth (outside of the temple)? Is the reason doctrinal? Policy-based? Knowing this would help me feel so much better. It just feels confusing to me that it seems that men=Priesthood=Church leadership, when something in my heart tells me that isn't quite the truth. It's hard to perform the mental gymnastics to explain how, exactly, women are equal to men in the Church, and why, exactly, we apparently don't need to hold the Priesthood. I would love a straight answer.
I know that God loves everyone the same, and that in His eyes, we really are equal. But I feel that a lot of societal attitudes and cultural values obscure that equality for me. The Church is good and wonderful, but it is also subject to racism, sexism, and all the other -isms. I'm tired of the rhetoric that implies men are terrible people and that women are perfect angels. It hurts everyone, because I know many amazing men AND women, and many not so amazing men AND women. I'm tired of being labeled in certain ways that constrict me from fully experiencing being a human. Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I shouldn't be assertive, shouldn't ask questions, shouldn't get angry or depressed. Because I do all of those things, and I know for a fact you guys do, too. How can I learn to be happy if I'm never sad? How can I find truth if I don't look for it? How can I get anywhere in life if I don't stand up for what I believe in? And I hate that men are made fun of for being gentle or kind or tender-hearted, when apparently they're supposed to be tough and grow some balls and always take charge and not act like women or else they're sissies (or much more insulting terms). Jesus Christ is the most gentle, kind, tender-hearted, nurturing person I can think of. Isn't the point of the gospel to become more like Him?
I'll quit here before I get too rambly, because I could say lots of other stuff but it might get boring and plus I've said the most important stuff. So: share your opinions, please! Tell me what you think about the position of women in the Church. If we ask the tough questions, we can find the answers that will bring us light and peace. So... ready set go!