Dear 100 Hour Board,
Per Ordain Women, it seems like their big request is just that The First Presidency and The Twelve just pray about whether or not to ordain women. So far, I haven't seen church leadership come back and say that they have. Why haven't they prayed about it? Or, if they have prayed about it, why won't they share that they have?
At the outset of this answer I'd like to clarify that when I refer to Ordain Women, I refer to an official organization and its published and demonstrated views, rather than to the motivations or beliefs of individuals. Secondly, there are a few sources in this answer which I have cited but not linked to, a departure from my general procedure. This was intentional and reflective. Finally, although I have had this answer proofread by multiple people whose knowledge of church doctrine I respect and have attempted to make this answer compliant with my understanding of the Gospel, I do want to reiterate that neither myself nor the Board serve as any sort of official representative of the positions or doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Per Ordain Women, it seems like their big request is just that The First Presidency and The Twelve just pray about whether or not to ordain women.
In order to not misrepresent Ordain Women as I make points about a sensitive issue, I will quote directly from the Ordain Women website and follow examples of text from their website with my interpretation and commentary thereof to discuss this first point.
As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.
- Main Page
Ordain Women is committed to creating a public space to advocate for women's ordination in the LDS Church.
We call for the ordination of women and their full integration into the governance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.
Ordain Women asserts that priesthood must be re-envisioned as a power that transcends gender and is exercised by both men and women for the benefit of all.
Ordain Women believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of these teachings.
We are committed to work for equality and the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.
While Ordain Women may have begun by asking the Prophet and the Twelve to take their questions to the Lord, it is clear to me from the above text that it is not true that "their big request is just that the First Presidency and the Twelve just pray about whether or not to ordain women." In their statements they do ask for this action to be taken ("We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer,") but they also emphatically and repeatedly state that their "commitment" is "to work for...the ordination of Mormon women," "to advocate for women's ordination," and "to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women." The way I perceive these statements, at least 3 goals are evident.
1. Ordain Women desires that the leadership of the Church take this matter in prayer to the Lord. At this point I'll address the remaining part of your question: Have they done this? If so, why haven't we heard? If not, why not?
As I was preparing this answer, Ozymandias helpfully referred me to a letter recently published by the head of public affairs for the Church, Michael Otterson. In his letter, Otterson discusses past meetings with feminist groups held by Church public affairs and comments that "We learned a lot, and those findings have long since been shared with members of the Twelve individually and in appropriate council settings. Those kinds of conversations are continuing under similar guidelines to promote honest discussions." The specific content or people present at the particular meeting to which Otterson refers is not, to me, the critical point. What is important is that it shows that Church leaders do care.
This should be an obvious point, but is in some ways being overlooked. The implication behind those who accuse Church leadership of failing to try hard enough to seek revelation on this issue seems to be that they are either A) insufficiently guided by God to receive the revelation He wants them to get or B) insufficiently devoted to the best interests of all members of the Church to respond to the concern of many, many members with appropriate thought and prayer. For reasons explained below, I do not think either of these are true.
The Teachings of the Living Prophets Manual contains some quotes that I consider important to this discussion:
...You don’t need to worry about the President of the Church ever leading people astray, because the Lord would remove him out of his place before He would ever allow that to happen. - Harold B. Lee
The Church is true. Those who lead it have only one desire, and that is to do the will of the Lord. They seek his direction in all things. There is not a decision of significance affecting the Church and its people that is made without prayerful consideration, going to the fount of all wisdom for direction. Follow the leadership of the Church. God will not let his work be led astray. - Gordon B. Hinckley
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by God. God has given us a prophet on the earth to speak as His mouthpiece. We know that "He will do nothing, but He revealeth secret unto his servants the prophets." We know that the prophet of the Church in the latter days will not be allowed to lead the Church astray. Accepting these statements, we conclude the President Thomas S. Monson and the Quorum of the Twelve are, as appointed by God and sustained by members, prophets, seers and revelators who receive from God all the knowledge they need to guide His work, which we know will go forth "boldly, nobly and independent...till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." We know that God loves His children and will do all things for them because His work and His glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.
With this knowledge, it seems impossible to me that God would allow His prophets to ignore the concerns of many, many of His Children. The idea that the leadership of the Church simply doesn't care enough about women to consider the issue of women's ordination does not seem reasonable.
This, to me, indicates that the lack of any comments from the Presidency or the Twelve are, for whatever reason, appropriate to God. I do not know when God would command His leaders to speak out on this issue or what He would command them to say. I do know, though, that He would not allow them to remain silent should He have something He needed said or done for the administration of His Church. I was speaking to Kirke about this question and he commented that Mormons believe that the Prophet is the mouthpiece of God. He asked whether we believe that when God is silent as well as when He speaks. I think it's a question that merits consideration.
2. Ordain Women seeks public attention for the cause of women's ordination.
The Church has publicly asked Ordain Women not to agitate in the way they have. While Church leaders recognize that members have questions, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to raise them. The path of public agitation taken by Ordain Women has been acknowledged as inappropriate.
As Kate Kelly's self-released letter of excommunication made clear, "the difficulty...is not that you say you have questions or even that you believe that women should receive the priesthood. The problem is that you have persisted in an aggressive effort to persuade other Church members to your point of view and that your course of action has threatened to erode the faith of others."
As Church Spokesperson Jessica Moody commented,
The scriptures are full of examples of how to receive answers to our questions — to find truth and align our will with God's — and that process includes studying, praying, learning and discussing Church doctrines. Millions of people do this throughout their lives. How and why one asks is as important as the questions we're asking. What causes concern for Church leaders is when personal motivations drive those conversations beyond discussion, and a person or group begins recruiting others to insist on changes in Church doctrines or structure. When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause or creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the Church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled.
Misleading Church members is certainly not a stated goal of Ordain Women as an institution. However, it has unquestionably gone against the requests of the Church. Furthermore, its third stated goal is clearly problematic:
3. Ordain women believes that women "must be ordained."
Ordain Women has as a stated goal to see women receive the Priesthood. They are not merely asking that the Prophet pray about this; their own website makes it abundantly clear what they require God's answer to be. Nowhere on their website that I have seen is there any sort of acknowledgement that another resolution is acceptable.
The Church is not a democracy in which civil disobedience or voting on policy are the operating procedure. It is a theocracy ruled by God through His chosen representatives. Demanding something like the priesthood without a willingness to take "no" for an answer is not an acceptable course of action, because it indicates a lack of acceptance for God's will. Sometimes God's will is in alignment with what we desire, but sometimes it is not. However, when we refuse to accept that God's will may differ from ours, we rebel. When we align ourselves with a group whose stated position is a refusal to accept God's will (unless it is [position]) we likewise place ourselves in a position contrary to the humility of discipleship, and we risk serious consequences.
I do not believe that we can in true humility demand things of God. To do so seems to me to be a replacement of "thy will be done" with "thy will be done as long as it is [my will]." This is true of all things we desire in life.
As I stated at the beginning of this question, this answer is not a condemnation of individuals in Ordain Women, but a response to the positions taken by the group itself and the ways they relate to the Church. I believe that many well-intentioned individuals who want to aid in the building of the Kingdom of God are probably members of it.
However, I also believe that intentions can be misguided and can lead to actions which are actively harmful. Your question begins by asking "they just want prayer, right?" Wanting God's chosen leaders to care and to pray for us is never unreasonable: every single member of the Church should want these things. Every single member of the Church will receive these things. We are given leaders so that we can receive what God has to say to us today.
What is spiritually dangerous is to decide what God should be saying to us. We cannot direct God. Humble pleadings for knowledge, righteous improvement, and other such things are central to the Gospel, but we have been taught that "prayer is not a negotiation process. It is an alignment process. We don’t move God to our point of view. Prayer is less about changing our circumstances and more about changing us. It is about seeking His will and asking for His help to do what we need to do."
I hope that we can all seek to build up the Kingdom of God by earnestly seeking personal change through the Atonement and striving to learn and do God's will.
~Anne, Certainly (with thanks to the several people who discussed this answer, flagged her, or otherwise contributed to this answer. She asks that readers remember that she is mortal and fallible and her understanding is not perfect.)