Ask Mormon Girl: What is priesthood? And don’t Mormon women already have it?

Last week I had dinner with an old friend from graduate school who has since been ordained as an Episcopal priest.  I joke with him that he’s my personal chaplain—half-joking, really:  over the last eighteen years, I believe he’s seen enough of me and my family to know me pretty well, and I’ve seen enough of him and his family to value his moral seriousness and his wisdom.  We talked for a few minutes about Mormon feminism.  “You’ve made a new beachhead,” he observed.  “Now it’s time to deepen the work.”

My friend Jim put into words something I’ve certainly been feeling.  When I started this blog, all but a few women were still afraid to say “Mormon feminist” in public and those who did could face tremendous pushback.  That’s the legacy of the Mormon feminist firings and excommunications that started in 1993 and went on for almost a decade.  But just in the last twelve months there has been an incredible burst of energy and organizing:  Pants-to-Church, Let Women Pray, the gorgeous new “I’m a Mormon Feminist” website with real live profiles (add yours?), and most recently, Ordain Women.  (There are more, but I can’t even keep up with them.  Really.)

The LDS Church offered a response to the growing concern with ordination last week.  But for me, both Ordain Women and the Church’s response highlighted that there is tremendous inspecificity in our day-to-day use of the word “priesthood.”  It has become customary to use the idea of “priesthood” to simply name everything men do and women do not do in the contemporary LDS Church.   Which is wrong.  There is a far more complicated story—theologically, historically—to know and tell about priesthood in Mormonism.  It’s time to deepen the work and teach ourselves that story.

I am a scholar by training.  Study is very important to me.  Mormon culture can be anti-intellectual, and it has been customary to characterize scholars as people afflicted with or susceptible to pride.  Certainly some of us are, as are people in every profession.  But any scholar worth his or her Ph.D. understands that scholarship is in fact a practice that requires humility and discipline.  It takes humility to unlearn the collection of half-baked ideas and comforting slogans that stand in for truth; it takes discipline to search out and assess data, reflect carefully on the methods one uses to process the data, and to follow the data where it leads. Arrogance is asserting a claim that belies a much more complicated reality; humility for me is acknowledging how complicated reality is and trying to understand it.

That’s what I want to do with priesthood. I want to study.  I want to understand.

So people, I’m gonna get my study on.  I’m convening a study hall.  Right here at AMG.  What is priesthood?  And do Mormon women already hold it?  Let’s study on it.  I’ll bring data.  You bring data.  We reflect, think, discuss, and learn together.

First up, I present an essay by AMG reader “NeoDan,” who describes himself thusly: “Normally peaceable and retiring, NeoDan has no desire to be shot as the messenger while waiting for, as he sees it, the church to catch up to the Gospel.”

Nicely put, Dan.  And now, here’s his case that Mormon women already have the priesthood.  It’s thoughtful and deserves careful deliberation.  That’s what the comments are for.  Read on . . .

What appears to be a grass-roots movement openly making the case for the ordination of Mormon women to the Priesthood, Ordain Women (http://ordainwomen.org) has emerged in recent months in Utah. Drawing strength from similar movements in other faiths, the group called for its first public gathering to be held on the eve of the April 2013 General Conference in Salt Lake City. 

While I admire their courage and wish them well, I believe that their call for the ordination of women needs to be more nuanced than it now appears. As I see it, the real issue should be to recognize that, in fact, LDS women already receive the Priesthood and are literally ordained to its highest office. They have been from the time of Joseph Smith to now. Thus, perhaps a more meaningful call would be for the Church to acknowledge this reality and teach it openly to its membership.

Whatever we may think of his life trajectory and his propensity for severe over-documentation, historian Michael Quinn surely got it right in his paper titled Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843, published in the groundbreaking 1992 book, Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism.2   In it, Quinn argues that when Emma Smith received her Endowment in 1843, she became the first of her gender to hold the Priesthood in this dispensation. He quotes Church leaders of the era as understanding that the women shared the blessings and opportunities of the Priesthood with the men. 

Two examples of many that could be given show how the early leaders of the Church viewed the matter. The first is the Patriarchal Blessing given in 1878 by Patriarch Joseph Young, the Senior President of the Council of the Seventy, to Zina Young Card, a daughter of Brigham Young:

            These blessings are yours, the blessings and power according to the Holy

            Melchizedek Priesthood you received in your Endowments, and you shall

            have them.3

President Brigham Young himself taught in a public 1874 sermon:

            ..the man that honors his Priesthood, the woman that honors her Priesthood,

            will receive an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of God.4

Later commentary on Quinn’s article often makes the point that men and women receive the Priesthood differently; men by ordination, women via the Temple ordinances. This, however, is somewhat simplistic. While it is true that the various ordinations to the Aaronic Priesthood and then to the Higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood received by males seem to have no parallel to the experience of women, there is also a real sense in which these ordinations remain incomplete until the male makes the covenants and receives the knowledge and keys by receiving the Endowment of the Holy Priesthood. Captured in this, the proper name of the Endowment, is the self-evident truth that this very ordinance is when the female receives the Priesthood also.

The logic is simple: women receive the same Temple ordinances and receive the same blessings and keys that men do. How is any of this possible if women hold no Priesthood authority? They must therefore, indeed, “hold” Priesthood authority in a very real sense, even if we don‘t say so. Remember, none of these roles require a woman to be married and therefore somehow receiving her authority from a man.

The parallels with a woman who is set apart as an ordinance worker go even further – she lays on hands and pronounces blessings, even giving the keys of the Priesthood to other sisters, exactly the same as a male ordinance worker does. Again, how could someone who does not hold the Priesthood give others its keys? Certainly, a female ordinance worker ultimately functions under the authority of a male Temple President, but that fact is inadequate in explaining the authority that she exercises. And it certainly does not account for the general parallels inherent in every endowed sister mentioned earlier.

So, even if the Church does not currently articulate it in this way, Quinn is surely correct in his conclusion that every endowed Mormon woman has Priesthood power conferred upon her. The fact that we don’t yet express it in those terms does not change the reality.

In acknowledging the Temple-bestowal of Priesthood upon women, some LDS commentators have noted that the original concept of Priesthood as spiritual power to represent God shared equally by men and women, has changed to refer essentially only to hierarchical, administrative positions in the Church organization. In their view women effectively exercise their Priesthood inside the Temple, although nowhere else.

For some decades now, other scholars, mostly non-LDS, have gone further still, arguing that Jesus conferred formal Priesthood offices upon women as well as men. That may be, but the evidence supporting that notion seems somewhat slim and forced. Mary Magdalene was certainly pre-eminent among the followers of Jesus, even the leading Apostles, but that surely arose from her unique relationship to him, rather than any calling as such.

On the other hand, even if Jesus did not ordain women to specific Priesthood office in his day, that in itself should not mean that it cannot, or should not, be done. Our society is much different than it was two millennia ago and a whole spectrum of faiths have been busy embracing a role for women in their respective priesthoods. They include the Community of Christ, the former Reorganized LDS church, which now has female Apostles and a member of the First Presidency.

Is this whole situation comparable with the bestowal of the Priesthood upon black men? In the beginning the Priesthood was given by the Prophet Joseph Smith to at least one Negro man, but succeeding presidents of the Church apparently yielded to the racist attitudes prevailing in American culture and denied it, even stating that Joseph Smith had made a mistake in bestowing it.6   Denial of the Priesthood to the Negro remained Church practice for over a century. It took the looming issue of thousands of mixed-race Brazilian saints being unable to enter their own Temple and the growing missionary prospects in Africa to force the issue, resolved only in 1978 by President Kimball in a simple but historic administrative action. Perhaps something similar is playing out with the issue of women and Priesthood.

In at least two senses, the Temple Endowment and then, potentially, through ordination in the crowning ordinance of the Temple, the Second Anointing, LDS women already receive the Priesthood. In my view, therefore, what is most needed is simply acknowledgment of this in the Church, rather than any new revelation or appeal to otherwise change current practice.

The interwoven complex of doctrines comprising our understanding of the Godhead, our Heavenly Mother and her roles, the Holy Ghost, the status of Mary Magdalene, and the Priesthood all share something else – in our recent efforts to appear mainstream and “normal” to the public, have all become increasingly neglected teachings in the modern Church. These doctrines, more than any others, define the Restored Gospel. None are of greater relevance to the life journey of every Latter-day Saint.

Surely some official explication on these subjects is long overdue. It would arguably go a long way toward revitalizing the general membership of the Church numbed by the current limited, dumbed-down, menu found in the correlated lessons and the official magazines.

Until then, half of the total Church membership remains effectively disenfranchised. Its women, unaware that they receive Priesthood authority when they are endowed, a blessing that can more deeply bless their personal journey, their family, the community and the Church, remain only dimly aware of their potential station in the eternities to come. They, all of us, deserve better.

Notes

2. D. Michael Quinn, “Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843” in Maxine Hanks, ed. Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), 365-409. 

3. Patriarchal blessing by Joseph Young, 28 May 1878, in Zina Card Young papers, Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, as quoted in Quinn, pp 399 note 46.

4. Journal of Discourses 17: 119.

5. A primary source is Margaret Merrill Toscano, “If Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood since 1843, Why Aren’t They Using It?” in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought vol. 27 no. 2 (Cambridge, MA: Dialogue Foundation: Summer 1994), 219-226. 

6. Russell W Stevenson, “A Negro Preacher”: The Worlds of Elijah Ables,” Journal of Mormon History vol. 39 no. 2 (Salt Lake City: Mormon History Association, Spring 2013), 165-254.

Okay, beloved readers.  Think, question, respond.  Does he have it right?  What is the data?  Is it valid data? What are our methods for understanding the data? Where does the data take us?

Follow @askmormongirl on Twitter, or send your query (or bit of data on women and priesthood) to askmormongirl@gmail.com.

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113 Comments

Filed under feminism, priesthood

113 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: What is priesthood? And don’t Mormon women already have it?

  1. Th.

    .

    Some initial thoughts.

    1. I’m uncomfortable with the Ordain Women site because most of the women who started the site misrepresented their loyalty to the Church. I find that deceptive and unfair to those who followed them.

    2. No question that we use the word priesthood in sundry and confusing ways. It’s been in flux since the beginning—but not so much in a clarifying direction.

    3. I suspect we can’t fully understand women’s relationship to priesthood until we fully understand the ultimate woman, our Mother. I think we should be clamoring (not just with polls but with prayers) for that further light and knowledge.

    • Th–what of the ideas in this essay? Focus with me. Do you think these ideas are sound? Or not?

      • I think that the ideas are sound. What I would like to see is an open analysis of the language used in the initiatory – comparing men’s and women’s initiatory and also a thorough analysis of the language of the endowment. Unfortunately, that is not kosher and is a hindrance to this discussion. While it is possible to obtain this info, I also want to keep my TR and standing in the church. (shakes fists at the sky)

    • Holly

      I suspect we can’t fully understand women’s relationship to priesthood until we fully understand the ultimate woman, our Mother. I think we should be clamoring (not just with polls but with prayers) for that further light and knowledge.

      First of all, many of us are already clamoring for further light and knowledge about our Mother God, with prayers on our own behalf and on behalf of the church, with study, with writing, with art, with conversation, etc. Would you let us know more about your activity and contributions in this regard?

      For many, such activity has led to our conviction that women must have the priesthood in order for us to understand Her.

      And women are said to be good at multi-tasking. No reason we can’t ask for female ordination AND revelation about Heavenly Mother at the same time.

      I’m uncomfortable with the Ordain Women site because most of the women who started the site misrepresented their loyalty to the Church. I find that deceptive and unfair to those who followed them.

      Most of the women–and men–on the site are active LDS. There are a few who no longer attend, but most do. How is that some sort of misrepresentation?

    • Jenn

      Are you serious?? You think we need to fully understand our “mother” to have the priesthood? What makes you think we fully understand our father?

    • Curtis Penfold

      “…most of the women who started the site misrepresented their loyalty to the Church.”

      Who? I believe your accusation is unfounded.

  2. AJM

    I recently was very moved to hear a Temple Sealer teach, during a live sealing session inside the temple, that within the temple Women and Men both hold the fulness of the Melchizidek priesthood. So similar ideas are still circulating today, and not just among scholars.

    • Actually, AJM, I think these ideas are circulating among scholars of LDS history, but not among the general membership.

      • trytoseeitmyway

        That’s a bit dismissive, Joanna. I believe that there are many in the general membership who like to think theologically, just as there are many who are satisfied with the more rudimentary knowledge of their doctrine they already have. I say that as one who is in the general membership, and no scholar, for whom AJM’s comment was not particularly surprising. Surely anyone who has attended the temple often has there been exposed to the idea of priesthood equality (or equivalence, if you want to quarrel about whether equality is the right word), whether they have explored it internally or not. If you really what to explore this topic in a open and inclusive way, you can start by not patronizing your brothers and sisters.

      • I’ve also heard this mentioned in Relief Society discussions. I’m frustrated that it is an old idea that we’re not teaching anymore. I’m also frustrated by the idea that I might hold the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, but according to policy, I can’t use any of it.

      • Experience and paradigms vary WIDELY in the church membership. Just because one person has taken something for granted as “gospel truth” their entire lives doesn’t mean that understanding can be generalized throughout the church. Minds work differently. Simple truths I was taught all my youth by my well-studied California-raised mother and her gospel-loving Utah-raised parents used to be considered revolutionary and shockingly “out there” by my husband (who grew up in a long-established Provo ward). Whether or not something has been mentioned in Relief Society cannot be considered a good indicator of all other units in the church.

        Joanna, your response didn’t seem in any way patronizing to me. Maybe because I have had that very experience in my own life. I think much of the church membership I know personally would gladly embrace the idea of women holding MP in its fullness as a result of the endowment, should it be presented to them, but I have never, ever heard it taught at church, in any of the twelve wards and branches I’ve belonged to and attended actively over my lifetime, in four western US states.

        And on-topic, I think Quinn is bang on.

        If any of us really would like to know what we can do with the fullness of the Mechizedek Priesthood, we need only look to the scriptures, and spend time in meditation and prayer. (Real prayer. Prayer time spent praising and glorifying God . . . not just a laundry list of honey-do’s for heaven.) Having questions answered by beloved spiritual leaders is wonderful–there are few things that can compare to the pastoral relationship between mentor and mentee. But our Godhead wants us to have relationship with them, first and foremost. And they WILL answer us. And we will never be the same. ;)

  3. nevadanista

    The answer is yes. I have the power, not the ‘authority’. The Priesthood is simply the power of God. Whenever I exercise faith, whenever I receive answers to prayers, whenever I act on that inspiration, etc., I am experiencing the Priesthood, the power of God. It is in all things and through all things. It is the power by which I was created and brought into this world. It is in me and through me when I am worthy through repentance to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost (given to me through the priesthood), and it has nothing to do with anyone but myself and God. There are no spiritual gifts or blessings being withheld from women just because we don’t have the authority. That kind of sums up my opinion on that.

    In a way, I feel like the ordain women movement could possibly make some women feel less empowered than they actually are, that having priesthood ‘authority’ will some how give them access to greater spiritual blessings and or experiences, but they already have access to all those things. I guess that doesn’t address the gender bias in our culture and lack of leadership roles and all the things that go along with that. But spiritually speaking, we have much more power than the realize.

    • Agree that women have more power than they realized. Help me understand what you mean by “authority”? Can you provide some scriptural references? And how do you think “authority” relates to the issue of “lack of leadership roles” you identify?

      • Rachel Hamrick

        Well crap. No time for in depth research this morning, but a few things come to mind. The first is Elder Ballard’s talk from conference last week. It was my favorite, but mostly for selfish reasons because it was vindication of a comment I made in Sunday a couple weeks ago when I disagreed with something our teacher said, in which I basically expressed thoughts of my original comment above. She didn’t agree with my thoughts though, and then our bishop tried to come to my rescue but quite get what I was saying either and then it was time for the closing prayer and I didn’t get to explain myself further. Hence, my reason for loving Elder Ballard’s talk so much, even though some have said he just went and used the old standby of equating having babies with priesthood again. Or offered that consolation to women for not having the priesthood, is maybe a better way to put it. But I heard that talk differently. Here are my favorite parts:

        “Brothers and sisters, the power by which the heavens and earth were and are created is the priesthood. Those of us who are members of the Church know that the source of this priesthood power is God Almighty and His Son, Jesus Christ. Not only is the priesthood the power by which the heavens and the earth were created, but it is also the power the Savior used in His mortal ministry to perform miracles, to bless and heal the sick, to bring the dead to life, and, as our Father’s Only Begotten Son, to endure the unbearable pain of Gethsemane and Calvary—thus fulfilling the laws of justice with mercy and providing an infinite Atonement and overcoming physical death through the Resurrection.

        It is the keys of this priesthood authority and resultant power that He gave to Peter, James, and John and His other Apostles to bless others and to bind in heaven that which is bound on earth.

        The power of the priesthood is a sacred and essential gift of God. It is different from priesthood authority, which is the authorization to act in God’s name.

        In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood.

        It is crucial for us to understand that Heavenly Father has provided a way for all of His sons and His daughters to have access to the blessings of and be strengthened by the power of the priesthood. Central to God’s plan for His spirit children is His own declaration: “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

        This innovative and instructive DVD is translated into 66 languages. It teaches how the power of the priesthood can bless, vitalize, and revitalize our lives, the lives of our families, and the lives of all the members of the Church.

        It shows us all—men, women, children; married, widowed, or single; no matter what our circumstances—how we can be partakers of the blessings of the priesthood. There are several 8- to 12-minute segments that explain the keys, authority, and power of the priesthood and how it strengthens individuals, families, and the Church.

        One special scene was filmed in the very small pioneer home of my mother’s great-grandmother Mary Fielding Smith. She was the widow of Hyrum, the Prophet Joseph’s older brother. As a single parent, through her strong faith in the priesthood, she called upon and relied on that power to raise and bless her children in love and the light of the gospel. Today her posterity of thousands of faithful leaders and members of the Church thank her for her faith, courage, and example.”

        The great thing about this talk, aside from my vindicating moment, is how specifically he speaks of the difference between the power of the priesthood vs. the authority, and that when speaking of Mary Fielding Smith, and of women in all different circumstances, he speaks of relying on the power of the priesthood. He doesn’t say to rely on those with priesthood authority. His emphasis on differentiating between the two seemed very purposeful, in my opinion.

        In my mind, being given the Gift of the Holy Ghost at one’s baptism, which is the gift of an actual member of the Godhead, when you think about it, is the same as being given the gift of the power of the priesthood.

        As far as church culture goes and the structure of our church’s leadership, I would refer everyone to Neylan McBaine’s FAIR article ‘To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation Within Church Organizational Structure’. I think I would like to have her brain. Part IV is absolute brilliance!!!

        http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-to-do-the-business-of-the-church-a-cooperative-paradigm

        And then a couple quick scriptures that come to mind are:

        Alma 32:23
        D&C 88:6-13

      • Eric G

        I appreciate that if this is a true “study” then words of the prophets, both ancient and modern, should be at the forefront of our resources. I don’t know if you were referring to Elder Ballard’s talk last week when you mentioned the Church’s response to the growing call for women’s ordination (link please, if that’s not what you meant) but the following quote from him most directly addresses the question in hand:

        “In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife. And as husband and wife, a man and a woman should strive to follow our Heavenly Father. The Christian virtues of love, humility, and patience should be their focus as they seek the blessings of the priesthood in their lives and for their family.”

        I think this helps to define what nevadanista might mean (correct me if I’m wrong on that) when mentioning authority, specifically the word he uses – administer. But perhaps the initial response to this will be that some feel anger and feel this is confirming the “Men have the priesthood, Women have motherhood” idea, but I don’t think that’s what he’s saying – in fact I think it goes against that idea by saying these responsbilities – parenthood and the priesthood – are not owned by one gender or the other. Roles are different for each gender, but responsibility to honor is the same.

      • Rachel Hamrick

        @ Eric G, I am actually nevadanista. I was having issues posting my comment last night though, and after much copying and pasting of said comment, it was posted under my user name when I had been trying to post it under my real name. I blame my lame-o AT&T internet connection however. No way was it user error ;)

        No correction on your thoughts about my thoughts is needed. The reason I didn’t include the entire quote though was because I didn’t want the rest of it to distract from the ‘men are not the priesthood’ part. I LOOOOOOVE that part and I wanted it to linger without the conceiving a child part being a possible kill joy for some. If I still taught in RS, I might actually consider getting my craft on and making a bunch of super cute magnets, and or laminated bookmarks, with that quote on it and pass them around to all the sisters in a really cutely decorated basket during my lesson :)

  4. It seems that up to and including Joseph F Smith, the church taught that endowed sisters could lay on hands and bless the sick, children and adults alike. A first presidency statement was issued by him clarifying that sisters were permitted to do so (see http://theboard.byu.edu/questions/56934/), but that since biblical injunction is to “call upon the elders” when sick, that women should only do so when elders are not available. His son Joseph Fielding had a different view, believing that only ordained elders should bless.

  5. grandpachet

    Good questions, ones that we should be asking. My only real concerns are that they should be questions and not, as seems to happen so often, demands. My second question also concerns demands vs requests: if we believe what we believe, it’s utterly useless to ask or demand any possible changes in doctrine (if any of thus is actually a change of doctrine ) of church leaders, when we can go straight to the Lord about it. It’s even possible, though I couldn’t say, that is what the Lord wants.

    I do agree, and have long fussed, that we can’t get anywhere before we have a shared definition of priesthood. Except for malapropisms, every definition I get is a list of things the Lord’s women already do.

    • Amy

      Maybe the women that have started these movements have gone to the Lord, and the Lord has instructed them to start movements. I would hope so.

      • farfnar

        No, the Lord would not instruct them to do something that goes against His church. No one but the Prophet may receive revelation. If the Lord said it is okay for women to be ordained as priesthood authority holders, then He would have implemented this new thing through the Prophet.

  6. Jesse

    Thank you for opening this discussion Joanna and for your post NeoDan. I am please with the call for scholarship on this issue. With that said, I have a few comments.

    I. “For some decades now, other scholars, mostly non-LDS, have gone further still, arguing that Jesus conferred formal Priesthood offices upon women as well as men. That may be, but the evidence supporting that notion seems somewhat slim and forced. ”

    Is the evidence any stronger that Jesus conferred formal Priesthood offices? I’m not clear what the author means by “formal”.

    II. “On the other hand, even if Jesus did not ordain women to specific Priesthood office in his day, that in itself should not mean that it cannot, or should not, be done. Our society is much different than it was two millennia ago and a whole spectrum of faiths have been busy embracing a role for women in their respective priesthoods. They include the Community of Christ, the former Reorganized LDS church, which now has female Apostles and a member of the First Presidency.”

    While the author’s point is no doubt correct, it could be argued to be in contention with the 6th article of faith “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church.” Moreover, is there evidence that the modern church tends to follow actions of other churches on policy decisions (especially the Community of Christ)?

    III. In general, I believe the author gives us a fine start at articulating the historical views of the relationship between women and the priesthood. That said, the following large question remains open:

    1) What were the events that led to the described (may I call it) paradigm shift that women do not hold priesthood power? That is, in the black’s case, the author claims it was the “racist attitudes” proffered by “American culture” that caused church leaders to forbid priesthood conferral (which if I might mention, I believe this is a severe case of oversimplified cause). Were there analogous attitudes found in church leaders with respect to women?

    2) After describing briefly the historical interplay between blacks and the priesthood, the author suggests that, “perhaps something similar is playing out with the issue of women and Priesthood.” This analogy has been drawn a number of times, yet I have been waiting for some time to see it made clear. Here are some of my lingering questions on it:

    (a) Is there any indication that something like the 1969 vote has occurred?

    (b) Have their been protests against BYU sports teams similar to the historical ‘Black 14’?

    (c) Are leaders of the mormon feminist movement meeting with leaders of the church to discuss their views?

    (d) Are the above mentioned websites comparable to the Genesis group?

    (e) Is there reason to believe that gay marriages would have the same effect on priesthood power as did interracial marriages?

    (f) Are external feminist organizations interested in getting involved (as did the NAACP)?

    I am eager to hear more on this subject.

  7. Ted Olsen

    It is strange that I as a man see Catholic nuns asking for the priesthood and ask myself, “Why not?” But when it comes to my own religion, I find myself feeling that it would no longer be Mormonism if all the really serious attention were not focused on the priesthood, i.e., men.

    • As Jon Stewart in his stand-up days once said (on the subject of jokes about religion), “It’s different when it’s your guy, isn’t it?” However, you have realized that this is how you feel, and that it’s inconsistent, so that’s the first step to evolving. Remember, in the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist segments of Judaism women can and do enter the Rabbinate. There are two women rabbis at my synagogue.

      • Ted Olsen

        Thanks,
        I lean more toward the Hassidic: joy in worship, pleasure in study, & wine in the wedding.
        However, I don’t want my wife and daugters torn away from my side, perched in an upper balcony or nesting with the other women across the aisle.

        Ted

      • Ted Olsen

        Thank you Sharon, your observation is well-taken. However, there too my religious leanings lead me toward the problematic. I side with the Hassidics. I want to find joy in my worship, ecstatic moments in everyday life, and wine at the wedding.
        That said, I am uncomfortable with the thought of my wife and daughters removed from my rib to perch in a balcony or nest across the aisle. Families like to gather together.

        Ted

  8. I’m in the camp that argue that women were ordained in the Early Christian church http://bit.ly/ZftTN7 and then follow Article of Faith 6, which states that “We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church…” But I also think that the D. Michael Quinn argument has a lot of merit. I also don’t think that there is just one right answer for women and ordination, but many. For what it is worth, when I received my own endowments and especially in the initiatory, I felt like I was being given great power. I hadn’t anticipated the things that the female ordinance workers blessed me with and I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t go and talk with anyone about it. I think that insisting that we can’t talk about the temple outside of the temple has meant that we can’t talk about what temple rituals mean for women. Clearly, there are a lot of implications.

    I also saw people discussing this in a facebook group not long ago. One person claimed that the men’s initiatory wording was the exact same as the women’s wording, except for gendered words (priest/priestess, king/queen, etc…) If this is true, then we’re calling the male ordinance a posthumous ordination and purposefully limiting our understanding of the corresponding female ordinance.

    • Hue

      The men have an additional ordination in the initiatory; it’s referred to in the introduction to the endowment, so the parallel is not exact.

      • Alece

        The ordinances are not exactly the same. There is different wording beyond the ordination of the men.

  9. clvrly

    you all need to re-read the Book of Mormon and take Moroni’s challenge to see if it is true for yourselves. If you had a testimony of God’s true church you would not even be part of this movement. I can’t believe what I am hearing from fellow sisters in the gospel. All of you who want the Priesthood and to be an equal with me have missed the great importance and role that a woman plays to the church, the family and the world. WOW!! This is crazy!

    • Rachel

      I have read and re-read the Book of Mormon on many occasions and have found it to be true. It is because I have read the Book of Mormon that I am apart of these movements. Additionally, my baptismal covenants require me to be involved with my brothers and sisters who have questions and may mourn for lack of / or for better understanding. I think it is you clvrly who needs to go and re-read your covenants and re-read Joanna’s post.

    • I’m on my 23rd reading of the Book of Mormon. I believe that the LDS Church is God’s church but I do not understand how it is central to God’s plan that women don’t have any power or authority in a church where everyone is equal.

      • @Nancy Ross, “I do not understand how it is central to God’s plan that women don’t have any power or authority in a church where everyone is equal.”
        I can agree on the question of authority, but on the question of power, I must disagree. Women have equal priesthood power to men. That much is clear in the Temple Endowment. How they USE their priesthood is different than how men do, Which makes sense, as men and women have different roles. The talk by Elder Ballard in the last General Conference confirmed this- Men are NOT the priesthood, and men and women are Equal before God.

      • Britney

        Isn’t the only thing “central to God’s plan” Jesus Christ’s Atonement and his gospel (The Book of Mormon containing the fullness of the gospel) faith, repentance, baptism and the receiving of the Holy Ghost and Enduring to the End – ?

      • Ahhh, but tayler9108, how can women use a power that they don’t realize they possess? Or that is frowned upon heavily?

        I know, from personal experience, that the prayers of powerful women of God work miracles just as mighty as any blessing I’ve ever received under the hands of priesthood bearers. It’s my inkling that there are many women who could say the same . . . but I never hear of it. It’s never shared or rejoiced over, because there seems to be enough members out there with feelings like clvrly that would utterly crush the sanctity of those shared experiences if they were offered at church meetings. We’re all tipoeing around one another, afraid to open up and share the glorious ways that our God has manifested Himself in our lives because the it positions us in such vulnerability before others who may come down on us hard, or deny our experiences.

  10. KK

    Thanks for posting this essay. Many of its points articulate what I’ve been thinking but with more evidence.
    I had a question about this part: “In my view, therefore, what is most needed is simply acknowledgment of this in the Church, rather than any new revelation or appeal to otherwise change current practice.”
    What would that acknowledgment look like? I think it needs to be a powerful one if it’s going to make any difference at all. It also needs to be specific. If church leadership says, “Women are already equal because they already receive the priesthood in the temple”, nothing will change because it will just come across as reinforcement of the status quo. If, on the other hand, they make room for the priestesshood in our church, if they give it equal respect and authority, that could change things quite a bit.

    • In my experience, an acknowledgement of something like this in a priesthood meeting (See? There’s another bizarre use of the word “priesthood” which can cause much confusion.) is very much a guy reaction. We pray, the Spirit either confirms or says “Go back to Start. Do not collect $200″ and we respond, “uhhh–OK.” Then after we get instruction from the Spirit, it’s a lot of forehead slapping, because everything looks so obvious in hindsight.

  11. Holly

    NeoDan writes

    Quinn’s article often makes the point that men and women receive the Priesthood differently; men by ordination, women via the Temple ordinances. This, however, is somewhat simplistic.

    Yep.

    While it is true that the various ordinations to the Aaronic Priesthood and then to the Higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood received by males seem to have no parallel to the experience of women, there is also a real sense in which these ordinations remain incomplete until the male makes the covenants and receives the knowledge and keys by receiving the Endowment of the Holy Priesthood.(emphasis added)

    At no point does NeoDan adequately address the fact that male ordination offers “no parallel to the experience of women.”

    In at least two senses, the Temple Endowment and then, potentially, through ordination in the crowning ordinance of the Temple, the Second Anointing, LDS women already receive the Priesthood. In my view, therefore, what is most needed is simply acknowledgment of this in the Church, rather than any new revelation or appeal to otherwise change current practice.(emphasis in ordinal)

    If there is no change in practice and 12-year-old girls are not ordained to the Aaronic priesthood and 18-year-old women are not ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood, this “acknowledgment” NeoDan calls for seems pretty darn empty, and unlikely to address the significant inequity and misogyny in church. Instead, the gesture is on par with the recent prayers in conference: letting women offer two out of ten prayers for the first time in almost two centuries, and expecting people to believe that that is sufficient evidence of the supposed “equality” the church proclaims it believes in.

    • Holly

      make that, emphasis in original. Sorry.

    • Elisse

      I have those same questions and I wonder what the larger purpose of the ordinations at 12 and 16 are? What does it mean administratively for the church? What does it mean for the spiritual growth of the boys themselves? What did I miss out on in my spiritual preparation for the endowment without those ordinations? And if I can still have received the priesthood in the temple – what is the necessity of those “priesthood” roles beyond the administrative roles that they currently serve?

  12. Kristin

    I appreciate this post so much. I’ve been puzzled about my personal indifference to the ordain women part of the Mormon feminist movement. I care very much about other aspects of it (equality in leadership for example) and I’ve had a hard time figuring out why I just don’t care about women being ordained.
    I grew up in a home with an active, temple attending mom and an inactive, golfing on Sunday dad. My dad may have been ordained at some point in his life but he was certainly not worthy of using his priesthood (although in all other ways he was a wonderful dad). While growing up I never once felt a lack of priesthood in my home. My mom was wonderful at leading, teaching and healing her family with care and prayers without placing her hands on our heads. That feeling has carried over to my adult life in my own marriage and family. I am a temple endowed hardworking mother who is capable of all sorts of things. Yes, my husband is ordained and is worthy of his priesthood but I don’t feel that makes me any less capable to do what needs to be done (“There are few things more powerful than the faithful prayers of a righteous mother”). I haven’t ever missed not personally having the priesthood. This discussion has enlightened me that one way of looking at it is, since I have received my endowment, I already have full access to the priesthood and so that may be why I don’t feel a burning need for change. It may just be an argument over semantics more than anything else. Thank you again for helping me think about this from a new angle.

  13. My thought are a little scattered, so please bear with me.

    Sister Beck spoke very frankly about the power of the priesthood vs. the keys and ordination of the priesthood at the 2011 BYU Women’s Conference. She said that young women are prepared to receive the priesthood — or temple covenants. Women need to be sure that they are using the priesthood they have received in all they do and especially in their homes.

    Additionally, “Daughters in my Kingdom,” the new RS book, states on page 127 that “The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God by which He blesses, redeems, and exalts His children, bringing to pass the ‘immortality and eternal life of man.'” The God that I pray to would not use that power strictly in the life of men, and I believe he uses it in behalf of all his children.

    I think our language frequently gets in the way of understanding the priesthood. We refer to men as the holders of the priesthood or having the power of the priesthood, when both of those ideas are misleading. We believe that men are set apart to certain roles in the priesthood, but men and women alike have the power of thr priesthood and are able to use it in their own be half and for the benefit of their fellowmen.

    I am currently a young women’s president, and feel that I have been given the priesthood to fulfill my calling when I was set apart by those who hold the keys of priesthood. I now need to use that power of God to bless the lives of the young women in my stewardship.

    As a mother, I received priesthood power when I was foreordained to that calling in the pre-existence. I further received priesthood power and blessings through the initiatory and endowment. My husband and I have been sealed together, so that we can both receive the most powerful blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Neither one of us can have that strength of the priesthood without the other.

    I do not feel slighted because I will never be a bishop, etc., and I know that some sisters do and that I need to be sensitive to those feelings, but I do believe that through the priesthood I am empowered, enabled, and ennobled in my mortal callings and eternal obligations.

    I do not consider myself a “Feminist Mormon,” and I don’t think that my ideas and testimony of the priesthood are radical. I have been in church meetings with women in pants long before the movement began, and don’t think the spirit was lessened because of it. The fullness of the gospel is for all people with various backgrounds and ideas and his power is available to all who are worthy and willing to hear the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

  14. Mattb

    Priesthood is the power of creation and the power to seal. Women are born with it.
    The name we use in the temple for the Gods is Elohim isn’t it? What does that mean? The Gods and Goddesses. Male and Female. Don’t believe me? Check the Book of Abraham.
    We have many examples in the scriptures of women performing ordinances. The ultimate in my mind is in St. John Chapter 12 verse 3.
    And likewise there are examples in the early period of the restoration when Joseph Smith was the prophet and president of the church.
    We have a tendency to confuse what John the Baptist, and Peter, James and John gave to Joseph as “the priesthood.” There is a structure with hierarchy to administrate the church and then there is the true power which is the sealing power which is shared by women and men. Otherwise why would the Lord say what he does in D&C 2?

    1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

    2 And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.

    3 If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

    The “real” Priesthood didn’t come till Elijah appeared to Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple. The Priesthood has been restored to women and men.
    I love that we are talking about these things. We need to follow Joseph’s example and go to the Lord in prayer and ASK!

    • I didn’t realize that there was so much Judaism in Mormonism. Just be careful not to interpret Jewish thinking, theology and philosophy too strongly in light of the LDS Church. Judaism ABSOLUTELY does not have gods and goddesses. There was a period of transition (henotheism) from the nearly universal (in Biblical times) existence of polytheistic religions to the concept of one God only. You can see it in such textual artifacts as “You shall have NO OTHER gods before me.” “No other gods” is a remnant of an earlier time of multiple gods and goddesses. But the Abrahamitic family cult religion which eventually became Judaism as we know it proclaimed right from the beginning that there was only one God. See: the story of Avram’s setting up the largest idol in the shop to look like it had demolished all the smaller idols. http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/1660316/jewish/Young-Abraham.htm. This is an amusing video which makes the point pretty well.

  15. My demographic profile, to put my opinion in context
    27, female, college-educated, never married, lived only in the Midwest
    Current callings: temple ordinance worker, 1st Counselor in ward RS Presidency

    I fully admit I’m not as familiar as others on the “wishlist” of the Mormon Feminist Movement. (It’s not because I don’t care or don’t support change; it’s because I’m human and am therefore restricted by studying time and resources.) That being said, it seems to me that the MFM is asking for two basic things.
    1. Allow women to officiate in priesthood ordinances.
    2. Call women into designated “priesthood leadership” roles: bishops, stake presidents, etc.

    In regards to the first, my thoughts are congruent with the ones NeoDan shared about women serving in the temple, which were not fully developed until I began serving as an ordinance worker.

    As for the latter…well…that’s really the ball of yarn I’m working on unknotting. Why is this being called for? Having served in ward RS Presidencies (both in family and YSA wards), I’m confident that, at least at MY local levels, women have comparable influence to men in this regard. I understand this might be different in Utah and other places. A member of my temple presidency recently shared with my YSA ward the renowned thought that when a stake president is looking to call a bishop, he looks for the most righteous person in the ward…and then calls her husband. Ba-dum-ching! Right? Well, maybe not. If there is as much truth to this statement as we joke about, and if there also be truth to the idea that the man is the head but the woman is the neck that turns the head, women DO have influence in the church, albeit indirectly.

    In a move I initially thought was unrelated to the pondering I’ve been doing on this, I turned to D&C 121 the other night and found my eyes drawn to verses 41 and 42.
    “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge…”
    I came away from these verses with the understanding that power (or influence) ought to be sought through exercising these attributes, rather than exercising the priesthood. I then looked to the General Authorities and was immediately able to associate at least one of the 15 with each of the attributes listed in those verses. Persuasion: Holland, Oaks; long-suffering: Scott, Hales, gentleness: Cook, Andersen; meekness: Eyring; love unfeigned: Uchtdorf, Bednar; kindness: Monson; pure knowledge: Packer.

    P.S. One of my greatest sources of feeling empowered and valued as a woman within the Church has come from studying “Daughters in My Kingdom: the History and Work of Relief Society,” a book published, distributed, and made available online by the Church in 2012. Learn it, live it, love it.

  16. culterdaffodils

    “Actually, AJM, I think these ideas are circulating among scholars of LDS history, but not among the general membership.”

    No disrespect intended but AMG I am wondering how you feel you have an accurate pulse among the general membership of the church.

    I found the essay you posted extremely interesting and wonder if there are a lot more saints (not just scholars) than we realize who feel the same way and practice their faith accordingly.

    I grew up in a little town in Canada where church membership was non-existent. We had to drive for over an hour to get to the nearest gathering of saints. My mother was Mormon, my father was not. My mother gave her children blessings when she felt she needed to as she did not have easy access to a male priesthood holder. Maybe in Utah or California or places where the church culture is large people are afraid to think outside the cultural box but in places where church membership is sparse many of those members don’t have a box to confine their thinking.

    After I left home, I found myself in a small village in Africa (on a travel study course through my university) where I also had no access to a male priesthood holder. I had a horrible sunburn on my back which blistered severely and I had to stay indoors to let it heal. I was devastated that I was missing out on Africa and this dreamt of experience because of my burn and one night I went outside and sat alone and prayed. I asked for a priesthood blessing. I asked for angels to attend to me. I had one of the most spiritual experiences of my life that night. I felt the powers of heaven in an indescribable way. The next morning when I woke up everyone in my group were shocked to see me. My back was so much better I was able to go outside again. I kept hearing people say that it was a miracle. It was a miracle. Women have access to all of it. And again, I think I agree with NeoDan that we always have.

  17. My thoughts are a little scattered, so please bear with me.

    Sister Beck spoke very frankly about the power of the priesthood vs. the keys and ordination of the priesthood at the 2011 BYU Women’s Conference. She said that young women are prepared to receive the priesthood — or temple covenants. Women need to be sure that they are using the priesthood they have received in all they do and especially in their homes.

    Additionally, “Daughters in my Kingdom,” the new RS book, states on page 127 that “The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God by which He blesses, redeems, and exalts His children, bringing to pass the ‘immortality and eternal life of man.’” The God that I pray to would not use that power strictly in the life of men, and I believe he uses it in behalf of all his children.

    I think our language frequently gets in the way of understanding the priesthood. We refer to men as the holders of the priesthood or having the power of the priesthood, when both of those ideas are misleading. We believe that men are set apart to certain roles in the priesthood, but men and women alike have the power of thr priesthood and are able to use it in their own be half and for the benefit of their fellowmen.

    I am currently a young women’s president, and feel that I have been given the priesthood to fulfill my calling when I was set apart by those who hold the keys of priesthood. I now need to use that power of God to bless the lives of the young women in my stewardship.

    As a mother, I received priesthood power when I was foreordained to that calling in the pre-existence. I further received priesthood power and blessings through the initiatory and endowment. My husband and I have been sealed together, so that we can both receive the most powerful blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Neither one of us can have that strength of the priesthood without the other.

    I do not feel slighted because I will never be a bishop, etc., and I know that some sisters do and that I need to be sensitive to those feelings, but I do believe that through the priesthood I am empowered, enabled, and ennobled in my mortal callings and eternal obligations.

    I do not consider myself a “Feminist Mormon,” and I don’t think that my ideas and testimony of the priesthood are radical. I have been in church meetings with women in pants long before the movement began, and don’t think the spirit was lessened because of it. The fullness of the gospel is for all people with various backgrounds and ideas and his power is available to all who are worthy and willing to hear the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

  18. Sofia Kovalevskaya

    Deepen the work indeed. After all the squabbling over passing the sacrament, blessing the sick, etc (important baby steps nonetheless), hopefully we can eventually get around to an understanding of the scale and magnitude of issues involved.

    Elder Ballard – “A few weeks ago, on a cold, dark winter’s night, my wife, Barbara, and I looked in awe up at the sky. The millions of stars seemed exceptionally bright and beautiful. I then turned to the Pearl of Great Price and read again with wonder what the Lord God said to Moses: “And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten” (Moses 1:33).

    Brothers and sisters, the power by which the heavens and earth were and are created is the priesthood.”

    We’re talking about creation. Of the entire universe and all of its contents. So in the meantime, if the standard arguments grow tiresome and progress seems slow take time to study your physics. Eventually you’re going to need it.

  19. Amber

    This is one of my favorite talks/papers on the topic. It is a good summery of the roles and authority women have had in the church, and how it has slowly changed.

    http://mormonstories.org/a-gift-given-a-gift-taken-washing-anointing-and-blessing-the-sick-among-mormon-women-linda-king-newell/

    In the argument of priesthood, I want to focus for a moment on the sentiment that we all enjoy the blessings of the priesthood regardless of who holds it. Under our current understanding of the priesthood: if you had a situation like Lot, where you have a family removed from the rest of the world and only one head of household to lead it, if that person is Male you can still raise up “righteous seed unto the lord” complete with the priesthood intact. If that righteous head of household was a woman however, the priesthood and it’s blessings would die out – according to current conventional understanding. This concept does not sit well with me, it feels too much like abandonment.

    In our own history we have accounts of women anointing, blessing, healing, and prophesying. In the Bible there are at least three references to female prophets or prophetesses (Judges 4:4; Exodus 15:20; Acts 21:19). If this is not the priesthood, than what is? And if the priesthood is merely administrative power, then what is holding women back from doing a little paperwork?

  20. Charmayne

    When my daughter ( a very bright, mature and free-thinking girl) received her endowments, she talked to me afterwards, very excited, and said, “Women do hold the priesthood. I hadn’t realized that would happen in the temple.”

    I sometimes wonder if the push for ordination has more to do with “being in charge” than the acquisition of spiritual power. I’ve never doubted the spiritual power of women and I’ve never doubted that the Brethren understand and are in awe of the spiritual power of women.

    But mortals run the day-to-day of the church. Sometimes I think women are their own worst enemies and volunteer to shortchange themselves. When I was a young women leader, the boys went on a week-long, very strenuous bike ride and ropes course. It sounded wonderful and challenging and fun. I said, the girls should do that. The bishop said, “Yes, I agree. It would be a great experience for the girls.” The young women’s president and her first counselor said, “Girls can’t do that. It’s too hard.” Fortunately the bishop and I prevailed and the girls went. But it highlighted to me that too often it is the women themselves that limit themselves and other women. Most men I know would happily let women do what ever they want.

    That said, condescension does exist in Utah. Women are still paid less than men for equal work. It generally takes a movement, such as a union to change that. When I worked as a chemist for US Steel, I was paid the same as a man. They had a very strong union. When I worked as a nurse’s aide, I was paid less than the orderlies for the same work. We can argue whether or not that springs from the LDS culture or if it is the greedy aspect of the natural man to exploit their employees, whether it is sweatshops in Asia or local businesses in Utah. And we know how God and the church feels about the natural man. It seems to be that oppression of any sort does not come from God or his Gospel, but from mortals.

  21. MikeR

    There is also the question of office. The discussion of women ordination seems hollow unless the opportunity and calling for women to serve as bishops, stake presidents, seventy, apostles, and so forth is included. These are priesthood offices, and it seems irrelevant to discuss the question of priesthood without acknowledging that women holding the priesthood would also serve in these capacities.

    I personally really struggle with thinking about how these changes may affect the church. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a chauvinist pig or some other reason. But I value the discussion….

  22. If we’re starting a study group, we’ll need coffee and bagels. I’ll supply those. This is a wonderful topic.

  23. Rebecca

    Thank you for opening this dialog and study! The data I will add is the family history of my Great-great-great-great-Grandmother, Eda (Hollister) Rogers, which includes her Patriarchal Blessing given by Joseph Smith Sr. (the prophet’s father) on July 6, 1837, at a Blessing meeting held in the Lord’s house Kirtland, Ohio. (See http://mightymalls.com/mission/Noah%20and%20Eda%20Rogers.pdf) While her husband, my 4x-Great-Grandfather, Noah Rogers, was off on missions that would eventually make him the First Missionary to Circumnavigate the Globe, the elements of Eda’s Patriarchal Blessing would most heartily be put into action, as Joseph Smith Sr. blessed and promised her this:

    “…Thou must teach thy children all the principles of righteousnefs and the principles of faith and virtue thou must hold up in the arms of faith in the absence of thy husband thou must pray with thy family when they are sick thou shalt lay thy hands on them and they shall recover ~ sicknefs shall stand back. They shall understand prophesy.”

    [And this note included at the end of her PB is most relevant to today's discussion]:
    “Sister Rogers will understand that she has something of the priesthood confered on her for in the absence of her husband she can lay hands on her children”

    Of course my question was/is, ‘Why don’t women exercise priesthood power today?’. One of the best articles I’ve read on this is by Sunstone Magazine at: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/115-6-30-43.pdf Which chronicles the era of my 4xGreat-Grandmother Eda where they generously used the gift of the priesthood power (in fact, the article references an “Edna Rogers” as one of the sisters who “left records of their experiences with healing others in Kirtland” — I wonder if that could have been a typo/error at some point and this may be my 4x-Great-Grandmother EDA Rogers).

    However, about 19 years ago a bishopric member in my ward, after seeing my family’s situation and needs, taught me how to call upon the power of the Melchizedek priesthood through the Savior to bless and protect my family in times of urgent need. This eased my mind and provided a great sense of relief and protection for my family. This was before I had been to the temple and have since received my Endowments (and “legitimate” priest(ess)hood power). This was also before I had received the more detailed account of my Family History (link above), I had a much shorter version with the family tree and a few important stories (including a visit by one of the 3 Nephites to my 4x-Great-Grandfather Noah and his 2 brothers 17 years prior to the Book of Mormon being published).

    I believe I am not alone with family history that identifies women being given priesthood power at that hands of original/founding and senior church leaders, their utilization of it to serve and bless lives, and in wondering how this all fits in the church today? I wonder how many Sister Missionaries, widows, single women, or women whose husbands travel frequently (like my 4x-Great-Grandfather did) would also be filled with peace and comfort to know they CAN, and to know HOW, to call upon the power of the priesthood for protection and to bless their families in times of need — through accessing the actual power of the priesthood (God’s power) — and why it isn’t more widely taught to women? Or referenced as a privilege to work toward? Yes, we can always say a prayer (as can ANY person on the face of the earth), however, invoking God’s actual power via the priesthood is one of the reasons for belonging to this church.

    This is my story of why I’m very grateful this discussion is beginning.

    I would love to be able to serve more fully to help build up the Kingdom through utilizing the priest(ess)hood power to bless those in my sphere and to receive blessings from my sisters… As I suffered from recurrent miscarriage syndrome (4 years of trying before carrying to term our miraculous daughter — she’s a genuine fighter — followed by 12+ miscarriages), and as much as my home teacher desired to be empathetic, he could not truly understand what I was going through, like another woman would be able to. My sincerest desire and humble prayer is to see my daughter receive the blessing of the priest(ess)hood and to blossom through its full use in service of her God and fellow beings as she works to build the Lord’s Kingdom. In His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

    • Amy

      “However, about 19 years ago a bishopric member in my ward, after seeing my family’s situation and needs, taught me how to call upon the power of the Melchizedek priesthood through the Savior to bless and protect my family in times of urgent need.”

      How do you do this?

      • Rebecca

        Amy~ As the information is available in the public domain in our early church member’s journals and letters, as the article I linked to states, and this one that Joanna has shared (http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V18N03_23.pdf), as the priesthood is God’s power and He clearly controls it, as the church shares an overview/instructions of Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings online (http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=7ac30f9856c20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=e1fa5f74db46c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD), as LDS women studying this important issue and in the spirit of bringing our data to the table for discussion, the answer is: You do it as a member of His church by invoking the blessing in the Name of Jesus Christ and the Melchizedek priesthood which He holds, not as a holder of an office of the priesthood, but through the Savior’s priesthood power that He holds.
        That’s how any sister in the early days of the church could give blessings and yet not have to be ordained to an office of the priesthood (though the argument exists that the sisters called to lead the first R.S. were ordained to their offices, that is refuted by John Taylor — discrepancies created by the prophet’s martydom, by Emma not migrating to Utah with the other Saints, and by an eventual all-male holding/exercising of the priesthood as sisters such as Zina D. H. Young passed away).

  24. stacie

    When I was a girl and was told about priestesses, they were described as being evil and bad. Satanic. I cannot bring myself to believe that a woman who speaks to God, blesses her family and receives revelation is evil. I know that I can bless my family, my children and my home all on my own.
    Elder Golden spoke to us on Sunday and mentioned the Priesthood is not held by men, it is a blessing for every man, woman and child. I wish I had written down exactly what he said. It just seemed the same thing that I have heard for years. Is this the response to pressure from the women ordination group? Seems pretty slim. I too wish the Temple ordination could be explained and discussed.

  25. I didn’t have time to read through all the comments, so sorry if I repeat something that has already been stated. I have my profile up on Ordain Women because though I believe I already “have the priesthood” I have not been officially ordained so. I also like how the scriptures speak of PriesthoodS (plural). There is more than one priesthood, and I think that in my study of Wisdom literature (thank you Margaret Barker) that there is definitely a matriarchal priesthood that was taken away from temple ceremonies in King Josiah’s time. Anyway, guess who also has priesthood? According to our temple doctrine, Satan also holds priesthoods. I like the idea of diving in to learning about priesthoods and what they are. I think that Ordain Women has opened up this conversation, and that is the most important thing they have done. I would like my priesthood to be ordained and to be expanded to blessing my future children, my husband, my family, my friends when they need healing of body or soul.

    • MT

      How does Satan have the Priesthood? Isn’t it the power of God, the power he wanted in the “pre earth life” that God didn’t give him….”Give me your power and glory,” he (Satan said), but that didn’t happen. I am under the understanding that our “temple doctrine” shows that he is trying to mimic God’s power and authority, but it is in vain. But this is a BIG tangent, interesting one though.

  26. anita

    I’m glad this topic is finally being addressed because it seems to be missing in the “ordain women” conversations. The initiatory work in the temple particularly seems to support inherent female priesthood within a temple context, because the workers are not set apart to any different office in order to confirm blessings in that setting. Particularly noteworthy is a verse following what is quoted there (Exodus 40:12-13): Exodus 40:15 says “And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.” This indicates that the temple anointing equals a priesthood conferral, and all endowed women thus receive it. Doesn’t necessarily translate into administrative duties, but this needs to be part of the equation.

  27. CJ

    As others have already stated, the debate is really about the definition of priesthood. Are we talking about the authority, office, power, or what? I think that NeoDan and Quinn are right. Women have always had the priesthood. I think this has always been implied, but never taught formally. It’s time it gets talked about more openly than just hushed tones in a private sealing ceremony.

    OrdainWomen is helping the dialogue, which I love and support, but I think it’s off base in its request for ordination. Women are ordained to the priesthood already. Hands are placed on their heads and they receive the power of the priesthood in the temple. Now it’s time to try and figure out what that means. Most discussion about gender roles in a Sunday School type setting are downright silly and often degrading to either men or women. We need more thoughtful discussion.

    As most latter-day Saints can parrot off, “Priesthood is the power of God given to “men.” But when we understand that the power of God is nothing more than the power to create, especially the creation of children (Moses 1:39) we should recognize that the priesthood is partnership, husband and wife. Understanding God as a unit of Husband and Wife should clarify the definition: Priesthood is the power of God given to men AND women. It demands both men and women to exercise it together. It’s how God, our Father and Mother, progress in eternity. It’s the pattern we are supposed to follow. In our fallen world, the partnership has been corrupted and we live in a hierarchical world where the harmony is off balance, but we try to work it out.

    The stewardships for this life are slightly different because women are to provide bodies to get us through the first veil, birth (Brigham Young called the first veil “the flesh”) and men still administer the ordinances of the priesthood to get us through the second veil, death. Men’s administrative role in the church is only so far as being stewards over the ordinances of the gospel (Mission President over baptism, bishops over the sacrament, etc and even these roles require marriage interestingly) There’s some roles that are currently only masculine that should probably involve women (Sunday School president, etc. I think ward Sunday Schools should be run by a council of men and women) But otherwise,that’s the only difference. In every other respect we should be doing exactly the same thing: pray (even in GC, hallelujah), heal, bless, serve, etc. There is much to be improved on to make that so.

    • Amy

      The females of all mammalian species are given this same power of creation. It is not necessary to have any degree of righteousness to exercise this power. The priesthood cannot be used without authority given from God after birth and without the man using it being righteous. It is in no way a separate but equal power to the priesthood.

      I do not mind having a separate but equal power, but I would like to know exactly what that is. The church is constantly having to tell women that they are equal because it is not obvious how that is so.

      We are not equal in hierarchy, even at a ward level. A Relief Society President does not have the power to even make decisions for the benefit of the women in her ward without the permission from the Bishop. Since the Bishop can give that permission, he can also take it away. As long as men always preside (husband, bishop, stake president, area president, 70’s, apostles, prophets) and women have no chance to, we will not be equal. There will always be a man above that can control.

      • Alece

        A Relief Society President can make decisions about the Sisters under her stewardship without the consent of the Bishop. She doesn’t make all the decisions concerning them, but she can make many decisions concerning their welfare — both spiritually and physically.

      • Amy

        “A Relief Society President can make decisions about the Sisters under her stewardship without the consent of the Bishop. She doesn’t make all the decisions concerning them, but she can make many decisions concerning their welfare — both spiritually and physically.”

        Only if the Bishop allows it. I have personally been micromanaged by a bishop while I was Primary President. From carefully listening to comments the other auxiliary presidents made, he was doing the same thing to them (previous presidents, and presidents after we moved). I ended up making a point of not telling him anything unless it was absolutely necessary and avoiding him as much as possible. I couldn’t understand why he would call someone to the calling and then not let them do it. I could have complained to someone at the stake level (in primary or stake presidency), but I had seen others that did that. The stake tended to blame the person complaining for not supporting our leaders.

      • CJ

        I agree that creation is not the separate but equal power to the priesthood. I didn’t mean to make it sound that way. I mean that creation IS the priesthood, and the priesthood is creation. Priesthood is for men and women together.

        The administration and other priesthood offices are only temporary affairs, and they have little to do with God’s true order of things, and are subject to all sorts of change. (I usually stare at people when they talk about how the church is true and constant and unchanging. Are they crazy? The ordinances are true, the revelations are true, but the church is an institution that changes all the time.) Women and men should be running the church together, and the church itself should be always subordinate to the family, which is the real God-ordained institution for the blessing of His children, and is run by husband and wife together. I think that is the general direction we are going.

        We are not living the “higher law of gender equality” yet and we won’t be until husbands and wives are united in authority. Then we won’t need a church, actually. And that is the Celestial ideal that we are working for, not waiting for.

        That doesn’t answer anything really; I still have questions, like you, on how to establish equality in leadership in the church.

  28. John Swenson Harvey

    I think NeoDan pretty much has it right. I will need to think about what he has written more completely, but my initial take is it is very well done. I loved this bit especially:
    “The interwoven complex of doctrines comprising our understanding of the Godhead, our Heavenly Mother and her roles, the Holy Ghost, the status of Mary Magdalene, and the Priesthood all share something else – in our recent efforts to appear mainstream and “normal” to the public, have all become increasingly neglected teachings in the modern Church. These doctrines, more than any others, define the Restored Gospel. None are of greater relevance to the life journey of every Latter-day Saint.”

    I think we (as a Church) harm our own spiritual growth by obsessively trying to blend in with “Christianity” in general. Women already exercise priesthood authority in performing ordinances, and as NeoDan points out the capstone ordinances of the priesthood are administered to both men and women in the temple (by both men and women).

  29. Rockgod28

    Imagine a branch either on an island or remote location in the world. The branch is organized and operates for some time. A tragedy occurs. All the men of priesthood age are killed. It will be years before the next 12 year old boy can hold the priesthood and further still for a priest or elder.

    Do the sisters still gather on Sunday? How can there be a sacrament meeting with no sacrament?

    Baptisms, ordinances, blessings, what can be done?

    Patience is not the mere act of waiting, it is being positively engaged while waiting.

    Can the Relief Society presidency lead the meeting? Of course.

    Singing, hymns, prayer, talks.

    What about the sacrament?

    During that portion of the meeting it would be entirely appropriate to read the scripture from Moroni in the Book of Mormon the sacrament prayer. No sacrament table prepared. No bread or water is passed, but quiet reverent reflection upon the covenants that were made at baptism.

    I have no doubt the power of the priesthood would be there for those women and the blessings of the priesthood would be manifest. Nothing is lost, no blessing denied to those faithful and obedient women.

    The words of Moroni don’t even need to be read ever time either. The New Testament account of the Last Supper can be read too.

    No blessing of the priesthood is denied or withheld just because the ordinance can not be performed. It is the same with priesthood blessings as pointed out earlier of healing, comfort and management of the Church.

    King Saul in the Old Testament fearing his enemies and desiring a blessing of The Lord before going into battle made what he thought were the sacrifices God wanted without waiting for the prophet who had the authority to perform the sacrifices.

    Because of Saul’s disobedience the kingdom would be taken from him and his children. God did not need the sacrifices anymore than eating bread or drinking water.

    The sacrifice we are to make is a broken heart and contrite spirit. Our internal sacrament is far more important than the outward ordinances.

    The other blessings will come. In time a male child will be 12. Even then the sacrament can not be performed, but would be required to lead the meeting. How much faith will those women need to place the affairs of the church on the shoulders of a 12 year old boy?

    He would need every bit of help from the women of the branch to fulfill his priesthood duty to God and to them. How much greater will they be and how will that young man feel by the confidence they have in him to do his duty. It will be another four years before he can bless the sacrament.

    Now the stake leadership will visit and do all they can. They confer the priesthood authority, but the responsibility will fall on those young people for the day to day operations of the branch. Eventually he and other children will grow in faith to administer the sacrament.

    Then that eldest will go on a mission. He will need them, those faithful women even more.

    It is plain they would be blessed by God. He would help them raise a generation of faithful priesthood holders because their mothers and women of the branch honored their priesthood. How great missionaries would be born both male and female by their great faith? I could not begin to measure it.

    It would be spoken of that branch of women like the mothers of the 2000 stripling warriors in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    They will be able to say “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.”

    There are no blessings of the priesthood denied to women or the power of the priesthood. The Holy Spirit, the comforter would be there and the gift of the Holy Ghost would be their companion through their trials, temptations, tests and tragedies.

    • Holly

      Imagine a branch either on an island or remote location in the world. The branch is organized and operates for some time. A tragedy occurs. All the men of priesthood age are killed. It will be years before the next 12 year old boy can hold the priesthood and further still for a priest or elder.

      And as soon as that boy turns 12 and some other man comes and lays his hands on the boy’s head, he’ll have more power and authority to act in God’s name than all the wise, mature women who have cared for and raised him and taught him the truths he believes–all because he has a penis and they don’t.

      Nice. Yeah. I can totally see why you think that’s awesome and want to preserve and defend it.

      • MT

        Seriously? You think that 12 year old boy holds more power and authority, just because he was ordained with authority (or job responsibility) to pass the sacrament? I myself do not feel that all those little boys in church hold more authority or priesthood than myself. They are just asked to perform a duty, that I am not.

        The more reasons we look for to hate something, or to be mad at something the less likely we will see the real answers to our questions. Ask away, look for reasons why things are done the way they are (I am not saying I know exactly why and I also want answers) but to be so full of anger because of the answer you want isn’t immediately found makes the rest us us who are seeking look bad too.

        All these articles and great links to pod casts, general conference talks, etc. only prove that this is a matter of faith. And We ,women, need validation to use this faith in ways that we (our ancestors) did before. I think Elder Ballard was saying that in a vague way -use your faith to heal, to “bless”. We just want permission to heal and bless while putting our hands on someones head. We just want the leadership of the church to verbalize this, don’t we?

        Besides, it is all up to the person being blessed or healed. Do they have faith in Jesus Christ, then and only then will they be healed. It’s not weather you hold the priesthood or not it is about faith in Christ.

        So when that little boy passes you the sacrament. It is not his job duty that is healing you or granting you forgiveness. It is ONLY your faith in Jesus Christ.

        I think there is still a great misunderstanding about what the priesthood is. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I feel like those who are angry are similar to Lucifer saying to God, ” send me, I will be thy son, and I will do it, wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1)

        Are we saying to God, “send me to bless, I will be thy daughter, and I will do it, give me thine honor” I don’t think a lot of us are, but I do think some of us are asking for the privilege of using the Priesthood (Gods power) in a manner similar to this.

        I would like validation to act as my ancestors did, but in the meantime, I am not letting present culture get in the way of my faith in Jesus Christ. I have and will continue to ask God in the name of Jesus Christ to heal and bless my children. I have seen it work and I know it is because of my faith, even if that faith doesn’t have me use my hands.

      • Holly

        Seriously? You think that 12 year old boy holds more power and authority, just because he was ordained with authority (or job responsibility) to pass the sacrament?

        Oh good grief. of course I don’t really think that. I’m just pointing out that in, um, “Rockgod”‘s scenario, it certainly appears that he does.

        but to be so full of anger because of the answer you want isn’t immediately found makes the rest us us who are seeking look bad too.

        You’ll definitely want to keep that in mind yourself, MT, since your reply makes you look pretty angry too.

        I think there is still a great misunderstanding about what the priesthood is. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I feel like those who are angry are similar to Lucifer saying to God, ” send me, I will be thy son, and I will do it, wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1)

        LOL! Mormon passive-aggression and dishonesty at its finest and most obvious: “Don’t take it the wrong way when I compare you to Satan.”

        That’s really funny. Thanks for providing the first good laugh of the day.

        Out of curiosity, MT, precisely what is the right way to “take it” when someone too dishonest to admit what they’re really doing tells you that you remind them of Satan?

        Oh! Mormons can be so funny.

        fyi: You might think about that in terms of looking bad too.

    • Amy

      There is something wrong in this world when a 12 year old boy has more authority from God than the women that raised him. More authority than they will ever have the ability to get no matter how righteous they are.

      IMO, this is because of the fallibility of men. Men in history could not accept that women could be equal, so they were not allowed to be equal. Now is the time for that to change. Heavenly Father believes we should have the priesthood–this is seen in the temple. But He will not give men what they are not able to handle. As soon as the people of the church as a whole can accept this change, it will happen.

      • MT

        True Holly, that is funny now that I read your response. I suppose you are right about the passive aggressiveness too, but don’t attribute that to being Mormon. You can’t make every weakness you think people have due to the fact they are Mormon. I was actually trying to be polite, but it is obvious you prefer to be tactless and mean. (yes, this make me look bad to say this too, but you are waging a battle with everyone here in their comments, so I might as well be the one to tell you).

        So in an effort to be honest, let me reword my response. Your anger and lashing out at almost every comment on this post makes me think of the scripture in Moses 4:1, where Satan wants all the glory. Am I calling you Satan? No, I am saying your words are similar to his. Your need to do it all, is similar to his need to do it all and have the reward.

        How about you come up with some good research of your own? You are so quick to tell people why they are wrong. Why don’t you come up with some uncharged, unemotional references for us to look at. I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I very much disagree with your approach.

      • Holly

        Hey MT–

        How about you come up with some good research of your own? You are so quick to tell people why they are wrong. Why don’t you come up with some uncharged, unemotional references for us to look at.

        Guess what, MT: I have. Check out the issue of Sunstone I edited on the topic of motherhood and mother in heaven–which, of course, includes attention to her power and glory and relationship to the priesthood.

        https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/category/premium/issue-166/

    • Sam

      Imagine a ward where the ward boundaries are an Army base. The males in the ward are in the military. Their unit gets deployed. Most of the males are now gone. Someone gets sick and asks for a blessing…or someone is having a very rough time and asks for a blessing…who gives it?

      Now, let me tell you that this is actually *reality* in many wards.

      It does no good to deny women the priesthood, and IMHO it isn’t in keeping with the teachings in the New Testament either.

  30. melodynew

    Great post. Great questions. I want to be a religious scholar. About priesthood. And priestess-hood. Thanks for inspiring me. However, I feel some of what you are looking for will not be found via scientific or scholarly approaches. Some of it will be via personal revelation and communion with God. I’m not sure those types of “data” would be shared publicly.

    I can’t speak directly to your question about what priesthood is, other than my own definition: The power of God/Love made manifest in mortality. Isn’t that who Christ is/was? Isn’t it his power we’re talking about? I agree with others here and elsewhere that there are varied expressions or functions of this Godly power. http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/04/15/different-but-equal-another-post-on-gendered-priesthood/

    Do women already have it? I can only speak for myself. Here’s how it is for me:

    When I was endowed and later sealed to my husband (a very bad man whom I divorced ten years into marriage) and in the subsequent years – I felt distinct, metaphysical alterations in my mind and heart that I believe were expressions of the gifts of priesthood power as understood via temple rites. I raised my children as a single mother, so I didn’t have “the priesthood” in my home and I’m telling you – flat out – I was no less blessed or protected or empowered as a result. I felt over and over that the covenants I made [outward expression of my desire and personal potential for increasing degrees of spiritual light, knowledge, power and, most importantly, capacity to love] came with blessings from God which s/he would not hold back, could not hold back, so long as I kept my covenants. Regardless of whether or not I was joined with a man. In my experience, the priesthood of the most high was and still is abundant in my home. As a woman. A single woman.

    I don’t know how to prove this scientifically. I guess I just have to bear my testimony on a lovely feminist Mormon woman’s blog and call it my hypothesis. . . maybe I’ll do some research now.

  31. KSMurphy

    Until a woman can be called as Bishop of her ward, stake president, president of the church or any other position that calls for a priesthood holder for that matter – it is all for not…

    • MT

      What is all for not? Her faith? This life’s mission on earth? What is all for not? How she raised her children to believe in God and HER use of the priesthood?

      What do you mean by “What is all for not”???

      Mormon Feminists, lets check ourselves here. Where are our motives? This is the type of questions that makes us mad, right? How dare we say that this motive of having the priesthood or holding the same positions as men are bad. But really lets look at why we say what we do and where this anger, yes, anger is stemming from. We wont be taken seriously otherwise.

  32. Sam

    You did a good job, but it looks like you missed the easiest source to look at, the Bible.

    One reason why protestants hold to the idea of a Priesthood of All Believers (and why Martin Luther felt this existed) is due to a passage in 1 Peter 2:5-10 which states (in KJV):

    5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
    6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
    7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
    8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
    9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
    10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

    Do women offer up spiritual sacrifices? Build spiritual houses? Are women a chosen generation? A part of a holy nation? A peculiar people? At some point in time weren’t called of God (ie, Gentiles) but now are?

    Why would the “royal priesthood” part be any different?

  33. emperorbailey

    That essay presents a really interesting idea I’ve never heard before.
    But I feel like the ordain women movement may share some roots with the (persisting) idea that the Church considered blacks to be inferior somehow. I think that concepts is based on the idea that the priesthood somehow makes someone more important or valuable than someone who doesn’t have it.
    That idea is WRONG. As someone already cited D&C 121 up there, whenever you think that your priesthood makes you “better” than someone else, you no longer have the priesthood. That section is very forceful about that idea.
    Logically, the reverse is also true. You should never consider yourself to be lesser than a priesthood holder solely by virtue of his having the priesthood. And if someone ever treats you as inferior because they have the priesthood, I urge you to take comfort in the knowledge that they don’t.

    I know that there is some prestige or cachet with “higher” priesthood callings, but that is not the Lord’s view, that is the world’s. Some of us think seventies are “better” or more important than our bishop or patriarch, but they simply have a different role to fill. The natural man likes to assign value to people based on their jobs. We need to fight that idea. [Insert scripture here where Paul states that one body part can't say to another body part that it isn't needed.]

    I hear this implication of priesthood superiority a lot from non-members who don’t understand that the priesthood is more about a formalized duty to serve than it is a rank of superiority–that the prophet is the world’s servant and not its king. But lately I’ve been getting the same vibe from some circles within the Church, and it worries and confuses me. The fact that I could (in the most technical sense, LOL) become a bishop some day doesn’t fill me with excitement or pride. Why should it? Is that a great privilege that I have? I would do it if it were required of me (heaven help me), but that wouldn’t be a badge of honor, or a symbol of my spiritual prowess. It would just be my job for a few years, like Cub Scout leader or chorister. Any other view would be inappropriate, to put it lightly.

    If some of the women of the Church are looking for priesthood callings so that they can have more “power,” or be as “good” or “important” as some of the men who have the priesthood, that desire probably isn’t coming from a holy or healthy source.
    But if they just want to serve, then I say serve! Mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, just like the bishop does. Tend to the needs of your members, and maintain your church building, like the Aaronic Priesthood boys (…are supposed to be doing).
    You’re probably already doing all of that.

    Issuing mission calls, passing the sacrament or reorganizing stakes seems like a pretty inconsequential goal to aspire to, in the scheme of things. Sitting on a high council meeting to excommunicate someone is not pleasant, I hear. Giving blessings when there isn’t anyone else to do so could come in handy, I suppose. What else is there the priesthood holders can do that women can’t? What service opportunities are denied them? I understand the shortage of callings for women, but I don’t think the priesthood is the only solution to that. What specifically needs to be fought for, if not an inappropriate feeling of power or self-importance?
    (I don’t mean that in an offensive way, that’s a genuine question.) It’s very important that you think honestly to yourself: what, very very specifically, will you have gained? Because there are wrong answers to that question.

    • Holly

      I think that concepts is based on the idea that the priesthood somehow makes someone more important or valuable than someone who doesn’t have it.
      That idea is WRONG.

      And yet, the number of priesthood holders, not members in general, is what determines the status of a congregation–if it is a branch or a ward. In many missions, missionaries are told to concentrate on finding and baptizing men, not women, because men can hold and exercise the priesthood. As it was put in my mission, “Fathers are always the most important people to find.” I know of young women who have been sexually abused by their fathers and, when they report it, are told (some times by subsequent bishops) to let the matter drop, because the church needs its priesthood leaders. Then there is the matter of polygamy, where we see that one priesthood holder (and only a male priesthood holder can have multiple wives sealed to him in the temple) is an equal factor in a marriage to ALL his wives put together.

      “the idea that the priesthood somehow makes someone more important or valuable than someone who doesn’t have it” may indeed by wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that church practice makes it clear in many ways that the leaders of our church believe it. And why should they not? LDS doctrine clearly supports the idea.

      THAT is what specifically needs to be fought for.

      I hope, now that I’ve cleared that up, you’ll do something to correct the problem.

  34. Holly

    One other thing that occurred to me when I came back to check out the conversation this morning:

    Has anyone suggested to NeoDan that it’s pretty annoying to have a man tell women how they should feel about their exclusion from the priesthood? It’s just more of the same: “Hey, ladies, as a smart guy who already has the priesthood, let me tell you how to feel about motherhood/ marriage/ your divine role as a woman/ sacrifice/ service/ homemaking/ staying home from work/– and now, your interest in the priesthood! You weren’t approaching it in quite the right way, so I hope my interventions have shown you the error of your ways! Good luck from here on out, gals!”

    I realize he probably thinks he means well, but it’s the same old patronizing mansplaining we so often get. Especially since, as I noted above, his approach doesn’t advocate any change in practice and so doesn’t address fundamental inequities and ways women are devalued and disenfranchised.

    If he thinks the form of priesthood that women already have is so awesome, I hope he already limits himself entirely to it, and doesn’t do things like baptize anyone or bless his children or accept any calling that requires him to use his priesthood. I hope he treats his sons just as he treats his daughters and didn’t ordain the boys to the priesthood–after all, they’ll get “the priesthood” when they go through the temple–except, oh, wait! Boys, unlike women, can’t go through the temple if they aren’t already ordained to the priesthood. Why is that? Is it because the priesthood men are ordained to is indeed qualitatively different from the priesthood women are given in the temple? Is it because women really do have inferior status in the church that merely acknowledging the secondary, inferior form of the priesthood they receive in the temple won’t do a thing to alter?

    The more I think about it, the more I see that NeoDan’s argument is utterly inadequate. He might as well argue that equality would be achieved in women were given the Aaronic but not the Melchizedek priesthood–after all, they’d have the basic priesthood, same as men, just not the BIG priesthood. But still, it’s called the priesthood, so it counts as full equality, right?

    No, NeoDan, it doesn’t.

  35. Matt

    This is a very interesting conversation. I sometimes think that the conversation simultaneously goes too far, and not far enough. I have fewer questions about roles, which seem to me to be much more uniform than some are willing to acknowledge, than I do about the structural gender divisions in our church worship. Why do we have an entire hour in which we meet in gender segregated meetings? Why do husbands and wives not get to sit with each other in the temple?

    There are some practical reasons I suppose. In my experience men and women don’t communicate the same in mixed gender groups as they do in single gender groups. Perhaps the segregated structure for “priesthood” administration has something to do with this. That still leaves the question why women are not called as bishops or stake presidents or other leadership positions. But then again, women are already performing the most important parts of those roles–visiting, counseling with, being aware of and blessing the lives of those around them. Would women make excellent bishops and stake presidents? I personally don’t know anyone who thinks they wouldn’t. What effect might it have on gender communication patterns? I don’t know.

    It is also my observation that human males, speaking generally and not universally, have weaker natural bonds to the family unit than human females. Perhaps delegating to men the responsibility to administer certain ordinances within the family is our Father’s way of compensating for this. After all, the rest is really just setting-up and taking down chairs and otherwise making sure the trains get to where they need to be on time–and for that matter we mostly do that stuff together.

    I will be the first one to admit that these explanations are not very satisfying, but then, it is true that I sometimes give human nature more credit than it deserves.

  36. NeoDan

    Holly’s comments exemplify a peculiar phenomenon that I’ve found over the years when discussing (with men and women) these subjects: counter-intuitively, I get much more oposition from WOMEN than from men. I’d suggest to Holly that she re-read my essay. If women get the same priesthood as men do – even if we don’t articulate it that way in the modern church – then it IS awesome. The push should be therefore to have that fact recognized in the Church and thus place male and female on an equal footing. This would go a long way toward reducing the level of unrighteous dominion that results in abuse of all kinds among us.

    As for Holly’s last paragraph I can make no response as it introduces a silly argument that I don’t make and then closes by misrepresenting my whole position. And feeling that it is somehow wrong for me as a male to weigh in on something that involves females is so far off-track that it needs no rebuttal. Thankfully obtuse snarks like this have been far and few between in the discussion so far.

    • Holly

      Holly’s comments exemplify a peculiar phenomenon that I’ve found over the years when discussing (with men and women) these subjects: counter-intuitively, I get much more oposition from WOMEN than from men.

      Really? Wow! You mean women find your sexism more annoying than men? How remarkable!

      I’d suggest to Holly that she re-read my essay.

      I’d suggest to you, NeoDan, that reconsider this statement from that essay:

      In my view, therefore, what is most needed is simply acknowledgment of this in the Church, rather than any new revelation or appeal to otherwise change current practice.

      As for this

      If women get the same priesthood as men do – even if we don’t articulate it that way in the modern church – then it IS awesome.

      That would indeed be awesome, sure. Except that for that to truly be the case, we’d need to change practice to actually make it so. We’d need to change the way we “articulate” it, and that would involve a change in practice, would it not? It would involve ordaining girls at age 12, would it not?

      If not, please tell me how saying, “Oh, women have the same priesthood as men, but they get it in adulthood when they take out their endowments, not in early adolescence, like boys,” really establishes equality for women or girls?

      As for Holly’s last paragraph I can make no response

      I’d suggest you reread it, NeoDan. I’m sorry the analogy made little sense to you, but maybe if you got over your surprise that women don’t particularly like being condescended to by you, you might be able to hear and understand what we’re telling you about the inadequacies of your position.

      And feeling that it is somehow wrong for me as a male to weigh in on something that involves females is so far off-track that it needs no rebuttal.

      it’s not “wrong” for any man to “weigh in on something that involves females.” it’s just condescending and sexist for you to do it in the particular way you did.

      Hopefully someday you can see the difference.

      • Holly

        p.s. NeoDan might as well have said, “Women should reread the proclamation on the family. It is absolutely not our intention to make women secondary or subordinate, and we’re not going to be bothered explaining ourselves to people who think we do. If women (and a few men) don’t understand how this apparent inequality is actually equality, the problem is with them. Luckily there are so few women who object to the status quo or who want the priesthood. So we can just continue thinking that we’re right and don’t need to entertain any objections to our position.”

        I see you’ve been a diligent disciple of your masters, NeoDan. Impressive.

  37. Larry O

    Any preisthood connection here?

    Acts 2: 17-18
    17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
    18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

  38. Carole

    I agree more or less with Michael Quinn’s argument that women already have the priesthood. I disagree that they receive it in the temple – I tend to believe something more along the lines that they have it without needing to be ordained (with the exception to the temple sealing – which is a priesthood ordination given to couples rather than to individuals). This belief is mostly based on my experiences in the temple. A few things:

    1. 12-year-old boys must be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood before being baptized in the temple on behalf of the dead. 12-year-old girls do not have to be ordained to do the same work.

    2. Men must be ordained before receiving their initiatory ordinances in the temple. When initiatory ordinances are done on behalf of a man who has died, the proxy is first ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood on behalf of that man. Women (both living and dead) can receive these ordinances without being ordained.

    3. As a temple ordinance worker, I have anointed thousands of women, given blessings by the laying on of hands, and confirmed and sealed those blessings in the name of Jesus Christ. A man needs to be ordained to the priesthood to do these things, but I was able to administer these priesthood ordinances without being ordained.

    I would be deeply shaken if the church were to begin ordaining women to the priesthood because I feel that this would trivialize or deny the priesthood that I, my sisters, our mothers, and our grandmothers already have.

    I would love it if the church would teach more explicitly that women already have the priesthood, particularly because this seems to be an issue that causes many women a lot of pain. On the other hand, if we insist on relying on the church hierarchy to tell us every little thing we’re supposed to/allowed to believe, and then they fail to teach some of the doctrines we can be taught by the Holy Spirit, is that our fault or theirs? Until the women of the church are willing to own the power we already have (whether that power can rightly be called the priesthood or not), I’m not sure we are likely to see some of the changes we would like.

    • Mattb

      Amen Carole. This is what I have believed and have been saying for the last few years when my eyes were finally opened to it. I’ve been saying women are the priesthood, the power of creation.
      There’s an tremendous amount of suppression in our Mormon culture and society at large when it comes to the divine feminine.

    • Holly

      I would be deeply shaken if the church were to begin ordaining women to the priesthood because I feel that this would trivialize or deny the priesthood that I, my sisters, our mothers, and our grandmothers already have.

      There you have it: “I would be really upset by any attempt to correct the current imbalance, because it was be an acknowledgment of the imbalance when I’ve managed to convince myself that everything is OK just the way it is. If I can’t acknowledge the imbalance myself, why should the church do it and force me?”

      That attitude certainly reflects the church’s overall attitude to problematic moments in it history. Better to deny any mistakes or sins or misdeeds, because to admit them would shake people’s faith. Of course, that means that the mistakes and sins and misdeeds persist and fester and can be used as a weapon against the church, a way to show its dishonesty and cowardice. But it’s still better, right, than admitting you made a mistake? Much, much better to deny anything potentially embarrassing or troubling or scandalous, even–make that especially if it’s the truth.

      That’s clearly what the church thinks.

      it’s just not what Jesus said. He told us, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” and it applies even to shameful bits of history and bad doctrine and practice.

      Until the women of the church are willing to own the power we already have (whether that power can rightly be called the priesthood or not), I’m not sure we are likely to see some of the changes we would like.

      Well, Carole, I’m delighted to help you out there. Many women have realized that they have the power to discern when our leaders are not treating us as valued, respected, spiritually blessed children of god, and we’re claiming and exercising that power.

      If it’s an owning of power you want, get ready to see it happen in all sorts of ways all around you.

      • Alece

        I’m feeling a lot of anger in your comments, Holly. You might consider where that anger comes from, because the spirit usually flees in the face of such anger.

      • Holly

        You might consider where that anger comes from, because the spirit usually flees in the face of such anger.

        And you, Alece, just might consider some of the prophets of the old testament, who were blessed with the spirit AND pretty angry dudes. The spirit often helps us see things that can and should make us angry. You might consider what is wrong with you that you are NOT angry.

    • Kathy Datsko

      When Adam and Eve were excommunicated from the Garden, Adam was given some *sacred things* that would help him come back into Heavenly Father’s presence. I believe that Eve was given the Priestesshood at that same time. When someone has been excommunicated from the Church, they only need to be re-baptized and reconfirmed a member of the Church, and then *all their former blessings* are then *reconfirmed*. If Eve had been given her Priestesshood before she was excommunicated from the Garden, then she would only need to undergo baptism and confirmation to have her Priestesshood reconfirmed. Adam (and men), however, since they did not received their Priesthood earlier, would need to receive the fulness of the Priesthood before they could receive their initiatories and endowments. Note that Women are able to go directly to receive their initiatories. They do not have hands laid upon them (like men do) to receive the Priesthood in the temple. It is not necessary, since women already have it. They only need baptism and reconfirmation.

      If having either the priesthood / priestesshood is required in the eternities, and the Scriptures in 1 Peter 2:9 and Joel 2:28 (and many other Scriptures) indicate the importance of priesthood for all believers, not just men, then this raises some interesting problems. Either women have had the priestesshood all along, and humans have just set up rules and laws that inhibit and discourage women from using the fulness of it, or women have not had the priestesshood all along.

      If priestesshood is required for women, then how can all the temple work that has been done for our ancestors be validated? If a deceased male relative has accidentally missed getting his initiatory, but had his endowments and sealings done by proxy, the endowments and sealings are not valid until the missing ordinance is completed. I discovered this had happened for several in my family tree. The completed ordinances were not valid until the missing ordinance was done. If men must receive the priesthood before their initiatories, and in Christ there is no male nor female (Galatians 3:28), then it makes logical sense that women also must receive their priestesshood before their initiatories (unless they already had it before they were excommunicated). If instead, women were banned from receiving it up to this point, than all the sealings and endowments done for them are on “hold” until the missing ordinance can be completed.

      To me, it is logical that since the Lord gave Adam some *things*, Eve would also have been given some *things* to help her return to Heavenly Father’s presence. Many people seem to note that women as a group tend to be spiritually in tune, having the priestesshood from the premortal would explain this. It does not make women more spiritual than men, just as what was given to Adam did not make him better than Eve.
      I wish someone who was good with words could articulate this idea better.

  39. Mommcc

    This is a conversation that I’ve needed to have/hear for sooo long! I have felt so alone concerning this issue, thanks Joanna!! I always think of the scripture in D&C 121 that states, “we have learned by sad experience that it is the nature of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to excercise unrighteous dominion.” Whenever I feel women are treated unfairly I think of this-of course I think women can excercise unrighteous dominion as well. The thing that bothers me most lately is how much more effort and resources go to the boys in our church with scouting than girls. There is no counterpart for girls, as they both have faith in god, where they receive opportunities, recognition, achievement and advancement. If this isnt really important, which is the only reason ive heard given, why are we wasting so much time with boys? No one seems to even notice this or seem to care. I think it sends a strong statement to boys and girls about who is more important and valued in the church. I have three young daughters and a son and this just kills me. What is the reason for this? Can anyone help a mom out:)? I love the church so much and know it is so valuable on one hand but worried about the messages being sent to the girls. Also, one more question, Joanna, you mentioned an answer given last week in answer to women and ordination; what were you referring to?

    • Alece

      Over many years (with five daughters and one son) I found that the lessons and activities offered my daughters were routinely much more spiritual than the scouting (and basketball playing) activities offered to my son; and my husband agreed with that assessment.

  40. Thanks for sharing your thoughts/research on this matter. It has been on my thoughts, too. I even posted something on my religion blog.

  41. RunnerGirl

    The priesthood is the power to act in God’s name, and the power to bind on earth and have it bound in the next life, too.

    Regardless of whether or not this is something women already have, or can have, the struggle parallels the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. Can separate be equal?

    Women feel undervalued. Women have fewer prominent spiritual leader role models. Women hear fewer female voices reflect the female experience in Conference. Female youth have less attention and resources to help mentor them into adulthood. It is the sum of all these things, and more experiences both explicit and subtle, that women add up to conclude that they are less valuable than men to the Church, and therefore to God. When women point out that the structure of the Church makes them feel inferior, church leaders insist they aren’t, but nothing changes in the structure to indicate otherwise.

    The problem with the word “priesthood” is that it has multiple meanings in the LDS Church. Clearly, the use of the word meaning “the power to act in God’s name” does not mean “male.” But our interchanging of these words accentuates the discrimination women feel.

    Again I bring up the question: can separate be equal? The answer, is yes it can, but it isn’t likely.

  42. Garrett

    Second anointing? Really? Who even knows about this ordinance? My guess is less than .01% of the church. And who qualifies for the second anointing? Pretty much only GA’s and their spouses. So to use this obscure reserved-for-the-powerful-only ordinance as an example of why women in the church already have the Priesthood is sort of a back-handed and elitist way to say to the masses, “what are you complaining about?” Go try and tell some humble poor 3rd world Mormon woman who has been faithful her whole life about the second anointing, and I guarantee she’ll look at you like you’re from outer space. You need a better example than that, and I say that with all respect for your piece, Dan.

    • NeoDan

      I absolutely agree with your sentiments Garrett. And lets not forget that there are, in reality, many 2nd and 3rd world members right now, male and female, who have no access to even their first anointing and endowment, much less their second.

      I think it’s clear that the sheer logistics of administering the Second Anointing (which necessarily involves some type of prophetic evaluation to determine worthiness) is the primary reason that leaders of the Church don’t talk about it now and why recipients are told not to reveal it to others. Of course, people being people, it does get mentioned (for an example, see Russell M Nelson’s original bio for a fairly discreet mention of receiving it under President Kimball’s invitation) and of course it appears from time to time in the journals of early members. The Salt Lake Temple even published the numbers of Second Anointings performed for the living and the dead until the 1940’s. Currently it is administered in the various Temples by members of the First Presidency and the Twelve upon the invitation of the President of the Church.

      Barring a major procedural change, however, in a Church of almost 15 million most will not receive it in this life.

  43. Mel Henderson

    Those who understand the temple ordinance surely won’t have a problem with any of this. Will they? I find that much of what passes over the pulpit as doctrine is nothing more than impotent platitudes.

  44. An interesting read Joanna, I’m looking forward to mulling over the points raised.

    This diverts from you question and I’m sorry but here is my cause of current reflection. I find too much contradiction here, around this issue. It becomes very frustrating.

    Firstly, in Elder Ballard’s talk that has been brought up a couple of times.

    To quote:

    “The power of the priesthood is a sacred and essential gift of God. It is different from priesthood authority, which is the authorization to act in God’s name.

    “In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood.

    “It is crucial for us to understand that Heavenly Father has provided a way for all of His sons and His daughters to have access to the blessings of and be strengthened by the power of the priesthood.”

    If priesthood is the authorisation to act in God’s name, why are women barred from that authorisation? Where do we find this revelation that confirms we are to be kept from it? The God that I know believes that men and women are capable of the same faith, responsibilites and accountability. I don’t see that reflected accurately in our organisation at the moment.

    Secondly, harkening back to the sixth article of faith.

    “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.”

    Yes, brothers and sister. That is a core principle and we are prepared to invoke it in efforts to maintain the status quo. But are we really prepared to get into an in-depth analysis about how the current church organisation stacks up against the *key word* primitive church? I think that that discussion will bring up more discrepancies than people would like to face.

    Then there is this third point. As a church that believes in constant ongoing revelation, why are we always so precious about grasping at outdated ideals that are long past and no longer relevant? What is the point of constant, consistant, ongoing revelation if we are just to stick to the same ideals that existed 2000-some years ago. As revelation teaches:

    “As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be”.

    If the nature of God can change, so drastically, do you not think the nature of the Gospel, in it’s expression, not in it’s core, is able to undergo the same change to become more a Godly institution?

    I constantly ask myself when faced with difficult topics:

    Are we considering God? Are we considering what we know of the nature of God? Are we bravely asking questions that make us feel uncomfortable in efforts to live the life and the Gospel that He put before us, for us? Or are we sitting content with our limited knowledge, which He promised He would expand upon, because we are afraid to rock the boat? And which action was the savior more likely to follow?

    We know that revelation can change the way we do things. It’s happened before and it will happen again. Why are we so afraid to usher it in?

  45. Chad Emmett

    All who are interested in this topic of discussion should read this just released on-line article by Valerie Hudson Cassler. Her discourse on LDS doctrine concerning men and women makes perfect sense and her vision of possible future changes in the LDS Church related to women are worthy objectives. Cassler, V. H. (2013) “Ruby Slippers on Her Feet: Reflections on the OrdainWomen Website,” SquareTwo, Vol. 6 No. 1, (Spring), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerRubySlippers.html.

    “”It is high time for a change of heart among women. We must start believing that women possess a divine power and authority that does not originate with men, though it is foundational to our partnership with men. We must not only say we are equals, we must walk and talk as if we truly are.”

  46. Penny

    At what point in the temple ceremony are women given the priesthood? This has never happened to me in the 13 years since I was endowed.

    • MattB

      It wasn’t given to you. You are born with it. I’m going to keep saying it. Women ARE the priesthood.

    • Curtis Penfold

      You’re not ordained to the priesthood as a woman in the temple. You’re anointed to become a priestess.

      In your second anointing, you’re anointed as a priestess and are able to give a blessing to your husband in the temple by the laying on of hands. But most of us here will never experience that.

      http://mormonthink.com/tomphillips.htm#story

  47. Big Scooter

    Given the evidence provided in your article, how can one consider Priesthood Ordination for women anything other than a step backward for women? Even admittance to the Temple echoes this sentiment. So, how is it you are proposing that temporal feminism is applicable to spiritual womanhood?

  48. Julie

    How can we be so ungrateful? Women in the church are loved and highly-esteemed. Why would we need more? Listen to this wonderful talk. We are loved, we have access to the priesthood. Women have a very large role in building up the church. Therefore, we must stop tearing it down by never being satisfied and by belittling men and their callings. Elder Ballard: Let Us Think Straight. http://www.byutv.org/watch/event/1a8e90b3-b9bf-40c1-96a5-ff1ca48bc703

  49. Angie Moses

    Loved reading this blog it seems to be a very needed topic, especially for many women in the church in Utah. I recently meet a sister from Utah and was very surprised to hear of some very sexist opinions of some of the priesthood holders in her life. The Doctrine of the church has only confirmed to me that our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be treated well and allowed to develop our talents and help build the kingdom on Earth. I know that he does not want us to be honored and respected any less that he honors our Mother in Heaven. She is sacred to him, as we should be to the men in our life. If we are ever hidden from the world it should be to honor and protect us not prevent us from experiencing or affecting the world we live in. Heavenly Father loves us so much and men are given the priesthood early in his wisdom from because he understands that men need this calling to become more like him and follow him. Why women don’t? I am not sure but we are already endowed with a gift before we receive our endowment. A strong women knows when to step back and let a man be a man, and when to step up and do God’s will when he won’t. Ideally though, A man and a Woman should pray together and find the same answers from God and do his will in harmony. God is all knowing and he gives us what we need to grow. What is SAD is that there are enough men who have misunderstood or abused their priesthood, that there are women who feel they have to fight for equality. If a man is following the spirit he will understand that women are equal and the the lords call for him to lead is to help him become more God like. I believe that as LDS women we need to let the men grow and lead unless he is not following the spirit and in this case it is our obligation to teach the truth prayerfully in order to exercise our authority as daughters of a Heavenly Father. Thanks for this post it is very good.
    Angie Moses
    Des Moines
    Iowa

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