Ask Mormon Girl: Are gender-restricted church responsibilities based in doctrine or custom?

If you’ve been following along these past few weeks (excepting my mother’s day vacation), you know I’ve been convening a personal study session on priesthood:  what it means today, what it has meant, and what all of this means in light of a renewed call for the ordination of women by some LDS feminists.

And after weeks of study, this is what I have gathered, in summary:

Elder Boyd K. Packer has stated that the way Mormons now conceive of priesthood authority—restricted to men, identical with administrative authority, and opposite to motherhood–is not necessarily grounded in scripture; it may be just as much an outgrowth of tradition or custom.  Priesthood keys are, in fact, rather haphazardly defined in scriptures, and they do not map neatly onto current LDS Church administrative functions.  LDS Church historians date the implementation of our current concept of priesthood (as identified with men only and with exclusive administrative authority, and in opposition to motherhood) to the middle twentieth century, as introduced by leaders like John Widtsoe.  Before Widtsoe, there is evidence of a more expansive notion of priesthood in Mormonism, dating from the moment in 1843 when Joseph Smith made the daring and I’d argue revelatory decision to interpret Exodus 40: 12 – 15 to apply to both men and women, effectively vesting women with priesthood through the endowment ceremony.  An expansive sense of priesthood authority survives into the early twentieth century in the continuing practice of LDS women giving blessings of healing and even washings and anointings preparatory to childbirth.  This practice contracted during the 1920s and 1930s.  Correlation as an administrative program was introduced in the 1940s and 1950s and was used as a premise to contract the authority of women over their own auxiliaries in the 1960s and 1970s, as historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has remembered.  We have seen a very modest recent correction in renewed emphasis on the use of mixed-gender councils at the level of ward decision making.  But if we track the institutional authority of LDS women from the 1840s to today, could one plausibly characterize the situation of Mormon women as a restoration incomplete?

My goal this week is to follow the distinction Elder Packer has made and to understand the distinction between practices based in tradition or custom and practices that reflect a consistent and coherent LDS doctrine.  Recently, we’ve seen the Church quietly set aside a longstanding custom of not inviting women to pray at General Conference.  This was purely tradition; it was not reflective of a consistent or coherent LDS doctrine.  Are there other customs in the way we assign authority that do not in fact have a foundation in consistent or coherent LDS doctrine?

It appears that there is a subarticulate LDS doctrine that endowed LDS women do enjoy  priesthood power, even if they are not ordained to  priesthood offices.  Many Mormons take this as a deduction from the fact that LDS women conduct some temple ceremonies with authority delegated by the temple president, as well as by the fact that women in LDS temples participate fully in the priesthood-bearing rites described in Exodus 40: 12 – 15.

The distinction between a general priesthood power and specific administrative authority is often framed through the language of priesthood “keys.”  But to study the scriptural definitions of keys is to find that keys outlined in the scriptures don’t neatly or consistently cohere with the shape of administrative responsibilities in the contemporary LDS church.  In our current handbook, some positions are restricted to male priesthood holders that do not in fact have particular scripturally-delineated keys associated with them.  The question that emerges for me, then, is, if the handbook restricts a particular administrative responsibility to a male Melchizedek priesthood holder but there are no keys associated with that position, is this restriction based on custom (as in the case of women praying in sacrament meeting or General Conference)? 

 There are some gender-restricted callings that are clearly based in custom only.  For example:

Ecclesiastical positions customarily restricted to men that do not require priesthood power or authority (office / keys)

  • Sunday School Presidencies
  • Church historian

Then, there are gender-restricted callings that stipulate Melchizedek priesthood but have no particular keys associated with them.  Is this a case where if a woman is in fact viewed as being capable of holding delegated authority, as women do in the temple, women might someday be permitted to serve in these capacities as well? For example:

Positions restricted to Melchizedek priesthood authority holders in the current Handbook but that do not hold scripturally-indicated priesthood keys

  • Witnesses to baptisms and temple sealings
  • Stake and ward clerks
  • Stake and ward executive secretaries
  • Stake high council
  • Ward and stake mission leaders
  • Bishopric counselors
  • Counselors in temple, mission, stake, branch, district, and ward and stake auxiliary presidencies

There are also non-calling associated responsibilities that are customarily restricted by gender, but this restriction is clearly customary and does not have a consistent and coherent doctrinal foundation.  For example:

Responsibilities that do not require ordination to Melchizedek priesthood office

  • Blessing the sick (by historical precedent)
  • Blessings of comfort and counsel before childbirth (by historical precedent)
  • Father’s (and mother’s) blessings

There are also responsibilities that are restricted to male Melchizedek priesthood holders by the current Handbook but that do not entail scripturally-indicated priesthood keys and / or delegated authority.  For example:

Responsibilities that under current Handbook policies require ordination to Melchizedek priesthood office

  • Dedicating homes and graves
  • Consecrating oil
  • Blessing babies
  • Witnessing baptisms / sealings

And there are responsibilities that scripture clearly associates with priesthood keys.  For example:

Responsibilities that under current Handbook policies require ordination as well as delegated Melchizedek priesthood authority / keys

  • Temple endowments
  • Setting apart
  • Baptisms
  • Confirmations
  • Ordinations
  • Presiding at meetings and over stakes, wards, branches, and quorums
  • Worthiness and ordinance interviews
  • Church discipline
  • Issuing callings

What to do with these distinctions, I’ll get to next week.  But in the meantime, it’s worth noting that many, many administrative responsibilities within the institutional culture of the LDS Church that have nothing to do with priesthood at all have been customarily restricted by gender, and this sends a powerful message about the value of women’s experience and authority within the Mormon world.  These non-ecclesiastical segregations should be viewed as purely customary.  Still, left uninterrogated, they seem to communicate the stamp of divine intent. I’m thinking here, for example, of the boards and leadership of all LDS Church subsidiaries and Church-owned corporations including universities (BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, etc.), corporations (Bonneville, etc.), boards and leaderships of Church subsidiaries including universities (BYU, LDS Business College, etc.), corporations (Deseret Management Corporation, including Bonneville Communications, Deseret Book, etc.), Church Educational System, Humanitarian Services, LDS Family Services.  If Mormonism truly values equality, where better to begin than by striving for 50%-50% representation on the boards of all major Church subsidiaries and within the leadership of Church-owned corporations?  This isn’t even a matter of ecclesiastical authority or doctrine!

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Filed under priesthood

72 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: Are gender-restricted church responsibilities based in doctrine or custom?

  1. mofembot

    I (a woman) was actually called to, sustained, and set apart as the stake historical clerk about 20 years ago, a position I held for about two years until we moved from the area. I was as surprised as anyone about this.

  2. Jason

    I agree. There are probably a host of roles and ordinances women should already have access to perform. I would love to see my 4 year old realize that in her lifetime.

    Let the hate mail begin. Maybe that’s a bit premature.

    The bizarre thing though, the thing I just can’t wrap my head around is the push-back we will see with this from women.

  3. Neal

    Very good. I would also add that there are many duties and leadership positions in LDS Missions that seem to have gender / priesthood restrictions. Zone Leader, District Leader, Assistant to the President, etc.

    • Kirsten Steiger

      Not in the Salt Lake City Temple Square mission! I’ve read that some California missions have experimented with female APs as well.

    • Michelle

      I had a female DL on my mission in Honduras, in 2000. But it is rare.

    • Ali

      I was a missionary 20 years ago in Philadelphia and I was called as a Sister’s Leader. We were “AP’s” but only for the sisters, but it was a forward thinking mission president.

  4. Gail Nicolaysen-Shurtleff

    RIGHT!!!! The quote by BKP is enlightening and takes me back in time to stories of my grandmother who had no priesthood holder in her home. what is being proposed here in this post is along the lines of what I’ve always thought it should be like within the working church.

  5. emily w

    Amen, sister.

  6. SuzyQ

    I appreciate your study of this topic. The Sunday school youth curriculum for the entire month of June focuses on the priesthood, and I’m still not sure how to approach teaching it in the face of my personal questions and thoughts. Rereading your series as I study the topic myself will be a huge aid, so thank you.

    • My plan (12-15 year old Sunday School) for June is have the students discover what priesthood is based on scripture with as little of the culture as possible. The power and authority to act in God’s name is a powerful definition. Think of the sister missionaries carrying forth the message of the gospel, a charge which Christ gave to some of the most valiant priesthood of His day. We can debate the authority part, but clearly these sisters have power and a central role. Is priesthood the office or the actions? D&C 121 makes a strong case that priesthood is contingent on actions. When those acts are absent or for personal gain, the power leaves. So if a sister or a brother acts in a righteous manner and brings forth good results is that priesthood or is the office? It seem to me that offices bring requirements for service (similar to the requirement for missionary service on 18 year old single men but optional for young women) but they do not restrict those not holding the office from performing the work as inspired and as needed. The office is a lesser thing than the power. Read Boyd K Packer’s April 2010 talk on the priesthood and family. He cites instance of men, unprepared and perhaps unworthy to exercise their traditional priesthood roles being compelled to do so for their children’s benefit. He makes it clear that a righteous act done for holy purposes is priesthood even when the status of the office holder is tenuous.

      The youth can grapple with these ideas. Both boys and girls can see that performing service in the name of God is the essence of priesthood whether it be administration or ministration. I hope that some of the young women will then realize that what is labeled “compassionate service” is in fact priesthood fully equivalent to traditional priesthood service. It is my intent to follow Joseph Smith’s dictum, ” teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

    • Scooter

      How about you follow the manual. That’s a start. I feel real bad of the youth if your own personal feelings on this apostate talk enters their head

  7. Scott sessions

    Can you please email the reference of Elder Packers comments that you quoted. I am not sure where it started and ended.

    I enjoy reading your perspective.

    Thank you.

  8. Jerry

    I currently am the ward clerk and I don’t see any gender or priesthood specific need for restricting these callings. From a practical perspective though it seems like the church would be reluctant to have a woman and man work isolated in the clerks office, so is that something we can get over or around? It comes up in primary too where in our ward men are called in pairs. It seems like such a small thing to get around (why can’t we have a bit more transparency and trust? Windows on all of our classrooms and office doors?) but it really makes staffing callings more complicated. I like how you highlight cultural norms and traditions, it seems like that is often as big of an issue for change as deciphering the revelation on the subject.

    • Neal


      Bishops meet alone with women and girls of all ages on a regular basis, so I’m not sure the isolated clerks office idea presents any new issues. The men in pairs in primary is to supposedly protect children from preadators. Women can teach Primary class alone.

      • Jerry

        Thanks Neal, I do understand that Bishops meet regularly one on one with all members, and bishopric members extend callings and so on. And I too have been told that monitoring men in primary is to ensure child protection. I’m just having a hard time coming up with examples though where men and women (not just spouses together) are called to work together. Activities committee? Does that even exist anymore? It does seem like the segregation of gender duties goes far beyond what is definable as “priesthood responsibility” and it might be a little tough to bring down those barriers even if doctrinally those barriers don’t seem necessary. I don’t see any doctrinal reason for example that I couldn’t serve with the primary presidency, but I’ve never seen a mixed gender primary presidency, and the handbook does state that a sister is called as the president (maybe counselors too but I couldn’t find that). Any thought? I can’t think of any reason why I man couldn’t serve as primary president?

    • D.P.J

      It is my understanding that men are called in pairs into primary to keep the children safe. Statistics overwhelmingly point to men as perpetrators of molestation, so calling men as pairs is supposed to prevent that. I think it is just as much a benefit for men that aren’t perpetrators as well though so they have a witness should they be accused of such acts.
      I don’t know that it’s a good idea to just say we should have transparency and “trust” when we are calling people who have little experience with children and have not been subjected to fingerprinting or background checks.

      • Amy

        In primary two men, or a husband-wife team can be called to co-teach. A man cannot teach alone, and a man cannot teach with a woman he is not married to.

        Personally I think they just need to trust adults more with each other. If they are likely to act inappropriately, they will do it if they are called to teach together or not.

      • K Anderson

        Having a man in a Primary Presidency is perfect because the presidency is never behind closed doors with a child, as opposed to being a teacher. The presidency members are always in front of large groups of children and other adults when interacting with children. If we are only concerned about children’s safety when we consider men in the Primary, a Primary President would likely be the safest place (chorister, etc works too).

    • 2Bizee

      I grew up in Idaho and in the late 1800s and early 1900s the ward clerk of a local ward was the bishop’s wife.

      • Neal

        Yes, Jerry, I do think you have a point. We are by nature a very gender-segregated lot.

        One place that does come to mind where men and women serve together is in Cub Scouts. Aside from joint activities with youth, there are few other situations where men and women serve together.

      • I agree with Jerry, some gender specific, or “Gender-Restricted” positions in the church are not doctrinally based, but are set up for liability or safety reasons. And some gender restricted positions restrict men. You don’t see many men as Relief Society President. It isn’t that a man couldn’t handle being Relief Society President. It would just be awkward. It is important to consider liability. But yes there are some positions that are “Gender Specific” just based on custom.

    • Kirsten Steiger

      A male friend of mine recently told me of a time when he was called as the Young Women’s secretary! He’s a single older man without much family, and most all of the girls lacked any kind of father figure in their homes. So basically, his calling was to be a father for the girls.

  9. One of the priesthood functions you do not mention is the preparation/blessing/passing of the sacrament. These are delineated in the D&C, so there is an explicit priesthood requirement. I’ve always been curious why it is necessary to have a priesthood holder carry the trays from the sacramental table to the individual pews, but once there, it is perfectly fine for a woman to hold the tray for her husband, for a young child–even under the age of eight (!) to hold the tray for his/her older sibling, parent or an adult sitting nearby. Obviously, one need not be a baptized member to actually take the sacrament–members of record (children under eight) take it all the time–but in some churches, the Eucharist/sacrament is distributed ONLY by a priest or lay clergy so that no unordained person touches it prior to consumption.

    • John J.

      The glaring anomaly that LDS miss is that although their church defines priesthood as the power and authority to act for God, the priest reading the prayer asks God to “bless and sanctify” the emblems for him, rather than doing it themselves. Where is the power and authority in that? That is no different than praying over your food, which certainly does not require priesthood. If you believe God blessed and sanctified at on the sacrament, I don’t think it matters who passes the trays around.

    • John Swenson Harvey

      It is only the ordinance of blessing the sacrament which requires priesthood authority. The passing by priesthood is tradition. There are some GA quotes on this over the years.

    • Even in some parts of the world, the sacrament is ONLY passed by the deacons, as the members will move their legs to the side so that the deacons squeeze through the pews to carry the tray the whole time, and none of the females attempt to take the tray, this drove me crazy when I fist started my mission in Chile, but later I just let it go, as it was also not the reason I had been called there, I learned that it was the customs of the area, and the way they had learned it.

  10. Kirsten Steiger

    In many BYU singles wards, they use mixed councils for the auxillaries (except Elder Quorum and Relief Society), composed roughly of half men and half women (these auxiliaries included Sunday School Council, Activities Council, Temple Council, Music Council, Temporal Welfare Council, etc). Each of these auxiliaries is headed by a chair and a co-chair, often a man and a woman. The purpose of these council systems (as understood by everyone and frankly stated by our bishoprics and stake leaders) was to encourage mingling of the sexes and lead to increased dating and marriages. If I remember right, it was experimental, and used in only a limited number of BYU stakes.

    I myself (a woman) served as Sunday School co-chair alongside a male chair. The two of us constituted the Sunday School leadership and led a council of roughly equal parts male and female SS teachers. I also served once in another ward as “Bishop’s Secretary,” the female equivalent of the Executive Secretary. The bishop had me attend every PEC meeting, until the Stake Presidency told him I couldn’t come anymore. He fought against it, but in the end, I wasn’t allowed to attend.

    • Theresa

      I have been in a ward where a woman was called as Sunday School President. Her previous calling was a counselor in the Sunday School Presidency, under a male president. Is this actually contrary to what’s in the handbook, or was my bishop just non-traditional to issue these callings? It was a singles ward as well, so maybe that had something to do with it. But it was definitely a presidency, not a council system.

    • We have sister missionaries (6 currently) attend PEC as “guests” to speak to reactivations and fellowshipping needs.

  11. Anonymous

    I’m a mom of 3 sons and 2 daughters, ages 4-11. I believe it is good to let men have the corner on the priesthood, and find purpose in righteously leading church units and families. I see a lot of non-LDS men (Ex: my brother) who lack direction and feel unneeded in life because women can “do it all”.

    • John J.

      The women can do it all, that is why many of them don’t want the additional responsibility, even if they support the ordination of women. Also the accountability factor is far less severe for the sisters in church courts than it is for priesthood holders.

    • D.P.J.

      So we keep the priesthood reserved solely for men so that they can feel “direction” (i.e. masculine, powerful) at the expense of women feeling equal? We minimize one to elevate the other? That doesn’t seem like a very compelling reason to keep the status quo.

      That just seems like an excuse for men who don’t want to do anything. In my home, I do the yard work, I actually like working outdoors and getting the fresh air, I am also a woman. My husband doesn’t sit around because he no longer has the “direction” that society has dictated to him. He often ends up taking the kids to the farmers market or cooking dinner or helping my daughter with her homework. He has also rejected the notion of “presiding” over the family in favor of he and I jointly running the household. He doesn’t need the term preside as an impetus to help raise his children in the church.

      Instead, why don’t we take the advice of *D&C 58:26 and teach our young men to take some initiative and find things to do! I firmly believe that the men in our church who are most dedicated to their families aren’t so because of their duty as priesthood holders, but because they are good men at heart that want to be involved in their children’s and spouses’ lives.

      *D&C 58:26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

      • I still believe that men hold the priesthood, just to elevate them to women’s equal, there is no downgrading to it, women can do it all, and our men’s responsibility is just to help us up, no man in this world can grow as close to a child as a mother that carried that child for 9 months, sure you could bring up the difficulties and complain about them all day, but within the responsibilities of the priesthood, there are plenty of difficulties there as well, but forget about the difficulties in either situations as every decent mother knows when you talk about that child, the difficulties are never thought of next to the accomplishments of that child, and as every priesthood holder also learns those difficulties are diminished next to nothing compared to the blessings received fulfilling their callings.

  12. KK

    Yorgus, one technicality: There is nothing in the Doctrine and Covenants that says the priesthood is required to pass the sacrament. Also, priests are only supposed to administer the sacrament when there is no elder present, according to D&C 20. I can find nothing that tells us who should prepare it, either.

  13. jr

    The Old Testament mentions prophetesses. Isn’t it implied they had the PH?

    • Salty Bear

      The OT word “prophetess” is not analogous to our modern-day concept of “The Prophet” as the President of the Church. In the scriptures there were many people who were called prophets and prophetesses for their proximity to the Spirit and their knowledge of the will of the Lord. It does not necessarily imply that they had the PH.

  14. Ian hornbarger

    I’ve been a member of the Mormon church whole life – this is my first time reading this blog and I am very impressed. I have always felt there was a huge blur between culture and doctrine in the church. Thank you for your insights.

  15. Shauna

    I enjoyed reading the comments as much as the post which confirmed how men and women have had a variety of experiences with positions of authority. I give my daughters mothers blessings and fully expect that they will see women performing priesthood ordinances in their lifetime.

  16. Brutus

    I think this post grossly misrepresents Elder’s Packer’s words. He did not say, as you attribute to him, that the way Mormons now conceive of priesthood authority “may be just as much an outgrowth of tradition or custom.” In fact, he said just the opposite. He said that “[y]ou might call it tradition, but they are more than that.” He then explains that “[t]hey are revelations which came when the Brethren of the past assembled themselves, agreed upon His word, and offered their prayers of faith.” He then added, “The Lord then showed them what to do.” You provided the entire quote in an earlier post. It seems odd that you would paraphrase it the way you did. Also, your post seems to implicitly discount modern revelation in the Church with respect to the Priesthood, other than selective quotes from Joseph Smith.

    • Neal

      Brutus, thank you for the clarification on the quote. Many of these comments forget the role of modern revelation and who recieves it for the church. God can change a policy or enlighten the church if the church starts to lead by custom, and not by revelation. However that change comes from the top down and not from the bottom up. Not that great ideas and revelation cannot come from others, but if it is to be accepted as church policy, it must come from the prophet.

      Also the church handbooks are reviewed and approved by the 12 and first presidancy. Doesn’t that indicate that the content is approved of by the Lord? If something needs to be changed, it will. Until then we use what the Lord has provided in the handbook and in his called general leadership.

  17. John J.

    “…there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred…” – D&C 132:7 This is also the same section that address the doctrine of plural marriage. Plural Marriage Protocol requires the senior wife to give her consent on any “sister wives”. If Plural Marriage is required for Celestial Glory, that would mean the husband’s salvation was in the hands of his senior wife and the doctrine about the husband being able to leave her in the grave in the morning of the First Resurrection if she were disobedient is false. The husband knowing her “new temple name” and her not knowing his flips the truth of the situation. The first wife is the one that controls whether the husband can even get in the Celestial Kingdom! If the first wife denies him other wives, he cannot enter and neither can she. Obviously it is not just for the husband to divorce her if she denies him other wives; otherwise, the senior wife never would have been given that power and authority. Now, who really has the power and authority and how could such an oversight been overlooked by an omnipotent God?! How can you make claim that the Melchizedek Priesthood exercises the fullness of the priesthood, when a woman that is denied it can stop every single married LDS male from gaining entrance into the Celestial Kingdom?! The concept of the wife sharing her husband’s priesthood by being his wife and a mother is false. Not every female gets the chance to be a wife or mother, so where does that leave the single sisters? Why do they let them take out their Endowment and serve missions, the same as the males in the church? If they claim the sociality that exists in this world exists in the Eternal Worlds (D&C 130:2), you cannot rightfully claim they will automatically be provided a husband in the eternities. If it is on Earth as it is in Heaven, then there must be singles in the Celestial Kingdom or Heaven! Therefore, the doctrine of plural marriage is highly questionable because it claims everyone in the Celestial Kingdom is married, even though there are single people on Earth!

  18. Cmorgan

    Looking at both sides of the coin, I’d throw out the topic of men in the primary presidency as well….

  19. This is an interesting discussion. All social entities will evolve and change over time to keep up with the evolution of society. Look at how the civil rights movement and the feminist movement have changed the way we apply the Constitution to our citizens. When the constitution was written, women could not vote. When the Declaration of Independence was written, black Americans were not considered to be “equal.”
    The difference is that most social entities do not consider themselves to be divinely inspired. I believe this is what creates the conflict. You are trying to reconcile what society and practicality deems to be appropriate with what the Church teaches is God’s doctrine. An institution set up by man can be changed to reflect our current sensibilities. A divinely inspired Church based on doctrines revealed in the 1830’s does not have that luxury.
    I believe this is why Church members have such a hard time making their religion fit into contemporary times. If God said through his prophet that only men should hold the priesthood, as much as we might like to reinvent the institution to include women, we can not .
    There will always be conflict for believers when trying to reconcile the historical teachings of the Church with what modern society considers appropriate ,whether we are talking about women, blacks , or homosexuals. As a non believer, I see the issue as a non starter. There is nothing to reconcile because the original doctrines and the customs that followed are nothing more than a reflection of the times in which they started.

    • Kam

      I don’t disagree with you, but perhaps the point here is that the scriptures give example of women who served as prophetess’ & priestess and for Mormon’s women do hold exercise “priest(ess)hood” during temple ceremonies & have exercised the priesthood historically. So it is murky and that murkiness (for me as a less active member of the church BECAUSE of the LDS church’s position on blacks/women & the priesthood, gays/lesbians, etc.) allows me to hold out hope that since the divinely inspired doctrine of the church does not specifically exclude women that someday soon woman will REALLY hold equal/respected positions within the church.

  20. As a single Father of 8 Daughters ranging in age from 30 to 4, I cannot see why there is a need for rebellion against Heavenly Father, as well as “men” in general.

    The one thing that the Priesthood rebellion holders refuse to acknowledge is the Biblically specific call for men to take charge of the “Creation” as outlined in Genesis.

    Even confessed to her sin, whereas Adam pointed the finger at Eve, and tried to evade personal accountability, which is why childbirth was placed upon the woman. For Adam there was ONLY death, ONLY a return to the dust where he was formed, and Eve (woman) was “entrusted” with the “gift” of “life”, something that God could in no way trust the male with, because he could not even take responsibility for his original sin to begin with, and as we see now in the latter days, men are too quick to shirk their responsibility to their children when they find out the woman they have had illicit sex with is pregnant. Men consider the payment of “child support” as fulfilling their “obligation” to the child, something Satan has used to his advantage in removing gender lines.

    It will always be upon the woman to want to do the job of the man, to babysit him, to correct his mistakes, and God warned her about that in the very beginning, that she would feel that need, but she was not to, that the man was to learn for himself, how to be responsible for the Creation that HE was commanded to oversee.

    Adam was given the command to have dominion over the Earth, Eve was a latecomer to the party, that came in as a “Help Meet”.

    So no mater how it gets twisted, the woman’s constant obsession with micromanagement will always fail, and will serve no one but the Master Satan that they have pledged their agenda to forward for.

    Since the garden, Satan has “twisted” one or two little words to overthrow the will of God, and to this day, the Priesthood rebellion has suffered from the same problem, their “agenda/attacks” are supported by loopholes, twists, ambiguity, confusion, diversion, and other forms of evidence that comes down to nothing more than “anecdotal”.

    Men cannot have the ability to give birth to children, and women cannot have the Priesthood, to lust after the glory of “having it all” serves only the enemy and those that serve him.

    So let the hatemail begin for me, feel free to blast away, but all the hate on Earth will never change the Will of God, and His Word that backs it.

    And before y’all flip out, take a look at my website and see that I have a link to this website, I encourage discourse on all subjects, which is why I direct people here, and the same reason why I leave my exegesis of the Scriptures here… 🙂

  21. @ Neal: I am a woman and served as a District Leader (Munich, Germany Mission) for a third of my mission. My mission president was an active General authority.

    • Neal

      That’s cool, Trys! Were you over both Elders and Sisters? This is news to me, so not sure how it is all arranged, but its very encouraging.

  22. KK

    jr, that’s an interesting question about Deborah’s prophetess status. I don’t think it necessarily means she had the PH, at least not by implication. From what I understand, in the OT, a prophet could be anyone who prophesied. The example in Numbers 11 where Joshua complains to Moses that other people were prophesying and Moses wishes all the people could be prophets demonstrates this. So if Deborah was a prophetess, couldn’t it just mean that people recognized that she was able to receive inspiration from God? It wasn’t an office in the MP like it is today. The MP wasn’t even a thing then, right?
    That, for me, raises other questions about what duties we assign to the priesthood today (or at least culturally assume belong only to men), when scripture and church history indicate any believer could exercise them.

  23. JR

    The following scriptures can be quite offensive to women who have gender role problems. These are New Testament verses. How are they being handled by christian churches? How are they being handled by members of the church? Are they considered or ignored?

    “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

    “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands”

    “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands”

    “Likewise, ye husbands….honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

    “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

    “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”

  24. newLDSmom

    As a convert, I have many times been confused by doctrine versus tradition in the church. The most surprising gender related incident occurred while I was serving as a counselor in the Relief Society presidency. Our ward had a fifth Sunday combined priesthood/RS meeting with the bishop teaching the lesson. This meeting was being held in the RS room and the bishop asked the RS president to take care of finding the pianist, chorister, prayers and conducting the meeting. It was my month to conduct, so she asked if I would conduct this meeting as well. I did, and afterwards men came up to me and sternly insisted that women do not conduct combined meetings of men and women; only priesthood holders are allowed this responsibility. I told them that we were asked to do so by the bishop, so they should take the “issue” up with him. I have not found anything in any handbook that supports their claim. This seems to be tradition, not doctrine. Maybe a bishopric member presides, but I see no reason why a RS presidency member could not conduct a combined meeting.

    • Gail Nicolaysen-Shurtleff

      And just why would a man need the priesthood to conduct the meeting? Yes that is silly.

  25. John J.

    Aug 19, 1979 – By authorization of one apostle, Ann Kenney is set apart as stake Sunday School president of University of Utah 2nd Stake. A counselor in the stake presidency, assures her that he has been “strongly impressed” to issue the calling and also had a general authority approve the calling. Apostle Ezra Taft Benson, president of Twelve, requires her release month later by his definition that Sunday School president must have Melchizedek priesthood.

  26. Gail Nicolaysen-Shurtleff

    I think the entire point of concept and revelation in modern times is that things DO change. We are allowed to move forward and that is prophecy and the ability to look and understand how it all works. The problem is only human or culture deep.
    As a therapist I am well aware that women also abuse. We tend to block that out. In order for all of this to change attitudes about woman, and who they are must also changed.
    I would have loved for my mission to have contained DL’s it did at one point contain some traveling sisters.

  27. Quoting: “It appears that there is a subarticulate LDS doctrine that endowed LDS women do enjoy priesthood power, even if they are not ordained to priesthood offices.”

    I agree that this is only obliquely articulated in scant sources and it is ripe for more discussion and clarification on the part of church leaders. I have heard this sentiment mainly from the last two Relief Society Presidents (Julie Beck and currently Linda Burton). The video released just before conference of the three female auxilary presidents included President Burton clearly starting that LDS women access priesthood power. Its after that point that the discussion is dropped or moves elsewhere. Do church leaders even know what it means for “women to access priesthood power”? If we do access it, then want prevents women from being ordained to the priesthood? I feel that church leaders are in the process of figuring out the answers to these questions themselves and may be part of what Elder Holland was referring to when he asked for patience as they consider on issues that deserve to be pondered.

  28. Your jewelry says it all. Well done!

  29. Kali

    I remember entering a Buddhist temple once with a friend and, as we walked around the amazing interior of that temple, asking my friend the following question: “If we were to strip everything out of Buddhism that is purely cultural, what would be left?” I think this is always a good question that should be asked by all believers of any religious tradition. I further suspect that the answer is: “No much.”

    I remember, as a missionary in South America, having my awareness awakened to the fact that much, if not most, of what we were teaching people there was fully enmeshed in American (U.S.A.) culture and had scant connection with anything of an eternal, universal nature. American culture is fully embedded in European culture…which is inextricable from Mideastern culture. In many respects, we missionaries practiced a form of “cultural imperialism,” insisting that our way (the American way) was the one and only true way.

    It seems to me that ANY religion aspiring to universal, world-wide promulgation has the responsibility of stripping out the purely cultural aspects of its system of belief and practices and offering something truly of value to the entire world…not just the prejudices and assumptions that surround it at its cultural core.

    Good luck with that!

    • I would disagree with you on this. The LDS Church has one of the largest bodies of doctrine of any religion. Just walk through the 13 Articles of Faith, and you’ve surpassed most of them.

      Yes, there is absolutely a LOT of cultural influence in the WAY we practice the religion, but the core of our beliefs is substantial in every respect.

      The key challenge is in differentiating the two – the subject of my latest post (

    • Stew

      It’s not just European Culture, a good chunk of Mormon culture is what grew up in the Mountain West during the years of isolation. I was raised in the East by convert parents and still live here. Every General Conference, I cringe over things that aren’t just cultural Mormonism, but Western, or Utah cultural Mormonism. During my mission in France, the discomfort was even worse.

      Whether or not we can strip the culture from the doctrine is a good question, but not one I see being addressed in the foreseeable future. I would just like to see a day when Mormons become aware of the tone and content of what we are saying and praying for. For example, Church during the Fourth of July in a ward with a sizeable immigrant/Canadian population becomes incredibly uncomfortable. And don’t get me started on people praying for “the troops” but not for peace. It’s so painful.

  30. Kali

    Ooops… That shoulf be “Not much,” instead of “No much.” Sorry ’bout that!


  31. Steve

    Is this whole discussion is moot if PJ&J never really did come down and visit JS as he claims, or if BY was not the rightful successor? Must we assume that those things really happened in order to be having this discussion?

  32. Lisa

    I would be one who would say that culture permeates the LDS faith and as a thinking woman, it is difficult for me to understand the separation of roles as defined and solidified by our faith over the last few decades. It is as if someone is trying to hold on to progress, keep back what needs to transform and negate the power of real equality. If you read anecdotes from women being treated for depression who are LDS, it doesn’t take long to determine that gender specific roles are more for men than they are for women. I would almost argue that there is a need on the part of males to hoard something that will keep them in power which is taught to be the seedbed of corruption. I can’t see anything more corrupt that identifying women as inferior (no matter what women who are attempting to preserve their gender roles say) and it is well known that this faith is male dominated and as such has limited ability to allow female thought or perspective.

  33. Lauren

    I have been concerned about this and I am so happy that this article was written. I felt like the only Mormon woman that cared about these issues, and that I was wrong for feeling that way. Something that I have noticed as a general rule with the church is if there is a possibility of being a leader over men, then men are put in charge. If there are only women and/or children then women are allowed to lead. I find this generalization pretty fairly accurate. I am sure that there are the one or two exceptions. But isn’t that the point? Any examples of women leading men in non-priesthood required positions is considered a fluck or an anomaly. Especially when it comes to Sisters on missions. There is a flood of worthy and willing women coming into the mission field, and there is no reason why sisters shouldn’t be able to be district leaders, zone leaders, or APs. Instead they create leadership positions for sister where they can represent other sisters, but again they will not be able to lead men. I served 3 years ago, and I know that there is no reason why a sister could not do the calling of DL, ZL, or AP justice.
    The culture of Mormon women has shifted. There is a greater amount of LDS women who hold high powered positions in the business world. Some do not have families or husbands, others juggle home life and careers. These women’s voices are heard, and their opinions valuable in their respected fields. But when they go to church, female CPA’s can’t aid in the accounting for the ward. Principles and college professors can’t step in and help organize Sunday school. Executive Assistants and CEOs can’t set a Bishop’s calendar or count how many heads are in the seats in sacrament. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
    We all want to give our best to the Lord. Women are no exception. So why not let us?! We have the skills. Let us get to work!

  34. It seems like this kind of “segregation” goes both ways. For example, Sunday School presidencies, to my knowledge, are always composed of men; Primary presidencies are contrarily composed of only women. It really doesn’t bother me because I believe that if God chooses to change the way His church is administered, He will reveal it to His prophet.

  35. K Anderson

    As an accountant (female) I have long thought my ideal calling would be as a financial clerk or stake auditor. Since counting $ doesn’t require the priesthood (although my first bishop in a married ward where I served as RS Pres would disagree with me, as he restricted knowledge of the ward budget from women) the only reason others can give me is the “women are sources of temptation and can’t work with men” line. Having worked full-time in the work force one-on-one and in groups with men, I find that a weak argument. I’d rather not talk about my response why my sales/marketing husband was called to be a stake auditor. I have no words.

    Instead I serve happily in primary, at times in presidencies. In each ward I have found a handful of men who I think would make fabulous additions to the presidency. {sigh}

    In the words of Tevia, “Tradition!”

  36. Dave

    We’ve had an interesting discussion among the stake presidency relating to keys. Elders quorum presidents have keys and high priest group leaders do not, yet they are given identical responsibilities. We could not find any justification beyond that favorite response of mother’s everywhere “because.” Curious isn’t it.

    • Janelle

      High Priests are organized as a quorum at the stake level, and the stake presidency holds the keys for the high priest group. The stake president organizes HP groups in each ward. This is why at the ward level it is called the High Priests Group in a ward instead of a quorum. I believe that this has something to do with the administration of temple ordinances, and church administration. The HP groups in each ward are to support the EQ and bishop of each ward and so do many of the same things.

  37. Chris

    I didn’t see this in the responses. The Sunday School presidency hold the priesthood. Handbook 2, Section 12.2.2: “Members of the ward Sunday School presidency are priesthood holders. Where possible, the president holds the Melchizedek Priesthood.”

  38. anonymous

    I’m sure there are many things that happen because they are customary and not necessary, but what it really comes down to is who do you think leads the church? Is it a man or is it Jesus Christ. If you believe it is just a man why would you even stick around to argue what men and women’s roles are in the church? If you believe Jesus Christ is the head of the church why would you murmur and complain about the way things are done?

  39. Janelle

    You really need to cite your sources to strengthen your position. You are asking your reader to believe you when you make historical claims and quote General Authorities on matters. I would like to read Elder Packer’s comments you referenced to see the context of his comments. A simple link would do the trick. Good citations make one more credible, transparent, and are an act of courage in the blogosphere.

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