I Can’t, She Said

I recently read a comment about a father rejoicing that he was able to bless his young son, who was in a coma and near death. In his comment, the father said that he was able to bless his son because of his own personal worthiness to exercise the priesthood, and that he couldn’t imagine any sweeter feeling. After reading this comment, I immediately dashed off my reply, “Neither can I, Geoff”, but I didn’t send it.

I honestly can’t imagine a sweeter feeling in the world than to hold my child and to know that, if God so willed, I could play a role in saving her life. And while some claim that women already do have and should exercise this healing power (or some subset of the priesthood), the practice in the Church today is that women are neither ordained to any priesthood office, nor are they authorized to exercise any priesthood power (outside the temple). That’s the way things are right now, and as I thought about this, I wondered if it is possible for this to change (before the millennium!).

I remember an article written by Eugene England I read a few years ago. In this article, written five years before the priesthood ban was lifted, England presents an interesting illustration of the distinction between a doctrine and practice (or policy), as he struggled to understand why the Church excluded worthy black male members from holding the priesthood.

England was particularly troubled because Church leaders had said that he could not be a member in good standing unless he believed that blacks were denied the priesthood because of conduct in the pre-existence. England was able to meet with President Joseph Fielding Smith (then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) to discuss his concerns:

I told President Smith about my experiences with the issue of blacks and the priesthood and asked him whether I must believe in the pre-existence doctrine to have good standing in the Church. His answer was, “Yes, because that is the teaching of the Scriptures.” I asked President Smith if he would show me the teaching in the Scriptures (with some trepidation, because I was convinced that if anyone in the world could show me, he could). He read over with me the modern scriptural sources and then, after some reflection, said something to me that fully revealed the formidable integrity which characterized his whole life: “No, you do not have to believe that Negroes are denied the priesthood because of the pre-existence. I have always assumed that because it was what I was taught, and it made sense, but you don’t have to to be in good standing because it is not definitely stated in the scriptures. And I have received no revelation on the matter.” (“The Mormon Cross”, Dialogue, Spring 1973, page 84)

After meeting with President Smith, England was not convinced that denying priesthood to blacks was right. But he sustained his leaders and waited until they received the revelation to change–which they did, you will recall, five years later. I wonder, likewise, if we make the same mistake about women and the priesthood–do we assume that it is doctrine that during mortality women will never be ordained to priesthood office and be able to officiate in priesthood ordinances in the Church? Put another way, is it Church doctrine not to ordain women to the priesthood (meaning, it can’t change?), or is it a matter of practice (meaning, potentially it could change).

Comments

  1. Great post, Elisabeth. I liked Wilfried’s story a lot, and it drew much of its power from the riveting image of the unbearable agony of the man unable to participate in the ordinances. (I suspect that for many LDS men, that is a striking image). And here you’ve done a good job of noting the blind spot in that narrative: That for LDS women, such agony is potentially a daily occurence.

    I’m not convinced that LDS women are truly unable to exercise the gifts of the priesthood. (There was certainly a much broader conception of womens’ role in the priesthood in the early church; see, for example, Pearson’s book Daughters of Light). But you’re absolutely right to note that, at present, the place of women in the church excludes them from the priesthood ordinances — and thus always puts them in the tragic role in Wilfried’s story. If it is a tragedy that a single brother has to say “I Can’t” — and it is — then how much greater of a tragedy is it that an entire cohort of women are bound to give the same answer, and to do so _regardless_ of their individual, personal righteousness.

    I suppose one answer is that the righteous woman can always turn to her husband, father, bishop, or home teacher, for priesthood blessings as needed. But I find that to be unsatisfying on an emotional level. After all, Wilfried’s branch member could (and did) look to others for the priesthood blessings he could not himself give; yet that ability to outsource did not lessen the tragic nature of his own inability to participate. Neither, I think, does the ability of today’s LDS woman to seek a priesthood blessing from an LDS man.

  2. Very thought-provoking, Elisabeth. I think the issue of what constitutes doctrine is particularly thorny. Often I think we engage in back-formation, constructing doctrine after the fact to explain our current practices to ourselves, which makes it even more complicated. Which is, I guess, my way of saying that I have no idea if current church practice on the ordination of women is doctrine or policy. I’m very far from being a scholar of church history and doctrine, and I have no doubt that others out there have more insight into this question than I do. But I really like the point you make about our gendered rhetoric of worthiness. We so often talk about how tragic it is or would be unworthy to play a role in saving our child’s life, as you so nicely put it, without considering the complicated situation of women in that respect.

  3. It appears to be doctrine and not practice. No women were ordained to the priesthood either in the OT or NT. Yes, there were some OT female prohpetesses, but you don’t need the priesthood to prophesy. And, yes, there are some ambiguous statements in the NT where some women are said to be “daikanos” of the ecclesia, which some take to mean she was a deaconess and therefore a priesthood holder, but there are non-ecclestiacal applications of the Greek term “daikanos”, which simply means “servant”. Jesus was an iconoclast who broke all the traditional rules whenever they failed to follow the Father’s will, and he didnt ordain any women to the priesthood, either in the Old World or the New World. All unequivocally men.

    That having been said, there is no reason whatseover a woman couldnt pray over or in behalf of her child and obtain a promise from the Lord and confirmation through the Holy Spirit her prayer was heard.

  4. Is the power to heal truly a priesthood ordianance? Does not D&C list the power to heal as a gift of the spirit? Are not women able to have access to any of the gifts of the spirit?

  5. D&C 46 that is.

  6. Extreme Dorito (#3),
    I’m not sure we can take the practice of not ordaining women in societies that opressed women as evidence that it is doctrine. I’m not prepared to make a claim either way, but I don’t find that evidence to be very compelling.

  7. Elisabeth says:

    Extreme Dorito – I’m open to the idea that women not holding the priesthood is a matter of doctrine, but I haven’t yet seen anything that clearly suggests that it is. I’m looking for explicit scriptural support for this (along the lines of the Eugene England example above), or a clear statement from a modern prophet that this is more than just a practice. Are you aware of any? Is there any?

    Eve – agreed. It’s a basic question – I mean, many of us assume there is a doctrinal reason for women not holding the priesthood, but I haven’t found anything specific to hang my hat on yet. To me, it still seems possible that this is simply “the way it has always been”– i.e., a practice– and that it might be possible for this practice to change in our lifetimes. (The David O. McKay book “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” describes how President McKay explicitly took the question of blacks being denied the priesthood to the Lord and was told, in effect, “not yet”. The book makes clear that this was not an isolated incident, and that Pres. McKay had asked the Lord on more than one occasion. As we all know, 20 years later, Pres. Kimball asks the same question and the answer was, in effect, “now is the time.”)

    Kaimi – thanks for your comment. I hadn’t thought that much about the women and the priesthood issue before now – I didn’t understand why they couldn’t, but I hadn’t thought much about it. Reading Geoff’s comment on Saturday morning really brought home to me the fact that women cannot participate in these specific powerful experiences of exercising priesthood power, and now I want to know whether there is explicit scriptural (“doctrinal”) support for this.

  8. Elizabeth – thanks for raising this thought provoking issue. I won’t pretend to understand the frustrations or desires of women when it comes to holding the priesthood or having the ability to exercise the priesthood. But I can relate the feelings of a priesthood holder, or at least one priesthood holder. For me, the priesthood is as much a burden and responsibility as a blessing. It is a responsibility because it puts certain requirements on me as a father in my home. It can be a burden because when I am asked to perform a blessing for someone – someone I hometeach or a neighbor or a family member – I am concerned about my own unworthiness. This is not to suggest that I have committed some serious transgresion but ultimately I am only human and I am subject to the enticings of the world and my thoughts, if not my actions, make me feel unworthy at times to perform a blessing. But ultimately I realize that I am only a conduit for God’s power and so I move forward with the hope that God will use me for his purposes despite my shortcomings. In the circumstance where a priesthood holder is not available for a blessing, it seems to me that a woman has as much right to call on God’s healing power as any man. But while we are waiting – if indeed we are waiting or anticipating the day – for women to recieve the priesthood, we should use the process currently in place – to call on priesthood holders to perform priesthood ordinances. It is certainly a blessing for the prieshood holder to do so even if it seems to be a burden in certain circumstances and so I try to be aware of the feelings of women who can’t experience that blessing. And I pray that someday we all may have the privilege of experiencing the joy of priesthood blessings, both as a giver and a receiver.

  9. As with Elisabeth, I’m open to the idea that women not being ordained to priesthood office in mortality is doctrine–meaning it won’t/shouldn’t change. But I’ve not seen anything conclusive.

    I’m aware of Dorito’s point about OT & NT practice, but I don’t think we can conclude from either of those examples that the practice from those eras _must_ be. For example, in the OT only men from the tribe of Levi could hold and exercise priesthood (and participate in temple ordinances, by the way). When Christ organized his Church in the NT, he extended the opportunity to all men to hold the priesthood (as far as we can tell).

    Was this a change in doctrine or practice? How would this be different than the question of whether women might someday in the future be ordained to priesthood office? These are the interesting questions here.

  10. Mark 16:17-18:
    17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
    18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

    The spiritual gift of healing is listed right there with the gift of tongues which has been documented as poured out among women in the church.

    The description of those who qualify for gifts is not men, not priesthood holders, not adults, not even members, just “them who believe.”

    Moroni 10:8, if taken narrowly, restricts the gifts to “men,” but the word is often used in scriptures to obviously include women. “And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.”

  11. Very good post Elisabeth. I don’t share your desire, but it’d be okay with me if you gave my baby a blessing. :)

  12. Elisabeth says:

    Thanks for all the comments so far! I look forward to an enlightening discussion.

    I want to clarify that even though I started out with the example of Geoff’s son in the hospital, this post is not about whether women have the power to heal. That issue has been discussed very well here, here and here.

    This post is about why women in the Church are not authorized to exercise any kind of priesthood power at this time.

    Thanks, annegb!

  13. Does something have to be outlined specifically in the scriptures or come from the mouth of a prophet directly to the people to be “doctrine”?

    I do not know of any clear messages from the 1P that say that women will never hold the priesthood; I only know the current teachings that they do not. Is it too far a leap to assume that teaching is “doctrinal” but we haven’t been privy to the text of the revelation? Have there been revelations that the Church at large hasn’t received, but accept as a matter of faith?

    Not bein’ a hata’, just wondering…

  14. Elisabeth, you link in comment #12 to several posts showing historical bases for women participating in the ordinances of healing. Joseph Smith gave priesthood to women by ordination. Both of these ideas are well documented in our sacred history…it is just that we no longer rember. Millions of saints have no knowledge of this reality.

    The issue of blacks in the Church was a forced issue. I too recomend the chapter in the McKay biography. This was something that was on the collective consiousness of the saints and gentiles a like. Any issues with women do not share the same institutional attention.

    Regardless of what the Lord’s design for women is, I think the best thing to do is to not forget, to tell the stories and keep them.

  15. Good post Elisabeth. One minor point, but one that underscores the faithfulness of Brother England (and thousands of others who, despite trouble with the priesthood ban, waited patiently): Joseph Fielding Smith was President of the 12 until January 1970, so Bro. England’s interview with him must have occurred before then–at least 8 and 1/2 years before the revelation in June 1978. It was five years from the publication of the Dialogue article.

  16. Elisabeth says:

    J. – thanks for the link to that excellent post. One of my thoughts in writing this is that we may not be asking the Lord the “right” questions for this policy/practice/doctrine to change (or even to fully understand the current policy/doctrine), because it seems to me that most women in the Church don’t really want to be able to exercise the priesthood and participate more fully in many Church functions, and the men don’t see a reason to push this issue.

    Now that I read over my comment, I honestly don’t know whether most women in the Church want the priesthood or want to participate fully in Church administration. No one ever talks about it with me (maybe I’m not asking the right questions). But this is a separate issue as to whether women should have the priesthood.

  17. Elisabeth says:

    Thanks, Mark B. That is a very good point.

    From what I’ve read of Brother England’s work and heard from others (I never met him), he is a shining example of a faithful member of the Church willing to tackle the thorny issues of faith and practice head on. This Dialogue article is beautifully written, and one of my favorites.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    Interesting perspective on Wilfried’s post.

    My own opinion is that not giving the priesthood to women is a culturally based practice. I think it *could* change; the question is, will it? And the answer is, not any time soon, and perhaps never.

    There are several hurdles:

    1. Although somewhat controversial, not ordaining women is still acceptable in our modern religious culture generally, most notably in Roman Catholicism. There is not the same external pressure on this issue as existed for blacks and the priesthood.

    2. There is a pretty extensive scriptural warrant for not giving women the priesthood. Although I think those practices were similarly cultrually conditioned, that is only my opinion; the tendency in the church is going to be to take such an extensive practice as documented in the scriptures as bedrock, unchangeable doctrine.

    3. The Community of Christ experience, which led to schism, is not likely to encourage any similar movement among the mountain Saints.

    4. I’m reading the SWK biography. On the blacks and the priesthood issue, he spent months in the temple, alone and after hours, praying, pouring out his heart to God, seeking his divine will in the matter. If that’s what it’s going to take, I don’t see anyone expending that kind of effort on this subject anytime soon.

  19. Queuno,
    Arguably the 1978 priesthood revelation is such a revelation.

    I think that it is instructive that any explicit limitation on who bears the priesthood thusfar has eventually been removed, with the restriction on women being a notable exception. Although, as J has noted, that restriction may not actually be there (or, at least, if it is, we don’t know what it is exactly).

  20. “There is a pretty extensive scriptural warrant for not giving women the priesthood.”

    Kevin,
    Could you point me to what you are referring to? Aside from Paul, I mean?

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    John C. (no. 20), I was referring essentially to religious practice as recounted especially in the Old Testament, as articulated by Extreme Dorito in no. 3. Lots of priesthood there, but no record of a woman being ordained to it. As I said, I think even that practice was culturally conditioned, but most Saints are going to look at that long precedent and see it as doctrine, as indeed Extreme Dorito does.

  22. Elisabeth, if women were freely and publicly able to be ordained to the priesthood but many chose not to do so — as happens now with women serving missions — I would be comfortable with that. But I wonder how many women have simply taught themselves not to want the priesthood as a way of accomodating our current reality.

  23. Kevin #21, priesthood should then only belong to members of the tribe of Levi. I call on you to immediately relinquish your personal priesthood in order to conform to Old Testament scriptural precedent…

  24. Great post Elisabeth. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  25. I don’t think the point made in #3 can be easily dismissed by saying Jesus was constrained from giving women the priesthood by the prevailing cultural norms.
    His announcement to the woman at the well, his showing himself to Mary, his treatment of the woman taken in adultry, in fact his treatment of women in general all seem to show that he wasn’t too concerned about social custom.
    I’m not arguing for or against PforW, just noting that I don’t think a cultural explaination is very convincing.

  26. Wow, thank you, everyone, for your thoughts on this. I really appreciate the comments.

    I have to leave the thread for awhile, but I wanted to share this quote with you from the same article by Eugene England, where he explains that he maintains his faith while hoping for change in the Church:

    I can rationally hope for change without in any sense implying a challenge to the authority of the Prophet, whom I sustain with all my heart, or undermining my faith in the Church as divinely directed and its doctrines as essentially true, which faith is more precious to me than life.

    “The Mormon Cross”, Dialogue, Spring 1973, Page 83

    This is how I feel, too. That we can ask these very difficult questions and maintain our faith, while rationally hoping for change.

  27. Thanks, Elisabeth, for seeing in my post the thoughts I share with you. One of these days I will post the story of how I “gave” a sister the priesthood in circumstances that warranted it in my opinion.

  28. Wilfried- thank you for dropping by! Your T&S post was excellent and so beautifully written, and I didn’t want to derail the productive discussion there by raising this issue.

    I’m looking forward to reading your next post!

  29. I again find myself looking outside the LDS community to see what happens when “liberals gain power and change things” Ignore for a moment the other arguments from the scriptures, cultural practices etc.

    First group is those that began to ordain women in the 1970′s or 1980′s

    First I look at the COC…. Schism membership decline

    Then I look to the US Anglicans…. partial Schism over this issue (where I live the local bishop leads a group of conservative bishops in opposition to the liberal national leaders) 60% membership decline

    mainstream Prot Church of Christ. 50-75% membership decline

    THEN…

    Roman catholics. membership growth
    Southern baptists membership growth.

    Which group would you like to be in?

  30. Elisabeth,

    As ever, good post.

    I just want to point out that the spiritually sweet feeling I was referring to in that comment you linked to had nothing to do with the priesthood — it had to do with my “confidence waxing strong in the presence of God” after I reviewed my personal faithfulness. In my experience, receiving a healing miracle is like receiving any other mighty miracle — we need to develop the faith to convince God to give it to us. In the case of my son the priesthood blessing was only part of a long chain of events that led to God granting a miracle.

    I want to point out that when women convince themselves that they cannot heal or that they cannot experience the sweetness of confidence in the presence of God I described they are just wrong. In most cases I think innocently so, but in some cases I wonder if the “I don’t have the priesthood so I can’t heal” position is a cop-out.

    Regarding who holds the priesthood — I suppose that if enough people wanted to change the policy of this organization we could use our standing appointment with the Owner and convince him to send the policy change down to management, right?

  31. bbell – I’d like to be in the group that belongs to the true Church of God, whether they ordain men, women or cats to the priesthood. Whether numbers are up or down carries little relevance to me compared with the question of whether this is where Heavenly Father wants me to be.

  32. bbell, all the cool kids are doing it…don’t you want to be a cool kid?

    I was hoping that by linking to that article in comment #14, I would perhaps leave the dialogue open for people with perspectives such as yours.

    If you believe that women should never have the priesthood, that is fine, but please recognize that there is a significant tradition in Mormonism with women and the priesthood.

    I don’t know the mind of the Lord on this issue.

  33. For example, in the OT only men from the tribe of Levi could hold and exercise priesthood (and participate in temple ordinances, by the way).

    The Levite monopoloy on priesthood is widely held to be an exilic addition, ie. it was probably not in effect for much of the time the Israelites actually had a shrine. Isa. 66:20-21 explicitly says that non-Israelites would at some point be made into priests and Levites (!). Temple ordinances include sacrificial covenant making (as in Exodus 24) and those were open and available to every Israelite when they sacrificed at the Tabernacle/Temple. Indeed, they were ALL a part of it (Deu 5:3).

    As to priesthood, I think the problem is one of definition . Does someone 1) receive the priesthood when they turn 12 and are ordained a deacon? 2)When they are ordained a priest? 3)When they follow the Biblical precedant priestly initation by being washed, anointed, clothed and hand-filled ?

    As for #1 & #2, D&C 107:5 explicitly says that priesthood offices (and prophet/prophetess is not a priesthood office) are separate and distinct from priesthood itself.

    As for #3, Todd Compton walked through the biblical data in a Dialogue article, and pointed out that by that definition, we have ordained women to the priesthood. Just not to office. If LDS receive the priesthood in #1, then does the initation of #3 result only in a degree of difference, not kind? Or does it apply differently to men and women, since men are explicitly ordained first?

    Just some thoughts…

    The Compton article- “”Kingdom of Priests”: Priesthood, Temple, and Women in the Old Testament” Dialogue 36:3 Fall 2003.

  34. http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110007439

    Here is the Wall Streeet Journals opinion piece somewhat on topic. Of course they have not noticed our recent slow down in growth.

    I also want to belong to Gods Church. Its pretty clear that if we do in fact belong to that church which I believe we do then women are not supposed to be ordained.

  35. bbell (#34) “Its pretty clear that if we do in fact belong to that church which I believe we do then women are not supposed to be ordained.”

    The whole point of this thread is to talk about whether this is true. I respect that this is your conclusion, and wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were true, but what we’re talking about here is the justification/authority/rationale by which we reach this conclusion. Do you have one for your conclusion?

  36. Didn’t Eugene England also write about a scriptural and historical basis for women exercising the priesthood? I recall reading an essay of his entitled “Blessing the Chevrolet” on that issue but I cannot find it online.

    He was truly one of the Church’s most enlightened thinkers.

  37. Travis,

    I was raised in a pioneer family where my parents were aware of the history of women giving blessings and my mom would often lay her hands on our heads as children while Dad gave a blessing. Once I asked her why if women did not hold the priesthood she did this while in HS. She responded to me that its not so simple and this was a common practice thru our family history. I accepted this at face value when she said this.

    Its clear to me that the scriptural canon does not support female ordination to official priesthood office. IE bishop, Elder ETC.

  38. In my humble and naive opinion I believe that if women received the priesthood most men in the church would never get off the couch on Sundays. Since they have this vital key it causes them to step up to the plate and do their duty.

    I worry that if women received the priesthood our burden of responsibilty would be too heavy.

    Sorry if this offends.

    Very thought provoking Elisabeth.

  39. “the scriptural canon does not support female ordination”

    bbell, you have it backwards. In our religion, we presume that things are permitted unless God tells us otherwise. You are misapplying the scriptures by starting with the presumption that they serve to carve out all permissible acts.

    Further, it’s unclear why you cite priesthood offices of Bishop and Elder. It seems you were attempting to show that women may not be made a bishop or an elder, but you did not do so.

  40. Elisabeth — Thank you very much for these thoughtful questions. My oldest son turns 12 in about 6 weeks, and as we are focusing fairly intently on priesthood preparation, my own feelings are tender.

    One of my own questions which springs from your essay, is where does one look for such doctrine. It seems the OT does not give us a complete picture. Despite the fact that many of our Mormon institutions are/were patterned after the OT — prophet, priesthood, temple, polygamy. However, priestly duties were mainly associated with temple ritual — sanctification, purification and prayer. The New Testament seems to offer a more expanded definition of priesthood (ie. 1 Peter 2:5,9).

    It would seem that in the Compton article that Ben cites,that the concept of priesthood found in the Old Testament contains aspects of the Mormon doctrine and practice of priesthood, but not the totality. While we often see Mormonism as a restoration of all things, I think in many ways it goes further than just restoring practices or doctrine from earlier, say OT/NT times. Compton maintains that “Joseph Smith, thus, introduced women into temple ritiual—a revolutionary action, given the Old Testament’s complete ban on women entering the temple. However, this action also has significant implications with regard to priesthood, for we have seen that entrance into the temple and service therein inescapably defines the central aspect of priesthood in the Old Testament.”

    I wonder if the key to women and priesthood lies then in the Doctrine and Covenants, although I find the language sometimes confusing “men” are sometimes specificallyh men and sometimes women and men. In classes we are happy to extend the injunction to priesthood holders in Section 121 , to women but not other sections on priesthood, like Section 84?

    I’m not convinced that Joseph intended to extended priesthood office to women, but think he intended them to have priesthood authority.

    Hope that is not too rambly :)

  41. Elisabeth, I haven’t had the time to read through the comments yet — but I was able to read the post. Thank you so much for sharing that quote about Eugene England’s experience with President Smith. That was a really fascinating read!

    I still need some time to think about the implications of this for our beliefs regarding women and the priesthood. Personally though, if there was a change in church policy in the matter, I could support it.

  42. My question is what does the phrase “blessings of the Priesthood” really mean? We’re told that women are entitled to all the blessings of the Priesthood. Is being able to excercise Priesthood authority a blessing of the priesthood?

    Here is something else. Not allowing black men to hold the priestood prevented them from entering the Temple. (One could argue that a black woman could marry a white man and then be able to enter the temple, but given the attitudes about interracial marriage at the time, denying black men the priesthood effectively prevented all black people from entering the temple.) Not allowing women to hold the priesthood does not prevent us from entering the temple, and we are theoretically given all the same blessings in the Temple that men are.

    As I understand it the Priesthood is the authority/power to act on behalf of Heavenly Father on the earth. Does this mean that holding the priesthood will be a moot point in the hereafter?

    Lastly my biggest question isn’t unlike Mr. England’s. “Can I still be a righteous woman and want to hold the priesthood at the same time?”

  43. Oh, and here is something else. For an idea about how holding the priesthood can alter the way one views the church, and their place in it, look through the first lesson in the Young Women manual, and compare it to the first lesson in the Aaronic Priesthood manual.

  44. I believe that men, women, and children exercise priesthood authority whenever they pray in the name of Christ, whether or not they are endowed. I think the prohibition is specific to ordination and office. That does not limit the exercise of spiritual gifts or the doing of righteousness in the name of Christ.

  45. Just a quick note for Extreme Dorito et al.: We don’t really have much of a record of men’s ordination in the OT, either–what we have are records of them acting in ways that we now require priesthood for. That being the case, the examples of Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah are pretty hard to dismiss as prophetesses, meaning simply women who had the spirit of prophecy. Miriam appears to have been very much a counselor to Moses (to be anachronistic about it); Deborah led the armies of Israel in battle (as Joseph Smith commanded the Nauvoo Legion); Huldah provided *official* interpretation of scripture, including the phrase “thus saith the Lord” which is often taken as a marker of speech by a (big P) Prophet. The scriptural record is certainly not as clear as proponents of female ordination would like to make it, either. The point is, it’s ambiguous and incomplete, and an argument from the textual record is ultimately unsatisfying.

    Modern revelation is also frustratingly unclear–temple practices suggest some level of priesthood participation for women; JS included them in the Council of Fifty (which some argue was at least as important a governing body in the Nauvoo period as the High Council). There was at least one early Utah Relief Society that organized itself into quorums of priestesses, teachers, and deaconesses, apparently with no intent to be iconoclastic. The exercise of healing gifts by blessings also has a complicated and ambiguous history, which has been alluded to here.

    The notion that denial of priesthood office for women is somehow doctrinal because that’s the way it has always been is flawed in two ways: 1)deriving doctrine after the fact to justify practice is logically ridiculous and has had very bad historical results (Rodney Turner, anyone?), and 2) it hasn’t always been the way it has always been.

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    JNS (no. 23), you misunderstand me. I personally am all for giving women the priesthood. I was simply articulating commonly perceived stumblingblocks to that happening. Whether it is correct or not, the common perception in the Church is that there is no scriptural precedent for extending the priesthood to women, and that is going to make it a more difficult thing to accomplish.

  47. A non Imus says:

    # 38 -

    In my humble and naive opinion I believe that if women received the priesthood most men in the church would never get off the couch on Sundays. Since they have this vital key it causes them to step up to the plate and do their duty.

    Sister McPrude! Welcome back! But why are you posting under the pseudonym of Kristen J?

  48. Um, I don’t want to get too specific here, but I’ve been to the temple, and had priesthood ordinances given to me by women.

    I’m pretty darn sure they had the right to do it.

  49. Kristine: JS included them in the Council of Fifty (which some argue was at least as important a governing body in the Nauvoo period as the High Council)

    I happen to be researching the Council of 50 at the moment and have not seen evidence for this. Would you be so kind as to offer any references?

  50. A non Imus (#47),

    Bite me.

    Sincerely,
    Brother McPrude

  51. J. Stapley #49, in all the lists I’ve ever seen of Council of Fifty members, only men are included. (Since there were slightly more than 50 men in the council at the time of Joseph Smith’s death, I’m pretty sure the lists are complete.) My guess is that Kristine was actually referring to the Quorum of the Anointed — which certainly did take precedence over the groups we now think of as priesthood church government, and which did include women. Kristine, am I right on this reading?

  52. J., and J., you are both correct. I did confuse Council of 50 & the Quorum of the Anointed. It’s an interesting confusion, though–my feeling has always been that Joseph hadn’t quite figured out how the women fit into the picture (the organization of the RS is another very ambiguous historical reference point) and was becoming more inclusive towards the end of his life. My sense is that Brigham just reverted to what seemed safe and comfortable–pushing the boundaries of social convention with polygamy caused more than enough conflict for the Saints, without radical inclusiveness of blacks or women.

  53. The location for the Todd Compton article Ben S. referred to in #33 is: “Kingdom of Priests”: Priesthood, Temple, and Women in the Old Testament and in the Restoration, Dialogue, Vol 36:3 3, Fall 2003.

    The article describes the role of priests and “priesthood” in the Old Testament, and suggests Joseph Smith’s extension of portions of that role to women (entering the temple, receiving and giving washings/annointings, ordaining Emma “to the highest and holiest order of the priesthood.”etc.) means that from an O.T. viewpoint, Mormon women are significant participants in a “priesthood.”

  54. “In my humble and naive opinion I believe that if women received the priesthood most men in the church would never get off the couch on Sundays. Since they have this vital key it causes them to step up to the plate and do their duty.”

    This seems to be a popular conception, which in my experience is way off the mark.

  55. Well done, Elizabeth.

  56. Elisabeth,

    Offhand, I don’t know what scriptures reference female priesthood or lack thereof. As already mentioned, a huge problem is that “men” was often used in an inclusive fashion before this century. Fortunately, we have some pretty specific canonical scripture on priesthood specifying that it is just for worthy male members.

    Is that what you were looking for? Or would you prefer something really old?

  57. Frank,

    how does that reference address the question of whether another announcement will dictate that every worthy woman may hold the priesthood and its offices? It essentially says that “all men may now hold the priesthood”, and while it’s a given that women are currently excluded from that declaration, it doesn’t say that will always be the case.

  58. Come on Frank, even an economist can see that OD2 doesn’t say that priesthood could never be extended to women. :) It simply states that the priesthood can be extended to all worthy males. This could reasonably be read as a simple statement of what the Lord’s will was as of 6/8/73 and not any kind of statement about the future.

  59. Frank, that’s pretty tenuous support for the conclusion that women can’t hold the priesthood. You’re making a similar error as bbell (see my comment 39).

  60. …but I see that others are capable of pointing out the same. Something tells me you knew that was shaky ground when you posted it.

  61. I did not say that women can never hold the priesthood. I don’t think that is a tenable position as it is entirely up to God!

    I am just talking about whether there is a scriptural basis for women not currently holding the priesthood. And there is.

  62. Frank, the point is that scripture doesn’t say that women cannot hold the priesthood, nor is it a basis for women not currently holding the priesthood. Again, that scripture does not exclude women, nor is it meant to establish the entire domain to whom the priesthood may be given — it’s simply a clarification that race is no longer a criterion.

  63. Actually Anon, I think I pretty much nailed your comment in 39. You said that things are allowed unless said otherwise, and I showed that there is a specific statement restricting current priesthood to men. Hence, we would need a specific revelation to reverse it (which, as I vaguely recall, was the gist of President Hinckley’s comment to Larry King years ago).

    Then you said that bbell had not shown scripturally that “women may not be made a bishop or an elder”. But clearly OD-2 implies that, so there is your scriptural support.

  64. I would say that those that think the scriptures allow or a future revelation granting ordination to women are grasping at straws or tilting at windmills.

    OD2 clearly states that priesthood ordination clearly is for men.

  65. No, Anon, read the statement.

    “Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.”

    There are three restrictions– worthy, male, and member. Male is couched very nicely between two other very obvious restrictions and is stated very explicitly. You could claim that “may” need not be excluxive, but clearly worthy and member are both exclusive, so the non-strained interpretation is that male is also exclusive.

  66. My biggest concern is this. Recent scholarship has made the argument that our leaders simply didn’t ask about extending priesthood to people of African descent until the 1970s. They passively waited for a revelation. When President Kimball asked, the revelation quickly came. This is obviously in keeping with our understanding of revelation — that it comes in response to our efforts.

    So are our leaders asking about giving women the priesthood? Or are they passively waiting for a revelation? A clarification on this point may well put my mind at ease.

  67. RT,

    They are doing neither in my view. My understanding on OD2 is that the asking for a lifting of the ban started in the early 1950′s

  68. Frank -

    “I am just talking about whether there is a scriptural basis for women not currently holding the priesthood. And there is.”

    If by “scriptural basis” you mean that the church DOES NOT extend the priesthood to women, then you’re making a point we all agreed with . If by “scriptural basis” you mean that the Church CANNOT or WILL NOT extend priesthood to women this is just not supported by the text of OD2.

    I actually don’t have a problem with your comments/interpretations in #63 and #65. But that just brings us back to where Elisabeth started this thread. Given #63 and #65 as a starting point, what authority is there for the proposition that the status quo _cannot_ change?

    OD2 tells us where we are at, but nothing about where we might go. This is the question we’re exploring with this thread.

  69. JNS,

    2 points:

    1. Did McKay not pray about it? I was under the impression that he prayed about it extensively. Maybe one of the biography readers can clear that up.

    2. It is not clear that revelation is principally a function of the prophet of the time. I would suggest that revelation is principally a function of what _the people_ are ready for. Thus Mormon and Moroni were constrained because of the people, and so forth. When the people are ready, God probably can make sure that the prophet is too. Certainly he has much more influence on, and connection to, the prophet than the people at large.

  70. “In my humble and naive opinion I believe that if women received the priesthood most men in the church would never get off the couch on Sundays. Since they have this vital key it causes them to step up to the plate and do their duty.”

    This seems to be a popular conception, which in my experience is way off the mark.

    finn, while I woudld agree that the quoted statement is probalby a bit of exaggeration, I’d stop short of calling it “way off the mark.” Anecdotally, and in my experience, the women in the church do a better job in the callings they have than the men. Visiting teaching rates are typically somewhat higher for the sisters than home teaching is for the brethren. Preparation for Relief Society lessons extends to bringing a tablecloth and topic-appropriate table setting. Preparation for Elders Quorum meetings often involves setting a chair up in the front of class and cracking open the manual.

    Now, there could be reasons for these disparites (and, of course, anecdotal evidence is always of limited value), but I think the statement offered above doesn’t seem off the mark to me and, in fact, seems intuitively appealing.

  71. Travis,

    I think what that scripture shows is that this is not just a “policy” like having Sunbeams be age 3. It is in the canon. So it will take more canonical scripture to change it.

    And actually, I disagree that everyone agrees that currently not ordaining women is scripturally based. I have not found that to be the case (but I hope you are right).

  72. Frank, the evidence is clear that McKay was the first person who may have prayed about the issue — up until his presidency, nobody else evidently even did that. There are three different second-hand reports that McKay said he had prayed about the policy and had been told not to ask the Lord again. So McKay may be the one exception to my statement — but nobody before him, and after him nobody but Kimball, has left any record of ever having asked to get the priesthood ban changed.

    Note also that the racial priesthood ban had scriptural support in the Book of Abraham. So there’s precedent for inclusivity overriding even canonized scripture — once we ask.

  73. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that women are excluded from the priesthood because of male weakness (the “men wouldn’t do their duty if women were ordained” argument.) I find that just as sexist and problematic as the argument that the situation is a result of some inherent female weakness.

    I don’t disagree with the point that it would take revelation to change the current situation. I don’t, however, see any doctrinal reason why such a revelation couldn’t be possible, and that seems to me to be the point of this thread (as opposed to the question of whether the scripture we currently have supports the possibility). In other words, I doubt anyone is expecting a revelation rejecting the divinity of Christ, as that would contradict very basic church teaching. But I don’t see a similar obstacle when it comes to the potential ordination of women.

    On the question of women wanting or not wanting the priesthood–I wonder why we don’t often stop to ask the men whether or not they really want such a serious responsibility. What if the priesthood were simply available to all members, without anyone being required to take it on?

    Thanks for a powerful post, Elisabeth.

  74. Julie M. Smith says:

    “Recent scholarship has made the argument that our leaders simply didn’t ask about extending priesthood to people of African descent until the 1970s. They passively waited for a revelation. When President Kimball asked, the revelation quickly came.”

    Not true. The new McKay bio has Pres. McKay praying– alot–about this issue during his time as Pres. He _really_ wanted to lift the ban but felt that the answer was ‘not now.’ There is some evidence of Pres. Lee praying about the same thing.

  75. So…. McKay was told no in the 50′s. That seems remarkably important. And I guess I don’t find the argument from silence about other leaders as compelling when Church records are not very open to perusal (nor are prayers). God can tell the prophet what to pray about, if it is what God wants done, right?

    As for the Abraham support for the priesthood ban, I hear ya, but I was under the impression that lefty types don’t agree. Regardless, I will again reiterate again what I said above. :) I am not claiming that God could not change the rule. I am saying that it appears it would take a canonized revelation to do that, because we have a recent canonized statement that specifies who can be ordained and women are not in the group.

  76. Elisabeth says:

    A few responses to some of the comments thus far (thanks, everyone, for participating!):

    Kristen – I’m not offended at all, and I think you may be right about the effects of officially extending the priesthood to women. However, I’d hate for the justification to be for denying women the priesthood that men are lazy. Kick Geoff off the couch!

    Kris – thank you for your careful (non-rambly) thoughts on this. I’ll read those passages in the D&C you mention and follow up with you.

    Andermom- I think the answer to your question about wanting to hold the priesthood is yes.

    The Wiz – As I said in my original post, women in the temple arguably do exercise priesthood authority. However, one temple worker was quick to point out recently to a close member of my family (who asked about this same issue) that women in the temple do not in fact “hold” the priesthood. They just “exercise” it (yes, confusing). In any event, my post was to ask why women outside the temple aren’t officially ordained to priesthood office.

    BBell and Frank – I understand your point, I do. But as others have said, just stating the current tradition/policy/doctrine/practice of the Church does not explain why women are not currently officially allowed to exercise the priesthood, or why this cannot change in the near future.

  77. Elisabeth,

    There are lots of things in the Gospel that we do not currently understand. I happily add this one to the list. I think the current position could get changed just like counsel on polygamy has changed. Or it could stay the same forever. It is up to God.

  78. Frank: “I happily add this one to the list…[it] could get changed…Or it could stay the same forever.”

    using the bbell technique of reading between the lines: “sure, honey, things could change, someday. Now where’s dinner?”

  79. Elisabeth says:

    Anon #79 – funny comment, but way too snotty. No more snarky comments, please.

  80. Anon, your comments are not contributing anything to the conversation.

  81. BTD Greg #71: I’m not sure how sisters performing better in there callings is evidence that if men didn’t have the priesthood they wouldn’t be at church on Sundays. I think the majority of men I know in my ward are not at church on Sunday due to some perceived priesthood duty. In fact I know a few who turn up to sacrament meeting, where holding the priesthood is not required, and skip out on elders quorum mtgs. Seems to me these men would be fairly happy to attend church without any priesthood responsibilities.

  82. What the?! Someone with Admin powers is having too much fun here. I looked up at comment #80 and seriously thought I was tripping.

  83. Elisabeth says:

    Sorry, Eric – we had a brief security breach, but everything is back to normal now.

  84. Finn,

    Are you basing your experiences on the LDS church where they do allow women to hold the priesthood?
    I can probably come up with as many examples of men with their butts on the couch as you can of men attending 3 sacraments every Sunday just for the sheer joy of it.

    I know that my theory is not a shiny, happy reason why women don’t hold the priesthood but I do think we are human and our Heavenly Father wants us to succeed and may put restrictions that we may not like in place so that success will be easier to achieve.

    A Non Imus #47- What Bro McPrude said!

  85. kristen j, the examples of men with their butts on the couch are not relevant to the argument as the priesthood is not positively affecting their activity. What you need to come up with are examples of men who are active but wouldn’t be if women held the priesthood. I grant there may be a few but I don’t buy into the idea that that descibes most lds males as you assert in #39.

  86. OK, I only read the original post and ignored the following discussion, but I was thinking …

    We know that current church doctrine states that the man “presides in the home” in the Priesthood scheme of things. We also have heard, from Dallin H. Oaks most recently, and elsewhere, that mother “presides” in the home when dad’s not around. I assume “preside” means preside in the Priesthood. Let me know if I’m off-base.

    What’s stopping the husband from delegating authority to use the Priesthood in the home to his wife?

    And how far would something like that go?

  87. Seth, I don’t think you’re off base on the presiding part (whatever that means), but as far as administering to the sick, you actually need to be ordained to be an elder, and that can only be done with permission of the stake president and a sustaining vote.

    And how far would something like that go?

    It would go about as long as it takes the SP to convene a disciplinary council.

  88. (N.B. Men “preside” in the home, but husbands and wives have an “equal partnership.” Something about the current state of our language screams “cultural transition” to me.)

  89. I don’t know Mark,

    I don’t disagree with your statements. I’m just not sure they address what I was getting at. Hard to put into words though.

  90. Security breach, huh? Interesting. Must have been a genius.

  91. Julie M. Smith says:

    “What’s stopping the husband from delegating authority to use the Priesthood in the home to his wife?”

    I imagine it depends on the situation. I know a couple where the husband delegates the responsibility to select someone to say prayers to his wife in alternate years. Not my cup of joe, but whatever works for them.

    “(N.B. Men “preside” in the home, but husbands and wives have an “equal partnership.” Something about the current state of our language screams “cultural transition” to me.)”

    I think there is another reasonable reading of this: I believe that the partnership language clarifies what ‘preside’ means in the home, and it is an entirely different animal than the popular definition.

  92. I believe that most of the pain felt in the example given by Wilfried was that when this man couldn’t give the blessing, the reason lay within himself. It was a power he could have had, and previously did have, and he gave it up willingly when he committed egregious sin.

    This is completely different than just feeling helpless when your child is sick. This is knowing that you could have been able to help your child, but you gave up that ability for something carnal and worldly. Far more painful, IMO.

  93. Porter,

    You can find “Blessing the Chevrolet” on page 57 of Dialogue, Volume 9, Issue 3 at content.lib.utah.edu.

  94. Well, I thought that this post was great. Alas, I may be too late to comment on it much. I had to teach yesterday, and then was (temporarily) displaced from my office as they fixed stuff around here. Now it’s 95 comments later, and it looks like J. and Kris-squared and Travis and E. have already said all the things that I was thinking about.

    Some of the more interesting statements thus far:

    Travis (#69): “OD2 tells us where we are at, but nothing about where we might go. This is the question we’re exploring with this thread.”

    Exactly right. It’s hard to say where the priesthood will go in the future. There is the McConkie statement made after OD-2, to the effect of “ignore everything I said previously.” It seems _entirely_ possible that the same could happen with women.

    Kris (#41): “I’m not convinced that Joseph intended to extended priesthood office to women, but think he intended them to have priesthood authority.”

    I like this statement, and Kristine’s comments about ordination. A look at the records suggests that women _have_ in the past exercised healing powers. (Take a look at Pearson’s book for some examples). Whether these should be viewed as coming under the aegis of “Priesthood” or whether they are simply an exercise of the power of God is not entirely clear. Nonetheless, it seems clear that some acts that we tend usually to associate with priesthood power — such as healing — can at times be performed by women.

  95. J. Nelson-Seawright, I completely agree!

  96. Rosalynde says:

    The question is not a new one. When Mary I and then Elizabeth I acceded to the English throne, vigorous debate on the propriety and extent of women’s ecclesiastical rule ensued, because the English monarch was by then the “Supreme Head” of the Church of England. As it turned out, Elizabeth was designated “Supreme Governor” of the church, rather than “Supreme Head,” precisely because of what her early modern counterparts understood to be definitive scriptural pronouncements against women’s rule.

    Women were complicated creatures, personae mixta comprising a kind of essential doubleness. As one of God’s creatures, woman was conceived as equal to man according to her creation in Genesis 1, because there both are formed in the image of the deity. This guaranteed that she was the spiritual equal of man, that she was as worth of salvation as he was. But in the hierarchy of creation established by God and specifically described in Genesis 2 and 3, she was created and designated as subordinate to man, and these events determined her inferior position in human society. It was this deivinly instituted condition of social subordination that a woman leader, exercising authority over men and conceivably over a husband, obviously violated.

    The creation account was the foundational scriptural warrant for the gender-based allocation of ecclesiastical power, but other texts supplemented, notably 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians, and Deuteronomy 18.

    LDS prophets have begun a radical reinterpretation of the foundational scriptural warrant for the gender-based allocation of power (that is, the creation and fall stories), but we have not seen structural implications for this reinterpretation.

  97. Rosalynde, how is the Elizabethan description of Woman as per your 2nd paragraph different from the popular LDS conception?

  98. Rosalynde writes,

    “It was this deivinly instituted condition . . .”

    “guaranteed that she was the spiritual equal of man, that she was as worth of salvation as he was.”

    That’s three. :P

  99. Elisabeth says:

    LDS prophets have begun a radical reinterpretation of the foundational scriptural warrant for the gender-based allocation of power (that is, the creation and fall stories), but we have not seen structural implications for this reinterpretation.

    Hi, Rosalynde: it seems to me that the question you are addressing in your comment is not the question we have been discussing in this thread. That said, it would be great if you could explain the quote above (particularly the “radical intepretation” part) – I think you’re onto something there, but you lost me.

  100. Elisabeth,

    A request. I’ve seen a lot of posts that discuss this issue and derivations thereof–but one discussion that I personally would like to see is that of the difference between priesthood authority and office/administration. It seems to me that they are somewhat seperate and people may feel that priesthood authority (right to formally heal, bless by laying on of hands) will/should be given to women, but that women should not be in priesthood office (bishop, stake president, etc).

    On the other hand, I often wonder if certain administration offices that are currently deemed “priesthood” could be extended to women without ordaining them to the priesthood (ward clerk, ss president, etc). There are stories of small branches having acting female clerks, etc, but I mean a widespread policy.

    Which one would be more likely to happen first, why, or would they both happen at the same time (or within reasonable timeframes)?

    Anyway, the next time you consider posting on women and the priesthood, could you address this issue? (you’d probably do it it in a much more articulate way that I can)

  101. Aspen: Thanks for your request! You raise interesting questions – about the bifurcation of office and power – I’ve thought a lot about. I’ll see if I can put something reasonably coherent together in the next day or two to respond to this, and to the other relevant issues raised in this discussion. Thanks for reading :)

  102. I was actually studying to become a pastor in another church when I converted. The funny thing was, during my investigation, no one even thought to tell me that only men could hold the priesthood. It was about a week after my baptism when I made a comment along the lines of, “I think I’d like to be a mission president someday,” and was told that I can’t. When I asked why, I got the news. I was, undoubtedly taken aback, but I got over it.

    Suffice it to say that the idea of women and the priesthood has been of interest to me, particularly as that question plays out in light of the temple ordinances. I have to say, though, that I do take it for doctrine that it is not for women to hold the priesthood in and of temselves individually.

    (Note: personal interpretation, a.k.a. doctrine according to Naiah follows…)

    At this stage in my ever-developing understanding of the gospel, I see the priesthood as something that does encompass both sexes, but that men are the keepers of it until marriage. Man and woman together, form a single unit, a unit bound by the priesthood. The guys simply steward it for their wife (future wife for the unmarried). Now, this is not to say that I feel that any married woman (sealed) has carte blanche to lay claim to priesthood authority through her husband, but we all know about a “prayer of faith” and how that can be given by virtue of the bond between husband and wife with the priesthood.

    So, I guess that’s my garbled way of saying that the priesthood is not just for men, but neither are women excluded from it, and so, I would see no reason to change the stewardship of the priesthood to encompass female ordinations.

  103. Rosalynde says:

    Kaimi, your expensive legal education didn’t teach you the fine distinction between spelling error and mere spelling transgression? Spelling error is malum in cerebrum, spelling transgression is merely malum in fingerum. The, uh, orthographic inconsistencies you point out are clearly the latter—and thus I’m still on my way to spelling heaven.

    Elisabeth, I wouldn’t put it past me these days to read an entire thread and still get things wrong… forgive me if I misunderstood the purpose of the post. I thought you were inquiring in part about canonized scripture that justifies withholding priesthood office from women, and I answered by pointing to the passages that other religious bodies have cited in response to similar inquiries.

    What I was getting at in the final paragraph is the recent official rehabilitation of Eve—that she made a noble and wise choice, rather than a disastrous sin, and so forth—and the accomapnying softening of language about Adam’s “ruling” and “presiding” over Eve—that Adam really doesn’t, and that presiding really isn’t, etc. Thus while we’ve reinterpreted the scripture, we haven’t changed the ecclesiastical structure that the scripture warranted. (There has, of course, been a significant re-working of family structure—all the confusion about presiding and equal partners, and so forth—such that in practice LDS family and ecclesiastical structures scarcely resemble each other, even though both are presumably based on the same scriptural warrant. This is a major difference from the early modern situation, in which the divinely-ordained hierarchies of family, church and state were understood to be cognate in form and meaning.)

  104. Rosalynde says:

    Anon (#98): The popular understandings of Elizabethan and LDS womanhood are quite different, I think: in Elizabethan England, masculinity bore the weight of most gender ideology, with femininity simply filling in the negative space as the “weaker vessel.” In popular LDS culture, in contrast, it seems to me that femininity is vastly more ideologically theorized than masculinity—and that theorizing tends to be a lot more positive, I think.

    However, the essential doubleness encoded in the accounts of the creation and fall—in which Eve is both Adam’s spiritual equal and his inferior—is still active in LDS structural treatments of gender, I think, as we see quite clearly in the “equal partners”/”fathers preside” language in the Proclamation, for example.

  105. Elisabeth says:

    Rosalynde – thanks for the clarification, that actually does make sense, and is very relevant to the discussion – particularly as it relates to the common practice of differentiating the same job by giving it a different name, depending on whether it is performed by women or by men (typically the more prestigious name (and higher pay) going to the job when it is held by a man).

    And, per Kaimi’s observation, I can’t help but wonder if you’re goading us now with your malum in fingerum justification for your very uncharacteristic typos. “accomapnying”? ;)

  106. Elisabeth says:

    Naiah- thanks for your thoughtful comment – I would be interested in hearing more about your experiences joining the LDS Church.

    To follow up with the substance of your comment – women ARE currently excluded from officially holding the priesthood because of their gender. I don’t understand how her husband holding the priesthood gives a woman the authority to exercise the priesthood – is this what you’re saying? Are you saying that women do exercise the priesthood, even though they aren’t officially ordained?

  107. I agree with Elisabeth that I do not see an eternal ban of women holding the priesthood in our scripture; maybe it is just a practice, or maybe it is just the right way for now.

    I am sure many men would not have a problem with women also holding the priesthood, but I do think a lot of men would have a problem serving “under” a woman in a leadership position.

    If ever the priesthood was extended to women, it seems it should not be conditional (well, I guess you can HAVE it but you sure can’t USE it to lead me!)

    Personally, I think many women already have and exercise the gifts of the spirit more naturally than some men with the priesthood, and I sure don’t need any more to do!

    But, if we got the priesthood, does that mean we could combine for priesthood meeting? Surely we could then cancel Sunday School.

  108. Rosalynde,

    I agree with your point that the LDS formulation is light-years ahead of Elizabethan standard (however, it still seemes to be some distance behind Elisabethan ideals!).

    Particularly intriguing is your suggestion that the theology of gender may have changed, but that the trickle down to ecclesiatical structure has not yet followed — and thus, that we are living in an ecclesiastical framework that is based on now-outdated theological ideas. It’s a great idea, though I’ll admit that I’m skeptical. Many radical changes in applied theology — such as the essentially complete reversal on slavery — seem to have worked their way down the chain quite handily. Why then would changes to ideas on gender fail to do the same?

    Oh, and on our side topic: It boggles the mind to imagine how dangerous you would be, Rosalynde, if you were ever to attend law school. ;)

  109. Spanish Prisoner says:

    Whose Prayer is Answered? The Story of the Good Samaritan Revisted..

    Let’s assume a hypothetical example. A driver of a car gets in a bad accident, and one of the passengers, a little child, is gravely injured and close to death. The driver is waiting for an ambulence to arrive and dramatically implores God’s assistance by -

    Scenerio #1 – The driver is a rightous LDS women who faithfully calls down the powers of heaven to intervene and save her child until help arrives.

    Scenerio #2 – A mediocre LDS priesthood holder with mediocre faith and worthiness applies oil and gives a blessing to the child.

    Scenerio #3 – A non-LDS person with equal faith and worthiness of scenerio #1 prayerfully calls on the powers of Heaven to intervene and save her child.

    Which of the 3 scenerios (if any) will have the most impact from a divine intervention standpoint and why?

  110. Spanish Prisoner, I was just about to ask a similar question.
    It’s my understanding that the Priesthood Power is the very power and authority by which our Father in Heaven works. Forgive my ignorance on the subject, but I still don’t understand the difference between a priesthood holder exercising his authority (aside from performaning actual ordinances such as baptism, sealing, etc), and a prayer that calls upon our Heavenly Father to intervene with HIS priesthood power. I was going to give an example using a single woman seeking God’s priesthood power to heal or cast out devils, etc., and ask how that was different from an elder healing someone, but Spanish Pris. did an excellent job of this in the above scenarios!!

  111. My understanding is that the ‘calling upon the powers of heaven’ is what the priesthood does. Without the priesthood I am only authorized to *request* that the powers of heaven intercede.
    The best way for me to explain what I understand the difference to be is this:I can go into a restaurant and ask for a glass of water. I have no money but they might (and probably will) give it to me just the same. Someone with money could go in and order a glass of water, and he will almost certainly get one. Its the same water, but the way the water is requested changes everything. Having the priesthood makes a difference in the prayer, the same way having money makes a difference in the request for water. The outcome is very probably the same, but the request is fundamentally different.

  112. Andermom, that’s really a terrible analogy. Whether you have been ordained to the priesthood or not, you cannot demand blessings. They do not come by compulsory means. Even with the priesthood, you are only authorized to “request” the powers of heaven to intercede. Just throw that Grant Von Harrison book in the trash.

    The priesthood bestows the right to officiate in ordinances and in the administration of the Church on Earth. That’s its central purpose. You’re mistaken if you think that the priesthood entitles the bearer to a more direct link to heaven or a greater right to restore blessings.

  113. I had always thought as Andermom did, that the priesthood is authority and the Lord will honor a request made by a PH if the request is righteous. But this discussion has made me look in a different light – perhaps the authority to act in His name is limited to ordinances – and that when in comes to petitions, the Lord will honor faith and righteous, regardless of priesthood standing. JS said the worlds were created by faith – a pretty powerful tool.

  114. There is also Joseph’s account of Melchizedeck, one which greatly influeced Joseph’s Priesthood theology and the fullness thereof:

    30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;

    31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.

    Notice by what qualification this power is had.

  115. Forgive me if I’m being obtuse, but if Andermom is incorrect and the priesthood is no more efficacious than the righteous prayer of faith, why do we have things like priesthood blessing–why don’t people simply pray for each other?

  116. Whether you have been ordained to the priesthood or not, you cannot demand blessings.

    Keep in mind that both people are asking for water, and neither can be absolutely certain that they will get it. The first person is asking with hope, the second person is asking with expectation. The restaurant reserves the right to refuse service to anyone. The person with money isn’t demanding water any more than priesthood holders demand blessings.
    And I have no idea who Grant Von Harrison is.

  117. Julie in Austin says:

    Rosalynde writes, “the recent official rehabilitation of Eve—that she made a noble and wise choice”

    Recent? There’s a whole spate of BY, JFS, JT, et al quotes to this effect.

    And, re #105, maybe you could explain why presiding and inferiority are necessarily linked; you aren’t the first person I’ve heard make this claim, but I still don’t get it.

  118. Elisabeth

    This comment only reflect the original post. Unfortunately I don’t possess the will power to struggle through 118 comments.

    I have thought of this possibility many times and more frequently recently. As many may agree, raising a question of role of women in chuch/family/society is a controversial one and I rather not introduce something this apparantely provocative topic into a common gospel doctrine class setting. I am glad to see discussion like this as it hopefully encourages all of us to think more critically about what we sometimes take for granted. I appreciate all that some women (including my wife) struggle through in trying to answer various difficult questions that men normally do not have to face, and am often amazed at the attitudes of ignorance to searching of truth that also are prevelant in church.

    I often thought that discussion of a nature of women little bit more mature and christlike in an explanation to why women do not receive priesthood is a cheap fish-talk to compromise the very obvious differentitation that the church currently makes (though perhaps it is true somewhat). Actually, maybe it’s just I am just sick and tired of men ruling women over in church. It’s there.

  119. Last Lemming says:

    To answer Spanish Prisoner’s question (and hopefully address Lynette’s as well)–

    There is no distinction between #1 and #3. What #2 is (or should be) doing, however, is fundamentally different, and would be even if he were fully worthy. What the Priesthood holder has that the other two don’t is the right to receive a revelation of the Lord’s will in the matter. This is not to say that the Lord will not reveal his will to the other two. He might or might not as he sees fit. In this case, they don’t seem to be asking for it—they just want the child healed. But he will reveal his will to the Priesthood holder if he asks for it and is capable of hearing it (which this particular Priesthood holder might not be).

    I think it is unwarranted to ask for a Priesthood blessing under the assumption that the blessing automatically increases the probability of being healed. I suspect that Priesthood holders not infrequently try to impose their own will on a situation, either due to their emotional involvement or in response to social pressure. But if the Priesthood holder requests a healing contrary to the will of the Lord, he is misusing his priesthood. I have heard brethren tell of occasions on which they have done this, but later had to repent and “undo” the blessing so as to release their loved one from further agony.

    The short answer: If you want to be healed, exercise faith. If you want to know the will of the Lord, consult the Priesthood.

  120. Sorry, Lemming, that just doesn’t fly. If I want to know the will of the Lord for me, I’ll ask the Lord. I don’t need an intermediary for mere data. Atonement? Maybe. Information? Nope.

  121. Last Lemming,

    Just so I understand, you believe that a woman who does not hold the priesthood cannot know the will of the Lord? For herself as well as for others? Or is it more of a Domain thing: A woman can know the will of the Lord for herself, but not for others whereas a priesthood hold has a wider Lord’s-Will-domain? E.g., just another version of the patriarchal hierarchy? Priesthood, authority, access to the lord’s will–it’s all hierachal and women are at the bottom (well, above 11-and under children).

    I reject that this posturing is from or condoned by God.

  122. Last Lemming says:

    Ann said…
    If I want to know the will of the Lord for me, I’ll ask the Lord.

    Aspen said…
    Just so I understand, you believe that a woman who does not hold the priesthood cannot know the will of the Lord? For herself as well as for others?

    I am not talking about the will of the Lord for yourself. Just that of the child. Before you totally distort what I said, let me repeat…

    This is not to say that the Lord will not reveal his will to the other two. He might or might not as he sees fit.

    So by all means, ask to know his will. If you are listening, you have a better chance of receiving it than the Priesthood holder who is not listening.

  123. Julie (re: #118):

    I think I’ve seen most of the early quotes you’re talking about, and my reading of them suggests that while they reject the doctrine of original sin in line with a generally more optimistic view of human nature, and reframe the Fall as a necessary fulfillment of God’s will, they do not point to the Fall as evidence of a specific nobility of character in Eve specifically or as evidence of women’s spiritual worth generally. That Eve is not to be blamed, she was only doing God’s will—this kind of thing was endorsed by JS and BY and JFS, absolutely. That Eve was a noble and wise soul whose valiant and courageous and far-seeing choice contituted the primal act of agency and rehabilitates the spiritual status of all of Eve’s daughters—this is a much more recent innovation, I suspect.

    Re: presiding and inferiority: I was working from the Elizabethan context, in which Adam was understood to “rule over” Eve, and Eve was clearly understood to be subordinate to Adam. To me, this is unquestionably the plain meaning of the Genesis text. I realize that Pres. Kimball emended “rule” to “preside”, and I’m aware of your (and many other women whom I greatly admire, incidentally) efforts to work out an egalitarian meaning of preside via Nibley, etc. I’m not convinced that these efforts are compatible with the original meaning of the text or with other treatments of gender in restoration doctrine—and, more germane to this discussion, they don’t seem to be reflected in the institutional structure of the church, in any case. Even Elder Oaks’ most recent take on the confusion, in the last General Conference, explicitly concedes that ecclesiastical presidency is hierarchical in nature. Superiority and inferiority is inherent to hierarchy.

  124. Rosalynde, thanks for putting this so clearly. I’ve seen all kinds of valiant attempts to reconcile hierarchy with equality, both by feminists and by traditionalists, and while I honor the spirit in which those attempts are made, I’m unpersuaded. It’s fascinating to me that we feel such a need to construct and invoke elaborate extra-textual appratus to contradict our own most canonical texts and narratives. I think this constant production of counterinterpretation suggests the degree of our discomfort with the plain meaning of passages in Genesis and elsewhere.

  125. In the Gospel Principles Manual it gives the following introduction to the Lesson on Gifts of the Spirit (Ch. 22):

    Following baptism, each of us had hands laid on our heads to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If we are faithful, we can have his influence constantly with us. Through him, each of us can be blessed with certain spiritual powers called gifts of the Spirit. These gifts are given to those who are faithful to Christ. They help us know and teach the truths of the gospel. They will help us bless others. They will guide us back to our Heavenly Father. To use our gifts wisely, we need to know what they are, how we can develop them, and how to recognize Satan’s imitations of them.

    It then goes on to list many of the gifts of the Spirit, available to anyone who meets the criteria set out above, regardless of race, colour, gender, etc. However, in the section regarding the gift of healing it says:

    Some have the faith to heal, and others have the faith to be healed. We can all exercise the faith to be healed when we are ill (see D&C 42:48). Many who hold the priesthood have the gift of healing the sick. Others may be given a knowledge of how to cure illness.

    Of all the gifts listed, including speaking in tongues, translation, prophecy and working miracles, this is the only one that mentions the need for Priesthood for the gift to be manifested.

    The first time I taught this lesson was to a small class with two sister missionaries in attendance. I remember thinking that it was odd that these sisters (and all of the other new members in attendance) would have access to all of these wonderful gifts, and more, including the ability to heal themselves, but the ability to heal others would elude them because they were neither male nor Priesthood holders.

  126. #39 kristenj: “In my humble and naive opinion I believe that if women received the priesthood most men in the church would never get off the couch on Sundays. Since they have this vital key it causes them to step up to the plate and do their duty.”

    From a leadership perspective, I look at the members of my ward and see only a small handful of really dedicated people. And it’s split about equally between men and women. Most of the members of our ward come to church and put in the minimum effort they can get away with in their callings (if they accept callings). And that’s split about equally between the men and the women. I don’t see my ward as being that unique in Utah.

  127. #69 Travis: “Given #63 and #65 as a starting point, what authority is there for the proposition that the status quo _cannot_ change?”

    If that’s the case, then what’s the point of this discussion at all? Who can tell God that he can’t change policy/doctrine? Nobody. Nobody. God is not bound by scripture. So this whole discussion is pointless, if you’re looking for a scripture that says God can’t change his mind.

  128. A clarification on my comment #127. Elders quorums seem to be a class all by themselves. Ours does struggle mightily, much more so than the RS. The high priests are another story, however.

    Bringing a tablecloth to RS meeting may be more a function of an obsession with appearances than it does with presenting a spiritual lesson.

  129. re 107: It is my understanding, from an institute class years ago, that there are exceptional circumstances in which a woman can call upon aid by virtue of the priesthood held by her husband to whom she is sealed. This act is called “a prayer of faith,” and, while, all prayers are made in faith, it is my understanding that this is a particular term for this vicarious usage of priesthood. We learned about it in regard to a women, in an emergency, laying on hands.

    I have also seen it said that women may, if properly sealed to them, join with their husband for a blessing of healing if there is no other priesthood holder available.

    Then, there are the sisters in the temple.

    So, there are ways and types of priesthood usage for women.

    Also, i thought I’d copy over a comment I made about sisters and the priesthood from ZD (entry: My Journey…) that you might find applicable. Sorry, it’s so long, but I think you’ll appreciate it:

    Naiah Earhart said…
    K,
    I am wary to respond, as so often in the ‘nacle we find ourselves mired in contention masking as debate, and I, for one, will have none of that.

    I feel for you, and so I want, sincerely, to offer some words on my personal understanding. Please know that nothing I say is intended with any sort of a condescending voice, or anything like that. It’s simply, “this is what I have and am happy with and offer to you in case it helps.” Read it. Take in what works for you, what resonates with your soul. Leave the rest.

    While each and every one of us need to be a whole and healthy individual to function in our societies in this life, in a celestial scheme, we are each but half a unit. The fundamental priesthood unit is the sealed couple. It can be said that men have authority to exercise priesthood even before marriage, but it must conversely be noted that the men’s priesthood is incomplete without the sealing ordinance.

    I see us as puzzle pieces that together make a whole. And when that whole is complete, brings both of us together, and each of us individually, closer to Heavenly Father.

    We daughters of God are no less loved. We, too, can equally be recipients of the most potent manifestations of His power, the gifts of the spirit and personal revelation.

    A man’s priesthood is not his own. It is incomplete until he is sealed to a wife. It is simply his responsibility to steward that priesthood until such time as he is joined to a celestial partner, and, only then, together, they form a complete priesthood unit before the Lord.

    We, the sisters, by acting with priesthood within the walls of the temple, but not visbily in the world, are a reflection of our Heavenly Mother. She is there; none doubts her necessity in creation, and yet, She is witheld from the slings and arrows of the world–out of reverence. It is Heavenly Father who is visible in the fray, like the pristhood in the world, and it is Heavenly Mother whose presence is reserved for holiest places.

    With Her lessened presence in this world, She is preserved from Her name being misused as profanity; she is spared the angry cries of confused children who spit their rage at Heavenly Father, etc. She is not less; She is *more*–more revered, more sacred, more reserved from this temporal world.

    So, to summarize:
    -Men alone, do not truly ‘have the priesthood’ it *is* a joint venture.
    -Men exercising it publicly, but together with women in the temple, is a reflection of Heavenly Father’s overt presence in the world, and Heavenly Mother’s revered place in the eternities.

    I hope that gives you a new light in which to consider your experiences. I, too, apostatized for a while (three years, almost exactly). So, I do feel for you. I remember desperately missing the parts of my faith that were so right (one of which, for me was the temple; but also prayer, and the community of a ward family). I do sincerely hope that you are able to find your way back, and that your road back does not lead you on the varied and trying paths that mine did. You’re welcome to write me directly, if anything I can say or do for you might help.

    Been there. Done that. Glad it’s over. Love to spare you some of it, and all that.

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