Ardis’s recent post, which included some interesting bits on Latter-day Saint liturgy got me digging through some of my files. I have a long term study of Mormon liturgy and ritual brewing and at one point I sat down to sketch out the evolution of authority within the church over time. I came across these Venn diagrams, which some might find interesting.
I generally think it is easier to understand Mormon liturgy by taking a step back and using descriptive terms that aren’t contested. So, for example, when Kris and I write about the temple in our forthcoming paper on female healing, we discuss how in Nauvoo women received an expanded liturgical authority to administer rituals of salvation and empowerment. Words like “priesthood” have important meaning, but sometimes they obscure more than they reveal from the present.
Still, for the rough sketch of authority, I decided to use the term “priesthood” as is commonly understood in the Church today (i.e., men who have been ordained to an office in the Melchizedek or Aaronic Priesthood). I also classify “temple” authority as being discrete from these two priesthoods (though as you see, they overlap). Mostly these were for personal use and I don’t think that they will be implemented further in the broader study.
The following are two snapshots of church activity, one in 1877 at the death of Brigham Young and the other at 2010. To be sure there could be many other interesting time periods to examine.
Now, there are many reasons for the shifts between the slides. I mentioned the study on female healing above (JMH – January 2011), which will hopefully answer a lot of questions. Still this is an area where there is skads of work to be done.