One time, I had a close friend tell me that he was planning on moving to a large plot of land in Missouri with his in-laws. He liked and believed in his in-laws, whom he saw as living closely to gospel principles (embracing freedom by refusing to pay taxes to the federal government, for example). They were going to divide up the land in a manner similar to the United Order and have a three-person council to run everything: a president and two counselors. I’d like to believe that my snarky remarks that the place was going to go polygamist within six months or my constantly calling this place “the compound” convinced my friend to back out, but there was probably only one question I asked about the plan that gave him pause. Why was it, as he had explained to me, that the president of the presiding council had to be a man?
My friend suggested that it was because men bear the priesthood. I asked if this endeavor represented something the church was doing. He replied that it was something this family was doing on their own, but they were trying to run it according to gospel principles. This meant that only men could preside. I asked what would happen if the person who was best at running the compound was a woman. He replied that there was no reason she couldn’t be a counselor, but that the presidency shouldn’t reside with a non-priesthood holder. So a woman, even if she was the best at running the farm, could never make a final decision?, I asked. The best decisions would be confirmed by the priesthood, he affirmed. We didn’t resolve the issue at the time, but I learned shortly thereafter that my friend had decided that he wouldn’t participate directly in the project. And, honestly, the project never really came to fruition. Not even the family wanted to live under the rule of their patriarchal priesthood bearers.
Why bring this up? Because this is a mistake that I’ve seen acted out again and again amongst us Mormons. While we state that we believe that “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood,” we frequently give more weight to the potential of priesthood insight than we should. We value a priesthood blessing more than a mother’s heartfelt prayer. We talk about how great it is to have the priesthood in the house when the son of a single mother turns twelve. I remember once, in another setting, my wife’s visiting teachers asked me if I wanted to choose who would give the closing prayer for their visit. I hadn’t participated in the visit and everyone there was the same age. It was a shockingly weird moment.
Whatever power or authority you are granted as a bearer of the priesthood in an ecclesiastical setting, that setting does not extend outside of whatever church calling you have been given. It does not extend to any position you hold outside of that context. Not to you as a father, a banker, an investor, a doctor, a salesman, or in any other setting. The priesthood is not a superpower; it is the right to act in the name of God in the manner authorized by him. Just deciding that, since someone has the priesthood, they are a better candidate for some position is like saying that just because someone receives revelation, they should be everyone’s banker. God doesn’t particularly care about your financial portfolio; we all know he’d rather you stopped caring about your 401k and gave it to the poor anyway.
For worldly attainments, which just about everything outside the church is (and possibly a couple things within it), Christ counselled that we learn the ways of mammon. That’s not necessarily knowledge you want in an ecclesiastical leader, but you definitely need it in an accountant. And, so far as I can tell, the status of one’s genitalia is irrelevant as well. If someone is insisting that priesthood makes them extra qualified for some position (leadership or otherwise), then perhaps they are aware that they are missing all other qualifications.