The blessings of the priesthood

On Sunday my younger son, age 14, was ordained a teacher in the Aaronic priesthood. His older brother, who has been a priest for about six months, performed the ordination. It was my husband’s idea; when he was a priest, he had ordained his younger brother as a teacher. It’s not uncommon for teenage priests to perform what ordinances they’re authorized to do—e.g. baptism—for their younger siblings, even when there’s a priesthood-holding father in the picture; I think most families want their boys to take advantage of such opportunities. In my husband’s case, there was no father in the home; his mother had been widowed more than a decade earlier. Ordaining his brother had been a memorable experience for him, and he wanted our son to have the same chance.

Our 16-year-old did very well. I could tell that he was a little nervous, but he gave his brother a very nice blessing. (More importantly, he didn’t screw anything up and have to repeat it, as so often happens with stuff like sacrament prayers. Not that my son has ever screwed up a sacrament prayer!) Afterward, as we walked out of the bishop’s office, my husband turned to our older son and said, “I can honestly say that that was better than doing it myself.” That was a thing I had wondered about. There will be plenty of opportunities for a young man to exercise his priesthood throughout his life; a father only has so many kids and so many such milestones. But there is a different kind of satisfaction in witnessing your child take on adult responsibilities.

Something I was keenly aware of during the ordination was that my 11-year-old daughter sitting next to me would never take on the same kinds of responsibilities as she becomes an adult in the church, and I couldn’t help wondering what she thought and how she felt about the whole thing. My guess is “probably not much,” but I was remembering her disappointment several years ago upon learning that she would not pass the sacrament when she turned 12, and an off-hand comment she made last year in connection with preparing a Primary talk about the priesthood: “Boys do everything. We do nothing.”

My younger daughter is not some feminist whiner; that would be my older daughter (and to some extent me). This is not a topic that comes up often in her conversations, by any stretch. I don’t believe it’s because she’s suffering in silence. I just don’t think she thinks about it all that much. I think the idea of prescribed gender roles puzzles her. She grew up with two older brothers who were closer to her in age than her sister; for the most part, she followed their lead and it never occurred to her that she was “supposed” to do or be or like certain things and not other things. I think the news that she couldn’t be a deacon actually shocked her; it was, after all, the first time anyone had said she couldn’t do something because she was a girl. [1]

I have no memory of ever sitting in church and thinking, “Gee, I really wish I could pass the sacrament.” It’s probably because I’m relatively unburdened by ambition of any kind. But I have really wished that my daughter could pass the sacrament–just because she wants to. (And she’d be good at it!)

I have done a lot of thinking and mulling—pondering, if you will (though I wouldn’t go so far as ponderizing)—about what the priesthood is and what it’s for, because I want to understand why it doesn’t matter that women are excluded from it. I get that we’re not excluded from the blessings of the priesthood. (Just the experience of blessing others with it.) In a recent Relief Society lesson the class discussion centered on how everyone has equal access to the blessings of the priesthood. Obviously, what is meant by this is that anyone can receive priesthood ordinances, regardless of sex. But we don’t really have “equal access.” If that were so, we wouldn’t speak of the “blessing” of “having the priesthood in your home.” If we all had equal access to the blessings of the priesthood, the convenience of having a priesthood holder as a full-time resident in your household would not be anything to write home about.

I grew up in a home with a priesthood-holding father. As part of my thinking and mulling, i.e. pondering, about the priesthood, I have oft wondered about the different ways people use priesthood blessings. When I was a kid, my father often gave priesthood blessings when we were sick. At some point, I think, he offered priesthood blessings at the beginning of school years. It wasn’t a consistent practice because we weren’t a super-consistent family, but it happened. However, priesthood blessings were not what I’d call a common occurrence. It wouldn’t have occurred to me, for example, to say, “Hey, Dad, I’m having kind of a hard time right now, can you give me a blessing?” I’ve known a lot of people who did that sort of thing, but it wasn’t my family’s jam. Priesthood blessings were, generally speaking, for exceptional circumstances. Absent a really high fever, you just didn’t seek them out.

My husband and his brothers grew up without a priesthood-holding father in the home because their mother was widowed after a little less than six years of marriage to her priesthood-holding husband. They had some wonderful home teachers and some other excellent male role models in their ward. Nevertheless, priesthood blessings would not have been even as common an occurrence as they were in my house, simply because they lacked the convenience of a full-time priesthood-holding resident.

After we were married, my husband frequently offered to give me priesthood blessings during times of trouble—illness, stress, etc.–and I would take advantage of this convenience/blessing, because, well, why wouldn’t I? My husband was very conscientious about fulfilling his role as the priesthood holder in our home—should I say “priesthood leader in our home”? Because that was what his role felt like to me, and I can’t say that I always, or even usually, appreciated his efforts. We were both young, of course; each of us could have done some things better than we did. My husband was certainly doing the best he could, and considering that he’d grown up without a priesthood-holding father and without a model of marriage in his home, he deserves some approbation. It’s much easier for me to give now than it was at the time. At the time, I let my personal resentments affect the way I received my husband’s priesthood blessings. Well, I don’t know how I could have prevented “letting” this happen, aside from being a much better person than I was (or am), but in any case, my experience was that my husband was acting as an intermediary between me and God, and it was impossible for me to separate my feelings about one from my feelings about the Other. I did not like God very much then—and we had gotten so chummy in the year or so prior to my marriage, so it was a real comedown for me. When it was just me talking to God, I felt that He knew and understood me; with my husband in the picture, I felt that He’d taken sides and the side He’d taken wasn’t mine.

I remember the day I decided I was no longer going to accept priesthood blessings from my husband. It was not the day I decided I’d had it with God, but maybe it was the day that I started down that path. The good news is that my relationship with my husband was eventually repaired, and so was my relationship with God; the bad news is that it took several years and I don’t like to think of the personal destruction that occurred in the interim. One thing hasn’t changed: I’m done with priesthood blessings. I’ll agree to being set apart for a calling (although I don’t go out of my way to make sure this happens), but aside from that, never mind. During the course of my mulling and pondering, I decided that the quality of the blessing depends entirely on the attitude of the recipient; my attitude is crap, and therefore I should not get priesthood blessings. I don’t mean that I don’t deserve priesthood blessings. I mean that for my own spiritual well-being, I should not get them. Experience has taught me that I don’t do well with any mediator who isn’t Jesus.

I made one exception, a few years ago. I happened to have something of a nervous breakdown while I was at church, and my husband must have been out of town. A priesthood-holding friend in the ward, concerned about my distress, graciously offered to give me a blessing. My instinct was to say no, but I didn’t have the heart, so I said yes. He and another friend administered a blessing in an empty classroom. I was grateful that I had friends who cared enough to want to help, and I sincerely appreciated the blessing as a symbolic gesture. I can’t say that it was qualitatively different from my experiences of friends praying with me, sans priesthood. The bottom line is that I don’t believe it’s any different at all, when I accept it as a gesture of goodwill. When I perceive it as God speaking to me through a (necessarily male) conduit, it’s very different, in a bad way. That’s probably on me, but I never claimed it wasn’t.

My husband gives priesthood blessings to our children with about as much regularity as my father gave them to me and my siblings. I don’t facilitate these blessings because I don’t think that’s my job. My husband is not a night person, so if my kid is sick at 2 a.m. and I feel divine intervention is warranted, I pray with them. I can think of no doctrinal justification for waking my husband. When one of my kids—fine, one kid in particular—is going through a personal crisis and needs comfort and counsel, I offer her comfort and counsel and pray with her. My husband is a good father and a dutiful father; if he’s around and feels like offering his priesthood services, I’m certainly not going to stand in his way. But if he were not around, I would not feel that what I was missing was the priesthood. Of all the things I would miss if I were to lose my husband, his priesthood is not one of them.

I recently read The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington, and for all I know, it’s just a pretentious woman’s Nicholas Sparks novel, but whatever, I liked it. In the story, Rebecca Martin (no relation) is a lapsed Catholic and divorced single mother who rents her “in-law” apartment to Michael Christopher, a former priest who is re-entering secular society after living twenty years in a monastery. Mike is disillusioned with the monastic life but still a believer; Rebecca has serious issues with religion. But they become friends. Then SPOILER ALERT (not really much of a spoiler, but I know some folks are more sensitive than others), Rebecca’s mother has a stroke and is hospitalized. When her mother slips into a coma, the doctor suggests that if she’s a religious woman, it’s probably time to call a priest. She asks Mike to perform the last rites, but he demurs because technically he’s no longer a priest. “You’re asking me to do something very serious and very real. Something I’m no longer authorized to do,” he says. Rebecca replies that she doesn’t want “some canon lawyer in here filling out the proper forms.”

“My mother is a good Catholic. She married my father in a church, forever. She raised me right—Baptism, Confession, First Communion, confirmation. I mean it pained her when Rory and I got married on a beach. She’s lived a wonderful life, by any measure, and it’s certainly not her fault that I’ve turned out the way I have. Are you really going to tell me that God of yours is checking your license at this point? That he’s going to let her die in this stupid little room with a daughter like me and a tube down her throat and no one to do the right thing? Because I’m not going to call some standard-issue priest. I’m so mad at your f***ing God right now that I could bite through steel. It’s a g******ed miracle that I’m asking you to do this at all. But I’m asking you to do it for Phoebe. Because it’s what she would want.”

Does Mike do the sacrament for Phoebe? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out, won’t you! The significance of this scene for me is that while Rebecca is ostensibly asking Mike for this favor on behalf of her mother, she wants Mike specifically because he is a friend, someone who knows her and her mother. Mike believes that acting without authority renders the act meaningless, but for Rebecca, his sincerity and friendship are the only things that matter, that give the act any meaning at all.

I have similar feelings about the priesthood, in some respects. (The Mormon priesthood, not the Catholic one.) I accept that one needs priesthood authority to baptize or ordain someone, although I don’t understand why one needs to be male to be ordained to the priesthood. It’s certainly not something I’m going to decide to confer upon myself or decide isn’t necessary to start baptizing people. (I don’t really have ambitions to baptize anyone.) I don’t understand why the priesthood is necessary in the context of blessings, i.e. I don’t understand how it differs from a prayer of faith offered by a non-priesthood holder. Therefore, I don’t understand the point of priesthood blessings as such. I know that they’re meaningful for a lot of people; I respect that belief/feeling as much as I can, given that I don’t share it. I’m not going to argue with anyone about how effectual or beneficial their priesthood blessings have been; that would be absurd (not to mention rude). But I think what pleased my husband about watching one son ordain another son was not different from the pleasure I had in it. My older son got to exercise his priesthood authority, something his little sister will never experience. [2] But it was our relationships to each other and our shared history that made the event particularly meaningful for all of us—special, for lack of a better word. So this is not a feminist whine about the priesthood. It’s another stage of (hopefully) coming to terms with it.

[1] And before you say anything, let me assure you that my daughter is aware that she has ovaries and a uterus and therefore may potentially have children someday and her brothers never will. That is not at all the same thing, and we all know it, so give me a break.
[2] And before you say anything, let me assure you that I’m aware that women perform the washing and anointing of other women in the temple, but my feelings about that are complicated and will not be contained in the above post or this footnote, so yes, point taken, but I wasn’t up to explaining all these caveats. My problem!


  1. This was a heckuva thing. RJ I love you.

  2. So good. Thank you. I love the way you write.

  3. J. Stapley says:

    RJ, you are consistently extraordinary in your writing. Thanks for sharing this. It has given me a lot to think about.

  4. This is a lovely, exceptionally fine essay.Thank you.

  5. Thank you for sharing. Neither my father nor my husband were/are much into giving blessings so it isn’t much of a part of our life. That being said, I have for a long time now have avoided them, even (especially) the setting apart blessings. It’s too much pressure for me. I need it to be just me and God, the two of us working out our relationship. Adding in a Bishop or Counselor or my even my hubby feels like adding the entire weight of the church between God and I. It’s hard to even put into words how heavy and smothering that feels. With someone else involved the blessing then involves their needs/wants/desires/biases/expectations. It can’t be the simple, pure expression I find in prayer. So I stick to prayer.

  6. charlene says:

    I feel your ambivalence and walk with you, sister. Having lived most of my life without a convenient priesthood holder in my home, and the rest of my life without an enthusiastic priesthood holder, I’m having a hard time grasping the concept. Mostly I just don’t think about it, except when it comes to sustaining a priesthood ordination. I simply abstain. I figure if I’m not a part of the club I really have no say in how they deal with their members.

  7. Cynthia H says:

    I can relate so much to this. Thanks for writing it. You helped me feel not so alone tonight.

  8. RJ have you thought about writing a book?

  9. RJ. I can’t quite put into words what I think about this. Still thinking. You have a way.

  10. Exquisite. I feel privileged to be a reader. I am astounded by the courage exhibited in putting this out where slings will come. And I am inspired to consider my own experience, with the counterpoint of, on the one hand experience with women in my life blessing me, and on the other hand experience as a priesthood holder both participating and intentionally not participating.

  11. Aaron Brown says:

    Thanks, RJ. Good stuff.

    Aaron B

  12. Jason K. says:

    Thanks for this, RJ. I’m with you on this point, and hearing your thinking about it over the years has influenced my own thinking.

  13. Wonderful sentiments RJ. Thank you. Hearing your experiences immediately brought to mind some of my own journey regarding priesthood ordinances. In relevant part, when I was 18 my father invited me to baptize my youngest brother. I declined, thinking that this was a privilege that should be his. I matured over my mission and through becoming a father myself. I grew to realize that my father would have taken the most joy from my participation. Thankfully, the way opened to repair my mistake: I invited my brother to baptize by eldest son (it was my son’s idea). This journey is one of my strongest testimonies about the power of the atonement (of Jesus Christ) to remedy and repair hearts.

    As for women’s participation in ordinances, I couldn’t agree more that we need to focus on the value of giving ordinances and not just receiving them. Imagine if we enforced a rule whereby only men could give Christmas presents? No harm – goes the argument – because everyone still has equal opportunity to receive presents. But I know that the women in my life would strongly rebel at such a rule because they take great joy from giving; even more joy than from receiving.

    That joy is what women are currently denied from the church’s female exclusion policy. Having worked with YM organizations for many years (both ward and stake level), I know very well that officiating in priesthood offices brings boys closer to Christ. There really is a power in the ordinances made manifest. I see it when the boys administer at the sacrament table, when they join in ordinations, and when they perform temple baptisms of younger siblings just before leaving for a mission (a member must be an Elder, not just a Priest, to perform temple baptisms). I yearn for the day when my daughters will have the same opportunities to commune with the divine.

    I simply don’t understand why some members think that women’s participation will be a negative. The missionary program is stronger because of sister missionaries. Ward councils function better than PEC meetings because they include women. Family prayer and scripture study are better experiences when women actively participate. So too with sunday school classes. In every arena where we have chosen to drop barriers and include women, things have improved. So why would we expect anything different should women be invited to service in priesthood offices?

  14. It's Complicated says:

    Thank you for opening your heart RJ and sharing your struggle and the many ramifications it has had in your life. Your writing on this question has affected me and I am going to stumble through my words trying to express how. I struggle with priesthood blessings for many of the same reasons but I had never really considered the idea that in giving the blessing I could be standing in the way of the recipient, in some way overshadowing them and obscuring the simple connection to God. There is so much to ponder here.

  15. Thank you.

  16. Lindsey Smith says:

    I am so totally with you on this. The concept of “having access to the priesthood” vs. “having the priesthood” is about as equal to “having access to a vacation home” vs. “having a vacation home.” Basically, they’re not the same *at all* and one is clearly the better/grown up/more responsible/adult version of the other.

    Also, ten points to Dave K’s Christmas gifts analogy, and his open acknowledgment that service in official capacities in the church do indeed bring meaning and joy to the participants. Young men pass and bless the sacrament, but they also sometimes just sit and receive the sacrament as well. When someone can both give and receive, they have more options. Less options to serve seems less God like, and that makes me feel less valued, and certainly less close to God.

  17. Thanks for writing this. I personally really appreciate priesthood/healing blessings, but from personal experience I do not think there is a difference in the power of such a blessing and the power of a truly heartfelt prayer. I do love feeling ministered to and I am comforted by the ritual aspect, especially when I feel too weary, sick, or worn out to find God on my own. I would sincerely love to feel that gift from my sisters in the church, or to be able to offer that comfort to someone in turn.

  18. This is excellent, Rebecca J. Thanks so much for sharing it. Also, I echo Steve: especially now that there’s a BCC press, I would love to see a book on “Rebecca J.’s thoughts on church and stuff” (or some much better title) that’s an edited selection of your posts.

  19. Rebecca, have I ever told you you’re my favorite? This is extraordinary. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.

    Dave K, thanks for your comment.

  20. I was afflicted for about three weeks with a condition that several doctors could not diagnose. I called my home teachers for a blessing and they were “too busy” to come that evening. I yelled at God that since I wasn’t in the club (no priesthood holder in my home) that I wasn’t worth helping. Then I cried myself to sleep. When I woke up the problem was gone. I took it as a direct answer: NO, you don’t need a priesthood intermediary to be healed.

  21. Hmm, much to think about. I personally cherish the patriarchal blessing given to me by my grandfather. It’s so full of love and light and with so many grandchildren, I felt special. I’ve also talked to my grandmother lately about how her parents did not show her affection in the ways she craved. She explained it as “that was their generation.”

    So I wonder if priesthood blessings served a purpose to allow men to speak in a language of love that might have been uncomfortable, but was officially encouraged in a formal or informal setting.

    And now as we realize that women and men should be equal parents/partners and to shower love in many different ways, there is less of a need for that perceived go between, or the formal setting.

  22. I will add one more data point to the discussion regarding authority to receive inspiration. I am an endowed active high priest. I have given many blessings in my life that begin with a pronouncement of priesthood authority. Sometimes during these blessings direct inspiration has come into my mind. More often, though, I have felt a peaceful affirmation that the words I choose to speak are appropriate.

    I have also, occasionally, given blessings that do not include a pronouncement of priesthood authority. One example is when my wife joins me in blessing our children (since she holds no priesthood office). Another is when I blessed my grandfather in a circle with other family members, some who whom are not allowed by their priesthood leaders to participate in priesthood blessings.

    In my personal experience (nothing more) the inspiration that comes through blessings given under priesthood authority is no different from that in blessings without church authorization. This isn’t to say that authority has no value. I strongly believe it does have a place. But its place is limited; it’s largely to provide order and direction to a fallen people. Authority should never be confused with access to God’s inspiration.

  23. I really enjoyed this post, Rebecca. Your writing is so subtle, so effective. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  24. Olde Skool says:

    Oh, Rebecca. Thank you for thinking about these matters in the context of your own experience, which manages to take something hard and give it a human shape. I’m with you all the way.

  25. St. Apollonia says:

    It’s very interesting to hear about the Mormon priesthood. In Catholicism, there are two types of priesthood; the Ministerial Priesthood which is transmitted by the sacrament of Holy Orders (only baptized men may receive this Apostolic sacrament through the ordination which involves the “laying on of hands” by the bishop), and the Baptismal Priesthood (the common priesthood of all members conferred through the sacrament of baptism).
    In Catholicism, the main purpose of the priesthood is to offer sacrifice. The ministerial priests administer the Sacraments and offer/celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass (an interesting thing to note is that Sacrifice of the Mass fulfills the prophecy of Malachi 1:11).
    Through the baptismal priesthood, we offer our lives as sacrifice (all our works, joys, sufferings, etc.) and unite them to the one definitive sacrifice of Christ, which is made present to us in the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is why in the doxology of the Eucharistic prayer it is prayed

    “Through him, and with him, and in him,
    O God, almighty Father,
    in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    all glory and honor is yours,
    for ever and ever.”

    Anyone can also validly baptize (if done in accord with the proper form and intention of the Church) because baptism is the gateway by which we enter the Church, and it is important to be able to reach many people (where a priest might not be able), and also to baptize in emergency situations (although for regular non-emergency cases, it is best reserved to an ordained man)… so this is why the sacrament of Baptism is more inclusive and further reaching than the others; one does not necessarily need to be in full communion with the Church in order to validly receive baptism, as it will at the very least, imperfectly join one to the Mystical Body of Christ.

    Also, a priest who has been validly ordained receives an indelible spiritual character or mark on his soul, and is a priest forever – even if they leave the church, renounce the faith, or commit mortal sin. A priest can be dispensed from all his ministerial duties in the Church (laicized), and he would still be able to validly (although illicitly) administer the sacraments (if done with the proper form & intent), although he would be guilty of disobedience. However, the canon law allows a laicized priest to licitly administer the sacraments (confession, last rites/extreme unction) in emergency situations, where there is danger of death.

    A laicized priest may also return to the Church and with the proper approval may resume priestly duties, and since he is a priest forever, he would not need to be “re-ordained.”

    Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday is actually the day in the Church which we commemorate and celebrate the Institution of the Eucharist, and the Institution of the Priesthood.

    More on the Catholic priesthood:

  26. Really great material here and insightful — a lot to learn and ponder from this.

  27. Rebecca J, I can’t thank you enough for this lovely post. One troubling aspect of male-centered priesthood that you expressed directly mirrors my own experience, and that is that feeling that a priesthood holder’s blessing can sometimes come between you and God, interrupting direct personal revelation by interjecting their own interpretation of God’s will. For example, when I was determining what graduate school to go to, my father, who was VERY into traditional gender roles, gave me a blessing that since I got into Harvard and my then-husband didn’t (he did get into Boston College, though), I should rule Harvard out as an option and choose a lesser graduate school because my husband’s career mattered much more than mine and ultimately I needed to put motherhood first. I obeyed the counsel of that blessing, but that was more evidence to me, in a long line of evidence, growing up in the Church with a very patriarchal family, that God put his sons above his daughters.

    My current husband is the kindest, gentlest man, a convert to the church who was raised in a home where equality was paramount; so we parent as absolute equals. He has never once used the priesthood as a trump card in any decision and we both ‘hearken’ unto each other. When he gives blessings, love pores forth in the most comforting and powerful of ways, and there is no sense that he comes between or distracts from God’s love for me. In other words, because he loves me as his equal in every way, that equality and deep respect for me is manifest in all of his priesthood blessings. For several years he lamented the fact that I cannot bless him in return (as a convert, the idea that God would arbitrarily share his power to bless with only half of his children, and that, because of their gender, has always seemed absurd to him.) So instead, we cuddle up and I pray over him, without authority, but with deep love, I pray what words I am inspired to pray, and that works for him. Still, we are both deeply troubled that the Church’s focus on traditional gender roles will mean that our son gets so many priesthood opportunities that our daughters will never have.

  28. Green Egg says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve lately been pondering my relationship with priesthood blessings, too. When I was younger, I used to crave them for one reason: the part of the blessing that often came where whoever was giving me the blessing assured me that God loved me and was pleased with me. Although I was a very devout young person, I never had spiritual experiences that confirmed God’s love for me, and blessings were the only time when I got that reassurance I wanted so badly. In the long run, I’m not sure this served me well. Now that I have been going through a hard faith upheaval for several years, I find that I have zero foundational belief in God’s love or goodness because I never felt it directly, only through the assurances of others. I don’t know what my future in the church holds, but the one thing I want is for my potential daughters to have direct experiences with God’s love so that whatever happens on their faith journeys, they will have a first-hand reason to be confident that God loves them. I just have no idea how to ensure that happens, because all of the obedience and church service and striving in the world didn’t make that happen for me. I just can’t pinpoint why. I have wondered if I never developed spiritual self-reliance because as a girl, no one ever relied on my connection to God, and I could always rely on someone else’s. But the truth is, I just don’t know.

  29. I’ve had similar thoughts, though I always perceived the issue as one of numbers: there are perhaps 1.5MM priesthood holders who are willing/able/worthy to give priesthood blessings, while there are billions every year who might be sick/distraught enough for a blessing. (I’m spit-balling here.) As such, if God is going to intervene for health reasons, as a statistical matter it’s almost always going to by way of prayer and/or some supplication.

    I suppose where I might push back on some of the comments above is related to the idea that because a priesthood blessing isn’t strictly *necessary*, it is somehow superfluous. I think there’s an argument to be made that priesthood blessings–in general–might be the Lord’s preferred manner of healing, even if it wouldn’t best for someone for RJ.

  30. Green Egg, it’s interesting that you mention that, I’ve had a very similar experience. God has refused to tell me that He loves me, even when I’ve asked Him directly. God is only willing to tell me He loves me through my husband, who holds the priesthood.

    Imagine, as a woman, you call up your earthly dad on the phone and say hey dad, I’m going through a rough time, I just want to hear your voice and know that you love me. Imagine if the only words your father says to you are hand the phone to your husband and I’ll tell HIM. Imagine the damage that would do to your relationship with your father. That’s exactly where I am with God.

    Then again, the need to have a male intermediary between a woman and God is at least implicitly taught in the temple, with the uneven (and damaging) “hearken” covenant. It goes from God, to my husband, to me. (To the cleaners.)

    I maintain that a God who can’t speak directly to half His children is not a loving father at all.

  31. I’d just like to say thanks to Rebecca & the BCC community today. Posts & comments like these make me feel a little bit less alone in the world.

  32. If female ordination is such a good thing, why aren’t progressive churches seeing floods of new converts? Why don’t men like going to church anymore?

    I recently listened to an excellent podcast about how to get men more interested in church and it involved giving men something to do. Women and Men are different, there is no getting around that basic fact. Perhaps the Lord’s way is the best way and we need to change our will to match His.

  33. Ronkonkoma says:
    April 13, 2017 at 11:44 am
    If we had female apostles, they would be clamoring for gay marriage and goddess worship.

    Count me in.

  34. MDearest says:

    Thank you so very much for writing this down, in the way that you have, that has helped to heal me a bit. My father wasn’t active for most of my life, and my husband isn’t a member, so I’ve never had a wealth of priesthood blessings in my life, but when they came to me, I felt the love from and connection to God, and didn’t feel like the male hands were anything but the tool in service to that rare connection.

    Since I discovered that women in our church we’re giving these blessings for over 100 years, at the direction of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and that the practice was painstakingly eradicated and the history of it erased, I have been angry that I wasn’t at the very least taught about it, much less encouraged to provide this for my family. We needed it, and I would’ve definitely made use of such a thing as I did everything in my power to provide for the spiritual needs of my family, and I acutely feel a lack there. So I appreciate very much that you will take me by the hand (metaphor alert) and show me a way not to take it so seriously. All settled, right?

    But then your Mike and Phoebe story underscores my feeling that the love felt by and familiar intimacy of the person in service brings a quality to these blessings that you don’t get from potluck home teachers.

    It’s confusing to find my way through this process, and your essay has given me a lot of new ideas to think about.

  35. Thanks, Mark L. I’m sure you’d know better than I would!

  36. If men don’t like going to church because women might be treated with equality, then those men have some personal work to do on themselves. And the idea that men won’t have enough to do if women are ordained is absolutely misguided. There is more than enough work to do here on the earth. There are more than enough sick to minister to, there are more than enough people hurting that would benefit from a blessing of comfort, there is more than enough work to perform in the temples, and there is more than enough administrative work in the Church. Sister missionaries don’t negate the work of elders. It’s not like spreading the work around is going to leave men disenfranchised.

    I, too, think the Lord’s way is the best way. But then again, the Lord I have come to know through personal revelation isn’t that into sexism (just like, it turns out He wasn’t a racist either).

  37. I was replying to Mark L., but forgot to specify.

  38. Tiberius says:

    I +1 what Mark says. That particular explanation for a male-only priesthood has always sat well with me (to preempt: whether I have a penis or not is completely non-sequitur). Men just aren’t into the whole religion/raising children/family thing nearly as much; it makes strategic sense to give them some particular responsibility to latch onto instead of completely ironing out gender differences.

    While it makes sense to me institutionally, I also get the hurt for people who think that priesthood somehow gives men a more direct conduit to God. The Church has been moving away from that attitude with marital and life decision-making, but ultimately temple ceremonies are going to have to change to really seal that deal. Of course, if church members really bought that whole equal-but-different line they’d standup every time an RS Presidency member entered the room and treat them like royalty like we treat GAs.

  39. There is no wonder this church has a lot of less active members, as I’m sure they are just thinking the some way we all do……WHY WOMEN CANNT DO THE SOME AS THE MALES… become priesthood holders, I well never forgot the days when I was younger in a different church where I was able to set up sacrament and fell more part of a church. I’m a less active member and I have broken all the rules which was given to us which I find it aload of rubbish to obey by. If the church was so concern about it member’s and the less active members they need to do a huge turn around

  40. Rebecca’s essay touches on both political and devotional aspects of our experience with the priesthood, but I read it as primarily devotional. It is a fine piece in the tradition of essays that explore unique Mormon ways of experiencing universal spiritual needs.

    The Mormon priesthood is a blessing and a curse, because it can pull us closer to God, but it can also be a barrier between us. Rebecca shows how she, as a woman, is waging a long, faithful war to find the blessings of the priesthood. I, as a man, recognize some of her struggle as mine, too—especially her need to cope with those who would impose their personal authority, senselessly, as an intermediary between her and God. In the battle between form and substance, form is the tool of the ambitious, but substance is on God’s side. And in the long run, God will prevail.

  41. I loved this and really identified with all of it. I’ve declined priesthood blessings recently for essentially the same reasons.

  42. I really hate the excuse given that the reason men have priesthood is because they would not be involved with family or church unless they have a specific job that only they can do. Why can’t they be involved at church because they love God? Why can’t they be involved with their families because they love those families. No, they need this big ego boost that says only they can do this most important job of priesthooding. Maybe if that is the reason, it is past time to take it away and make the poor babies grow up.

    I also didn’t like priesthood blessings because I felt like it placed the man between God and myself. I had a hard time feeling connected to God and male priesthood just made it harder. If the man giving me a blessing had something he wanted, then that was what I got in the blessing instead of what I needed. This feeling led me to question whether or not there was really anything at all to priesthood or if it was an invention of men to keep women below men as far as God and religion goes. Eventually, I did decide that priesthood is an invention of men. Once a person decides there is nothing special about priesthood as the church teaches it, faith in the church pretty much crumbles. I have faith in God and in the gospel, but I don’t trust the institutional church.

  43. Men just aren’t into the whole religion/raising children/family thing nearly as much; it makes strategic sense to give them some particular responsibility to latch onto instead of completely ironing out gender differences.

    For not being into religion, there sure are a lot of men leading the affairs of the church at all its levels. Or does that just mean that the all-male, all-males priesthood has been a resounding success in stoking the fires of religious engagement? If that’s the case, then the path for women who want the priesthood is clear—get out of the whole religion/raising children/family thing!

  44. I have recognized a difference in the success? ability to plan and respond? of my teaching when I’ve been formally set apart, in contrast to a time when somehow that just didn’t happen. I’ve also felt the comfort, if not a classic instant physical healing, following a blessing. The power is real, whether or not I know how or what the difference is between a priesthood blessing and a simple prayer. (Don’t jump on me or sneer at this, please, as Bloggernaclers are wont to do; it is my faith, and is not a reflection on anyone with different ideas. Rebecca said something similar, after all.)

    I last had a priesthood blessing in 2014, arranged by a friend who asked her husband and their friend — it was friendship, not hierarchy or ward organization that arranged that blessing. That is notable, I think, because the last blessing I had previous to that one in 2014 was in 1982 — 35 years earlier, when my body couldn’t keep up with the demands of a mission. When you don’t have “priesthood in the home,” and you’re an introvert who hates to be a nuisance or to approach someone with a request for something so personal when you don’t know how it will be received, it’s hard. I mean, even the woman with the faith to be healed by touching Jesus’s robe tried not to intrude on his time or notice. If you are that “monk downstairs” — or elder in the neighborhood — please be a real friend to those for whom asking for a blessing is a step too far.

  45. Ardis always leaves the best comments!

  46. Am I misreading Elder Oaks’ priesthood session conference address from last October in which he stated that women receive priesthood authority when they are set apart for any Church position? The priesthood power or authority is limited to that position, but it’s priesthood power, according to Elder Oaks. So a Young Women’s president would have the priesthood authority/power to function in her calling. Elder Oaks essentially said, Of course it’s priesthood authority. What other authority is there! This appears to go beyond the female temple workers’ limited “possession” off priesthood authority. Isn’t this progress or merely a palliative?

  47. Priestliness: To act for Godliness in helpful ways in community. Drawing covenants/aspirations with God of our understanding. Bringing love and light beyond and thorough. Emerging one with the divinely feminine creative impulse and sharing it powerfully.

  48. Mark L and Tiberius,

    I have heard from many friends and family the same sentiments that you expressed about men needing something ‘unique’ or men being more lazy than women. I don’t agree, of course, but I also don’t think you’re crazy.

    So serious question for you (and anyone else who thinks similarly): Do you believe the church should move back to earlier policies/practices in which women were excluded from more things? For instance, the church has recently allowed women to say prayers in conference, lowered the missionary age for young women (resulting in many more serving), placed the ward focus on ward council rather than PEC, allowed mothers with children at home greater opportunities to work at BYU and CES, and many other things that I would call “progress.” Heck, back in Joseph’s day women did not generally teach in church settings and did not serve missions at all.

    If the goal is to make more space for men, and if men need unique roles, it stands to reason that the church should not only stop its current efforts of female inclusion, but turn back the dial. Do you agree? If not, why? (spoiler alert: my guess is that you’re really just arguing for conservatism – i.e., keep things as they are – but I’ll let you speak for yourself).

  49. RJ, thanks so much for your essay and for not letting it be “a feminist whine about the priesthood [but instead] another stage of (hopefully) coming to terms with it.” Your essay and some of the comments have given me much to think about. I had thought my own experience receiving and giving priesthood blessings had a broad range — from a patriarchal blessing that included such well-meant but factually false and offensive statements (at least in my 16-year-old view) that I continue to have no use for it as anything other than an example of how the perceptions and beliefs and philosophies of the man speaking/purporting to speak for God can get mixed up in and affect, or even control, the message, to a bishop’s blessing that ended decades of depression, or at least its serious flare-ups — from rather perfunctory, unmemorable blessings of the sick, through those that gave some temporary comfort or relief, to the confirmation of an adult convert during which an incredible spiritual force from elsewhere passed through me and into the one receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost in a way that left us both shaken, and which has never occurred in the other confirmations I have been a part of as a priesthood holder. But I have now seen that even the broad range of my experience is not broad enough for me to have anticipated understood some others’. Thank you.

    Ardis, I deeply appreciate your story and your comment (as always), but I don’t know how to be your ideal “elder in the neighborhood.” For some, like me, who lack the gift of healing and lack the gift of knowing when their words or actions are inspired of God, it can be terrifying to be cast in the role of intermediary between God and one receiving a blessing. It may be that for such priesthood holders asking whether someone would like a blessing from them is “a step too far.” If you had a friend like that and had no else to make him aware you would appreciate a blessing, at least one of you would have to take that step or the priesthood blessing would not happen.

    I am not sure LDS priesthood ordinances have to be understood as casting the priesthood holder in the role of intermediary. Perhaps at least some of them are better understood by some as rituals that can help the recipient perceive and receive the gifts and love God has for her. Sometimes it seems that the efficacy of a ordinance has more to do with the hearts and thoughts of the recipients in relationship to the ritual, than it does with the officiator or the ritual itself. Sometimes it seems that it has a great deal to do with a personal relationship between the recipient and the one giving a blessing. What I am sure of is that priesthood blessings are sometimes very effective, though unnecessary to receipt of the gift to be healed, but certainly won’t be if they don’t happen.

  50. “I have really wished that my daughter could pass the sacrament.”
    At the risk of being accused of being an insensitive clod of a priesthood misogynist, but recognizing that the following thought does not really address what RJ had in mind with the quoted sentence, I wonder if participation in the sacrament as administered in our church could not be more meaningful if our people were actively taught that when the pass the trays to another within the pews they are offering a gift and including themselves and that other in a communal ordinance in the same way that the deacons pass it to the person sitting at the end of the pew. It seems we generally treat passing the trays within the pews as a meaningless, practical physical act. It doesn’t need to be that way.

  51. Lindsey Smith says:

    JR, what your’e saying is indeed true: that women and girls are able to pass the sacrament tray along the pews once it has been handed to them by either the standing priesthood member, or the sitting person to their side. However, emphasizing what women and girls *can* do still doesn’t address what they can’t do. It’s a diversion tactic. For example: Women and girls can’t conduct sacrament meeting… but they can sit on the stand and lead the music!… it certainly sounds all glass is half full, instead of half empty… and yet the fact still remains that ladies can’t stand and pass the sacrament in any official capacity, and can’t conduct sacrament meetings. I think the priesthood/ female difficulty that I struggle with doesn’t reside in an inability to recognize what sisters *can* do, but in what they *can’t* do.

    Hoping our destiny is to become like God makes me crave the God like qualities: all loving, all knowing, and all powerful. Limitations like not being able to confer priesthood blessings, baptize, etc. because I’m a girl leave me worried that my eternal destiny is that of our missing heavenly mother: who might not have all of those attributes in their fullness (limited power, love and knowledge) or even worse, that she is more of the All Subservient/ All Beautiful type. It seems our current gender “different but equal” seems to boil down to men can do more, women can do less. Even though a man can’t be called to be the YW President, we believe that the Bishop/ his councillors can walk into YW’s and lead, conduct, and instruct, direct (whatever.) If I didn’t need the to be a priesthood holder, but as a woman could still baptize and give blessings, etc. (by virtue of my good standing in the church, etc, then this title thing wouldn’t be such a big deal… I guess the question I’m left asking myself is “What can’t a man do because he holds the priesthood?”… I already know what a woman can’t do because she doesn’t.

  52. If an Aaronic priesthood holder can ordain and baptize, why cannot they bless babies?

    And, if they cannot bless babies, can they be in the circle–holding their baby son/daughter while someone else offers the blessing?

  53. Tiberius says:

    @ Dave K.

    I think the ideal would be to retain gendered responsibilities without having that division act as a pretense for unrighteous dominion or occlusion. Maybe I’m naive to think that you can have one without the other. If we were to have that then the responsibilities would be stripped of any personal status symbols, which for right now is not the case. For example, as a male priesthood holder I cannot perform the washing ordinance for a woman, even if it was for my mother or somebody very close to me (yes I know this is probably the only scenario where the gender issues are reversed, but it’s a thought experiment so stay with me). It’s precisely because being a priestess performing the washing ritual is not attached to any power or status that I suspect it’s not a controversial deal that men can’t perform that ordinance for women, even ones to which they are very close, and most of the examples of the abuses here are precisely because it gives priesthood holders more status. You take that away but retain gendered liturgical responsibilities I really do think you can throw out the bathwater of inequality without throwing out the baby of gender complementariness.

    So yes, I applaud women praying in GC, and I’m not just defending the status quo to defend it. The antipathy I’ve had towards Church leadership at times in my life would give many of you a run for your money. The assumption that conservatives just hold their beliefs as unthinking knee-jerk defensive reactions isn’t very helpful.

  54. “Churches that have ordained women are failing” – Correlation is not causation. Churches across the board are losing members. Cherry-picked data does not make a proof. Also, this is not “any other Church”. This is God’s Church, the only true and living one, remember? Did we lose men when the priesthood started to be given to all worthy males, rather than just white men? If we lost the people who said “well, if -he- can be Bishop, then this isn’t a church I want to be in”, then that is their problem to get over. If you’re going to be against the ordination of women, find a reason that wasn’t used for black men before 1978.

    And, rather than resting on “that’s just how God wants it to be right now”, actually look for the additional light and knowledge that is out there. Even if it’s not female ordination, there has got to be something for women that is genuinely equal in power and responsibility to what men are given. Cause right now what we have isn’t even “different but equal”.

    Ardis – I truly wish our communities could find ways to be closer. I don’t know of a way to fix that cultural issue. I am also an introvert, having a hard time getting out to visit and become friends with others. I truly wish I was called upon more to give blessings, but getting close to others enough that they feel they can actually call me is achingly difficult.

  55. Lindsey, you have said little that I didn’t say or at least imply when I acknowledged that my comment does not address RJ’s real concern. I hope it was good for you to vent. What I pointed out is not a diversion tactic, though it may help some girls (apparently not you) deal with the status quo. What I pointed out is applicable to everyone in the pews, not just to the ladies. We should be making the sacrament a communal as well as a personal, individual worship event. That would require recognizing that there is or should be a service and sharing going on when we pass the tray to another which is just as important as the deacons getting the tray from table to pew. There is no reason to reject that aspect of making the sacrament what it should be just because it doesn’t solve all the perceived priesthood policy problems in other aspects. As to at least the deacons, I call it a policy problem for our current culture because I can find no scriptural basis for thinking that carrying the trays from the table to the pews is a priesthood function. Others who draw lines that prevent women from doing certain things, might evaluate current practice differently, though I see no necessity in the way they draw those lines, once they reject, as they have, certain aspects of ancient and Jewish culture and Paul’s view on women keeping silent in church.

  56. JR – Works about as well as telling a quadriplegic, “at least you’re not dead”, and that they should work to appreciate the life they have. I mean, there are so many who didn’t get a body at all.

    It’s a selfish platitude which can only help soothe your own conscience.

  57. Frank, in my view, it doesn’t work at all to solve the problem RJ referred to and others have pointed out. I never said it did. I did say it “may” help some deal with the status quo and I acknowledged that there are those it won’t help. It is not a selfish platitude to soothe anyone’s conscience, certainly not mine. I am not responsible for current policies on priesthood and think some of them both unnecessary and often harmful in our current culture. I do try to find ways I can deal with them because I cannot change them, but that is also not the import of my comments on the sacrament.
    Your comment suggests an unwillingness to actually read my comments on the subject of the sacrament. They explicitly acknowledge that they do not address the concern that brought them to my mind. It seems the minor tangent I went off on is not of interest to you in this context. I apologize for starting this tangent in a thread including feminist complaints about priesthood, whether legitimate or not, though such complaints were clearly also not what RJ had in mind (see her last two sentences).

  58. Lindsey Smith says:

    JR, I should have been more considerate of your sacrament suggestion. I think emphasizing community is a great idea. No offense intended.

  59. How common is it for men to ask for blessings on their own behalf? Females are taught to marry so they can have the priesthood in their homes, but men will always have to go outside those walls to ask for priesthood blessings. My question is, do they really do it? If there were an understanding that both men and women can access God on behalf of others, would husbands be more likely to receive comfort through the voice of their wife (and children when appropriate) rather than toughing out their problems alone? When my husband decided he wasn’t required to call another man into our home in order to bless us in times of sickness or other distress, no matter the time or distance involved, he was more willing to bless us as needed, and God answered those blessings/prayers to the satisfaction of everyone involved. However, because of teachings about a male priesthood, my husband does not ask me to provide the same gift on his behalf, nor would he call “the elders” unless he thought he was about to die.

  60. I have an honest question for JR (in the sense that I really am curious about his answer and not looking to pick a fight): Which ‘feminist complaints about the priesthood’ on this thread do you view as legitimate, and which do you see as not legitimate, and why?

  61. To clarify, I am not asking you to point to any individual illegitimate feminist comments (that would be unkind), but just to give a general overview of what type of feminist complaints you find acceptable and which are not.

  62. Ranae, great questions. I, for one, a male, don’t ask ask for blessings from other men and also wouldn’t unless it was an extreme situation. Also, as you noted, I give more blessings to my own family now that I feel like I don’t need to have others there for it. On the other hand, I do like being asked to give blessings to people. It connects me to them as part of a community in a spiritual way, though I guess that makes me somewhat of a hypocrite for not asking others to ‘assist’ me when I give blessings to my own children. Finally, yes, I would definitely ask for more blessings if my wife could give them to me. And, interestingly, now that I’ve thought about it, I actually think I would work harder to ‘live up’ to the priesthood if I felt my wife and I shared in it.

  63. Angela C says:

    Mark L: “Why don’t men like going to church anymore?” Because church is boring? If so, same reason as women and everybody else.

    “I recently listened to an excellent podcast about how to get men more interested in church and it involved giving men something to do.” This is true for EVERYONE, not just men. It’s true for my teenage daughter. It’s true for me. Everyone needs to feel needed in order to affiliate with a community. “Women and Men are different, there is no getting around that basic fact.” That’s true mostly in a physical sense. Our brains are a whole lot more alike than unlike, as are our motivations. “Perhaps the Lord’s way is the best way and we need to change our will to match His.” Too bad we don’t know what is the Lord’s way and what is simply the way things have been done.

  64. JR, I realize that my last question might have come across as a bit of a setup, and that was not what was intended. In the interest of mutual understanding, I really am trying to figure out where you are coming from. Your comments are just ambiguous enough (to me), that I am not really sure exactly how you feel about LDS feminism. You could be committed to any of the following views, some combination or compromise between them, or none of them.

    A) You are an unreserved LDS feminist who believes that women should ideally be ordained to the Priesthood and be able to serve in leadership callings.

    B) You believe that the Church could take greater steps toward equality, but not go so far as to ordain women.

    C) You believe that women in the Church should be treated more equally (fill this in however you want), but you have a problem with how some feminists come across as strident, whiny, or eager to blame/complain when they try to get their message across.

    D) You think that there is no place for feminist activism within the Church. If it is God’s will that women should be treated more equally, it is better to wait for God to send that message directly to the General Authorities. (Based on your past comments, I think this is by far the least likely interpretation, but I wanted to leave it in, just so you could explicitly accept or reject it.)

    Since a few people have misunderstood the direction of some of your comments, I think it would help conversations to run smoother in the future if you would clarify. And, for the record, I am fully prepared to non-contentiously take you at your word, I just want to understand your position better.

  65. Rachael, I wouldn’t answer for JR, even though JR is one of the few people here for whom I think I might know an answer. Thus, for myself only, there is a nuance that makes for a fifth category, perhaps between your A and B, namely:
    [Whatever the label] Without equivocation I think women should be ordained and serve in leadership callings, and even though I say so (loud and proud) I believe it will not happen in my lifetime and nothing I do or say makes any difference in that schedule. In the meantime I waver between depressed and frustrated retreat (on some days) and lobbying for [greater steps toward equality, i.e.,] small changes in actions and understanding that can happen without a revolution or revelation (on other days).
    This is a relevant position to label because–without a dense paragraph of explanation that people ignore or misread anyway–the call for steps toward equality is too easily heard as rejecting the greater call for ordination. And because it describes a fair number of believing men and women of my acquaintance, differing mostly in how loud they announce their position.

  66. christiankimball: Thank you for your kind response. I feel pretty much the exact same way as you do (though I have moments of hoping ordination will happen in my lifetime). I see your view as falling in the A-camp, even if you must settle for advocating only for position B, since you are unequivocally for female ordination, even if you believe that the Church is only ever going to give us B in your lifetime. I am curious, do you think that if, or when, the Church does allow female ordination, it will be in part because of feminist advocacy, or even just progressive social norms, eventually having impact on the kinds of revelations the Brethren are prepared to receive, or do you think that those advocating for big changes are more or less wasting our breath and should instead focus on trying to be content with any small changes?

    I ask that question because I am also trying to figure out whether advocacy within the Church can bring about any big changes. I keep feeling inspired that God wants me to use my talents to advocate for the downtrodden and oppressed (I’m not sure if that means within the Church or outside of it). But it is hard to do: firstly, because advocating for change tends to draw personal judgement from those who are resistant to change, and that can be hurtful, especially at times when a little kindness would mean the world; secondly, because advocating for change almost always feels less peaceful to me than being detached. (It is so much easier for me, and much, much nicer, to hang out in nature, meditate, commune with God and just feel at peace with the world). But then I think of the gay LDS kids who are committing suicide, I think of the rape victims who have been put through the repentance process, I think of the many stories I’ve encountered (my own included) of women who grew up thinking God loves his sons much better than he loves his daughters, and I think that I have to care about all that pain enough that I am willing to try to make it better, even if it’s hard and even if I do so very imperfectly.

  67. Ronkonkoma says:

    Many, many people will not qualify for exaltation.

  68. For what it’s worth, here’s my take on how a change like women’s ordination would arrive in the church. I think it’s most likely that this will happen when it becomes clear that there is no other way for the church to move forward; not making the change would lead to a degree of stagnation that would threaten the survival of the church. It’s hard for me to imagine that we would come to that point within my lifetime. Even if we eased into the change in a more gradual way—not at sword’s point—that type of change would take a while, and it would have to be guided by the type of leaders that we don’t seem to have among the general authorities at this time. Again, it’s unlikely in my lifetime.

    Nonetheless, whenever and however this type of change happens, the ground must be prepared in advance. An indispensable part of the preparation is in the lives of church members who favor women’s ordination. We must show what it is like for a faithful, active Mormon to believe in the possibility of women’s ordination. That might include speaking up at times, and I think it certainly includes ministering to those who suffer. Mostly it means living a loving, Christian life. When people trust you, they listen. The hard part, as always, is earning and keeping people’s trust. Knowing that this kind of preparation is unlikely to bear fruit before we’re dead really makes this a case of enduring to the end.

    Active Mormons are not the only ones who have roles to play in preparing for change. I’m speaking only from my perspective as an active Latter-day Saint. I respect the positions of those who feel moved by this issue but find themselves situated differently from me.

  69. Ronkonkoma: “Many women spend a lot of time thinking of ways to usurp their husbands authority.” God help anyone who would marry you if you have this kind of mindset.

  70. How will change come? My first reaction is that I don’t know. I suppose today is one of those despair and retreat days. But then I reflect on my own experience–I’m in my 60s, so there’s quite a lot of years and experience behind me, and perhaps most relevant it’s my peer group that’s becoming GAs these days. I’ve never been against ordination or women’s rights more generally, and probably could be called vaguely feminist all along. Then I was educated by my wife, who is about as feminist as anyone I know while being very cautious with labels. From her I learned vocabulary, I learned to see the more subtle discrimination, I saw the temple in a different light. But partly because we live together very cooperatively in what looks like very traditional roles, that’s mostly intellectual learning. It’s then watching and thinking about my daughter, and in a similar way the women in the single adult ward where I served, that has given me a firm conviction–the emotional oomph–that something must change.
    So my prescription is look to the daughters of the general authorities. More than anyone else, they hold the keys to the concerns of their fathers.

  71. Ronkonkoma says:

    Angela C
    And I submit to you that many feminist’s husbands are going to be rethinking their relationships with their wives.

  72. Rachael, I appreciate the tone of your inquiry, but it seems to me that the primary functions of putting people in boxes such as you describe in your list of alternatives are (a) to facilitate making assumptions about them so that interaction can be based on those assumptions rather than on what they do or say, and (b) to discourage their growth or change. I do not think those functions are your intent, but please put me in the box of people who don’t want to be put in a box.

    That said, I can respond in part this way: I would like to see women and men have the same opportunities for and burdens of service and leadership. I think it would be good for all. Gender (as the word is used in the Proclamation on the Family) is not even anywhere close to a reliable indicator of nurturing, pastoral, teaching, organizational, or leadership talent, inclination, or skill. It is also not an indicator of ability to receive, recognize, or articulate revelation from God.

    As to LDS priesthood, I don’t see how the Church can get to permitting female ordination in the foreseeable future. It would require far more massive organizational and/or cultural and perhaps doctrinal changes than did the extension of priesthood opportunities to worthy males of African descent. In addition, by 1978, it seems a majority of Church members had moved beyond earlier attitudes about race and President Kimball had compelling reasons to change his own attitudes, seek divine direction, and manage the change of attitudes among senior Church leadership to gain their acceptance of the revelation. I don’t think that is yet, if it will ever be, the case as to attitudes about gender roles. Since I don’t expect to ever see Church organization, structure, or culture match my preferences, I prefer working on ways to deal with and to alleviate or modify the negative effects of that organization and culture where I have some hope of making a small positive difference. This is not a suggestion as to what anyone else should do.

  73. Ronkonkoma, I am curious about your choice of blogging handle. What does it mean to you? I have been unable to settle on any speculation from the alternatives that appear at

  74. anonymous says:

    Guys, guys, Ronkonkoma is right.

    It’s important to maintain an all male priesthood so we keep Heavenly Mother in the shadows where She belongs.

  75. For all I know, it is important to maintain an all male priesthood. I just don’t know why that would be. (I mean, aside from a cynical take such as anonymous offers. I’ve got plenty of those! But I’m keeping them to myself.)

    I appreciated the comments that pointed out that a priesthood-holding man doesn’t benefit from “having the priesthood in his home” in the way his wife and children do. (For some reason I’m having trouble locating that part of the conversation today.) Obviously, he can’t use his own priesthood to bless himself, and as was pointed out, many men are reluctant to ask for help from other men. This is part of why I wonder about the point of priesthood blessings, although I recognize many people don’t wonder about this. I just can’t seem to help myself.

    It’s hard for me to imagine the LDS church with a female priesthood. I’ve been soaking in the patriarchal order a la Palmolive my whole life, and every time I try to think outside that box, I feel like I am trying to escape Mormonism itself.

  76. Rebecca J, thank you for this. I feel much of that tension myself, and the paradoxes about priesthood authority/blessings often spin around in my head (if priesthood authority can be delegated, as one commenter noted, why not delegated to perform ordinances or higher callings or blessings? If a priesthood blessing is good, but a mother’s (or anyone’s?) prayer of faith is just as effective because God wouldn’t hold back the blessings on the basis of lack of priesthood alone, then why do we need priesthood for blessings at all? It is good to desire to serve others in and out of the church, but if that desire involves priesthood responsibilities and you’re a woman, then your desire is off-base (this is where I sigh about never obtaining my dream calling of SS Pres). Which also leads to the question about why priesthood is necessary for callings/responsibilities it isn’t scripturally/historically required for (women giving blessings of healing, passing the sacrament, stake auditors, SS Pres, Zone Leader, etc. etc. etc.) And then there are experiences like Ardis’ that show that priesthood authority means something; or is it less the priesthood and more something else?).

    Tiberius’ comment (“Men just aren’t into the whole religion/raising children/family thing nearly as much; it makes strategic sense to give them some particular responsibility to latch onto instead of completely ironing out gender differences.”) made me shake my head with resigned sadness because I think that’s what our leaders probably believe. As a woman who has never fit in my prescribed gender role box, it can be so disheartening to hear “women are this; men are this” because I find I usually fit better in the “man” box than the “woman” box. And that’s the problem with gender roles: they don’t fit everyone. My husband is just as much “into the whole religion/raising children/family thing” as I am. And I will tell you this: the church is very much on the verge of losing me (I say that knowing it may not be a great loss) because giving men special status at the expense of women is indefensible to me; my daughters are beginning to see it at ages four and two, and I don’t know if I can last much longer.

  77. Exactly.

    If men can only feel valued and engaged in religion at the expense of women – why on earth would anyone see that as a GOOD thing? If men are so uninterested in church and family that we basically have to BRIBE them, why aren’t they getting chastised about that every six months in the PH session of conference?

  78. “my daughters are beginning to see it at ages four and two, and I don’t know if I can last much longer.”

    I worry about this…

  79. “Men just aren’t into the whole religion/raising children/family thing nearly as much; it makes strategic sense to give them some particular responsibility to latch onto instead of completely ironing out gender differences.”

    I don’t think I have ever been annoyed at a statement more than this one. First, it does not align with the Proclamation on the Family or the conservative perspectives found in the church and it baits those members with more liberal perspectives. Second, it does not ring true to me at all. I have worked with active LDS young men and men for most of my life and the majority ARE into “the whole religion/raising children/family thing.”

    Give men power so they will participate in church? That is a bribe, a quid pro quo. Tell a young man that you are going to ordain him an elder and send him out for two years on a mission. Tell him that he will serve in positions for the rest of his life. Tell him that he will attend three hours of meetings on Sunday and arrive to help move furniture, home teach, give blessings and clean yards on short notice. Tell him that he will bless his family and administer saving ordinances for them. Tell him that he will serve his later years in the temple offering salvation to previous generations. That is not a bribe. It is a responsibility and a sacrifice. A long-term sacrifice that has consecrating power when it is connected with the atonement.

    Priesthood is not about prestige or social status. (Although there are plenty of church members who make it that!) For me, the primary question we must answer is whether there is a long-term sacrificial experience capable of bringing about the same result for women. I think there is. So many overlaps and there are congruities. And there are roles and duties assigned specifically to the women. I actually believe that the women’s side of the equation often works better at producing sanctified, consecrated souls than the male side of the equation. I fear we men get too caught up in office and position and are in danger of turning priesthood into priestcraft.

  80. Love. Love. Loved this! I deeply identify with you here. I can’t remember the last time I got a blessing. Your essay also reminded me that I refused to ask for a blessing from the Elders while on my mission. (I am female and served way back when you had to be 21.) Bedore my mission, I heard so many RMs complain about “so-called” whiner- sisters always needing blessings. So, I naively determined that I didn’t want to be part of that population. It wasn’t difficult at all as there were amazingly few elders that I would have even trusted enough to ask for a blessing. What I really missed was physical contact. I really needed a hug–the kind you get from a dad or grandfather that helps you feel like everything is going to be alright. It’s too bad that sister missionaries can’t serve each other in this way, with the laying on of hands. But, I’m growing accustomed to, as you say, this next stage. I don’t feel the same sadness or desire to experience feeling what it is like to administer to others with priesthood authority. And somehow that is sadder than anything to give up on wanting something my great-great grandmother used to do.

  81. whizzbang says:

    I used to get Priesthood Blessings when I was younger but I honestly can’t recall the last time I got one. I’ve had a few healing blessings. Elder Richard G. Scott said that we should write down what is said in the blessing. Well, I did that and none of it has ever come to pass. So, I am confused. Does this mean the Lord thinks I am not faithful despite me trying to be? Does he have any intention of doing any of it, if not then why say that stuff? Am I wasting time in the Church for a God who thinks I don’t make the cut? This is why I don’t get blessings anymore

  82. Veronica Ryan says:

    I have not read all the comments, so forgive me if I repeat anything, but in the early church the women were allowed to give blessings to the sick. I believe it is wrong that we stopped the practice.

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