Female Priests Among Christians and Mormons, Part 7

[You can find the whole series here.]
Scripture contains the word of God, in the words of human beings. Therefore each of these texts reflects the social and intellectual milieu of the people of their times. 1 Cor 14:33-34 reads something to the effect of “In all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent. For they are not permitted to speak but should be in submission, as the Law (of Moses) also says.”[1] In the Genesis creation/fall stories, Eve is told that Adam will rule her.

Three years ago while sitting in a sealing room of the St. George temple, the man in charge repeated these words to the bride, a woman who had suffered terrible abuse by an ex-husband. It was hard to keep silent. While he was off the rails in terms of what the current instruction is for ministers of the ordinance that didn’t make too much difference. Everyone was familiar with the source book anyway. These passages cannot be repeated as normative without considering whether the current social condition does not require a new expression of God’s will.

Mormon scripture, D&C 25, suggests that women can be “ordained” (the word had variable meanings then as opposed to the very strict separatrix of the twentieth century) to teach the church and that pattern exists in some forms in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today.

In the ancient era of Christ’s birth, families were organized around the patriarch/husband. The well born male ruled those inferior to him, wife, slaves, children, inferior populace of his town. His inferiors might have some say in their acts and fate, if he said they did. Scripture passages like Col 3-4, Eph 5-6 and 1 Pet talk about the physical structure of the family within this context. The patriarchal family was the reality of the New Testament world. Paul seems to be working to change some of this. You have to start with what you have. Paul’s arguments tend to place more restrictions on husbands/fathers to limit power, not encourage it, and show that women, children, slaves are persons in God’s image, not property. In Philemon, Paul urges manumission of a slave because he has become a brother in Christ. For Paul, baptism shows that now the covenant is universal, not patriarchal as circumcision was, there is no male or female, etc. I think there is room to think about ancient scripture in these lights.

Next time I want to explore ecclesiologies that have been proposed as barring or allowing the ordination of women. That should be fun.

[1] There appears to be good evidence that these verses were a later addition to the text possibly to counter one or another sect/branch where women were dominating the liturgy or teaching. Paul seems more universal in other passages like 1 Cor 11, Gal 3:28, Rom 16. A JST version of 1 Cor 14 reads instead of silence, leading. So that is a reinforcement at face value of femaleless leadership. I think one can and should appeal to Joseph Smith’s methodologies of JST work here but suffice it to say, this adjustment may be more 1830s culture than a transcript from a heavenly volume. More work is coming on the JST methods next year.


  1. 1) There are so many helpful books if one wants to reframe scripture about women into a more appropriate light. For the person who is not as used to reading theologically I would suggest Scot McKnight’s “The Blue Parakeet”. McKnight is a NT scholar, not a theologian, and he writes for a popular audience, so he is very accessible. If soJohn T. Bristow if someone was still interested I would suggest they read, “What Paul Really Said About Women” by Bristow, also not a theologian, so he is much more user-friendly. If you want to get into theology proper, I suggest Stanley Grentz’s “Women in Church, A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry”. Grentz is a Biblical Theologian, but writes clearly, and Biblical Theologians are probably the easiest to understand anyway. If you really want a stretch, I suggest “Women Slaves and Homosexuals” by Willian Webb. It is dense and you will have to work to get through it, but I think any Mormon person who does so would be greatly rewarded, not just because of this topic but because Webb is constructing the closest thing that Protestant/Evangelicals have to understanding what it might be like to have ongoing revelation, something they flat out deny having or wanting.

    2) I CAN NOT wait for more to come out on the JST methodologies next year.

    3) “Next time I want to explore ecclesiologies that have been proposed as barring or allowing the ordination of women. That should be fun” We have the same definition of fun!!!! We’d be great at parties. But seriously, thank yo WVS for the work you have put in this. I so greatly appreciate the conversation.

  2. nobody, really says:

    It is imperative to remember that the scriptures are not the word of God, they are a *record* of the word of God. God is perfect, His word is perfect, our records are less so.

  3. I like your comment about Paul working with what he had as far as family/societal structure is concerned. We might not have a record of what Paul’s ideal relationship structure looked like, but we do have where he thought the current structures should be headed towards. But today, many will use some well selected phrases of his to try and show that we shouldn’t change those relationships, because of how Paul is talking about them.

  4. I’m continuing to follow and enjoy. And mostly in agreement. I am a little startled at the abruptness of “Scripture contains the word of God, in the words of human beings.” I agree, but it is a big move in my experience with a traditional Mormon audience. That one line describes a whole way of thinking about scripture that is relatively modern and not without controversy. You’ve defined and narrowed your audience to those who will take that line at face value. I’m in that audience and clipping right along, but I think it worth a moment to call out some of the way stations.

  5. Jennifer, thanks for the literature suggestions. They make a great addition.

    Christian, no doubt there are some pretty wide variations of thought about scripture. Hopefully people will stay with me.

  6. All this female priesthood talk. It’s like this blog is all female Priesthood in September month.

    Do you know something about general conference we don’t know? Do vitamins have that much of a short term effect?

  7. Well, 10 days worth anyway.

  8. And really, even 10 days barely scratches the surface…And I’m not even one who is strongly advocating for women to have the priesthood.

  9. loving the series

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