This video discusses the evolution in our understanding of priesthood power and authority to include women’s ability to access it as they serve in their families, the church, and the temple. It also clarifies early church practices of women being “ordained” in Relief Society and women giving “healing blessings of faith,” neither of which resulted, ever, in any woman having conferred on them the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood or ordained to any priesthood office.
The topic of this video is women and the priesthood. It’s a very important topic. It’s been talked about quite a bit recently. I’m going to share a lot of current thoughts on it. I am at a disadvantage because I’m a man talking about this, I think in some ways, but I am married and I have four daughters. I’ve asked them about this topic and gotten a lot of input from them. Hopefully I’ll do justice to it.
There are two very critical talks I’m going to suggest. I’ll put it at the top of the resources list, but the Two Trees by Valerie Hudson Cassler and This is a Woman’s Church by Sharon Eubank, two phenomenal presentations given at two different FairMormon conferences and I’m going to share a few thoughts from those. Also some great books just in 2019, three books: The Priesthood Power of Women: In the Temple, Church, and Family by Barbara Gardner; Robert line, Royal Daughters with Priesthood Power; and then Wendy Ulrich, Live Up to Our Privileges: Women, Power, and Priesthood, and they all take very different interesting things to explore about it.
And then in 2018 the Renlunds, Elder Renlund and Sister Renlund, The Melchizedek Priesthood, and Jonathan Stapely did a great phenomenal book, The Power of Godliness. Fascinating book. And then the classic Sheri Dew, Women and the Priesthood. And this is the one, if you were going to get just one, this is the one that I would get. This is really the foundational one. 2013 I think is when that was published. And then this is one of my favorite classics. This has been out for quite a while, but Women in Eternity, Women of Zion, Alma Sorensen and Valerie Hudson Cassler.
There’s a lot of great books on the topic. But let’s get started.
First of all, Elder Matthew Cowley said that “Men have to have something given to them in mortality to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. You are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority to be the saviors of human souls. By a right divine, you are the saviors and regenerating force in the lives of God’s children here upon the earth.”
And Elder Ballard said, “Men and women, though spiritually equal, are entrusted with different but equally significant roles. Men are given stewardship over the sacred ordinances of the priesthood. To women, God gives stewardship over bestowing and nurturing mortal life, including providing physical bodies for God’s spirit children and guiding those children toward the knowledge of gospel truths. These stewardships, equally sacred and important, do not involve any false ideas about domination or subordination.”
Now, Valerie Hudson Cassler spoke at the FairMormon Conference. She talked on the two trees, and I love this. This was one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever heard in my life. In fact, the FairMormon website tracker says it’s the most watched I think on the website that they’ve had, and it was given back in 2010, but I love it because she is a woman. She’s a convert. She’s a feminist. There’s a lot of the things that you could say, well, it’s very powerful who she is representing the message that she is sharing. Keep that in mind as you hear these words. And I’m going to share a number of slides here. I pulled some nuggets from her presentation that I thought were phenomenal. Like I said, I’ll link to the video as well as the transcript that’s there.
She starts out by talking about, she says, “I didn’t join the Church because I was a feminist, but I stay in the Church because I am a feminist. And what I’d like to do to begin my talk is to review the main points of LDS doctrine that make this a revolutionary religion from a feminine perspective. The restored gospel teaches me that the term God means an exalted woman and exalted man married in the new and everlasting covenant. We get that from D&C 132. We are taught that there is no God without men and women loving each other as equals. Heavenly Father is not an old bachelor. In fact, the one who is an old bachelor is Satan. This is revolutionary.”
And she goes on and talks about a bunch of other things that are really revolutionary. It’s fascinating. But I want to focus in on the Garden of Eden and I’m going to go through a number of slides and stay with this because she gets into some very, towards the end, that builds to some very critical points that she makes about this topic that I think helps us to see and understand really the big picture.
Going into this Two People, Two Trees, Two Stewardships. “We cannot fully understand this incredible doctrine of ours unless we go back to the story of the Garden of Eden. Let’s tell it again in the light of the restored gospel without the encrusted traditions of old. We have two trees and we have two people, a man and a woman.” Then as Eve’s created, she does make this comment about a helpmeet. In fact, she quotes Elder Tingey, “You must not misunderstand what the Lord meant when Adam was told he was to have a helpmeet. A helpmeet is a companion suited to or equal to us. We walk side by side with a helpmeet, not one before or behind the other. A helpmeet results in an absolute equal partnership between a husband and a wife. Eve was to be equal to Adam as a husband and wife are to be equal to each other.”
Okay. Now, “Why was Eve created second? Could it be that Eve was created second to demonstrate Adam’s helplessness before the first tree? Could it be that Eve was foreordained to partake first of the fruit of the first tree? We must ask ourselves what partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means in a spiritual sense. It means to enter into mortality with a mortal body, to enter into full agency and have awakened within us the light of Christ that will serve us so well as we pass the veil. Think– two people, two trees– whose stewardship does this sound like? It is through women that souls journey to mortality and gain their agency, and in general, as seen in the nurturing of women, their nurturing love of the children, that the light of Christ is awakened within each soul. I believe that when we think about it–two people, two trees– that what we really are thinking about is two stewardships, and that the fruit of the first tree symbolizes the gift that women give to every soul that choose the plan of Christ. It symbolizes the role and power of women in the great plan of happiness.”
“Elder Oaks in his famous talk on Eve says that the partaking in the fruit was the minimum transgression necessary to put the veil of separation in place that would enable our full inheritance of agency.”
Okay. A woman opened the door. “I think it was just and proper that women open the door to the plan of happiness. We considered what would befall us in the fallen world. Surely the daughters of God were given at least an inkling of what could befall them–rape, forced marriage, sex trafficking, treated as chattel through much of human history. If no women was willing to open the door to mortal life and all that it would mean for women, I don’t think it would’ve been opened and that would only be just.”
“Eve was not the worst among women. Eve was the best among women.” And this is revolutionary doctrine for Latter-day Saints compared to other Christians. “She was the most courageous, the most full of faith. It was also right, then, that the first mortal being that the resurrected Jesus showed himself to was not a man. It was a woman. Jesus’ performance of the Atonement repaid mother Eve’s faith in the plan, her courageous opening of the door represented by the first tree. Who hearkened first to whom? Adam hearkened first to Eve.”
And I will mention this, this is another book that I’ll share, Christ’s Emancipation of Women in the New Testament, which is phenomenal by Lynne Wilson. And if you think about these witnesses too, the first witness of the Christ coming to earth was Mary. The first witness of His messiahship was the woman at the well. These are women. The first witness of the Resurrection was a woman, Mary. The first witness of the Book of Mormon plates was a woman, Mary Whitmer. Really quite fascinating.
And this goes into a lot of the traditions that were cultural to Israelites at the time when Christ was on the earth and how he up-ended many of them that we don’t see in our modern culture today and understand what He was doing and how revolutionary it was.
Back to Valerie’s talk. “Did God curse her? That’s pretty hard to believe if he was so proud of her wisdom and courage. We know that the ground was cursed for the sake of Adam and Eve. Is this a cursing of Adam and Eve? Well, no. In the teachings of the Church, we do not believe that this was a curse meant to punish them. It was a curse meant to start the law of opposites.”
“Eve was told she would labor in childbirth. Was this a cursing of Eve? Absolutely not. To have children is one of the most soul satisfying parts of a woman’s life. Eve, as part of her punishment, was told that Adam would rule over her. Is that what we believe? Actually not. Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to ‘rule over’ Eve, but ‘over’ in ‘rule over’ uses the Hebrew ‘bet’, which means ‘ruling with’, not ‘ruling over’.” There’s an article in the Ensign from Bruce Hafen in 2007 on that.
“The LDS alone among all Christian religions says that not only did Eve not sin, but she was rewarded for her courage and wisdom, and God was assuring her that just as she fulfilled her role in the great plan of happiness, that Adam would step up to the plate and he would perform his role in the great plan of happiness, and that would entitle him to rule with her. Absolutely revolutionary and astounding doctrine.”
“Now, what is Adam going to do? Adam will give the gift of the fruit of the second tree to the children of God, those who are worthy to receive it, just as Eve and her daughters give the fruit of the first tree in the garden of Eden to all who are worthy to partake of it. And that fruit of the second tree, as we know, are the ordinances of salvation and exaltation. Just as the veil into this life is guarded by the women, the daughters of God, so the veil that brings us home is administered and guarded over by the sons of God and those that have accepted the gift of the second tree from the hands of the sons of God will pass through that veil and back to that celestial place where they can be with their parents once more.”
And then finally, she says, “When the giving and the receiving of the fruit of the first tree is past, what we’re walking towards along this path of the great plan is the second tree. We see what is most prominent in our eyes from our vantage point, the fruit of the second tree and the sons of God who are giving the fruit of the second tree. That is only natural, but if that perspective warps our sense of what and who is important, then we have a problem. It’s important for us to step back and look again at the whole picture. The whole picture that includes women and man, two trees, two stewardships. Without either one the plan would not exist. It is a plan of equal partnership between men and women, a plan of joyous cooperation. That means that priesthood is not some extra given to men and denied women. Priesthood is a man’s apprenticeship to become like Heavenly Father, and I believe that women have their own apprenticeship to become like their Heavenly Mother. The ordinance– and they are ordinances– of body and of agency– pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation, and spiritual ordinances of the first tree are not less powerful or spiritual than the ordinances of the second tree.”
“Women have their own godly power and a truism that holds fairly across the board is that those religions that despise the body tend to be those religions that de-value women. Gender equality is not some politically correct ideal to the Latter-day Saints. It is not some maraschino cherry placed atop a Zion sundae. No, relationships of gender equality are the bricks of Zion, without which you cannot build Zion, because gender equality is how Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father live.”
That was kind of long, but wow. I would strongly suggest, just watch the whole thing. It’s just unbelievable.
President Packer in the October 1983 conference talked about this parable of the safe and the treasure inside. I’ll just let you pause it on the screen if you’d like to read it, but it’s a similar thing to what Valerie’s was just talking about and saying it in kind of a different way, but a really powerful concept there.
Moving on, the priesthood can be hard to understand. Sometimes it’s even the language we use. Here’s some examples. Sheri Dew said “We actually diminish priesthood power when we equate it with holders of the priesthood.” Elder Oaks, “Some of the abbreviated expressions, like ‘the women and the priesthood’ convey an erroneous idea. Men are not ‘the priesthood.'” Elder Ballard, “In our Heavenly Father’s great, priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood.”
Speaking of trying to understand the priesthood, Bruce R. McConkie said “This doctrine of the priesthood– unknown in the world and but little known even in the Church– cannot be learned out of the scriptures alone. It is not set forth in the sermons and teachings of the prophets and apostles, except in small measure. The doctrine of the priesthood is known only by personal revelation. It comes, line upon line and precept upon precept, by the power of the Holy Ghost to those who love and serve God with all their heart, might, mind, and strength. Priesthood is power like none other in heaven or on earth.”
And in fact, many of these books I’ve talked about try to talk about too, this larger priesthood like the Renlunds talk about, the earth, the dirt on the earth, essentially the priesthood given to mankind, but the priesthood is more the earth itself. Jonathan Stapely talked about as the cosmological priesthood. Valerie Hudson, she talked about it like the little “P” and then the capital “P” to try and demonstrate this larger, bigger priesthood.
Then we also have if you look on the screen here, a hierarchal and patriarchal priesthood. Barbara Gardner in her book on the priesthood power of women talked about this quite a bit too. “Hierarchal governs priesthood use at church”, Elder Oaks. It’s public, used to administer and officiate the saving ordinances, used during the time of Christ and since the Restoration. Patriarchal is priesthood authority in the family, also used in the temple, mostly private or sacred usage, used since the time of Adam and the Old Testament. During our dispensation it is used alongside the hierarchal priesthood.
She said, “President Oaks affirmed, ‘The most important difference in the functioning of priesthood authority in the family and in the Church results from the fact that the government of the family is patriarchal, whereas the government of the Church is hierarchal. The priesthood itself is not different. What varies is simply how the Lord has set up its system of governance.” And in the home we know it’s very equal. In fact, here’s a quote from President Hunter talking about presiding. “The Lord intended the wife to be a companion, equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife.”
Now, patriarchal order, let’s talk about this for a minute. It does have a negative connotation, the wording of that today, with the way that word can be used. And so I love what Valerie said in the Tale of the Two Trees talk. She said, “We need to understand the true definition of what we call the patriarchal order.” I’m just going to throw in a couple of quotes here. “Satan loves to use words that sound the same but have absolutely different meanings. And we know the term ‘patriarchy’, if you look it up in a secular dictionary, is an order in which men rule over women. We know that that’s not the order of Heaven. Obviously we don’t have patriarchy in the Church, but we do have something called the patriarchal order.”
“Why is it called that, and why would we reject definitions that try to make it look like more like the definition of men rule over women? Here I would like to quote President Ezra Taft Benson. ‘The patriarchal order is called such because it came down from father to son. The right to officiate in the ordinances of the giving of the fruit of the second tree in the old days came down from father to son. But this order is otherwise described in modern revelation as an order of family government, where man and woman enter into the covenant with God just as did Adam and Eve to be sealed for eternity, to have posterity, and to do the will and work of God throughout their mortality.’ What we mean by the patriarchal order is the order of family government as found in heaven based on equal partnerships of men and women.”
Some other great recent quotes. Elder Ballard at the 2013 BYU Education Week talked about priesthood power. He said, “When men and women go to the temple, they’re both endowed with the same power, which by definition is priesthood power. The endowment is literally a gift of power. All who enter the house of the Lord officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood. This applies to men and women alike.” I love what Sherri Dew said when she addressed this in her book from a woman’s perspective of what this meant. “Endowed, covenant-keeping women have direct access to priesthood power for their own lives. What does it mean to have access to priesthood power for our own lives? It means that we can receive revelation, be blessed and aided by the ministering of angels, learn to part the veil that separates us from our Heavenly Father, be strengthened to resist temptation, be protected, and be enlightened and made smarter than we are– all without any mortal intermediary.”
“Eliza R. Snow said the Latter-day Saint women ‘have greater and higher privileges than any other females upon the face of the earth.’ This is because the temple gives LDS women spiritual privileges no other woman on earth may claim. Many women who are endowed in the house of the Lord have been given a gift of power, and they have been given a gift of knowledge of how to use and access that power.”
And then on priesthood authority, Elder Oaks’ famous talk, now you probably heard this, some of these quotes here. 2014 General Conference, April. He said, “A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the house of the Lord. They have authority given unto them to do some great and wonderful things sacred unto the Lord and binding just as thoroughly as are the blessings that are given by the men who hold the priesthood. We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?”
“When a woman, young or old, is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing his or her assigned duties.”
And it’s fascinating that the keys of the priesthood too, directing the work. And that’s through the offices. I do love Wendy Ulrich just spoke in the 2019 FairMormon Conference and talking about the keys of the priesthood. She gave this fascinating analogy of a stream and the rocks on the bank were directing the water in the stream, but the water, essentially the keys, would be directing that water, but the water is what gave everything life and enrichment. That really is the priesthood. The rocks on the bank, the keys, they’re not the the priesthood per se. They’re directing the flow and the order there. And I’ll talk about that a little bit more in a minute.
Then she said in the 2016 conference she said, “The specific roles and responsibilities men and women assume differ somewhat, but both men and women can be given priesthood authority. They exercise priesthood power, they perform priesthood ordinances, they are endowed, clothed, or vested with priestly identities, and they enter the Holy Order of the Son of God.”
She talked about that significantly in her book there. Sheri Dew’s Women and the Priesthood, regarding some of the things we don’t understand. First, regarding women in the temple, she says, “Although women are not ordained to the priesthood, they do have authority to officiate priesthood ordinances in the temple. On the other hand, women unlike man, are not required to be ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood in order to enter the house of the Lord, though the ordinances performed there are all priesthood ordinances. Neither are women are required to be ordained to the priesthood to serve as leaders in the Lord’s Church. Why is this the case? We don’t know the answer to these questions, either.”
And in fact, Elder Ballard regarding men in priesthood office, he said this at Education Week in 2013, “Why are men ordained to the priesthood offices and not women? When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has. Do we believe that it is the Lord’s Church? Do we believe that He has organized it according to His purpose and wisdom? Do we believe that His wisdom far exceeds ours? Do we believe that He has organized His Church in a manner that would be the greatest possible blessing to all of His children, both as sons and daughters?”
Elder Oaks in his talk, he made a strong statement about how careful the prophets and apostles are viewing this issue and what they can and can’t change. He says, “Ultimately all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. He is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used.” And then he says down in the bottom here, “The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of Church administration and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who presided over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures, matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service.”
“But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.”
Okay, so now, can things change? Well, many things have been changing. We look at what’s cultural, what’s doctrinal. I love what the Relief Society President at the time, Linda Burton, said at the May, 2013 BYU Women’s Conference. She said, “What a healthy discussion to have about the priesthood. What is cultural and what is doctrine? It is enlivening and wonderful. It helps us define what is authority, what are the keys? But let’s go to the right sources for answers. Why would we believe the internet and not the prophets? We can figure out how to ask the questions in a way that facilitates cooperation and brings honest concerns to the table.”
“If you aren’t in a leadership position, bring questions to your leaders in an honest and humble way. See what we can figure out together. Offer solutions. What would you do if you were the leader? But be patient and humble.” And then I did think this was fascinating in Robert Line’s book that was just published about … one little section that caught my eye that I thought was really interesting, he quotes a verse here in the Doctrine and Covenants, possible if any changes were to take place with this interesting scripture here. He says, “Are there any future ways in which women in the Church will receive the priesthood, ways that are not yet revealed, but one day might be? If such a thing were to happen, it would not come because of social pressure or efforts to coerce those with priesthood keys. It would come as it always does, because of revelation from heaven given to those with priesthood keys. How might this happen?”
“We can only guess in ignorance and speculate with the uncertainty of limited perspective. Wisdom and prudence tells us to wait and be patient, to live faithfully and trust in the Lord’s timing and purposes. Perhaps our time and efforts would be best spent implementing what God has already revealed. However, a verse regarding these matters is found in the Doctrine and Covenants.” This is D&C 107 verse 10. “It says, ‘High priests after the order of the Melchizedek priesthood have a right to officiate in their own standing, under the direction of the presidency, in administering spiritual things, and also in the office of an elder, priest, teacher, deacon and member.’ The wording here is interesting. Could there perhaps be another priesthood office, ordained or not, even that of ‘member’? Or does this mean that all members will someday be able to access all the blessings of the priesthood?”
“Might there be further divine clarification on what this term ‘member’ means in the context of the aforementioned priesthood offices? Might we learn in the future the connection that women could have with such a potential priesthood office?”
Okay, Sheri Dew. She, in her book, she’s asked by a reporter about being an oppressed Latter-day Saint woman. She said to the reporter, “I told him that for years I had searched the world over to find any organization, the largest governments and religions, multinational businesses, worldwide charities, major universities, where as many women had as much bona fide responsibility and authority as they do in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that I hadn’t been able to find one. ‘Does this sound to you like a church that holds women back?’ I asked. ‘I had no idea’, he admitted.” Then she goes on to say a few other things.
She said, “Latter-day women …” this is in her book, they ” … have unusual influence and privileges in the Church, many of which require ordination in other churches. We pray, preach, and expound scriptures from the pulpit in sacrament meeting, lead, direct and teach in organizations for all women, young women and children in the church, teach gospel doctrine in Sunday School to people of both genders and all ages, teach seminary and institute classes to teenagers and young adults of both genders, officiate in priesthood ordinances for women in the temple, participate with male leaders and significant Church councils on both the local and general levels, from the age of 19 are eligible to preach the gospel on proselyting missions throughout the world.” She says, “Women hold all the administrative and teaching offices in the Relief Society, which is now one of the oldest, largest, and most influential women’s organizations in the world, numbering more than six and a half million members and 185 nations.”
Some powerful thoughts. Okay, so Sharon Eubank, in her talk, This is a Woman’s Church at the FairMormon Conference, and she got actually a standing ovation there. I think it’s the only time I can remember this happening. It went on for several minutes. It was a powerful moment. This was the 2014 conference, but she shared this story, and just briefly I’ll share.
“Lillian DeLong, a friend of mine, served on a Relief Society board several years ago and was assigned to go to a very rural part of Ghana to do Relief Society training. After it was over, a woman came up to her in her beautiful Ghanian church dress and she shook her hand and she kept saying, ‘This is a woman’s church’. She’s just crying and tears are streaming down her face. She just kept saying, ‘This is a woman’s church.’ And finally Lillian said, ‘What do you mean this is a woman’s church?'”
“And she said, ‘We have just been in the marvelous Relief Society that teaches us not only spiritual things, but temporal things about how to make our lives and our children or families better, and at the same time your husband is in the priesthood room, and he is teaching our husbands that the culture of the church does not allow for them to beat their wives and their children.’ She said, ‘In this church, my husband and I get to go to the temple and we are going to seal our children to us. I have seven of my loving kids that are dead, and I want my children with me, and this is a woman’s church because it protects me and gives me all of those things.'” That’s powerful.
And then she said, okay, let’s talk about the practice and that’s the second half of her talk. It was very interesting. She says, “There are lots of people who would not agree that this is a church for women and I think that the reason they feel this way is because of a disconnect that comes between our doctrine and sometimes the way that we practice our doctrine, and there have been a lot of discussions and a lot of disagreement and people have had painful experiences. There is just stuff that is plain wrong, and there are consequences too. It would be absurd for me to stand up here and say that our political and our traditional and our cultural practices always live up to our doctrine. I’m not even sure that we fully grasp our doctrine. And to be honest, in my opinion, we can improve in many, many ways. We should and I think we will.” I had chills when she was called three years later into the General Relief Society presidency where she’s serving as the first counselor now.
And look at, it’s been such a tremendous change. So many things, the last number of years on this. If you think about the young women doing the old home teaching that the young men were doing now, they’re all doing ministering together, same ages. Think about General Conference that they used to have the women’s session the week before, right? Now it’s part of General Conference and it’s once a year. It’s just like the priesthood is now once a year, priesthood session. It’s really interesting. But she talked a lot about our language too and just how we have a struggle in using language and defining different roles from a language perspective.
And then last I just shared also remember it’s a lay church that we have, and the power of the priesthood is very different than the power of the world and what it’s for and the service. It’s a game changing distinction as Sister Ulrich says. Sherri Dew talked about experience with priesthood leaders. She said, “On a personal note, I’ve had splendid experiences with priesthood bearers and priesthood leaders. I’ve also occasionally had bewildering experiences with priesthood leaders, but does a difficult experience with a priesthood leader mean the priesthood authority isn’t real or that there’s something inherently wrong with the way the Lord has organized His Church? Of course not. We are mortals serving in a lay Church, and even the finest leaders have days when they don’t handle authority particularly well. Human weakness is a reality in a lay ministry.”
Okay, so a couple of key last things here. The Church did a Gospel Topics Essay called Joseph Smith’s Teaching about Priesthood, Temple, and Women. I highly recommend it, I’ll link to it. They do talk about two really kind of key elements here in Joseph’s teaching that may be unfamiliar to members of the Church.
The first is his use of language associated with the priesthood. He spoke about ordaining women and said the Relief Society officers would preside over the society. He also declared, “I now turn the key to you in the name of God.” Now if you look here on the screen, “These statements indicate that Joseph Smith delegated priesthood authority to women in the Relief Society. Joseph’s language can be more fully understood in historical context. During the 19th century, Latter-day Saints used the term ‘keys’ to refer at various times to authority, knowledge or temple ordinances. Likewise Mormons sometimes used the term ‘ordained’ in a broad sense, often interchangeably with ‘set apart’ and not always referring to priesthood office. On these points, Joseph’s actions illuminate the meaning of his words. Neither Joseph Smith nor any person acting on his behalf nor any of his successors conferred the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood on women or ordained women to priesthood office. In later years, words like ‘ordination’ and ‘keys’ were more precisely defined, as when President John Taylor, who acted by assignment from Joseph Smith to ordain and set apart Emma Smith and our counselors, explained in 1880 that the ordination then given did not mean the conferring of the priesthood upon those sisters.”
“Women did receive authority to preside in the women’s organization and to appoint officers as needed to conduct the organization in the pattern of the priesthood, including being led by a president with counselors. By the time of President Taylor’s statement, women-led organizations were also in place for young women and children, and these organizations also had presidencies who acted with delegated priesthood authority.”
And the other thing in the Gospel Topics Essay, a second aspect of his teachings, that might be unfamiliar today. It says, “Endorsement of women’s participation in giving blessings of healing.” If you look on the screen here, “Respecting the female laying on hands, the Nauvoo Relief Society minutes record, Joseph said that ‘it is no sin for anybody to do it that has faith’ and admonished, ‘If the sister should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues and let everything roll on.'”
“Some women had performed such blessings since the early days of the Church. At that time, the Latter-day Saints understood the gift of healing primarily in terms of the New Testament’s teaching that it was one of the gifts of the spirit available to believers through faith. Joseph Smith taught that the gift of healing was a sign that would follow all that believe, whether male or female. During the 19th century, women frequently blessed the sick by the prayer of faith, and many women received priesthood blessings promising that they would have this gift of healing. ‘I have seen many demonstrations of the power and blessing of God through the administration of the sisters’, testified Elizabeth Whitney, who was, by her own account, blessed by Joseph Smith to exercise this gift. In reference to these healing blessings, Relief Society President, Eliza R. Snow, explained in 1883, ‘Women can administer in the name of Jesus, but not by virtue of the priesthood.'”
“Women’s participation in healing blessings gradually declined in the early 20th century as Church leaders taught that it was preferable to follow the New Testament directive to call for the elders. By 1926, President Grant affirmed that the First Presidency did not encourage calling in the sister to administer to the sick as the scriptures tell us to call on the elders who hold the priesthood of God and have the power and authority to administer to the sick in the name of Jesus Christ.” And then, “Currently, the Church Handbook says only Melchizedek priesthood holders may administer to the sick or afflicted.”
Elder Oaks, he did comment on this in General Conference in 1992. He said, “Remember that in those earliest days in Church history, more revelation was to come. Thus, when he spoke to the sisters about the appropriateness of their laying on hands to bless one another, the prophet cautioned that ‘the time had not been before that these things could be done in their proper order– that the Church is not now organized in its proper order and cannot be until the temple is completed.’ During the century that followed, as temples became accessible to most members, proper order required that these and other sacred practices be confined within those temples.”
I do like this section of Sheri Dew’s book. She talks about this and she herself ponders and she says, “I don’t know why the prophet Joseph appears to have sanctioned females blessing the sick, though I’ve pondered different possibilities. Were the statements recorded accurately? Was the prophet’s reference to administer to the sick referring to prayers of faith and comfort rather than a priesthood ordinance? Had issues regarding women and priesthood not yet been fully revealed? Was he anticipating women officiating priesthood ordinances in the temple?” Which we just heard from Elder Oaks. “Were there reasons the Lord allowed women to give blessings of healing as distinct from performing actual ordinances? During those turbulent days in Nauvoo when illness threatened the saints constantly, priesthood bearers were frequently away from home, and women often found themselves caring for their families alone. I don’t know if any of these explanations are correct, though all would seem to be possibilities.”
I love this story of Joseph and Hyrum being healed from cholera in Zion’s Camp. They had been blessing those that had cholera attached to them and they tried to administer to each other and ineffectual. They prayed, they couldn’t get healed and then look on the screen here. The last part is this. “Finally Hyrum exclaimed, ‘I have had an open vision in which I saw a mother on her knees under an apple tree praying for us, and she’s even now asking God in tears to spare our lives. The Spirit testifies to me that her prayers and ours shall be heard.’ And from that moment, they were healed and went on their way rejoicing.”
Okay. Now the oath and covenant of the priesthood. Interesting that Sister Linda Burton challenged the sisters to memorize this. And the visiting teaching message in April, 2017 it says, “The more we as sisters understand that the oath and covenant of the priesthood applies to us personally, the more we will embrace the blessings and promises of the priesthood.”
“The blessings and promises of the oath and covenant of the priesthood pertain to both men and women.” Sister Sheri Dew said, “The fullness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together.” Sister Linda Burton has issued this call when she was the president of the Relief Society, “I invite you to memorize the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 84:33-44. By doing so, I promise you that the Holy Ghost will expand your understanding of the priesthood and inspire and uplift you in wonderful ways.”
Sheri Dew said on pondering about the oath and covenant of the priesthood, it uses the word ‘receive’ no fewer than ten times. She said it stokes your curiosity and she was pondering about possibly other aspects of receiving these promises and she said, “Might it be tied to believing that the priesthood is the power of God, accepting the manner in which the Lord has organized His kingdom, sustaining those who hold priesthood keys, and honoring the priesthood power as the power of God?”
Very interesting and Barbara Gardner talked about her experience in the temple after memorizing the oath and covenant of the priesthood, and she was doing initiatory ordinances and look at the bold line there. It says, “I felt as if my eyes were open. For the first time, after having done initiatory work for over 20 years, I realized, in part, what the oath and covenant of the priesthood had to do with me, and it had changed my life.” Very interesting after hearing it for 20 years, it changed after she had memorized it and thought about it.
And I have to conclude with this most powerful statement from Glen L. Pace to the sisters of the Church, BYU Devotional 2010, he said, “When you stand in front of your Heavenly Parents in those royal courts on high, and you look into Her eyes, and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment, you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny.” And I just did the video on Heavenly Mother, released it at the same time as this and suggest it.
I hope you enjoyed the video. Subscribe for more. Thanks.
Valerie Hudson Cassler:The Two Trees (from 2010 Fairmormon Conference https://www.fairmormon.org/conference…
Sharon Eubank – This is a Women’s Church – 2014 Fairmormon Conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgTg4…
Elder Ballards talk on women at 2013 BYU Education Week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv0fS… :
Elder Oaks talk on the Keys and Authority of the Priesthood at April 2014 General Conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esvHK…
Current Discourse on Woman and the Priesthood by Ballard, Dew & Oaks – Discussion with Valerie Hudson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JRsH…
Sheri Dew talk on Latter-day Saint Women – Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EZYl…
Jonathan Stapley – The Power of Godliness book intro presentation at Benchmark Books https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfEH1…
Wendy Ulrich – 2016 Fairmormon Conference – What I hope we will teach our daughters (and sons) about the priesthood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOgtn…
Wendy Ulrich – 5 Min Fireside: Living Up To Your Privileges https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qgmh…
Woman and the Priesthood by Sheri Dew
The Melchizedek Priesthood by Elder Dale Renlund & Ruth Lybberty Renlund
Live Up To Your Privileges: Women, Power and Priesthood by Wendy Ulrich
Royal Daughters with Priesthood Power by C. Robert Line
The Priesthood Power of Women: In the Temple, Church and Family by Barbara Morgan Gardner
The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy & Cosmology by Jonathan Stapley
Women in Eternity, Women in Zion by Valerie Hudson Cassler & Alma Don Sorenson
Christ’s Emancipation of Women by Lynne Hilton Wilson
Church Gospel Topics Essay – Joseph Smith’s Teachings on Priesthood, Temple & Women: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/s…
Priesthood Power – Available to All – President Linda Burton from BYU 2013 Women’s Conference: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/s…
Jonathan Staples interview on LDS Perspectives Podcast: https://ldsperspectives.com/2019/07/1…
Connecting Daughters of God with His Priesthood Power – Barbara Gardner – March 2019 Ensign: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/s…
Zion in Her Beauty Rises in Square Two Online Journal – Valerie Hudson Cassler http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCassle…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.