There has been a lot of media attention in recent days over a small group of Latter-day Saint women who have organized to petition Church leaders that women should be “ordained to the priesthood.” I’d like to point out a few things about the priesthood, particularly in regard to the temple, and the process of revelation in the Church.
First, we are not ordained to the priesthood. We receive the priesthood by conferment; the priesthood is conferred upon us, by those who have authority from God to do so, for the priesthood is His to give. We are ordained to priesthood offices within the priesthood, such as deacon, teacher, priest, etc., again by those who have authority from God to do so.
More importantly, however, is the nature of priesthood as is exercised in 141 temples around the world every day. Today I came across a great article by BYU Professor of Ancient Scripture Dr. D. Kelly Ogden which addresses this well. Here is a quote by Church News writer Marianne Holman, reporting about a recent devotional address by Elder M. Russell Ballard:
When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is by definition priesthood power. “All who enter the house of the Lord officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood. This applies to men and women alike.”
Br. Ogden then notes:
Along with that final comment by Elder Ballard, I would surmise that if any persons in the Church have an issue with women not receiving the priesthood by ordination, then they are not attending the temple. And if they are attending the temple, they do not really understand what they are hearing and experiencing there. All faithful women, learning and understanding the true, eternal nature of womanhood and the power of God available to them, receive a clear vision of heavenly powers magnified in them beyond their fondest hopes or dreams. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “It is within the privilege of the sisters of this Church to receive exaltation in the kingdom of God and receive authority and power as queens and priestesses.”
Ogden then quotes Sister Sheri Dew:
Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood, you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, 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 Dew elaborates on this in a video recorded at a recent conference.
If the Lord wills that priesthood be exercised differently than is currently practiced in the Church, then He will reveal it to his chosen servants. But it is improper for anyone to “agitate” for such a change, for “thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church” (D&C 28:6).
I recommend the article by Br. Ogden, “Women and the Priesthood.”
Thank you for pointing this out. My wife and I made the exact same comment to each other the day this hit the news: Those who want women to receive the priesthood understand neither the priesthood nor the temple.
They do not understand as many of men and women everywhere.
“…and receive authority and power as queens and priestesses.”
Do we need more clarity? Is this not clear enough?
That’s why I love being in the temple and that I’m an endowed daughter of God.
Too sad to hear about that letter written by those sisters.
Spot on. It is amazing to me that ignorant zeal can be manifested in so many ways. I would hope to think that anyone engaged in the temple and the doctrine surrounding that experience including the actual ordinances would see the power of priesthood between the woman and the man. Dew’s comments regarding the “fullness of the Priesthood” are wonderful and are focused on ordinances beyond the sealing of a couple and probably reveal in greater clarity the role of the woman in ministering (priestly things, Queen and Priestess) to her husband.
” The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power.” Therefore, all righteousness men and women receive the priesthood. I always understood temple marriage was an “order of the priesthood” (D&C 131:2) and the home is sort of a priesthood quorum. The husband and wife preside and counsel together (they function in the priesthood D&C 121:41-43); their children, the quorum members.
In addition the Gospel is the “Pearl of Great Price” How very few can say they have the blessing of the Gift of the Holy Ghost (just to mention one blessing)? We are very blessed to have the gospel.
If these misguided sisters understood what’s involved in having the Priesthood, they would consider themselves better off in their present state. We men that are blessed to have it do so to SERVE others, not ourselves. I feel no particular self-aggrandizement by virtue of having the Melchizedek Priesthood, but rather, humbled that the Good Lord has entrusted me with His power, exercised through the duly constituted line of authority on Earth. Hearing a dear sister just a few minutes ago in General Conference and her experiences in visiting sisters in various states of need tells me that their service, though it’s not formally a part of the “Priesthood” (meaning they don’t have to have it to work), is valued no less by the Lord and had better not by their respective brethren. I’m fairly sure that President Monson and the rest of the GAs revere the service of the sisters in the Church.
May I offer a contrasting view for the sake of discussion? First of all, I would preface by saying that I agree with the notion that the Lord has a purpose for designating specific roles and duties within the priesthood, including those which women fulfill within the temple.
However, I would offer that Dr. Ogden (whom I respect greatly, and enjoyed taking an Isaiah class from as a young BYU student many years ago) is arguing semantics when he discusses Sister Kelly’s poor choice of words as “agitating” with regard to women and the priesthood. I would also suggest that her/their intent is that a similar model to President Kimball’s experience is followed, and the expressions of concern that were made for years by various individuals impelled President Kimball to seek the Lord’s will on the subject.
Now, I question strongly whether anyone should consider it their role to be so forceful in trying to motivate a prophet to seek the Lord’s will. I can accept that there may be multiple factors, including social ones, that will create a circumstance where the Lord’s anointed seeks out clarification on a point of question. There is precedent to suggest in the scriptures (women being referred to as priestesses) that women MIGHT have held priesthood callings of some sort in the primitive church; there is nothing within our doctrine that would suggest that it is inappropriate for it to happen. It does not contravene any eternal law. Therefore, it could be possible for the Lord to make way for such an occurrence. Could it be possible that social movements such as this, when done in a respectful manner, are the beginnings of a thoughtful deliberation that might bring about a church leader who would, like President Kimball, consider the value of such a question and go to the Lord?
I think in summary I would consider a few things:
1. I would be reluctant to aggressively try to pester the Lord’s annointed. There is precedent to suggest doing so can have deleterious effects on one’s salvation.
2. That being said, there are also precedent’s to suggest that prophets have listened to the opinions of well-meaning, good church members seeking goodness and truth, and as a consequence, sought the Lord in prayer and consequently were given new revelation (see 1978 declaration, emma smith and the word of wisdom).
3. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that because there is a priesthood role in the temple for women, that that is sufficient, and therefore tangible for all. There is still a sense for many that women have been, and to an extent socially and culturally are disenfranchised from the leadership of the church. As a young 40ish man who grew up in the church, I was kind of surprised to find out that as a kid, there was a cultural norm that has lasted until very recently for a woman to NOT offer a concluding talk in sacrament or a benediction in a church meeting. Those are vestiges that are not easily removed, and I can appreciate that some women will feel that in a church run by imperfect people, imperfect men will not always look out for the best interests of women when women are not allowed access to decision making because of “priesthood” hierarchy.
4. I would also suggest that, as a man, I have never had the wonderful blessing that comes from the experience of birthing a child. I have been told that it is a powerful, evocative experience. My wife, unable to carry children to term, has also never fully had that experience, so she too has lacked that blessing. I have, however, felt that wonderful feeling of the Lord’s inspiration as I have blessed people as a young missionary, and as I have blessed my own beautiful adopted daughters. Performing those rituals and exercising that priesthood is a powerful reinforcement for my testimony of a living Savior and a loving Father. I can appreciate the desire of women to want to share in this experience, so I don’t have ill feelings toward women when they express some degree of righteous envy in desiring to share in this opportunity. I hope that they have the humility that, if told by the Lord’s annointed that now is not the time, they can accept that with humility and patience, as my wife has had to accept the difficult trial of delaying her chance to experience the joy of creation.
So I would offer that the desires of these women are not as misguided as might be suggested. Rather, I think that they truly come from a place that is genuine and good, and we should foster such desires, and recognize that these women are looking for added light. It may just be that they need direction to understand that the Lord has a timetable that can be oh so frustrating to His children. I very frequently don’t like it, and struggle to learn to accept it.
Thanks Thad for your comments. Allow me to respond to some of them.
There is a great quote by President George Q. Cannon on the subject of what constitutes apostasy:
Yes, we can have differences with the authorities of the Church, but when we publish those differences and then go even further in striving to produce division and strife among Church members, contention, even agitation, trying to show that the authorities of the Church are in the wrong, then we are on the road to apostasy.
If Sister Kate Kelly and her associates wanted sincerely for the Brethren to inquire of the Lord on the matter, they would approach them through the appropriate channels, and in private. This is what we’ve been counseled to do by Church leaders, when we have a difference of opinion. Elder Dallin H. Oaks addressed this in his article “Criticism” published in the February 1987 Ensign:
Sister Kelly’s actions, and the other women of her group, however, have taken a much different route than that counseled by Church leaders. They have openly and forcefully voiced a difference of opinion, stirring up media outlets and trying to get public outcry on the issue, making it look like the Church’s practices with regard to the priesthood are misogynist and discriminatory of women. They think that if there are enough people demanding change that Church leaders will acquiesce. This is simply wrong, and out of harmony with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I wish the intentions of these women were pure and good, as you believe, but I don’t see it. Not a glimmer. Even if the Brethren made it known that they had inquired of the Lord, to seek His will on the matter, and the answer was “no,” these women have said that they would still not stop their protests. Recently the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
Thus, it is not truly the motivation of these sisters to seek the Lord’s will. They want their will to be done, not the Lord’s, and “nothing less will suffice.” They are not motivated by “righteous envy,” but something else entirely. The Lord has stated plainly:
Ruth Todd, a Church spokesperson, recently said:
Indeed, in two recent extensive surveys, 90% of LDS women are opposed to priesthood ordination for women. So it is clear that this is a vocal minority clamoring for change; such clamoring will only cause strife, contention, and division, which is not in harmony with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I recommend another article on the subject, by Maurine Proctor, “An Open Letter to Kate Kelly and Those Pressing for Ordination.”
Well thought out and stated points, and again, I agree with your points, your statements, and most importantly, the fact that the best way to deal with misgivings and discord is quietly and in private, even if that means that it delays implementation. A little while ago, I read a biography of David O. McKay from the records kept by his personal secretary, and I was amazed by the long duration in which many issues were discussed and addressed and kicked down the road until more knowledge could be gained, and a better consensus obtained–more harmony, rather than allowing discord to be sown.
However, I would suggest that supporting your theorems with opinions and surveys from the membership is not a valid measure. We’re talking about decisions of doctrine. I wouldn’t care if 100% of the membership felt a certain way about a concept or doctrine. If the Lord spoke through his servant and stated that things should be done differently, then 100% of the membership would be wrong, and they should be making some adjustments. So 90% of women who disagree with 10% of women in the church is really an irrelevant issue in this matter. There are times when a vocal minority are the ones who are right; it is my understanding that a great deal of positive influence on President Kimball came from good leaders in the northeastern U.S. who lovingly petitioned for priesthood equality for all races during the 60s and 70s, as well as pious leaders in Brazil who saw members paying offerings for a temple they would never be able to fully partake in the blessings of.
One might argue that Paul’s argument to Peter and the other apostles to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles was being abundantly divisive. In the same way that each of your quotes argue that these women are being described as being “divisive”, “apostate”, “out of harmony”, and “contentious”, I would offer precedents that their actions mirror. Jesus was quite public and contentious in his objections to the actions and doctrines of the Sadducees and Pharisees. Was this acceptable because He was right? Paul was divisive in his desire to teach the Gentiles in direct contradiction to the accepted doctrine of the Brethren at the time.
I once again reiterate that I don’t agree with these sisters’ methods. However, I’m unaware of what private avenues they’ve attempted, and to what degree they’ve been rebuffed. I’m a white male, so I’ve never felt any degree of restriction within our church–I have no context to understand their feelings. Should black members of the church occasionally feel insecure in the church, worried that something might change? Well, there is a precedent. Should women be concern that something is being kept from them? Well, there is a precedent. They have not always been given a fullness of opportunity, so whose to say that men are giving it to them now? It’s not that the Lord is restricting his priesthood from them, but perhaps men are?
I merely offer that they have a rationale, and some precedent for many of their actions, and I don’t think that these arguments to easily rebuff them can be so quickly made, and they can be so quickly brushed aside.
I related the results of the survey to show that women receiving the priesthood is not popular among women in the Church, and agitating for it will only cause unnecessary divisions. The Church spokesperson, Ruth Todd, also made this point as well. A very small minority of women have taken it upon themselves to make this a public issue, which is not generally regarded as an issue in the Church. Such factions and classes within the Church do nothing to unite the body of the Church, and are what move us away from Zion, not toward it (4 Nephi 1:25-26).
Popular opinion does not validate or invalidate doctrine or practice, but it can be a source of division among the Saints, such that we are not of “one heart and one mind.” In that sense, it is not an irrelevant issue that 90% of the women in the Church are opposed to receiving the priesthood, while a small minority group are agitating for it, stirring up others to join them in their cause, trying to convince them of their position, and teaching that which is not current doctrine or practice. This causes very real divisions in the Church, is not good for it, and as President Cannon and Elder Oaks stated, is not the way members should handle their differences, and is a sign of apostasy. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, and more recently Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, taught that we should “stay within the mainstream of the Church.” This is, perhaps, a simple key to help us avoid being deceived by those would would lead us away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and His kingdom on earth.
Of course it does not matter whether a revealed doctrine is popular, if God reveals it. Joseph Smith taught that “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.” The important thing is that it comes from God. The Church doesn’t bend to public opinion, fads, trends, protests, picketing, demonstrations, polls, petitions, etc. The sentiment that these women might know better the will of God than God’s chosen prophets, seers, and revelators, is not in harmony with the Gospel. God reveals His will for the Church through His prophets to the membership of the Church, not the other way around. It is quite telling that these women would not accept a “no” answer, if given, from the Lord through his prophets. They do not seek the Lord’s will. They think they know better.
Paul may argue with Peter, or James with John. The apostles have the commission and duty to discuss together the affairs of the Church, and they are almost certainly not always in agreement when they have these discussions. They seek revelation to guide them in their decisions within the quorum, until they come to an agreement. Peter received revelation that confirmed to him that the gospel should be taken to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11). That is very different than someone who is not an apostle, publicly agitating Church leaders for some change. Even worse is agitating other members of the Church for some change, disregarding the current teachings of Church authorities.
Women are given a fullness of opportunity in the Church, today, the same as men, ultimately, and most importantly, including eternal life in God’s kingdom, as Queens and Priestesses together with their husbands. While women and men do not have exactly the same roles and obligations, which is an eternal truth, they do have a fullness of opportunity in receiving all that God has. I highly recommend, again, Sister Sheri Dew’s comments at a recent conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUI79EdDH9E
I don’t believe men are restricting the priesthood from women against the Lord’s will. This is because I believe the Lord is fully guiding and directing His Church, which bears His name, and that He reveals His will to His servants, the prophets.
I have enjoyed many of your comments. Let me add one small note. Men and women, different roles. Take the core word, this works for many things in the gospel, ” hood”. Now take what men are ordained to become and put it in fornt of “hood”. Now take what women are to become and ordained as and put it in the same place before “hood”. Begs the question, why would a precious duaghter of god want a power for men when they have their own equal but different power? Brothers and sisters, you are so wonderful in your thoughts, you are so close to your creator. Stay faithful, your comments have inspired me. Continue holding to the rod. And my sweet sisters, we love and honor you. If we could behold your true glory, we would bow and kiss your feet. But in the lives you lead here, it is so apparent how great you truely are.
Again, Bryce, I agree with your points, and think that you have well supported your point of view. I agree with you. I don’t agree with the methods that the vocal minority have chosen to use. I, too, agree that the one woman’s quote, suggesting that a “no” answer, if that is truly her attitude, is the reflection of a spirit that is not humble to the will of the Lord. I hope that she speaks for fewer of her like minded cohorts than she thinks, or that her quote was taken out of context (another pitfall of taking your argument to the media in today’s world!)
Thank you for all of your links. They are excellent examples of good church leader’s views on the subject, both men and women. I believe that the hypermajority of leaders (including all that I’ve ever worked with or engaged with in my life) have a full intent to be humble servants and be guided by the Spirit, and in doing so attempted in all ways to serve the Lord’s children independent of their gender or circumstances. I merely posit that I can’t state that because that is my experience, that it is every Latter-day Saints’ experience, and thus I allow for the possibility that poor examples from some priesthood leaders has shaped these sisters’ view of the church in such a way that they struggle to feel confidence in their leaders, which is sad. I would also suggest that it is a righteous desire to want to share in opportunities to experience spiritual manifestations, just as Nephi asked to also see the visions that his father had seen (mind you, he was given this blessing because of humble obedience, not because he went to the newspapers and petitioned for the right to do so).
I reiterate: I agree with you. My argument is not that the methods of these sisters is correct. My argument is that we should take care in how we label them as dissenters, apostates, and thus make it easy to cast aside any of their issues and concerns. That is a common psychological method that can be employed consciously or unconsciously to displace issues that one doesn’t want to deal with. Villianize the messenger, and then you’re justified in ignoring the message. For years, Winston Churchill spoke out boisterously of the danger that an ever growing Nazi Germany presented to the world in the 1920s and 1930s. His cries went mostly unheeded because he had been predominantly cast aside in British politics for his failures in the Naval department during the Gallipoli campaign in World War I. His tactical errors in the great war aside, his message was correct, and was recognized almost too late for Britain.
I can’t say that this issue is of the same gravity, but we should at least take the opportunity to consider their argument. I for one am so grateful for the consequences of the 1978 proclamation. If any dissension that caught Spencer W. Kimball’s attention and made him ponder on the issue more intently, then it was a positive thing.
I apologize if my discourse creates some degree of animosity. I don’t intend to do so. I think only that there should be room in the community of Saints for multiple voices, even when sometimes they don’t speak the right way–rather than vilify them, we should embrace them, and perhaps try to teach them with love and patience the right way to engage. And if we feel like they should know the right way, we should be patient and relinquish that assumption, and teach them again with longsuffering, and give them no reason to consider us enemies, but always see us as their brothers and sisters. I see now why Paul always told his brethren to meet the members with a kiss. He encouraged the leaders to always let the people know that they loved them, they were family, that no matter their differences and apparent discord, they would work to be one.
Thanks Thad. Again, I believe that women can share in all “opportunities to experience spiritual manifestations.” That is not a right or privilege exclusive to the priesthood, or to men, or even to members of the Church.
Sometimes when people are acting contrary to the Gospel, the most loving thing we can do is to share that with them. Yes, we need to listen to their concerns and issues, and be as welcoming and longsuffering as possible, but we also need to “reprove betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” and then “show forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy” (D&C 121:43).
No, we are not these women’s enemies. The Church and its leaders should not be their enemies either. We love them, and hope they will stay with us in God’s kingdom on earth, and help us build Zion. As the Church spokesperson, Ruth Todd, said, “these are our sisters and we want them among us, and hope they will find [the] peace and joy we all seek in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
I feel sorry for these misguided women. Their actions and words have made clear they aren’t truly interested in what is right, but they wish to impose their will upon the Church, and if that’s not possible, to divide and draw away some members of the Lord’s church away after their false doctrines, to prepare them for eventual open rebellion against God.
It’s one thing to misunderstand the priesthood, as these women clearly do, and to honestly question, in private, which these women clearly refuse to do.
It’s entirely another thing to publicly agitate, to stir up contention, to do their best to plant seeds of doubt wherever possible, as these women have done, repeatedly.
Especially in a culture that has suffered the disease of Marxist indoctrination in government schools for decades, their efforts will resonate with those least prepared to death with such opposition. Not because of the weakness of susceptible sisters (and their supporters), but because of the falsehoods cultivated in their minds, and not caught, and corrected, by parents, church leaders, etc.
Those who are leading this movement are clearly on the road to apostasy. I hope they stop their campaign of contention and rebellion, and repent, before souls are lost.
And for the record, for those tempted to judge and label me for daring to state the obvious, stating facts isn’t ‘judging,’ nor is it ‘labeling.’ Observing the facts is not mean-spirited, as the divisive campaigning of these women clearly is. Let’s not be quick to judge, label, and condemn those who express their disapproval of these misguided activists who are stirring women to anger against the Lord’s anointed.
Great topic, Bryce.
I appreciate your careful attention to consistantly teach and reiterate doctrinally founded principles backed up by scripture and the words of the brethren.
I think that these misguided sisters are overlooking one very important point:
Receiving a conferral of the priesthood isn’t merely a privilege of men. It is an absolute requirement for exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. That’s why it is included in the saving ordinances performed in the temple for and in behalf of our kindred dead.
These women are essentially petitioning to make their pathway to exaltation one requirement harder than it already is! I wonder if they’ve ever thought of it in that light before…
I would also like to gently remind those who are willing to entertain the possibility of these women being correct or even inspired in their desires (as was the case for those men privately petitioning for the priesthood prior to the wonderful revelation of 1978) that such a change of the requirements for exaltation would not come as the result of public opinion or pressure. Additional light and knowledge will only come as God’s people prepare for it by consecrating ourselves and seeking to build up Zion.
If these women really had righteous desires, they would accomplish far more by fasting, praying, and staying out of the media limelight (which limelight seems to be their true motivation, in my opinion.)
One more thing:
I greatly appreciate your bringing to my attention Dr. Ogden’s article. That ending quote from Elder Pace brought tears to my eyes.
Thanks again for all the good you do, Bryce!