Gender and Priesthood

I think that women should receive the priesthood.  I don’t find the reasons that have been given as to why the priesthood is limited to males very compelling.  I don’t think that motherhood is a good analog to priesthood, or rather I think that motherhood is a kind of priesthood (an exercise of godly power by human beings) but its analog is fatherhood, not the Melchizedek priesthood.  I think that the feminization of religion is an important issue, one that feminist critics dismiss rather too breezily.  I suspect that the all-male priesthood probably mitigates this problem somewhat in Mormonism, but I suspect that we could come up with other ways of dealing with it.  At the end of the day, I simply don’t have any objection to women performing ordinances or holding positions of ecclesiastical leadership.  Indeed, I think that there are a lot administrative and pastoral issues that could be handled more effectively were women ordained.

I do, however, think that giving women the priesthood would create enormous problems for Mormonism.  This is because male identity within the church is structured around the idea of priesthood.  If the priesthood were extended to women, it would no longer be a nexus of male identity.  This would force on us a choice.  We could either look elsewhere for some basis of male identity, perhaps in ideas of fatherhood or non-priesthood brotherhood on the model of the Relief Society.  It’s not clear exactly what this male identity would look like.  To take a banal issue but one that would have huge cultural implications, if women received the priesthood, would they now attend priesthood quorum meetings?  Would the Relief Society continue to function?  Notice, that if we admitted women to quorum meetings, we could continue to hold Relief Society meetings as a nexus for female identity and community.  We would need, however, something new, something other than priesthood meetings to create a similar nexus for men.  This is hardly an insurmountable issue.  Numerous Protestant denominations, for example, have men’s groups without linking those groups to anything that looks like the Mormon priesthood.  My point is simply that extending the priesthood to women would leave male Mormon identity unmoored from its traditional sources, namely the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.  (This is one of the reasons why analogies to other denominations aren’t always helpful in the Mormon context.  Being a vicar simply isn’t central to male Anglican identity in the same way that being a priesthood holder is central to being a male Mormon.  Likewise, male Catholics don’t really mediate what it means to be a good Catholic man through the idea of priesthood.  Mormon men do.)

The other alternative would be to simply jettison the idea of gendered Mormon identities.  We could eliminate the distinction between Young Men’s programs and Young Women’s programs.  We could eliminate the Relief Society.  We would be left with distinctions between youth and adults, a distinction that would presumably be marked by ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood.  There is a real tension here in most of the feminist Mormonism that I have seen.  On one hand, feminists employ powerful analogies from the Civil Rights Movement about the impossibility of equality in a world of segregation.  At the same time, many of those same feminists rightly treasure the tradition and experience of Mormon sisterhood.  The tension lies in the fact that the sisterhood — which is in a sense simply one half of the gendered life of Mormonism — depends upon difference.  The rhetoric of equality insists that gender does not matter, while the rhetoric of sisterhood (and brotherhood) insists that it does.  It is not as though, of course, this tension exists only for Mormon feminists or only in an imagined world in which women are ordained.  It exists in a different form in Mormonism as it is now constituted.  My point is simply that ordaining women will not eliminate this tension.  We will still need mechanisms for negotiating gendered identities within Mormonism.

Within a liberal democracy — which is the institutional model of justice on which most of the calls for female ordination rest — this tension is negotiated by bifurcating our selves between our civic identity and our private identity.  In our civic identity we are, ideally, without gender: free and equal citizens in the eyes of the law and the public with no distinctions.  To be sure, this ideal of civic genderlessness frequently bumps up against the realities of social roles and biology, but it navigates these treacherous shoals with care, always trying to insure that in the end the goods of civic society are allocated justly to all citizens.  Justice in allocation includes, crucially, the principle that the allocation not rest on suspect criteria based on identity like gender.  In our private lives, however, we dispense with the civic conceit of genderlessness.  We are wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends, bros and “just friends.”  We luxuriate (or stew) in the very difference that we deny in our civic identities, engaging in a constant, running argument with ourselves about what gender should mean, always assuming, however, that whatever it is, it is not irrelevant.  And of course, we grapple with liminal spaces — the workplace being the prime example — where we can’t quite decide if we are supposed to be using our civic or private identities.

Is such a solution available to Mormonism?  Can we create a single “civic” Mormon identity and simply privatize gender?  To be sure there are many things that Mormonism privatizes and there are things that have moved into that category in the past.  Birth control comes to mind as an issue that once occupied a place in the “public” space of the church and is now firmly in the “private” space of Mormonism.  Of course, part of the attraction of ordaining women for many is precisely that they imagine it as a privatization of gender within Mormonism.  Given the occasionally cringe worthy things that are said about gender within Mormonism, I can understand the attraction this might have for some.  I can’t, however, bring myself to identify with it.  I don’t WANT gender to be privatized.  I want to be preached at as a man, to have my Mormonism inform my idea of gender.  This doesn’t mean that I am comfortable with every thing that is said about gender within the church.  Far from it.  I do, however, want gender to be an object of religious concern, precisely because I think it is a fundamental object of human concern and I think religion has the obligation to speak to fundamental human concerns..  We are fellow citizens as saints, but we are also part of the household of God and within that household I want the richer, fuller identity of “private” space rather than the more anemic  identity of civic space.  I don’t want membership in the kingdom reduced to the thin identity of citizenship, with priesthood conceptualized as another liberal right.

So where does this leave me?  I would like a world in which women performed ordinances and participated fully in church government.  I would also like a world in which there are thick and meaningful religious identities organized around gender.  It’s not that I think that gender should be one’s primary way of mediating religious identity, but gender is such an important part of what it means for me to be a human being and, more importantly, to be the particular human being that I am, that it would seem a great loss if this was the sort of thing that my religion placed in a “private” sphere to be passed over in sensitive silence.  I am a better and happier person for having sat through many Priesthood Sessions in General Conference in which I have been harangued on what it means to be a righteous man of God.  Finally, given the way in which male identity in particular within Mormonism is tied up with priesthood, I am not convinced that we really even know what it would mean to ordain women either in terms of the lived experience of Mormonism or its doctrines.

What are the implications of these convictions for me?  I suspect that the answer is probably “Not much.”  I am happy to express my opinions to any who might be interested in them, although I do not preach them, particularly in church.  This is partly because I don’t think people are that interested but mainly because for me there is something precious about progressive preaching that I find annoying in others and I figure that I already have sufficient self-loathing to deal with.  More importantly, however, I don’t think that I have been called either by the spirit or the laying on of hands to such preaching, and to me that matters.  To preach is to claim a kind of authority, and I do not have authority on this matter.  Finally, I respect the authorities of the church and try to interpret their actions with as much charity as possible.  I do not regard their current stance as doctrinally mistaken, malicious, or even, in the cosmic scheme of things, misguided.  I am happy to live and serve in the church, and do not regard myself as morally compromised for doing so.  There is so much goodness and truth in it that I want my son and daughter raised as a faithful Latter-day Saint, regardless of what the Lord and the Brethren do on this matter.  I am content to have my beliefs, keep my covenants, and trust in God.

137 comments for “Gender and Priesthood

  1. There are some practical difficulties. Ordaining women would not just expand the LDS priesthood club, it would change the tenor of the whole enterprise. For example, you said: “I am a better and happier person for having sat through many Priesthood Sessions in General Conference in which I have been harangued on what it means to be a righteous man of God.” They can’t get away with haranguing the women — Priesthood Meeting will be all about telling LDS priestesses how wonderful they are and how much they are appreciated. Refreshing for the men to hear, perhaps, but that’s not really what LDS priesthood has been about in the past. I have never heard anyone who advocates giving women the priesthood recognize that it would drastically change the institution itself, much less weigh the desirability of the inevitable changes.

  2. If we can talk about what it means to be a “woman of God (okay, daughter of God)” we can certainly talk about what it means to be a “man of God (or son of God),” and, frankly neither definition needs to be tied to priesthood ordination.

    Being a follower of Christ (taking his name and acting the way he would) does not require priesthood ordination.

    Being a good parent doesn’t require priesthood ordination, either, and one could spend a lifetime learning about the roles and responsibilities of fatherhood or motherhood completely separate and apart from the roles and responsibilities of a priest.

    The conflation of priesthood/manhood is a hallmark of current Mormon thought, but the shift is not really all that large. All those lessons about honoring your priesthood simply become lessons about being a good man. No more conflation of the two terms, and we are free to explore priesthood separate from gender.

    Since all of our auxiliaries are appendages to priesthood organization, if everyone is part of the main organization, do we need auxiliaries in the way they are currently constituted? Would that mean 1/3 less time spent in meetings and over-correlated lessons?

    I see a chicken-and-egg issue here as well: Does one’s gendered approach to religious thought come because religious practices are gendered or are religious practices gendered because of humanity’s inherent genderness?

    If we didn’t grow up being taught that priesthood = manhood, would broadening the scope of priesthood still seem like losing manhood altogether?

  3. This is simultaneously more progressive and more conservative than my own views prior to reading it. I can’t decide whether beguiling or compelling is the right word for its persuasive power, but whatever that power, it is nearly irresistible. If it feels like I’m half cutting and half praising, it is only out of a pique of intellect envy (aside: if you tell me it took you any less than 2 months to craft this, I really will spend the rest of the day stewing in intellect envy).

    Very well done, Brother Oman.

  4. LRC: Just so I understand you, you would be in favor of simply abolishing RS, going to a two hour block, and having all meetings be mixed-gendered?

    The talk of the three hour block may seem banal, but I suspect that it’s content and structure has enormous cultural power so it is worth thinking about.

    Another way of thinking about these issues is to note that generally speaking feminist critiques of the current practice conceptualize priesthood in terms of ordinances and institutional authority. On the other hand, most of the time men actually experience priesthood through the life of a priesthood quorum. Thinking about this second aspect of priesthood in light of one’s belief or hope that the priesthood be extended to women strikes me as a worthwhile exercise, one that I have never seen anyone try.

  5. In recent days, I have wondered if perhaps the two big ‘feminist’ topics aren’t directly connected. Perhaps the real reason there is no feminine priesthood as such is that such a situation would need to be done through female lines of authority, and our Heavenly Mother would need to somehow be the source of that. Lacking any direct knowledge of Her, therefore, we cannot have a feminine priesthood.

    One implication of this is that it would mean a Prophetess, a separate line of authority, with (most likely) largely separate spheres of responsibility. In some ways this seems like a more likely development in terms of doctrine than simply beginning to ordain females to the Aaronic & Melchizedek Priesthoods. What would such a priestesshood be called? The Matriarchal order? I doubt it. Perhaps ‘The Priesthood after the order of _________’. That seems possible.

    Is it going to happen? Not without a major revelation regarding our Heavenly Parents and their divine nature and roles. What sort of event would trigger such a revelation? As far as I know, the past few prophets have done very little in terms of revealing or expanding the body of doctrine, instead serving to emphasize specific points and refine what is already understood.

    Even the Proclamation on the Family and the ‘Living Christ’ letter are minimal when it comes to anything truly new. Certainly nothing on the level of D&C 132. A revelation directly addressing a feminine priesthood with a Heavenly Mother as its source would be an absolutely earth shaking event. I suspect that no matter what it said, a good number of people would leave the church over the contents.

    But then again, if it was to be a truly feminine priesthood, then the establishment (or perhaps restoration if some people are right and Ashearah worship was indeed a worship of Heavenly Mother) of such a thing could probably not be something that a male prophet could accomplish. The initial prophetess would need to be ordained by heavenly messengers of some sort, an event that would completely rock the boat, and have just as many implications regarding gender identity as simply having women ordained to the priesthood as it currently stands.

    Do I think women *should* be ordained to the priesthood? Do I believe that what I’m describing is ‘truth’? I don’t know. When I consider it, I feel that it’s simply not my place to know this, but like many, I find equating motherhood with male priesthood as it now stands a rather shallow explanation.

    Of course, if I am right, that still leaves the question of *why*. WHY do we know virtually nothing of our Heavenly Mother? Patriarchal protection as a reason sounds like a decent reason when you are 19 as a missionary, but having been married for a while now, I find the idea laughable. My wife will fight her own battles. I support her in what she needs support, as she does for me, but she is perfectly capable of protecting herself. As such, explanations trending that way fall flat. My best answer is ‘I don’t know why’.

  6. > They can’t get away with haranguing the women — Priesthood Meeting
    > will be all about telling LDS priestesses how wonderful they are
    > and how much they are appreciated.

    Dave, a major reason an all-male “they” has difficulty haranguing women currently is in part of the optics of it. But (at least to many) the whole point of ordaining women is to make the “they” not be only male anymore. It’s significantly easier for women or mixed-gender leadership to “get away with” tough love on women than for all male hierarchy to do so (and, frankly, for good reason).

    You’re right to point out that it would likely fundamentally change many things about priesthood, the church, and both gender groups. I think that’s the main strength of Nate’s piece is how he points this out and persuasively argues that it does matter.

  7. I don’t believe there will ever be a time when women are given the Priesthood. I believe there will be, however, a Priestesshood revealed in the near future. And, following that line, since there were new ordinances and sealings that could only be done by the power of the Priesthood, there will be new ordinances and other things that can only be done by the power of the Priestesshood, and even more things that can only be done by both working together.

    Men and women are a complimentary system. Priesthood and Priestesshood should work the same way.

    I believe the reason for having a male-only Priesthood availble on this world are due to the transgression in Eden. If Adam had been the one to take the fruit from Lucifer, then given it to Eve, Matriarchy would have been the norm until we were ready to receive the Priesthood. If both had waited until they were given the fruit by God, we would have had the ideal of both Priesthood and Priestesshood from the start. This should not be used as an excuse to “keep women in their place”, but should be used to work toward the ideal for which we have yet to be ready.

    I think it has taken us a long time to get over the idea that there should only be the Priesthood, and hopefully we will soon be ready to receive the Priestesshood mentioned in the Temple.

  8. “most of the time men actually experience priesthood through the life of a priesthood quorum.”

    If women were ordained and gathered into quorums, would that mean no more experiencing priesthood via quorum life? No, priesthood would still be experienced via quorum life, but that life would no longer be limited to men’s points of view. It would mean untwining the thread of manhood from the thread of priesthood.

    There are lots of ways for men to gather and to bond that needn’t be called “priesthood quorum” and I wonder if the fear of loss is due to the way we’ve allowed priesthood to co-opt manhood, thereby limiting what it means to be a man.

    Gendered bonding need not be limited priestly/priesthood duty, after all. Call it men’s/women’s fellowship, call it mom’s/dad’s night out, call it serving the community, call it the video game special interest group, or the knitting group, call it friendship. Taking away the duty of priesthood camaraderie also means taking away the weirdness of calling all unordained adult men “prospective elders” rather than men or brothers or dads or fellow saints.

    Would men really cease to associate with each other if they weren’t assigned to do it? Must they be commanded in all things? Women would certainly find ways to associate with and study together – I’m sure they’d be willing to share their secrets.

    If men and women were both ordained, quorum meetings wouldn’t be gendered, but what would stop us from having gendered Gospel Doctrine SS classes, a men’s SS class and a women’s SS class and a mixed class? Folks who wanted gendered study sessions and discussions could take advantage of them and those for whom it’s not a priority could make a different choice.

    (And, for the record, I wouldn’t have any problem limiting my Sunday meeting times to 2 hours, especially if there were PH one week and SS the other week. On the 5th Sundays we could do something special.)

  9. “They can’t get away with haranguing the women — Priesthood Meeting will be all about telling LDS priestesses how wonderful they are and how much they are appreciated. ”

    Dave, I don’t know why they couldn’t harangue the women. I think that a lot of the talk now about how wonderful women are and how much they are appreciated comes from men trying to make women feel better about not having the Priesthood, not because the women want to hear that.

  10. I also see this as a chicken and egg phenomena. Are we interested in exploring gender at church because our current cultural experiences of are gender are still so different? If men and women’s cultural experiences of gender became more similar in the broader society, would we be that interested in exploring gender at church? Is there really something enterally different between the genders, or is it due mostly to the cultural construction of gender that we experience?

  11. This is very thought-provoking, more especially so because this morning I attended Episcopal services, with a sermon preached by a woman, and lots of female deacons, precentors, etc. officiating. It seemed to me perfectly natural, ordinary, obvious, even, to have men and women side by side doing this official church work. Regarding Mormonism, what strikes me is that granting priesthood to the entire male gender seems at this stage of the game to have been a fatal organizational flaw built into LDS church structure. (Either that, or gender discrimination really is God’s revealed way–feminists really are the spawn of satan–the second coming really will wipe them all out and then long live the reign of God and Man and polygamy….)
    Because lo these decades later, as already stated, priesthood and gender are so inextricaby intertwined, that I personally don’t see them extricating from one another without a kind of upheaval that would be the death of Mormonism as we know it. And in absence of that upheaval, the church continues on its discriminatory way, year by year more and more extreme in contrast to an increasingly egalitarian society. At what point does the church as we know it become hopelessly obsolete?

  12. Privatizing gender is the best part about the 21st Century, just like racial equality was the best part about the 20th Century.

    Just like the Church adapted to changing culture in the 70s with the discrimination of blacks, I believe the Church will soon change it’s views on the treating of women as second-class citizens.

    It’s only a matter of time before the Church realizes that women equality is good, and that gender roles should be flexible.

  13. I’ve said this before: Motherhood is priesthood on a micro level and priesthood is motherhood on a macro level. Men have attempted to organize humanity into meta-bodies (societies). But ultimately they fail, not having the sticking power that comes through the priesthood. Therefore, in order for a true analog to exist between motherhood and fatherhood–fatherhood must be extenuated beyond this sphere by the powers of the priesthood.

  14. Amen to LRC and Jeanine…

    I agree that the essence of the problem here is that we don’t have definitions of manhood that aren’t tied in some way to priesthood.

    We also need to remember that the vast majority of the gendering that we have is based on marriage and parenthood, and that’s far from universal. What is a bachelor or a single parent supposed to make of church gender roles? Laying off the heavy gender roles isn’t just a feminist thing. It’s an everybody-except-breadwinning-married-men-with-dependant-children thing.

    Imma get a little Marxist here and note that a lot of your concerns seem to boil down to not wanting to lose privilege. That anchoring feeling of priesthoody-manly identity you describe so eloquently that almost thou persuadest me? Honey, that’s privilege. It’s something the system gives you that it doesn’t give women. This is not intended to pack you on a guilt trip because you like privilege. That’s what privilege IS– it is by definition pretty pleasant. Who would want to let that go, if they had the choice?

    But remember that women manage to be Mormon just fine without that privilege. I simply do not believe that men would be rendered incapable of having a relationship with Jesus Christ unless they were the sole outlet of priesthood authority. Men, I have more faith in you than that. I really wish you could too.

    I would prefer to see a conception of righteousness that’s based on… hmmm, how about agency? Agency is universal. It is the reason we’re here. A person really shouldn’t /need/ any more than that. If we decide to still have gendered Sunday School or RS and EQ, that’s fine. They can be centered on how we properly use /agency/ in our various roles of being friends, moms, dads, wives, husbands, aunties, co-workers, etc.


    Re: priesthood vs priestesshood distinctions. I’m not really sure why some people feel more comfortable with priestesshood than with women being incorporated into the existing priesthood structure. As far as I can see, the only purpose of that would be to throw women a bone while still managing to exclude them from “*real* priesthood” decisionmaking and ecclesiastical authority. Let’s just say I’ve never seen “separate but equal” work the works of righteousness before.

  15. Very thoughtful essay, Nate.

    Undoubtedly there would be issues and complications that would come in the wake of female ordination. But personally, I’m with LRC. I would be perfectly fine with giving up all-male priesthood quorums. I don’t have the sentimental fondness for them that many men seem to have. Shortening the block and getting rid of boy scouts are features, not bugs.

    Also, we would not be doing this ex nihilo. There are other churches that have gone through this, most notably the CoC. We could learn from these examples (both positively and negatively) how best to do it.

  16. Kevin: I am fine shortening the block and have argued at great length with my stake presidency that we should get rid of the association with the BSA. I am even fine with women in priesthood quorums. I think that ordaining women would be a good idea, and given that I think new revelation requires as much continuity as possible with past revelation, I think that means we ought to have women in priesthood quorums. I suppose that the difference is that I still want a nexus of male solidarity within the church and would lament the loss of tradition and continuity that would occur were we to construct a new nexus. I still think that ordaining women would be a good idea, but I do think that it makes sense to think through the consequences and costs.

    Xena: I love being patronized by someone with a b-movie-esque camp pseudonym as much as the next guy, but before I sign off on your cool use of Marx and “privilege,” I’ve got two points.

    First, did you notice that I am in favor of women receiving the priesthood?

    Second, what I would lament is not the loss of privilege but the loss of a traditional site of male identity and solidarity. To be sure, I think that we could find alternative sites of identity and solidarity and in the end that would probably be for the best. On the other hand, I would still lament the loss of something that has a history and a tradition. The affection for history, tradition, and continuity need not be a reflection of privilege. Imagine, for example, that tomorrow we were to abolish the Relief Society, ordain all women as Elders and fold them into the Elder’s quorum structure. I could certainly imagine women lamenting the loss of the Relief Society not because it would be a loss of privilege but because it would be the loss of a home, one with tradition and continuity with the past. One of the uglier aspects of philosophical liberalism (and I should note I count myself as a philosophical liberal) is the way in which it pathologizes tradition and continuity, so that every exercise in nostalgia and affection for the past is necessarily retrograde. This is necessary to maintain the illusion that liberal progress is without any real loss and all goods are ultimately commensurable.

    I suspect, however, that we actually live in a tragic world, so that some goods come at the cost of other goods and one can lament the possibility of loss without the cheap Marxism.

  17. I’m on board with thinking through the consequences and costs. For me personally, there’s not a lot of loss I would lament in such a development. Thinking of my father taking me to priesthood meeting does not bring a tear to my eye, the way it did in that flashback scene in the movie Singles Ward.

  18. If you mean to suggest that “priesthood quorum and General Priesthood Meeting instruction” equals “meaningful religious identity for men”, I would disagree. Priesthood instruction (and priesthood exercise) may be a useful and valuable part of a religious identity for men, but it is far from comprehensive and is not sufficient. Having been a son and father and brother and friend, having organized several men’s discussion groups meeting outside church auspices but comprising exclusively men who were in Mormon priesthood quorum meetings on Sunday, I know that there is much to talk about and much to learn that never comes up in priesthood meeting.

  19. Mixed-gender bishoprics would pose an interesting problem. I love my wife and trust her fidelity. But that said, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with her spending large amounts of time with another man in very intimate, emotional moments like a bishop and his counselors often do, nor do I think she’d be thrilled about me spending that kind of time with another woman if the shoes were reversed.

    I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason to overcome the positives. But it would be something that would complicate the dynamic.

  20. *. I don’t think that motherhood is a good analog to priesthood, or rather I think that motherhood is a kind of priesthood (an exercise of godly power by human beings) but its analog is fatherhood, not the Melchizedek priesthood.*

    This is too mortal a view. In the eternities, fatherhood and priesthood will be the same thing, as will motherhood and, ah, priestesshood.

    Very interesting post, in general, and you have hit on some great points. One way to solve them would be to have different priesthoods for women then for men. But this wouldn’t necessarily be much different from what we have now, and even if it were it wouldn’t be “equality”; it wouldn’t privative gender.

    Gender, in a church which is built around the idea of eternal romance, of divine destiny being the union of husband and wife, is something that cannot be privatized.

  21. I’m chuckling a bit about how Nate O’s post which takes for granted that *of course* we want women to have the priesthood is still on the conservative end of the discussion here. Y’all are pretty far off the deep end.

  22. Interesting speculations, Nate. Of course, you understandably start from the premisse of ingrained Mormon culture and deep running traditions. I wonder how different it would be in countries without such traditions and where converts have gender identities molded by different dominant familial, ethnic, and professional backgrounds. For example, how would it be in some advanced European country where men and women have achieved almost maximal gender equality and are used to cooperate without reflexes of gender-induced power distance. No well defined nexus for men, idem for women. In fact, when such people join the church, it has been observed that they need time and adjustments to adapt to the Mormon gender setup. But, like you, most “do not regard their [new] stance as doctrinally mistaken, malicious, or even, in the cosmic scheme of things, misguided”. Outside of the church the deepest traditions prevail anyway. And sometimes inside the church as well, as men would stay with their wife in Relief Society, and women just as well take the lead in ward council.

    If the church wants to experiment with some changes, they could best try it out in some foreign place.

  23. Awesome post Nate. Regardless of opinions on this topic, I must say I enjoyed all of your post, but your final paragraph in particular. So many throw the baby out with the bathwater for no reason, or forget that doctrine can’t be changed because we decide to do so (hence la Elder Christopherson’s talk last April). Kudos for your maturity, charity, and willingness to accept the fact that just because we’re spoiled with all these revelatory bonuses from the restoration doesn’t mean we get to know everything now.

  24. I too think girls and women should receive the priesthood.

    I don’t understand why they don’t have it; why they haven’t had it, like men and boys have and do. I feel like men have taken advantage, are taking advantage of the situation.

    I feel no less nor more worthy to ask than Joseph. I feel as apt to seek as any investigator. Joseph’s questions led to oceans of change and trouble. Every investigator who receives an answer and acts undergoes great alterations.

    Where is heavenly mother? Why don’t women and girls in the church have the priesthood like men and boys?

    Of course, given the restoration, which I accept, I take these questions not just to heavenly father, who I think owes an answer to a child, but also I take them to the church, especially to those in charge, to those we have submitted ourselves to as prophets. Why are things the way they are? Why have they been so?

    If we ask, we shall receive. And if we received answers requiring change, it’d be up to us to accept and undergo what it’d take to make it so.

  25. Sometimes I can’t tell if this blog is for active members or the disenfranchised. I’d prefer to wait for revelation through the prophet as opposed to the lobbying occurring here. Surely, you’ve all demonstrated admirable amounts of sensitivity to the popular gender equality issues of our day. Were this a simple administrative policy then Church HQ might actually take these opinions into consideration. But as this is Christ’s church, why not leave this up to Him? Perhaps you could add this particular desire to your personal prayers.

  26. Wreddyornot and others might be interested in the following Facebook page and website calling for Church leaders to “thoughtfully consider and earnestly pray about the integration of women into the decision-making structure of the Church and the question of women’s ordination.” See All Are Alike unto God on Facebook or go to

  27. Of course, we would do well to look at how successful churches that try this are.

    And the truth is, they aren’t. They are not at all.

    A few month ago, the NYT ran
    “Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?”

    Unless the majority of women are running out of ways to serve, then I don’t see the point. The purpose of the priesthood is not equality or power, it is service. If sought for the wrong reason, it is null and void before you start.

    The position here seems to be, Gender is real, but it is meaningless.

  28. Mormonism is more gender-progressive than Christian denominations that allow female pastors.

    Those Christian denominations see themselves, theologically, as allowing women to be a male God’s “head worshippers.” Divinity remains, for them, entirely masculine. “Worship me, you little women, and I may be nice to you,” says their male God.

    Eternal families and Heavenly Mother are part of our hymnal, part of our doctrine. In our theology, women can become co-equal with God, just like men. Divinity is male and female, neither divine without the other. “if you men and women work together as equal partners, you can become like me and Heavenly Mother,” says the male part of our Godhood.

    Isn’t that what matters? Who gets to be God’s “head worshippers” for a few years isn’t a theologically important issue — *if* you take theology seriously. And if people who don’t really take our theology seriously start dictating our practices, we’re dead as a church. See RLDS/CoC.

    Practices in the Church are, against the important backdrop of our theology, often grounded in practical reasons. And I see, at the very least, a compelling practical reason for male priesthood: as Zen points out, the Church is probably also dead if we don’t give men a sense of inescapable responsibility for religious engagement. Like it or not, men and women are not physiologically *the same*, and women are, on average, more frequently innately drawn to active modern religious practice.

  29. “Ordaining women would not just expand the LDS priesthood club, it would change the tenor of the whole enterprise.”

    It’s interesting to read in the minutes from the first few Relief Society meetings (as recorded in The Words of Joseph Smith) how many times the word “ordain” is used by Joseph Smith when he is addressing the sisters. He says that their presidency should be ordained, he has John Taylor ordain Emma’s counselors, and he speaks of ordaining additional officers. He also encourages them to lay hands on the sick and give blessings. It’s even quoted that he calls on the sisters to “be a select society…(and) said he was going to make of this society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day” (p. 110). This is even prior to the authority given to women in connection to temple ordinances.

  30. I think you’re baying at the moon here. Nevertheless, the idea that the priesthood should be gender-based does raise some interesting questions. For example, what of the child that is born hermaphrodite, with two sets of sex organs, one male, the other female? There is no clear sexual identity. Surgeons can make that child male or female, but are they then playing God? If they make that child female, did they just take away the priesthood from that child?

  31. Thank you Nate. I too desire full priesthood equality. I want my wife/sisters/daughters/mother to grow closer to their parents in heaven through the exercise of priesthood authority, just I have been able to do. I agree that such a change would substantially reorganize the entire church. But I am not overly worred about that. We’ve survived great upheavals before (e.g., 1890 Manifesto). I take the approach we teach in primary – “do what is right, let the consequence follow.” Women’s priesthood is right. Let’s do it.

    That said, the church is nothing if not pragmatic. Our leaders will not approach the Lord until the membership desires it, and right now we do not (particularly the women). Even the “mormon moment” does not yield significant pressure because we have cover from other faiths – partcularly catholics – who have the same practice.

    So while we wait, I find fulfillment and progess in the following ways:
    (1) Within the church, I speak openly about Mother in Heaven and my desire for women’s priesthood. I do not advocate for, or even raise these subjects sua sponte, but when they come up I chose to speak. I believe my example will spark others to consider what is possible.
    (2) Within my calling, I advocate for leadership roles for women whereever possible. In my ward, we are calling YW as visting teachers. We have begun regular women’s councils (PEC equivalents). I insist on refering to female leaders as “presidents”. I assume my YW will serve missions just like the YM and I treat them accordingly.
    (3) Most importantly, I take the view that the church is a temporary aid, but not the full expression of the gospel. The fullness comes within my family. That’s what is eternal. And in the family my wife and I already have all the authority we need. She and I preside equally. Through her endownment, she has just as much priesthood as I do. We bless our children. We speak to them in the name of the Lord – with even more authority than the Prophet has. I need not wait for approval to teach my children about their Mother in Heaven. I need not wait on the correlation department to teach my children about our proud history of women’s priesthood ordinances. And I need not wait for the membership to catch up in order to point my children to temple ordinances as the true source of the priesthood they may each choose to bear.

  32. I have a some questions about the premise.

    “I think that women should receive the priesthood.”
    Why? And how do you think such a change should come about?

    “I don’t find the reasons that have been given as to why the priesthood is limited to males very compelling.”
    What reasons are those? And from whom have they come? Are they simply attempts to explain something we don’t know? I can think of no revelation from the Father that outlines a list of reasons why women do not have the priesthood.

    “I don’t think that motherhood is a good analog to priesthood, or rather I think that motherhood is a kind of priesthood (an exercise of godly power by human beings) but its analog is fatherhood, not the Melchizedek priesthood.”
    Why do you think that motherhood is considered an analog to priesthood? Whether it is or not, how is that relevant to the premise? Or is this just a response to the unstated “reasons that we have been given”?

    “I think that the feminization of religion is an important issue, one that feminist critics dismiss rather too breezily.”
    What do you mean by “the feminization of religion” exactly? It sounds suspiciously like a philosophical or cultural term, rather than a doctrinal one. And the issue is, at its core, doctrinal.

    “Indeed, I think that there are a lot administrative and pastoral issues that could be handled more effectively were women ordained.”
    Perhaps. But, if I may ask, so what? The question isn’t what is most “effective” as a means to run the administrative practices within the church. Pros and cons are good to evaluate when running a business. The church isn’t a business. The doctrines of salvation that we receive are not a matter of expediency (though there will always be those who maintain otherwise), but rather a matter of divine revelation. If the Lord reveals that it is His will that women receive the priesthood, then the people of God will adapt, no matter how effective or convenient it may be. If the Lord does not reveal such, then I affirm that we should continue as instructed and do our best to reconcile ourselves to the Lord’s will, in full acceptance of the fact that we may not ever know, here on earth, what the reasons are.

    I also see a lack of discussion regarding priesthood keys in this discussion (and all discussions of this type that I have been a part of.) Why is that?

  33. Women and men represent separate but overlapping bell curves. So men and women are both the same and different depending on where in the frequency distribution one looks. It is silly to argue one position over the other. Social structures should take the overlapping curves into consideration.

  34. Nate, I agree with nearly everything you are saying. However, I think we need to be careful to not confuse priesthood equality with gender equality. I’m not convinced that ordaining women to the priesthood will give them equal prestige, privilege, or voice. In fact, I can imagine a scenario where women who would hold the priesthood simply get called to do the things that men don’t want to do. While priesthood is an easy target, it’s not the source of inequality in the Church. This will persist, unfortunately. Still, I am wholeheartedly on board with women holding the priesthood.

    I am also not sure this is a very good argument for getting rid of the third hour. Fortunately, there are dozens of other, much better, reasons for getting rid of the third hour.

  35. Just another bishop: I do think that you need to wait before your wife participates in a priesthood blessing of your children. Priesthood is not a matter of private conviction. It is a matter of receiving authority from those that have it by the laying on of hands and exercising that authority consistent with those who have the keys to its direction. While in my all things considered judgment, I think it would be good for women to receive the priesthood, I would NEVER presume to exercise or encourage others to exercise priesthood authority that they do not in fact posses. To do so, it seems to me, is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of priesthood. I also think that it skirts dangerously close to apostasy.

  36. Just Another Bishop,

    “I want my wife/sisters/daughters/mother to grow closer to their parents in heaven through the exercise of priesthood authority, just I have been able to do.”

    Is that the only way, just because it’s the way that works for you? More importantly, is that the way in which the Lord wants it to happen?

    “Women’s priesthood is right.”
    Women’s priesthood doesn’t exist. You’re arguing that it should. Why? That’s a sincere question. The answer to this seems to always be assumed, but I’d love to hear it explicitly stated.

    “That said, the church is nothing if not pragmatic”
    I disagree. I also disagree that such would necessarily be a good thing.

    I also am extremely skeptical of most items you mention under your point three. When people start talking about the family in such a way as to disregard the priesthood or minimize it, I cannot help feeling that a key point is being missed. The priesthood is also eternal. Priesthood keys make it possible for the family to be eternal. And I strongly caution against seeking to disregard the counsel and authority of the prophet in any way, shape, or form.

  37. I’m curious what traditions me will be sorry to lose. Elder’s quorum is almost exclusively about 2 functions 1)guilt tripping the quorum to do home teaching and 2)moving in and out members. I would be happy to see home teaching go away or become something very different. I hate the assigned nature of it all, but at least if husband wife teams did it there would be a much better dynamic. They could make it about families eating dinners together instead of the dynamic now where the home teacher has authority over the person being visited to make awkward inquiries into their worthiness. If women had the priesthood, much of that guilt dynamic would be ameliorated, even though it probably wouldn’t completely go away.

    I would like to some some way for men to bond and do genuine service (unlike hometeaching which I view as fake service). I don’t feel I get a lot of that now in the church, so for me I wouldn’t feel a loss. I think some men in the church do feel a sense of brotherhood, but I think far too many are quietly disenganged and I think a big reason for that is a structural problem that could be fixed in the reorg to add women in the mix.

  38. Nate, to clarify, I do not claim that my wife holds either the AP or MP. Those two priesthoods belong to the church and I have no authority to ordain her absent church approval. Until further revelation is received, my wife will sadly miss out on baptizing our children, blessing the sacrament, and all other church ordinances performed through the AP and MP.

    However, I do believe the temple endownment includes the provision of a priesthood authority to both my wife and me. It is that priesthood that we exercise for family ordinances in our home – annointing and blessing of sick children, parent’s blessings, and so forth. I am far from alone in believing that is appropriate. It was very commonplace in the early days of the church.

  39. J Town, this is Nate’s post and I will not derail it with a lengthy discussion of why women should receive the priesthood. Posts on that subject can be found in many other blog entries on T&S, BCC, FMH, and other blogs. But to briefly answer you, I know firsthand the joys, struggles and godliness that comes through the exercise of priesthood authority. I desire those experiences for the women in my life for the very same reasons I desire them for the men in my life. Period. Yes, there are many ways in which women can serve now. But that is no reason to deny them this important vehicle to godliness.

  40. I could not agree with you more, Nate. I taught the lesson in Priesthood yesterday and afterward one of the brethren brought this topic up afterward and was reminiscing about when the black males got the priesthood back in the late 70s. He said something like, “I can’t imagine how the black men in our Ward back then must have felt to be bringing their families every Sunday and not be able to fully participate in the Church.” My response: “I’m sure each had their own way to try and understand why GOD (or leaders) would act the way they did, but in the end, many of them probably felt the same way that many women feel today.” Aside from the obvious benefits to gender equality (a very important issue to me), I’m sure that there are MANY unseen blessings that would flow from lifting the priesthood ban on Women and allowing them to participate fully in the Church’s power structure.

  41. I agree with the OP that I also don’t have any objection to women performing ordinances (which they already do in the temple) or holding positions of ecclesiastical leadership (and they already have men serving under their direction in Public Affairs, Primary, Music, and Family History callings, which gives us a taste of how that might work, e.g., just fine).

    However it is terribly naive to write statements such as “…if we admitted women to quorum meetings, we could continue to hold Relief Society meetings as a nexus for female identity and community.” Fact is, RS meetings are a teensy small part of what RS does. The bigger question is who is going to be at the hospital holding the hand of a woman who moves from wifehood to widowhood, who will provide burial clothing, who will manage the funeral dinner while the priesthood is blessing the grave, who is going to teach meal-planning and cooking to a family trying to learn to manage on a tight budget, and so on.

    This discussion makes it sound like nothing is lost when the RS is dissolved, that now those individuals are available to serve in PH callings. But somebody also has to pick up the slack and do the real work that has been done by women under the current system.

    And I very much resent the male-normative arguments that basically priesthood is better and women will only be equal when they have the same opportunities as men. This disregards the *different* ways in which women may serve.

    There is great value in the many ways that the current system recognizes the complementary nature of the genders, and interdependence between the two.

    Any realistic discussion on potential changes needs to count the costs as well as promoting the benefits.

  42. JAB:

    “annointing and blessing of sick children, parent’s blessings, and so forth. I am far from alone in believing that is appropriate. It was very commonplace in the early days of the church.”

    Please provide some citations to prior practice. However, last time I checked, the instruction manuals deal with the blessing of the sick and father’s blessings, in the Priesthood manuals. Nor do I find a “Temple” priesthood manual, because there isn’t one.

    Nate said it best:

    “To do so, it seems to me, is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of priesthood. I also think that it skirts dangerously close to apostasy.”

  43. I perceive possible chaffing about a loss of traditional gender-aligned chores might wane as sexes deal sensitively with such a change. Yet I see no reason men can’t cook funeral potatoes or women carry a couch to a truck. I also see no reason to hurry and no sizable obstacles in acknowledging differences in what boys do over against what girls do so well. I also see a continuum — maybe a bell curve is better — in sexuality and recognize some might reasonably poke fun more than others because personal adaptation might require more compromise. It seems to me things can evolve with love and care.

  44. If both parents can baptize, how does one decide which parent baptizes the child? Coin flips? Be sexist, and let the father do it? Have the husband baptize boy children and the mother girl children (this would fit the temple approach, but doesn’t do much to disestablish gender roles, while making the fact that Christ and other important heads of dispensation and restorers of keys were male more problematic, since it implies that He didn’t atone and they couldn’t bear the keys for the female half of the race)? Take turns baptizing and confirming?

    This could be fun.

  45. Naismith,

    “Any realistic discussion on potential changes needs to count the costs as well as promoting the benefits.”

    I think that was Nate’s point.

  46. #50 Naismith – Speaking of picking up the slack, if the women get the Priesthood, who is going to iron my pants?!

    For me, the issue of priesthood is really more about the power structure of the Church and being willing to genuinely allow women an equal voice when it comes to decision making and representation. The details can be worked out… and are likely to be worked out much better with women at the table.

  47. We want to give women the priesthood of God? Great! Now the men will have yet another excuse to not get involved in serving others or otherwise to fully engage in the church.

  48. “Privatizing gender is the best part about the 21st Century…”

    I think privatizing gender is okay and everything, but the 21st Century has brought us both Edward Cullen and Justin Bieber. So maybe privatization of gender can be third?

  49. lyle (#51) – For a start, google “Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843” and “Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism.” The CHI governs practices within the church. I adhere to it strongly within that sphere. However, it does not govern practices in my family where my wife and me preside. In the future, please refrain from alleging “apostacy” unless you have authority to do so (hint: the CHI limits that authority and you don’t have it).

    Adam (#53) That issue already exists in many other situations (e.g., a couple has two grandfathers who are sealers, but only one can perform their sealing). Guess what? We deal with it. If my family were faced with the (happy) dilemma, we would do the same thing we’ve always done – let the child decide. Allowing women to perform priesthood ordinances will not nullify the atonement any more than letting women say prayers nullifies Christ’s intercessory prayer. Good grief!

    George (#56) Any man who would abandon his priesthood if women were granted similar authority is a very poor excuse for a servant of God. We’ll get along just fine without him, just like we have gotten along without the few brothers who left when blacks were given the priesthood.

  50. I’m a little surprised how little talk there has been here about sex and sexual tension. My thoughts aren’t terribly well formed on this, but among the first ideas the OP provoked was how much more adultery we would see among the leadership of local wards and branches if presidencies could be mixed gender. And mixing the YM and YW more? Gag me with a spoon. I guess this is the problem you grapple with–if the priesthood hour becomes mixed (using this as a proxy for all of the other mixing…), then it almost seems required that Sunday School hour become gender segregated. Maybe this is pedantic, but the whole thing seems like a guaranteed mess–just imagine the first time you find two teachers making out in the sacrament closet. It’s bad enough when it’s a YM and YW sneaking off from a mutual activity, but mixing it with sacramental responsibilities…anyway, you’d need a lot more chaperones. And if you don’t mix the priesthood, you’re guaranteeing serious competition between the male and female priesthoods. I don’t think mortal man and woman are up to making this work. In the eternities when no one is an uncontrolled, raging sack of hormones, sure.

    Maybe this is nothing more than the tired old argument that it’s just simpler to have one person who always has the last word, but I don’t think so. I just keep thinking about how often “we’re just friends” really means that either the man or the woman is hiding what they actually feel, how much men (because this is what I know) like each other’s company (except for their own wives [and how many wives are really, genuinely OK with a husband who keeps in close touch with other female friends?]), how often we already see problems arise when opposite-gendered church leaders get too close (just had a bad case in our stake recently), etc.

    Some things, like having the RS or YW president be present for YW interviews with the bishop seem like no-brainers though.

  51. I believe that women have been shortchanged in current church practice and teaching. I believe that an examination of a “Mother in heaven” concept would be a healthy activity in doctrinal classes and discussions. I believe that there is a possibility that women should be able to participate in priesthood ordinances and blessings jointly with their husbands. I feel that a married couple should be the ideal (sorry singles).

    But I completely disagree with the idea that women should receive the priesthood and that all differences in practice and training should be extinguished. For the Latter-day Saints, gender differences are eternal. Men have roles and expectations that differ from women’s. Priesthood should prepare men, through service and other activities, for their station in the eternities. The endowment itself reveals that gender differences will exist in the hereafter, and our liberal, egalitarian hearts are just going to have to cope with that. The Church should institute practices that ensure that women are prepared as well. But I do NOT believe that this preparation should be identical to that of a man.

    For this reason (the respect for eternal difference when it comes to gender), I think we should have a dialogue on the social and eternal consequences of the ordination of women. But I think the discussion should be focused on the purpose of authority structures and institutions (like the Relief Society) within the Church.

  52. Just another bishop: In fairness, I was the one who brought up the word “apostasy” rather than lyle. I think that arrogating to one’s self the ordinances of the MP or the AP without authority from those who hold the keys to those ordinances is apostasy. If I understand you correctly, you and your wife purport to be exercising some third priesthood conferred in the temple. I am not sure exactly what I believe as a doctrinal matter about “temple priesthood,” but I would point out that past historical practice hardly disposes of the issue. For example, re-baptism under the authority of the AP was a common practice in the pioneer church. This ordinance has been discontinued by those that hold the keys over that priesthood. Accordingly, I think that an AP holder who began performing re-baptism on the basis of this precedent could be guilty of apostasy. Merely holding a priesthood does not authorize one to officiate in its ordinances. Those who hold the keys of that priesthood still have the authority to direct one not to exercise it in specific ways. While you and your wife hold a kind of non-MP/non-AP priesthood through the temple ordinances, it is not clear to me that you hold the keys of that priesthood. I would be very, very cautious about exercising ANY priesthood authority without instructions from those that hold the keys of that priesthood. If the FP instructed me tomorrow that I was to stop blessing my children by the power of the MP, I would do so because while I hold that priesthood I do not hold the keys to that priesthood and once I began exercising it independent of of those keys I would be in apostasy, as I understand the term.

    Taking the priesthood seriously means taking its surrounding doctrines and practices seriously. This is why, for example, I think that Mormon feminists who perform baby blessings as a form of protest against the Church or even as a spiritually affirming religious practice emerging from their Mormon roots, are in some very deep sense frivolous about the priesthood.

  53. “This discussion makes it sound like nothing is lost when the RS is dissolved, that now those individuals are available to serve in PH callings.”

    My intent was to make the opposite point, namely that the RS has enormous value, value that would be lost were it dissolved.

  54. #61 –

    What would the concept of a Mother in Heaven entail? It would include discussions of a Motherly nature, would it not? I read about the many noble and great ones who were prepared and taught their first lessons before the foundation of the world, and I can’t help but see a Heavenly Mother fulfilling that role.

    Now take that divine, eternal role and apply it back into our mortal probation. It seems as if a lot of the women upset about the current situation are also upset about talks of Motherhood. The consolation I can find in that regard is in Alma 41, “And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?… that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored”

    The kinds of people we want to become, and are working to become will be what we ultimately will become by the grace of God. If you aspire to divine Motherhood, I believe it will be there. If you don’t, it won’t. But in that case, it doesn’t seem like you’d living up to the potential of a Heavenly Mother does it?

  55. Just Another Bishop: I think you are doing a wonderful job magnifying your calling. Without champions of change, there is no change. You are a model Bishop. I would love my daughter (and son) to grow up in a Ward with someone like you as the leader.

  56. Sounds like you guys have it all planned out. This also sounds a lot like how the RLDS, FLDS, CoC and other derivations got their start. Good luck with your new church.
    You’re talking as though with enough signatures and crafty negotiation that you’ll be able to convince Pres. Monson to change Church policy, as if the Priesthood is some convenient practical auxiliary of the Church. The Priesthood exists independent of the Church. It is God’s Priesthood, not yours. To presume that you know better than He does is dangerous territory.
    Could the fruits of this effort turn out like blacks getting the Priesthood? Sure. Could it turn out like the 116 pages? You bet.
    But since we’re making a list, can we add “hold church on TV every week”, “no fighting in Church basketball”, and “create wards for LDS nudists” to the list?

  57. 67 scoob – I don’t think anyone here is advocating giving the priesthood to women without the Prophet saying to do so. But you might say that some of us are agitating. When asked in an ABC interview about giving the priesthood to women, this was President Hinckley’s response:

    David Ransom: At present women are not allowed to be priests in your Church…Is it possible that the rules could change in the future..?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: He could change them yes…But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it.

  58. Nate, for someone who openly favors giving women the priesthood, I am rather surprised that you are of the opinion that the administration of a private blessing by a woman would border on apostasy. I suppose you may be able to make such a case of apostasy in the event of a ward whose members thought it appropriate to have women perform ordinances such as baptism or confirmation, but a private blessing? So what if a family finds it appropriate for female members of their family to give blessings and call them priesthood blessings. As long as they aren’t doing this to openly challenge the authority of church leaders, how does it constitute a practice close to apostasy? Suppose you were a church leader and you heard off hand from some child in the ward that his/her mother gave them a blessing. Would you then arrange to meet with the woman and tell her to stop with the threat of discipline?

    On a side note, something I find interesting is that Tom Phillips, a former LDS Stake President who talked about his Second Anointing experience in the LDS temple (an ordinance administered to very few LDS members), reports in an interview with John Dehlin that his wife gave him a blessing as part of the second anointing ordinance in the temple.

  59. Nate, I’ll follow your example and try to be fair in return. I hope you understand that I take this matter very seriously. I desire to involve women in the priesthood not because of some frivilous egalitarianism but becasue I truly believe in the good that will come into their lives and into the lives of those they minister to.

    You are correct that you were the first to use the term “apostacy.” I let that slide because (i) I know and respect your work and (ii) I could see how my initial comments could cause confusion. I should have cut lyle the same slack (sorry lyle) but over the years I’ve grown a little thin-skinned to apostacy claims, at least when they are not spelled out as you have done now done.

    I agree that historical practice alone is not sufficient to justify an action. However, in this instance, the historical practice of women’s blessings is very well established, the ordinances underlying the claims to authority for those blessings – the endownment – have not been substantively changed, and there is no direction for or against the practice by current leadership. I can understand members who are hesitant to act absent guidance, but I’m not that conservative, at least when prayer and fasting provides personal confirmation. FWIW, I imagine this topic will be formally addressed by church leadership in the next few years (decade tops) as the historical practice becomes more widely known.

    As for priesthood keys, I’m not sure they are part of the family organization. I see priesthood keys as a limited organizational tool for establishing church units and quorums. But these units/quorums will all eventually be dissolved and the keys returned to Adam. Not so with the family structure. Please advise if you know anything different, but I’ve never heard of a “key to the Smith family”. And if such keys exist, and my wife and me do not hold them, then who exactly does? Would that mean whoever holds the keys could release us as parents?

  60. skeptical (#59) I don’t want my husband to commit adultery, or my teenage kids to break the law of chastity. Yet, my husband is off at work 10 hours a day without me, and my kids head off to high school every day. I think that if they were going to start having premarital/extramarital sex, they’d most likely choose a venue other than church meetings. I’m happy to report that so far we’ve all managed to make it through our mixed-gender Sacrament Meetings every week without anybody jumping over the pews to jump somebody’s bones.

  61. #28 “Y’all are pretty far off on the deep end.”

    Within the church, yes. In the realm of religion in the US, no. Sometimes it is good to take a step back in Mormonism and compare it with other religious trends to just see how conservative Mormonism is especially as per the question of women and priesthood. And the general mood that somehow a woman performing a baptism is outright heresy just boggles my mind.

  62. Steve,

    I consider it a very good thing that the church is not defined by “other religious trends”. Comparison is irrelevant. Either the church is true or it isn’t. Either the doctrines are inspired of God or they aren’t. A woman performing a priesthood ordinance, if not authorized by God, from whom the authority is derived, would be disobedience. Remember Saul, who attempted to perform an ordinance that he was not authorized to perform. The penalty was severe.

    If the Lord commands us to do things differently, then we will do it. Until then, we obey the word of the Lord as given.

  63. If we take D&C 88:13, along with Abr. 1:18,and numerous scriptures on how we come to Christ, how does anyone not hold the priesthood. What is the difference between men and women relative to these scriptures? Just a question. Should we be looking at this from a different perspective?

  64. Steve: If I found that there was a woman in my ward that was giving blessings to her children, I would not act. If I found that there was a woman in my ward that was purporting to give PRIESTHOOD blessings, I would call her in and try to get clear on her understanding of the nature and source of her authority. I would then seek advice from my stake president.

    Just a bishop: In the temple recommend interview we affirm that the President of the Church is the only person who possesses and is authorized to use all priesthood keys. There is no qualification placed on this I know of no source for the understanding of priesthood keys that limits them to the operation of the church. The priesthood exercised in the temple by women is certainly exercised under the direction of those that have priesthood keys. If I understand you correctly, you believe that there is a kind of priesthood that can be exercised independent of those holding the keys or that is ungoverned by those holding priesthood keys. My understanding is that this is precisely the understanding of priesthood upon which the claims of various apostate polygamist sects is based. I don’t think that there is a kind of free floating priesthood authority without priesthood keys.

  65. Just a bishop: To be clear, I am not getting outraged or indignant here. I am not questioning your righteousness or trying to be confrontational. I just think that the understanding of priesthood that you advance is mistaken or at any rate sufficiently ambiguous to strike me as dangerous. I am using apostasy in a technical sense of unauthorized claims to divine authority. I don’t mean to imply that you are malicious or hostile toward the church.

  66. Why take it as a given that the RS would be dissolved? Whenever I’ve imagined what the church would look like were the priesthood extended to women, I’ve imagined that the Relief society would remain in place, but would be imbued with priesthood authority. Carrying the idea out, I could see being received into the YW organization being accompanied with an ordination to the Aaronic priesthood (or whatever it’s priestesshood equivalent might be), and becoming a member of the RS being accompanied with ordination to the Melchizedek priesthood (or its priestesshood equivalent). The RS and YW wouldn’t be dissolved, they would just become new quorums.

    I recognize there are also obstacles to this model. For example, there’s a tradition that says you can’t have another quorum until the first quorum is filled up. So, assuming that women would hold the same priesthood offices that men hold, you couldn’t have a RS quorum until there are more than 96 Elders. But I’m not sure that section 107 is really a prohibition on multiple smaller quorums. Also, there’s precedent for subdividing a quorum with the way high priests are organized in “groups” in wards while belonging to a stake-wide quorum.

    I guess was surprised to see it taken as a given that RS would be dissolved. I have never thought of that as a consequence of female ordination. I’ve always seen the RS as basically a stand-in for a quorum, so instead of making a new women’s quorum that displaces the RS, why not just make the existing RS a bona fide quorum?

    On an unrelated point, on the issue of “temple priesthood,” I’m not sure I really understand the claim. (I’m treading lightly here and I hope I’m not overstepping.) Is the claim that the endowment itself creates priesthood authority, or is it more specifically that the initiatory creates the authority? Or is it that the authority comes from the sealing? I’m not aware of anything in the liturgy of the endowment or the sealing that could be read to confer authority. And, I think the most accurate reading of the initiatory is that women who participate have only been prepared to become priestesses, rather than that they have actually been ordained priestesses.

  67. I think the ordinances of the temple, especially of eternal marrriage, make it clear that the order of heaven includes wives being “priestesses” and “goddesses” parallel to their husbands. The lack of formal ordination in our non-temple lives is a temporary aspect of pre-resurrection mortality.

    Obviously we can speculate on why the priesthood is not given to women, without any authority whatsoever. Speculation that assumes a tie to worthiness is silly. I am more inclined to the theories that priesthood makes up for a character shortfall in most men. I think it is pretty clear from plenty of statistical evidence that Mormon men and boys are much more actively involved in Church worship and service than men in most other denominiations. In other words, it enlists more men, more husbands and fathers into the saving and exalting work of God, than would otherwise participate. Is that a benefit that sisters are willing to sacrifice for, in order to have better husbands, fathers and sons?

    What does the priesthood mean? Does it magically enhance the experience of attending an Elders Quaorum meeting? Does it make a High Priest much smarter in making decisions? Does it deny inspiration to women leaders?

    Priesthood does not make men more inspired in their writing and sermons on gospel topics. Priesthood is not necessary to Pray, speak, lead the singing or play an instrument in Sacrament Meeting. Guiding and teaching young women and adult women takes just as much inspiration as leading the Elders. Women leaders in the Church do things that would be done by a minister in other denominations. Women can’t be career clergy, but neither can men.

    Does a woman aspire to replace the bishop, to wield the power of her stake president? If her motive is to give service broadly, there are ways to do that even without the priesthood. But if she feels oppressed because she or another woman can never aspire to “running” the ward or stake, then I think she might need to study up on how the priesthood is a service-giving responsibility, not a power-conferring authority. If her ambition is to be an apostle, is she living her dedication to service to God and her fellow Church members at a level that is equivalent to what men called to those positions have typically performed? There is no Affirmative Action in God’s Kingdom. We are not called because there is a quota for positions to be held by women, or Japanese-Americans, or public school teachers. Pretty obviously, if women are ever ordained, the first ones will be the women who head the general church-wide Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations. And I don’t see them agitating and complaining that they could lead the Church better than the Twelve. If a woman truly aspires to priesthood ordination, wouldn’t efforts toward exemplary service be the best path, rather than complaining that God discriminates?

  68. Some (most) aren’t speculating, Raymond; they’re asking to know why.

    Is there a link to “plenty of statistical evidence” you claim? Granting your unproven assertion that Mormon men and boys in the LDS realm exceed men and boys activity in “most other denominations”, couldn’t the largely lay priesthood account for that difference? I assume in the “other denominations” you’re comparing to, there isn’t a lay priesthood, right?

    No one made arguments in the vein of your “does not” and “is not” and “takes just as much” assertions. Or your “magically enhance” and “much smarter” and “deny inspiration” questions.

    Furthermore, the posting is by Nate. He’s a guy. He’s the one who thinks girls should have the priesthood, not some needy woman, as you would apparently characterize her for desire. Many of the replies are from other guys, not women, who think so too, just like Nate. So even if a woman “feels oppressed” — and why shouldn’t she, especially with the likes of your condescending arguments — there are plenty of us boys, like me, asking where is my Mother in Heaven? Why can’t my wife be ordained to the priesthood? Whether she or any of us qualify is another question entirely. But the likes of you, Raymond, suggesting that it’s solely because women aren’t as inferior in relevant respects as we men are, I reject as pure speculation that is consistent with eons of petty, unholy arguments attempting to justify male predominance.

  69. “I think the ordinances of the temple, especially of eternal marrriage, make it clear that the order of heaven includes wives being “priestesses” and “goddesses” parallel to their husbands.”

    I would have to say that this is almost correct. I would remove one word: “I think the ordinances of the temple, especially of eternal marrriage, make it clear that the order of heaven includes wives being “priestesses” and “goddesses” to their husbands.” There is nothing parallel about it, women are designated priestesses and goddesses to their husband while men are designated priests and gods to Heavenly Father, per both the endowment and initiatory, and perhaps even the sealing (the give and take inequality).

    So in contemplating Nate’s changes, understand that it would likely mean pretty big overhauls to the temple ceremony as currently constituted.

  70. Allowing women to perform priesthood ordinances will not nullify the atonement any more than letting women say prayers nullifies Christ’s intercessory prayer.
    I am going to to go out on a limb and guess that you didn’t grok the point I was making.

  71. One particular argument that I particularly dislike, that is often aired when the subject of women recieving the priesthood, is that women are being “power-hungry” because they want the priesthood. I suppose it can be characterized as that, but at the same time, seeking for authority doesn’t need to be demonized. In other situations it wouldn’t be considered a “power-hungry” desire–for example, you can hardly call women’s desire to vote power-hungry, can you? I suppose you could, but at the same time, is it wrong? Or the desire to be elected to a political office in the hopes of implementing improvments? Just my two cents.

  72. J town (74), bear in mind that in D&C 58:26-27 it says that it is not necessary that God command in all things and that people should act of their own free will to bring about righteousness. So not everything that the Q12/FP says and does is necessarily God speaking or acting, but them acting out of their own free will. The church is founded largely on creativity and self-initiative from the bottom-up, not a military-like chain of command wherein God acts as a general with specific orders as you are suggesting. So how can a single mother administering a blessing to a child (even if she does claim priesthood) be considered an act of disobedience if she is doing so to bring about greater righteousness.

    Nate (75), you’re giving too much weight to the idea of priesthood as the source of order. The priesthood is a mere formality that doesn’t actually have much meaning in most cases. Callings and designations are the source of order, not the ritual ordinance itself. So I would hardly see the case of woman giving a blessing to a child (even if she does so by claiming priesthood) to be a violation worthy of discipline or consultation with higher authority. What threat would that be posing? It would be a strictly private affair that is, moreover, done for a worthy cause.

  73. I don’t understand why boys being taught to live worthy to hold the priesthood makes them righteous, but women seeking to hold the priesthood makes them power hungry. As a woman in the church I feel marginalized by the fact that most decisions on the local and worldwide level are made in meetings without women present. Cheiko Okazaki told me that the Proclamation on the Family was only presented to the General RS Presidency after it was printed. No one thought to ask the women how they felt. Clearly, revelation has been recieved when women initiated a request. (the word of wisdom comes to mind) Would we have the paradox of “equal partners” and ” a father presides” if women had been asked to participate in creating the document? I am the mother of daughters, the lack of clarity in our doctrine about the role of Heavenly Mother and the exclusion of women from important discussions within the church causes distress for my daughters. The church will not discuss what their eternal role looks like. Some of my daughters are willing to work and wait for the “many great and important things” God “will yet reveal”, but other daughters leave in frustration and pain.

    My sister, my daughter, and I have given our children mother’s blessings. I gave my grand-daughter a blessing with all the power of a mother’s love. I believe a parent’s love for a child represents one of the most powerful bonds we form in the eternities. Blessing a child with that power does not dimish the priesthood it simply acknowledges our Heavenly Mother.

  74. The answer is simply for those who desire that women hold the priesthood to pray about that matter fervently and persistently. Who knows but what the Lord may grant that petition. Remember the prayer of Enos in the Book of Mormon and the parable of the woman and the unjust judge. Both Enos and the woman obtained the object of their desires by fervent, unceasing petitions. (Although God is not an unjust judge.) I don’t know if the women and the priesthood thing is because they just haven’t asked long and fervently enough or if it is something that God has indeed, in his infinite wisdom, decreed only for males.
    I have learned not to want something for myself that the Lord does not want me to have. I have had to learn how to really be humble in that process. Prayer without humility and the willingness to bow to God’s desires, His will, and not project our own onto Him is the only way that our prayers will be effective. god does not bow to popular thought or politically correct thinking.


  75. I’ll be honest, I’m unmoved by the post because I just don’t see equality as an appropriate an organizing principle for religion. All are different. God does not promise us sameness in our experiences. If he did, we would all run at the same speed, think in the same way, have the same iq, be guaranteed a sound upbringing, have the same desires, the same creative faculties, etc., etc., etc. Such a thing would violate agency, and, indeed, it may even be impossible, given that we are organized rather than created ex nilho. Why not embrace our differences, and the different experiences concomitant with them?

    I think that the idea that priesthood callings validate either individuals or kinds of people is problematic. Men, and young men, are called to fulfill the measure of their creation–which in part involves holding the priesthood and serving–but at heart doing this means, as Elder Bednar said last conference, about having the desire to ‘be a good boy’ (or a good man). Anyone who sees validation in a priesthood calling probably should not hold that calling. And I am skeptical that there might be any improvements associated simply with a different kind of people holding a calling. That comes dangerously close to the proposition that God does not guide the church.

    I think that the example of the Episcopal church suggests the extent to which these claims are true. Feminist bishops and clergy in the Episcopal church have promoted confrontation rather than harmony. The most recent general convention, done largely after the exodus of theological conservatives from the church (over the past ten years, about 1 million parishioners, a handful of diocese, and hundreds of clergy) led by a female Presiding Bishop and a female President of the House of Delegates saw unprecedented conflicts over budget and governance, with the PB rejecting the finance committee’s budget to present her own for the first time ever, the pushed resignation of the President of the House of Delegates, and a number of basic and unprecedented conflicts. Now, because they vote the Episcopal church has always had a tendency towards church politics, but the first female, and feminist, leaders have demonstrated that they were more political and more confrontational than the old sort.

  76. Glenn (86), I am under the impression that there are many women who claim to have “prayed fervently and persistently” and received an answer that they should hold the priesthood. So then should it be said that their prayer lacked “humility and willingness to bow to God’s desires” because their conclusion was different from current church policy? My point is that prayer doesn’t necessarily lead to conclusive answers and is somewhat subjective. I don’t know if God’s will is as clean and cut as we like to think it is sometimes. Church leaders aren’t infallible and are liable to make mistakes in policy-making, aren’t they?

  77. I personally am comfortable with the idea that God knows more than we do and as such, why can we just be okay with the occasional doctrine that is out of harmony with what the world thinks? We love the Word of Wisdom, and trumpet it, because it has been mostly validated by science and society, but does that have to be the case with every doctrine?

    There may be reasons that are practical to the priesthood being only given to men. There are all other kinds of speculation, but what’s so wrong with just trusting in God? This is different for me than blacks and the priesthood, because that has been an issue of controversy from almost day one of the church. This has not.

    My true concern, however, is that non-trivial percentage of men in the church who do not treat women appropriately, or are chauvinistic or even misogynistic. I observe this behavior with some regularity, and it troubles me a great deal. Men ought really to know that their priesthood is useless unless they treat their spouses and everyone else as equal partners.

    There’s this idea in the church that since men preside, they can be the final authority. In my opinion, if I am claiming this as a reason for a decision, then I have really already failed. If I can’t convince my spouse, then how good of a decision could it possibly be?

  78. If I may go back to my argument in #74, could it be that all who come unto Christ and take upon them His name hold the priesthood (Abr. 1:18). The difference being in the Keys given and the difference in administration?

  79. I’m honestly confused at why so many equate sharing presiding/administration positions with equality. I see those as separate issues. I also think we should separate ourselves as individuals from callings. I am of equal worth to God as another person, but that other person may hold a different office in the church.

    From a worldly perspective I understand that, but as a member I don’t see any inequality in my ward. The CEO of my company has an important role, but so do I, and we are interdependent on each other. It wouldn’t make sense to me either if I didn’t experience and witness this equality every Sunday.

  80. Did April Fools Day suddenly get moved into September or was Nate just bored when he wrote this post?

  81. What an excellent write up. Very well thouht out. Timely too.
    Last night I was reading “The Male Advantage” by Richard Connif and as he discussed how men and women excel in different types of organizations I couldn’t help but think about how Priesthood and Relif Society are organized differently. Perhaps we’ll have lessons that mention the foresightedness of God in this manner the same way we do about Word of Wisdom and scientific health studies.
    I also can’t help but think about an NPR story from about a year ago that talked about women lose respect for their husbands when they make more money than them, and how they recognize this, and how it became a catalyst for them to magnify all of their husbands faults.
    Perhaps by having some artifically created functions for men, God is reserving one way for wives to respect their husbands.
    Why would giving women the Priesthood get rid of the third hour? Wouldn’t it add a fourth? Sac/SS/RS & Mens Club/Priesthood.

  82. “I don’t think that motherhood is a good analog to priesthood, or rather I think that motherhood is a kind of priesthood (an exercise of godly power by human beings) but its analog is fatherhood, not the Melchizedek priesthood.”

    I don’t think that either concept actually fits.

    I find it insulting in the least to say that motherhood and fatherhood are analogous. Seriously? For my family, at any rate, it has been like the bacon and eggs breakfast, in which the chicken and pig do NOT make equal sacrifices.

    I was very ill throughout all my pregnancies. As a result, I was fired from a job, and flunked a college course. Fortunately, when I transferred to BYU the LDS teachers were sympathetic, and allowed me to postpone term papers for a year. But historically, before IV nutrition was developed, women died from nausea and vomiting.

    My husband was never sick a day as a result of our pregnancies.

    After giving birth, I breastfed for a year. This was not easy, and for me required working with a dietician to figure out how to produce enough milk without being hypoglycemic once an hour.

    My husband never had any problems related to feeding the babies.

    As a result of my pregnancies, I have had two surgeries and suffer from chronic back issues. My husband has no physical scars from our births.

    He was great at changing diapers, feeding me, coaching me through delivery, and is a wonderful dad to our kids.

    But is his work as a dad analagous? I am not seeing it. He did not have to give up 10 years of his life and part of his body to be a father.

    Yes, I realize that not all women are affected as I was by motherhood, but some are impacted much more profoundly.

    I don’t think priesthood = motherhood either, since of course a man can exercise priesthood without being a father. But I truly don’t think motherhood = fatherhood, either.

  83. Steve,

    “bear in mind that in D&C 58:26-27 it says that it is not necessary that God command in all things and that people should act of their own free will to bring about righteousness.”
    I agree that God does not command in all things. He does, however, command in some things and when He does, it is incumbent upon us to obey.

    “So not everything that the Q12/FP says and does is necessarily God speaking or acting, but them acting out of their own free will.”
    The two things are not mutually exclusive. And this isn’t just a matter of a statement from an apostle. This is doctrine, explicitly from scripture and reiterated in the temple ordinances. So I reject your argument that free will means that we can freely disregard anything said by the quorum of the twelve apostles because they might possibly be wrong.

    “The church is founded largely on creativity and self-initiative from the bottom-up, not a military-like chain of command wherein God acts as a general with specific orders as you are suggesting.”
    The church is not founded on creativity (at least not mortal creativity) and initiative. Those are traits that can be valuable, when applied correctly, but they are certainly not the foundation of the church. The Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation and chief cornerstone. Also, I never mentioned the military, but God certainly does give very specific orders in many instances. They are called commandments and they are well documented. And I’m not suggesting it, I’m stating it as certainly true.

    “So how can a single mother administering a blessing to a child (even if she does claim priesthood) be considered an act of disobedience if she is doing so to bring about greater righteousness.”
    By virtue of the fact that said woman does not, in fact, hold the priesthood, which means she is claiming authority that she does not have and has no right to claim (and it would be the same with a man who does not hold the priesthood). That is an act of disobedience, just as Saul’s unauthorized offering of sacrifices to the Lord was in the Old Testament. As with Saul, the act is disobedient, regardless of intentions. Intentions, good or otherwise, do not justify disobedience.

    Oh, and even though this wasn’t directed to me:

    “The priesthood is a mere formality that doesn’t actually have much meaning in most cases.”

    I am amazed and dismayed at this comment. We obviously disagree on a level so fundamental that I doubt further dialogue between us would be of much benefit. But for the record, this statement is simply untrue and to even assert it signifies an irreconcilable disbelief in or total lack of comprehension of the scriptures, and I’m talking about the Bible here, to say nothing of LDS scripture or latter day revelation.

  84. This post had me musing a bit this morning. Why is it that we assume that, if women were to receive the priesthood, that at least at the MP level, the Church wouldn’t follow the same pattern it has in the few instances of equality we have, e.g., co-presiding? Temple presidents and mission presidents come closest to this ideal, and our theology hints at least that this is the case with our Heavenly Parents. Wouldn’t equality look like a bishopric composed of three married couples, or Pat Holland and Donna Packer as co-apostles with their husbands? The reverse might be, in fact, ought to be true as well–a couple called as the Relief Society co-presidents. Granted, that kind of equality would be difficult in AP settings, and in YSA and SA wards (to which I’m sympathetic–I was a SA until my 40th year), but this seems like the logical extension of the question of how things would be organized. We’d need to expand most bishop’s offices, of course, to accommodate PEC and ward council meetings (and wouldn’t those be even more fun than currently–you’d get all sorts of fun insights into a couple’s personal dynamic).

  85. Very excellent post!
    1) There is no revelation that the priesthood was for men only. It was assumed because that’s how it was always done. Women are fervently praying for the ban to end. Until the First Presidency and Q12 pray and unanimously agree, it cannot be changed. We come unto Christ — He doesn’t come unto us. He teaches that we ask, seek, and knock. If your mind and heart aren’t open to an idea, you aren’t going to do that. So we also fervently pray that their hearts and mind will be opened.
    2) As to all the consequences perceived by you Lamanites and lemuelites, I am quite sure that “God giveth no commandment unto the children of men save He shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing which He commandeth them.”
    3) A Patriarchal priesthood means a father bestows it. I’m sure Heavenly Father would love to bestow it on His little girls, for we will always be His Little Girls in His beloved eyes. He and Heavenly Mother are one, and they are One God. Thus, no need for a matriarchal order — unless that’s the way They wish it. Priesthood is the power of God to act in His (Their) name. Women can do that. Just like the men.
    4) Motherhood is comparable to fatherhood. Both roles are growing into richer and deeper paradigms as we grow closer to our Savior. If men can be better fathers because of the oath and covenant of the priesthood, is there a righteous mother anywhere who wouldn’t want to be a better mother by that same oath?
    5) Some of you have said women don’t need it and reap all the blessings without having to do all the things the men have to. Until 1978 we said the same thing to black people. The point is lost by so saying. The point is that two parents holding the priesthood doubles the power and blessings in the home. Sons and daughters holding it should significantly help foster greater love in the home by trying to live true to the oath and covenant. Daughters would not come to a sad day when they figure out they’re never going to get to have the power to bless the sacrament, bless their babies, administer to sick family and friends, and never have a voice heard in the decision-making quorums of their church.
    6) it’s completely insulting to imply that men need the priesthood to be as good as women. The sons of God are just as worthy and capable as the daughters of God.
    7) it is very insulting and condescending to say women desire the priesthood because they desire prideful power. Women desire the priesthood because it is God’s power to act in His name and we desire that holy ability.
    8) mixing men and women in intimate meetings is not dangerous, except to those with unholy desires. As RS president I met weekly with the Bishop alone discussing very intimate details of the women and couples of our ward. Thousands, even millions have done likewise. Women who are at the level to be a Bishop, Stake P., Seventy, Apostle, and prophet are not going to betray the oath and covenant, their temple covenants, and especially their husband by becoming immoral.
    9) if RS stays or goes, it matters not. The prophet et al will guide the particulars. But rest assured, women holding the priesthood will enrich the things we do to serve one another, give aid, and show love in our uniquely feminine ways. Priesthood will not turn women into men, nor will ordained women strip men of their manliness. It WILL make us all better disciples of Christ.
    10) for lack of a better, more holy word…..the “wattage” of the power of God to act in His name would double in this world almost overnight! Tell me this world wouldn’t benefit from that!!!
    Glory! Let it be so.

  86. Motherhood is analygous to fatherhood, and fatherhood needs the priesthood. The church is simply a support system for the family. In other words, the focus of Mormonism is on the family itself not on administering the various programs of the church. In raising families, mothers and fathers have different, coequal, and complementary roles (like the branches of the US government). Fathers happen to need the priesthood to fulfill their role well, whereas women don’t.

  87. Daniel, it’s clearly not the case that fathers need priesthood to be successful as fathers. I am friends with men who are amazing fathers who are not members of the Church and, therefore, do not have the priesthood.

  88. I don’t want membership in the kingdom reduced to the thin identity of citizenship, with priesthood conceptualized as another liberal right.

    does NT teaching that baptism and salvation are available to all (jew and greek, slave and free, male and female) also lead you to conceptualize them as just pedestrian liberal rights?

  89. @ David #35

    Mormonism is more gender-progressive than Christian denominations that allow female pastors.

    uh, no.

  90. @Cameron N. #91

    I’m honestly confused at why so many equate sharing presiding/administration positions with equality.

    interesting. and what are your thoughts of front/back of the bus? find it confusing?

    I am of equal worth to God as another person, but that other person may hold a different office in the church. […] The CEO of my company has an important role, but so do I, and we are interdependent on each other. It wouldn’t make sense to me either if I didn’t experience and witness this equality every Sunday.

    well now you just sound like a commie :^)

  91. Nate: wondering if you’ve read Cass Sunstein’s article about gender-based priesthood. Here’s an excerpt, and I’m happy to send you the full article:

    As I have suggested, the resulting doctrine is a puzzle in light of the fact that almost no one believes that in general, religious organizations can be exempted from most of the law forbidding civil and criminal wrongs. The puzzle is not only obvious but also important, for there is good reason to believe that some of the most pernicious forms of sex discrimination are a result of the practices of religious institutions, which can produce internalized norms of subordination. Those internalized norms might undermine
    equality of opportunity itself, as when women scale back their aspirations to conform to those internalized norms. People’s preferences, especially in the domain of sex equality, should not be taken as given, or as coming from the sky; discriminatory beliefs and role-based choices are often produced by a discriminatory society. Religious practices often contribute a great deal to such beliefs and choices, on the part of men and women alike. In such circumstances it is not even clear whether the relevant preferences are authentically “theirs.” The remedy of “exit”—the right of women to leave a religious
    group or order—is crucial, but in practice it may not be available. Indeed, “exit” will not be sufficient when girls have been taught in such a way as to be unable or unwilling to scrutinize the practices with which they have grown up. Here in particular, the ideal of
    equal opportunity is compromised.

  92. J town (95), yes we do view things quite differently, let me briefly explain how. You believe in the infallibility thesis of doctrine/policy origination, whereas I believe in the human experiment hypothesis. According to the infallibility hypothesis, doctrines and policies in the LDS church are expressly from God; God’s laws and words are distinctly clear from those of humans; and church leaders are capable of giving an immaculate transmission of God’s commands and are therefore considered infallible when they give official pronouncements. According to the human experiment hypothesis, God exists, but is not well understood by finite human minds; all human efforts toward implementing God’s laws can be seen as experiments that are conjured in the minds of humans, some of which may reflect God’s eternal law better than others (often according to time and circumstance); church leaders, as well as all humans, are liable to make doctrine/policy pronouncements that don’t reflect God’s law; and infallibility in doctrine/policy-making is an impossibility since God is not immediately apparent.

    The major shortcomings in the infallibility hypothesis are: it can’t distinguish when leaders are channeling God and when they are speaking for themselves; it can’t explain apparent contradiction in doctrine/policy-making over time or abrogation of previous doctrines/policies (i.e. birth control, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, why did Hyrum Smith extend the Melchizedek priesthood to Leonora Cannon Taylor in 1843, etc.); and it often overlooks the complex contours of history in favor of an imagined historical narrative. In most cases, when confronted with difficult questions, proponents of the infallibility hypothesis stress that there is no use in trying to question and that everything must be accepted on faith, ultimately ceding that God’s direct interaction in doctrine/policy-making cannot be proven.

    The human experimentation hypothesis accommodates ambiguities to a much greater degree. It acknowledges that it is unrealistic to expect that organizations achieve a sort of perfection all at once and that they must be willing to make periodic changes in order to suit constantly changing circumstances. Instead of viewing policy and doctrine as right or wrong and black or white, it views it as effective or ineffective toward the achievement of specific human-originated aims. It encourages humans to be engaged in trying to come up with ideas to contribute to the greater good and that unquestioning attachment to authority renders their pursuit of the greater good less effective.

    According to the infallibility hypothesis, priesthood originated from the top-down and represents the true source of authority. According to the human experiment hypothesis, the symbol of priesthood power is merely symbolic and is not directly linked with true authority. Rather, true authority stems from a combination of persuasion, compromise, and negotiation. In other words, Joseph Smith’s authority was more a result of his ability to convince people that he was a legitimate spiritual leader rather than some abstract priesthood power. JS didn’t act as a robot simply carrying out God’s direct orders, but had to engage in a great degree of innovation and creativity to persuade people to continually recognize him as an authority.

  93. Everyone here is so polite and congenial.

    I get sick to my stomach when I hear members of the church argue for changes to the doctrines of the gospel. How blessed we are that the intellectuals in this forum are not in charge. I surely will not be missed, but drivel such as this has provided me reason enough to leave Times and Seasons for good.

  94. @ Palerobber 102 – Actually, I’m quite the libertarian. And I don’t think your analogy fits. The back of the bus was practically inconvenient and based on impractical differences. Women not holding the priesthood in no way affects their capacity to be a disciple and do good or be happy.

    President Hinckley once equated his responsibility within his sphere with everyone else’s in the church. That also informs my view on this matter. Men happen to be tasked with the most ‘macro’ assignments in the kingdom. Women happen to (generally) have more ‘micro’ assignments, which I would associate with nurturing. Yes, there is a spectrum, but the proclamation is true in a general sense.

    Do you think that sameness is equivalent to equality in every context? I don’t think it is in the church. I’m thinking of 1 Corinthians 12 here:

    12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
    13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
    14 For the body is not one member, but many.
    15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
    16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
    17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
    18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
    19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
    20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
    21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
    22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
    23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
    24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
    25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
    26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
    27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
    28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
    29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
    30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
    31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

    Are all apostles? are all mothers? are all single? are all priesthood holders? are all married? Do all get to perform ordinances? No, nor has God deemed it important enough to reveal in the fulness of times.

    If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

    Of course I don’t expect anyone to consider Paul in a ‘progressive’ discussion of women in the church. But whatever your position on this issue is, I think these teachings are relevant.

    I guess what it boils down to is this: when I go to church I get the Mosiah vibes – mourning with those that mourn, comforting, sharing in the Spirit. And that makes me pretty content. The Spirit and friendship and being busy serving in callings makes me content. I guess that’s not enough for everyone, though.

  95. Chiekos: I don’t think that I am advocating a change in church doctrine or practice. I rather explicitly disclaimed any authority over such things, including the authority to “preach” in favor of my own beliefs. My point is simply that if I was in charge of structuring priesthood in the church and was going to do so according to my own best, all-things-considered convictions, I would like to see women have the ability to perform ordinances and participate fully in church government. That said, I clearly don’t control the church and it isn’t — and shouldn’t be — organized according to my all-things-considered judgments. The bulk of my post was meant to simply think about what sorts of problems would result if women were ordained.

    I am certainly willing to sustain current church leaders and current church practice. Indeed, I do so on a pretty regular basis in ward, stake, and general conferences, as well as when I go in for my temple recommend interviews. I simply don’t find any of the reasons that have been offered to me regarding the exclusion of women from the priesthood ultimately compelling. This doesn’t mean that I am somehow bent on insisting that church teachings and practices immediately change. It simply means that I have a set of beliefs, beliefs that I don’t think have any special authority.

  96. Chiekos Tacos, farewell, but before you leave I must point out the irony that many of the church leaders themselves are intellectuals who have called for policy/doctrine changes in the church including the changing of the BOM intro from “the Lamanites…are the principal ancestors of the American Indians” to “among the principal ancestors” and changing policies in the church handbook regarding openly gay members. In decades past, intellectuals such as Hugh B. Brown and others intellectual church leaders called for drastic changes to the priesthood doctrine and eventually won over hardline conservative authorities.

  97. Cameron N, I think paleorobber was being sarcastic with his “commie” remark. But I agree that we can play different roles in the church and still be of equal worth in the sight of God.

  98. #39 “However, I do believe the temple endownment includes the provision of a priesthood authority to both my wife and me. It is that priesthood that we exercise for family ordinances in our home – annointing and blessing of sick children, parent’s blessings, and so forth. I am far from alone in believing that is appropriate. It was very commonplace in the early days of the church.”

    It was also very commonplace in the early days of the church to practice polygamy. I’m pretty sure that a few obscure references to women blessing the sick in the early 1800’s justifies your wife “exercising” the priesthood.

    You are aware that you and your wife are now anointed only to become such, right?

  99. Nate: an excellent article. Thank you so much for taking the time to set these ideas forth, and doing it so well. Like #5 Cynthia L, I am suffering a case of intellect envy.

    I also appreciated many of the comments, especially #97 Rockies Gma, and her item 10.

    Carry on!

  100. Thanks, Nate —

    Mel Brooks tossed my Priesthood against the base of Sinai, where it lay until (wait for it) St. Patrick’s Day 1842, when the Church was finally restored, complete with a female line of authority leading back to God. Weary of bankrolling mass-produced puffy Seinfeld shirts, Sarah Granger Kimball recorded Joseph Smith’s announcement: “I will organize the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood…The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized.” (Sarah Granger Kimball, “Auto-biography” Woman’s Exponent, 1 Sept 1883, p. 51) Sure, our pedigree is under the Prophet’s direction, but so is yours.

    Yes, Kohanim status is overtly patrilineal, and sidesteps the mother test of Jewishness. And yes, the Order of the Son of God seems to follow suit in earthly PH pedigrees. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism contradicts itself, allowing that the MPH “is the ‘higher priesthood’ which incorporates all priesthoods within itself (TPJS, p. 180)”, yet the mystery of a Patriarchal Order is invoked at Temple sealings, and that “fulness of the priesthood” becomes the “highest order” when ratified by the Holy Spirit of promise. (D&C 132:18-19)

    I am unsure how my female authority to act in God’s name on earth operates differently from the male, but to me, all our keys of earthly ordinances and administration will eventually be relinquished and reported during a meeting in Western Missouri–you can’t take them with you.

    Originally, Home and Church Priesthood were the same–families formed ecclesiastical units. For now, we’re stuck navigating the types of governance between them on our way back to the Garden. I appreciate your household lifting the tent flap to show how we can yearn for the Patriarchal Order, while dutifully adhering to the context of a Melchizedek Church.

    Our Patriarchal Order, though unfortunately only half-named, is the only complete and eternal Priesthood stewardship, and it’s mine too as I preside over my home. Even after the divorce. And I’m barren.

    New bumper sticker idea: [Party Barren]

  101. I have been thinking about this a lot, but all of my thoughts have been covered by other comments.

    I liked thr discussion so much, I included the OP and comments in today’s A Few Things I’ve Been Reading post. Thanks for a great post, and so many different perspectives.

  102. My only comment on this at the moment is that we have given the Church far more power and authority than is necessary or wise. What role should the organization actually play? I would argue that beyond providing saving ordinances for those who wish them, there is no necessity that the church be involved in any aspect of our lives.

    After all, it is not and never will be the church that saves us. Christ alone holds that honor.

    For myself, I have simply stopped looking at the church as being something to be interacted with and addressed, and I have instead turned my efforts towards building a relationship with Jesus, following the guidance that comes without regard for official policy. It has been a powerful and transformative change of viewpoint.

    Please don’t anyone take this as a condemnation – I am sure it sounds very holier than thou, but I don’t mean it as such. It’s just that I have found so much more peace and joy by disengaging from administrative policies and engaging in relationship building with the Divine.

  103. Nate, i see you haven’t answered my question in #100. allow me to ask it another way…

    I don’t want membership in the kingdom reduced to the thin identity of citizenship, with priesthood conceptualized as another liberal right.

    by that same thinking, would you not prefer priesthood to be restricted by race and/or lineage?

  104. If the RS was folded into the EQ, would all the home teaching messages all next year be on the importance of home teaching?

  105. Women generally are far too liberal to qualify for LDS ecclesiastical authority. If we had women apostles, they would be clamoring for gay marriage. Look at the Unitarian Universalists which are majoriy female clergy. You guessed it, they support homosexualiy, abortion, witchcraft, and goddess worship.

  106. Julie:
    This is obviously only my opinion but it seems to hold water. Women tend to be much much more liberal than men and support those 4 things I mentioned. The LDS leadership supports none of these things.

  107. Henry, my experience differs. At least for active women in the church, I find they are equally, if not slightly more, conservative than the men. In fact, most polls find greater support for women’s ordinantion from the men of the church than from the women.

  108. A parlor game; if women were to be made apostles today, who would be first? My bets:
    #1: Sherri Dew
    #2: Julie Beck

  109. Wow. At first that’s all I was going to say. Just wow. But then I can never be that brief on this topic.

    I don’t know if concurrent (i.e. age 12) ordination of YW is or will be the solution or part of our growth toward greater unity, perfection, divinity as individuals or as a church. But I am fully convinced that husbands and wives will enter into celestial glory as joint and equal heirs of salvation, or I would not still be a devout member of the LDS church. I see greater inclusion of women’s perspectives in councils and administrative decisions of the church as a positive change which is already being encouraged.

    To me, it’s not a question of power. It’s a question of trying to best practice what the Book of Mormon preaches: that all are alike unto God, and not excepting the “male and female” parts of the list. The reality is that an all male leadership simply cannot be fully aware of and responsive to the needs of at least half the membership, God’s interventions and revelations notwithstanding! Yes, that is assuming that men and women have some fundamentally different needs spiritually, based on their different roles and responsibilities.

    One simple way that the current structure poses difficulties in doing this is in resource (time, money, and space) allocation. While the men’s quorums and scouting organizations are at liberty to plan and implement the activities they want, the RS, YW, and Primary programs must get approval for any activities beyond those prescribed by the handbook. At least this is the way the policies are implemented in our east-coast U.S. neck-of-the-woods ward and stake, where our primary- aged girls have 2 activity days a month as spelled out in the handbook, but the boys have weekly den meetings for scouts and as many additional activities (including monthly Pack Meetings for the distribution of kudos and doodads, and week-long summer day camps with BSA) as desired & to make sure that every boy (or his parents and leaders) can earn his kudos & doodads. I think scouting is a worthwhile program, but will be happy to see the church’s affiliation with scouting end. Don’t tell me YW don’t need as much encouragement, affirmation, and recognition, or the same resources, time, and leadership as young men. Hogwash.

    In the meantime, we’ll continue supplementing Activity Days with fun activities for our daughter and her friends, and downplaying the doodad aspects of scouting in favor of the character and spirituality-building bits, and teaching both our sons and our daughters that discipleship requires the sacrifice, commitment, and obedience of all who would be heirs, notwithstanding that the oath and covenant of the priesthood as currently constituted appears to be directly only at the men.

    “Amen” to the chicken egg-vs-bacon analogy in terms of different levels of sacrifice required by mothers and fathers (but maybe only because of the role technology has played in reducing hard physical labor & also due to the relative peace we have in our nation, so our husbands do not sacrifice themselves physically in the same way that that women still do in childbearing and rearing, and that men who have to physically labor for sustenance or defend their families in battle have to do). Nonetheless, when “Almighty God” pronounces “blessings of the breast and… of the womb” it is not God the Father who has or gives those blessings!

    Some have mentioned not needing “permission” to teach their children and discuss in church what is known about Heavenly Mother & I think it’s essential that we all do! I think it is part and parcel of carrying out Pres. Benson’s instruction that parents teach children about the temple including that the patriarchal order is “the family order.”

    I can only smile at the thought of joint or gender specific high councils, disciplinary councils, etc. Worthiness interviews with female rather than male leaders for women and young women would be wonderful, too.

  110. At least for me, I think the time has come when Times & Seasons is more dangerous than uplifting. Oddly, the comments have more to do with my decision in this instance than the post on its own.

    As for the post, I have often wondered and been unable to understand precisely why only men hold the priesthood. Very respectfully, I found the argument unconvincing, though I have also yet to hear an argument I feel answers the question. In this respect, I have a great deal of gratitude for living revelation and priesthood authority. If an answer comes in mortality, I believe it will come by means of the former to the latter.

    As for the comments, some in particular seem to be so dramatically divergent from my understanding or experience of the gospel it startles me. There is so much about the gospel we have access to that certain doctrines and policies can be elucidated boldly and appropriately, yet respectfully, as more than merely “sufficiently ambiguous.”

    More concerning, discussions/debates about the temple feel very inappropriate for such a public venue.

    This article is not the sole cause for my determination to stop reading Times & Seasons , but it certainly did not contribute to evidence I weighed in favor of staying.

    It is disheartening that in over 125 comments there have been so few concerns with this article and the associated comments, including the author’s participation. It does not mean the author should be disparaged nor that his approach was not supremely academic.

    I suppose for me, there comes a time when academics become so divorced from reconcilable faith, I no longer wish to participate – even, or perhaps especially, as a reader.

  111. @ Dave K (123) – Wait, where are these polls and how do they gather participants? That sounds rather silly to me.

    @prometheus (116) – What to you make of Elder Hallstrom’s talk last April?

  112. On comments 105 and 127, I think it is interesting that you find Times and Seasons to be not conservative enough or in line with the church. You definitely shouldn’t take it out on the commenters since they don’t represent the blog. But oddly enough I see Times & Seasons as moderately conservative. They support official doctrines and policies, this post included, and even come off a bit politically conservative as well, even though it is isn’t a political blog. But if anything T&S is a place where liberal and conservative Mormons can engage in discussion, which is often intellectually stimulating. I would hope that T&S would introduce you to the thoughts and ideas of a variety of active LDS. Not everyone thinks alike in the Mormon world nor are they supposed to.

    “I suppose for me, there comes a time when academics become so divorced from reconcilable faith, I no longer wish to participate – even, or perhaps especially, as a reader.”

    I don’t understand why academic Mormons are singled out as liberal questioners. Academics are really just as diverse of a group as any other. And some Mormon academics are extremely conservative (i.e. Ralph Hancock).

  113. Cameron N. #128

    I think Elder Hallstrom makes some good points, although I don’t think he is entirely correct.

    His praise of the church glosses over and over-simplifies a lot of things, as does his criticism of people leaving because they aren’t converted to the gospel.

    His comments on the inadequacy of church activity alone are absolutely dead on, however, as are his first two suggestions to make the gospel be our foundation.

    That being said, I don’t believe that he makes the case in any way for us needing the church as well as the gospel. (“I repeat: we need the gospel and the Church.”) I just don’t see it anywhere in the text.

    He talks about the church helping us live the gospel, but I think that that just weakens his argument for the necessity of the church. If it is merely helpful, it is not essential. (And it isn’t always helpful.) If it is not essential, then why do we spend so much time on it?

  114. Prometheus #133

    I understand and appreciate your careful and detailed understanding of the talk and the concept overall. If we were to ask Elder Hallstrom about it, I suspect that he may have said ‘essential’ but wanted to adopt a softer more welcoming tone.

    My reasoning for this is that the church is actually essential to fully living the Gospel, because within it its ordinances, the power of Godliness is manifest. It is the Kingdom and official organization of God on the earth. Those aware of it and adopted and committed to it are obligated by covenant to consecrate themselves to it and their fellow disciples.

    One can live the gospel to a very meaningful degree outside the church, but that is not the fulness.

  115. Just for the record, I liked this post. I have not gone through the comments thoroughly at all and have not read what others have had to say or what roads the discussion has taken. This is merely an expression of liking what was written in the post. Personally, I am uncomfortable with any kind of ‘agitating’ on the issue, so to speak. But if one is allowed to imagine that a revelation could be received by the Church leadership, a revelation that would grant Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods to women, if the legitimate and existing priesthood/revelatory channels could come to that conclusion – I would be all for it.

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