Established by Jesus Christ himself

In a recent news article discussing the Ordain Women community and its upcoming inaugural meeting, LDS church spokeswoman Jessica Moody stated that the male-only priesthood “was established by Jesus Christ himself and is not a decision to be made by those on Earth.”

Of course, there may be a few questions about whether this statement is descriptively accurate, given those pesky Phoebe and Priscilla and Junia verses and whatnot. But let’s set those issues aside for a moment. Because theologically, it does make sense that we might want to follow Jesus’s example here. And factually, a few quirky anomalies aside, the Priesthood ordination pattern during Jesus Christ’s ministry is very, very clear:

Jesus only ever ordained men.

Jewish men.

It’s very clear, folks. No women. And no Gentiles. Zero.


Jesus Ordaining Some Jewish Men

And so if we want to follow the pattern set out during Christ’s ministry — well, I guess we ought to do the same.

Of course this might be difficult news for some people to hear. For instance, some people might argue that there are important contributions which white men could make in the church, if they were eligible for ordination. Many white men are excellent organizers, and they might potentially serve as effectively as Jewish men. The same could be said for Black men, Latino men, women, and other people who are not-Jewish-men. In addition, critics might point out that white men, Black men, Latino men, women, and other ineligible people could begin to feel excluded or undervalued within the community.

Sorry, folks, but the facts are crystal clear: If Jesus had wanted white men to hold the Priesthood, don’t you think He would have ordained a few of them during His lifetime?

(And if we start making exceptions now, then who knows what people might ask for next.)

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Next question.

49 comments for “Established by Jesus Christ himself

  1. I guess we can’t ordain anyone who isn’t circumcised either! And nobody who doesn’t live within a 50-mile radius of Jerusalem. And nobody who doesn’t have a beard (sorry, BYU faculty, staff, and students). And nobody who eats processed foods or drives a car or lives in an air-conditioned house or has ever had surgery or watched TV.

  2. Hah, Catherine!

    FWIW, I’m ambivalent about ordination generally and can’t get excited about Ordain Women website in particular. But that quote in the Trib piece reminded me of some of BYU spokesperson Cari Jenkins’ “classics” (not a good thing), like there is no demand for Coke at BYU.

  3. You mean Jesus and all the apostles weren’t white!?

    But that has to be the case! I mean, look at all the artwork in the Ensign! And all the paintings in church buildings! They were totally white!!!1

  4. A rhetorical. Jesus never used computers back then. Does that mean we shouldn’t use computer today?

    The idea that just because he only ordained men as apostles doesn’t mean he couldn’t ordain women as apostles. There is no scripture reference ever in any of the 4 standard works that says that women CANNOT be ordained to the priesthood. None, zero, nada.

  5. This post – and many of the responses – are clever and thought-provoking. I guess many LDS’s aren’t very good at coming up with explanations for stuff. At least, it’s never been suggested that women were fence-sitters in the war in heaven. It might be better for leaders to just use the tried-and-true parent responses like “because I said so” or “sorry, that’s just the way things are”, than to come up with explanations that are so filled with logical inconsistancies.

  6. While this is an excellent point, the idea that Jews cannot be white or black or Spanish is a little strange. From what I understand the ancient Jews were a combination of African, Eauropean, Mediteranean. While likely darker skinned the ordained apostles and Jesus could have been any assortment of colors and/or race. I’m decended from Judah. I’m dark white. Interacial marriage and conversion was already well entrenched during Jesus day. The Jews are not a race, anymore than the Muslims, or Christians, or Hindus. Perhaps a better conclusion would be, “if Jesus wanted non-Jews to hold the Priesthood…” it could be me, but this has an anti-Semitic feel to it, which I am certain was not the intent.

  7. Come to think of it, only Levite were allowed to officiate in the temple ordinances or what we call Priesthood. was Jesus just born with his because of who he is? and how did a bunch of Ephraimites come to possess it in the Americas when they were practicing the law of Moses. Don’t forget, Jesus ordained the Nephites too.

  8. Not just Jews but Palestinian Jews! Also, all blue collar workers and no scribes, scholars, or members of the educated classes, correct? Right me if I’m wrong, but I believe there were zero lawyers or businessmen among the original Apostles, and no wealthy men, though some were His followers. He explicitly said wealthy men almost never enter the kingdom of God. He never said such about women. I think wealthy men should definitely be excluded from the priesthood.

  9. You ignore the most important part of the quote: “is not a decision to be made by those on Earth.” Rather, than trying to instigate and force the brethren’s hand with an internet movement that is little more than a thinly-veiled attempt to garner change based on the threat of public outcry and unfriendly media attention, perhaps the Ordain Women movement would be better off praying to God, as he is the one who will make the decision.

  10. It’s funny that this comes so soon after the brouhaha about the Pope washing womens’ feet, which Catholic traditionalists were mad about for the same reason (Jesus never did it). Hopefully our leaders, like the Pope, will reject that very flawed logic.

  11. While I am sympathetic to your point this reads as a bit of a rhetorical cheap shot in my view. I took Ms. Moody to be referring to the reorganization of the church in the modern era, with the JS and OC being given the priesthood by those Jewish men you mentioned.

  12. Kaimi, I realize you’re playing for laughs here, but your post touches on aspects of Mormon understanding of priesthood that are worth thinking about seriously: the idea of descent from/adoption into the House of Israel expressed in patriarchal blessings, for example, would answer the objection that you raise in jest.

  13. Jesus and the original 12 were certainly not Swedish, but the distinction and mutually exclusive characteristics of “Jewish” and “white” seems forced at best.

  14. Out of curiosity, in which Procer & Gamble or Unilever ad was the photo in the meeting announcement linked above originally found?

  15. Ben, it might seem forced to us in the current racial climate, since the category of “white” has been expanding over the last century–Jews and Irish were both non-white racial categories in the U.S. before WWII.

    But in the NT, Jew vs. non-Jew is the fundamental racial binary. This binary pervades most of European history–it’s no coincidence it was a Jew (Emmanuel Levinas) who formulated the concept of “alterity.” It’s an index of how “successfully” Jews have assimilated in the U.S. that the distinction between Jew and “white” seems strained.

  16. Even more logically inconsistent is that Jesus Christ himself was on Earth so why should we assume that its not for someone on Earth to decide.

  17. “Jew vs. non-Jew is the fundamental racial binary.”

    Indeed it is, but it’s also completely irrelevant. Regardless of the WWII context, Mediterranean complexion is still caucasian, whether one lives in 2013 or 0013. Jewishness has nothing inherently to do with complexion in the NT, and the average Mediterranean Jew was likely caucasian.

  18. Or in other words, Jews weren’t distinguishable from non-Jews by skin color, so to set that up as one of the mutually exclusive categories seems like polemical nonsense.

  19. It’s been mentioned already, but I don’t think that Jessica Moody is referring to NT testament texts, but rather the foundational principle of the church: that it is led by revelation, and that Jesus Christ is at its head.

  20. Race is about more than complexion, in the same way gender is about more than chromosomes.

    In Jesus’s time this distinction was supremely meaningful. It’s silly to argue the only reason it shouldn’t be meaningful to us is because it happens not to be meaningful to us.

  21. There was an expansion, by Jesus, after His mortal ministry. That whole “don’t call unclean that which I called clean” thing. The statement didn’t say they were limiting their sight to His mortality, but that He’s the one guiding the Church now.

    The post is disappointing – it feels more like schoolyard taunting than an attempt to discuss the issue.

  22. Are we operating off NT standards in the OP? If so, Jewish vs. non-Jewish is a fine distinction, but let’s not couch it in color terms, because that’s not certainly not how they did so. Perhaps circumcised vs non (though that has its own difficulties)?

    Or are we operating off modern standards of racial constructs? If so, then again, as you point out, race is complicated and much more than a question of melanin and physiology. But that construction is also not what the post goes for. It contrasts Jewish with white, black, and Latino, an idiosyncratic construction that is neither here nor there. Frankly, it doesn’t make any sense.

    The supremely meaningful distinction in the NT was between Jew and non-Jew, not between Jew and white/black/latino. We’re equivocating between different historical definitions of “race.”

  23. Dude, Ben S, if the Jewish/white thing bothers you so much, just use any of the other 1000000 arbitrary distinctions available to plug in to the same tongue in cheek comparison framework (used a computer vs never used a computer, 12 years old vs no 12 year olds, eaten processed food vs never eaten processed food, ….)

  24. Before we get caught up in more silly taunting and intellectual high-fiving, it is very possible, even likely, that Sister Moody was quoting/paraphrasing an apostle or President Monson, in which case we have been subtly told that when it comes to priesthood, we should mind our own darn business and wait on the Lord. The priesthood is His.

    I know that may be hard for those of you who no longer believe that revelation occurs in this Church, or that it only occurs once or twice a century IF a loyal band of feminist intellectuals drags the those poor, deluded, outmoded Brethren to the obvious conclusion.

  25. Ben, my original point was simply that Jew/white is a perfectly valid theoretical counterposition, as evidenced by the fact that it obtained in the U.S. for much of its history.

    Extrapolating a precedent necessarily entails connecting something historically specific to a universal—that’s why different theoretical categories are being thrown around. The question is what categories should apply in the formulation of that universal principle. Jew/white isn’t a distinction that currently has traction in our culture, but just because it’s insignificant to us, how do we know it shouldn’t apply here? The whole problem is how we determine what categories have transcendent applicability.

  26. Nothing will change until God expressly commands that something be done? Since when do we repent of sins only at God’s express command? That sounds pretty stiff-necked.

  27. (And I think the orthodox response, a la the FamProc, is that gender is the only category with universal applicability, because it’s the only category that transcends social contexts.)

  28. I think Moody’s reference to the decision not being one for those on earth is a clear indication that life exists on other planets.

    We at Ordain Women have been going about this all wrong. We need to recruit aliens to ask for female ordination! Not faithful earthlings!

  29. If the hypothetical orthodox responder things that gender is the only category that transcends social context, that orthodox responder is pretty sadly uninformed.

  30. Kiskilili, you’re just not mingling your proclamations with enough philosophies yet.

  31. I am a bit surprised at the tone and lack of intellectual effort in this post. I come to Times and Seasons to read thought-provoking ideas, whether i agree with them or not. But this post seems almost childish.

    I understand Moody to have signaled that when it comes to priesthood ordination, the long-established pattern can only be changed by revelation from Christ himself. That position deserves a little more thoughtful engagement than this post. (It has to do with the function of revelation in the Church, the relationship of Latter-day Saint men and women to those called by God to lead His Church, etc. It has very little to do with the racial composition of the Twelve in ancient Palestine.)

  32. Ben, Jews in the Mediterranean area in the year zero were “likely Caucasian”? As far as I know, there is zero evidence for this.

    Granting that our racial categories are highly artificial, yes. Jewish people in the Holy Land would be what is commonly seen as “Middle Eastern” or Semitic in ethnicity. This is _not_ the same as ethnically white.

    As far as I know, in the NT era, not all people of Semitic ethnicity were Jews; but effectively all Jews were people of Semitic ethnicity.

    Thus, a decision to begin to ordain people outside of that tribal and ethnic community _is_ absolutely a break from the pattern Jesus established.

  33. And what about in the Book of Mormon? And what about in the Restoration?

    Yeah. That’s what I thought.

    Next murmuring?

  34. Kaimi Wenger seems really humble. “Yeah. That’s what I thought. Next question.” Taunting others is (I’m sure) the way Christ would want Kaimi to approach this topic.

    “And it came to pass that on the morrow, when the multitude was gathered together, behold, Nephi and his brother whom he had raised from the dead, whose name was Timothy, and also his son, whose name was Jonas, and also Mathoni, and Mathonihah, his brother, and Kumen, and Kumenonhi, and Jeremiah, and Shemnon, and Jonas, and Zedekiah, and Isaiah—now these were the names of the disciples whom Jesus had chosen—and it came to pass that they went forth and stood in the midst of the multitude.”

  35. Ditto to #42. A more thorough, less condescending and sarcastic approach would be more helpful to sharing your views.

  36. Jesus in the NT never hands-on head ordained anyone. He just kind of hollered at folks while they worked. So I guess we’re either doing that wrong, or Peter and John and Luke and all the rest never actually had the priesthood. And Alma? What was up with him?

    It looks like this godly power and authority thing is terribly nebulous and inconsistent across time and place. What does it mean????

  37. Do we really know that Jesus didn’t ordain female disciples/apostles? There are NT scholars who think he did. Also, in the BoM, who is to say that Kumen, Kumenonhi, Mathoni, Mathonihah, and/or Shemmon weren’t women?

  38. What? Michael Otterson didn’t deliver this response? Why on earth would that be? Gosh, we may never know. (Drip drip sarcasm).

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