by Judy Curtis
Reading through the suggestions to empower LDS women on a document entitled All Are Alike Unto God caused me to consider how women could be transitioned into functioning in a priesthood capacity in the Church without upsetting the system more than a lot of people could handle. Here are my ideas.
First, restore the Relief Society to quorum status as it was when Joseph organized the group. When the women in Nauvoo told Joseph they wanted to form a benevolent society similar to others of the day, he said he had something better for them.
“The Society should move according to the ancient priesthood… [I will] make of this society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day–as in Paul’s day… [I am] glad to have the opportunity of organizing the women, as a part of the priesthood belongs to them.”
From the minutes of the first meeting comes this quote:
“My dear sisters, the purpose of this meeting today is the making complete the organization of the church by organizing the women after the manner of the Priesthood… I propose that you sisters elect a presiding officer to preside over you and let that presiding officer choose two counselors to assist in the duties of her office. I will ordain them to preside over the society and let them preside just as the Presidency presides over the church. And if they need my instruction, ask me and I will give it from time to time… If any officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the Institution, let them be appointed and set apart as Deacons, Teachers, etcetera are among us. “
Emma was “ordained” as president. Later leaders changed the terminology to “set apart.” And indeed, women were part of The Holy Order until Joseph’s death when Brigham Young disbanded the Relief Society for ten years and reorganized it without reference to quorum or priesthood.
With the Relief Society as a quorum, the office of president would be equivalent to a bishop’s calling or Stake President’s calling. Relief Society presidents already function as bishops. (I know, I have been one three times.) The actual day to day operations and interaction would not change that much. Women would be acting with authority and it would not upset those who couldn’t deal with a female bishop because there would still be the male bishop as well. Young Women and Primary callings would also be priesthood callings. The Young Women’s organization would have to be adapted so that, like the Young Men, they would be ordained to function in the priesthood from the age of twelve just as the Young Men are.
Perhaps this would not be something new, but a return to how things were in the beginning. What are your reactions to this approach?