Guest Post: Imagining Priestesshood
by Frank Pellett
[authors’ note: I do not agree with the current “Women’s Ordination” movement. We have quite a number of smaller steps to go before we even think of any kind of ordination, not the least of which is in changing hearts to show that feminist (equality, egalitarian, what have you) ideals are not aiming to demand direction of the Church away from those called to lead, but that they can also be more passive, removing stumbling blocks and offering ideas and inspirations in the attitude of hope and love, consistent with Articles of Faith 9 and 13.
That aside, I found it an interesting thought experiment to imagine how the future “Priestesshood” could work, in both the logistical and spiritual aspects.]
There are a number of different ideas on the form a Priestesshood (or female Priesthood) would take, including many good thoughts on how women already have some form of Priesthood, possibly through motherhood or ordinances of the Temple. For me, the Priestesshood is a complement to the Priesthood that we have been missing in this world since Eve decided to follow her own understanding (which is an entire discussion in itself). There have been many attempts throughout the millennia to prepare the people for it, and we’ve seen glimpses of it in the scriptures and in the restoration period. Yes, the original organization of the Relief Society was an attempt to build what would be a Priestesshood, and if we all, both as leaders and regular members had not moved away from that original beginning we would not have lost it and had to begin again with the current Relief Society. This is looking to a possible future, building on both the past and what we currently have.
For much of the complementary Priestesshood, the logistics are already close to in place. We have callings that are already complementary, but without the power of a Priest/Priestesshood in both. For example, we have YM/YW Presidencies. We also have Presidencies that can be co-ed, since they are not directly dependent on Priesthood, like Primary and Sunday School. At the Ward level, we have two men’s Presidencies and one women’s. Our current relief society is a close analog to both the Bishopric and the Elders Quorum Presidency. We’d need a second women’s’ Presidency, dividing the work being done by the currently RS Presidency much like the work is divided between the two men’s Presidencies.
Will there be growing pains in having two leaders? You betcha. Bishopric pairs (whatever they’re called) will have to learn to work in agreement, neither side forcing the other, much like a good marriage should. Using a married couple would be possible, but it would have to be a couple past children. If we can get Presidencies and councils of men to work together to get consensus despite their different experiences and backgrounds, we can certainly manage it with mixed-gendered Presidencies.
At the Stake level (and even higher), the work would be easier. The Stake RS Presidency would become the true complement to the Stake Presidency. It would even preside over the High Priestess Quorum (what’s the female word for quorum?). The High Council would move to be mixed gender, 6 men, 6 women, doing the same work currently done by that Council.
The Quorums of the Seventy would remain, with the additions of some all-female Quorums (Quorumettes? nah). Assignments would be made with an eye toward having both a man and a women advising the work assigned. Part of me doesn’t like the idea of mixed-gender Quorums, as the Priesthood and the Priestesshood would not be the same thing, so should not be grouped together.
At the top of this would be a second Quorum of 12, a complement to the current Apostles. The two Quorums would work closely together, with a unity we see in the current 12, adding the benefits of Priestesses who are also Prophetesses, Seers, and Revelators. The Presidents would be a pair, leading the Church together in complete concert into the future.
The idea of a Priestesshood works well with our theology of distinct genders. It would create a greater celebration of the differences while bringing together the necessity of each to our eternal journey to be like our Godly Parents.
There will be ordinances that will be new, ordinances that are exclusive to the Priestesshood. I’ve no idea what these would be, but they would be as necessary as those limited to Priesthood. Those activities not limited to Priesthood, such as blessing children, acting as witnesses, and providing blessings of healing and comfort, would be able to be done by either, Priest or Priestess (maybe even both together).
The blessing of pregnant women would be a good example of one done exclusively by the Priestesshood, as we had once done in the Temple.
There would need to be a change to the Endowment (possibly the initiatory, though I’ve no experience with the female initiatory), to remove the use of the man as an intercessor between woman and God. The sealing would also need to be adjusted to make the joining the same for both woman and man.
Would we have to do all previous ordinances again? I don’t think so. We’ve made changes to these in the past, and not had to re-do all our work. In my own experience doing temple work, we once ordained all men to the Aaronic Priesthood at the same time we did Confirmation, and no longer do. I can’t believe that any of the other changes in the past necessitated a “do-over”, and I don’t see Priestesshood as adding that necessity in the future.
I very much look forward to what light and knowledge the future will bring for us, even if it does not ultimately lead to Priestesshood. I will continue to find joy and hope in each step of progress we take as a people, no matter how small it may seem at the time, because it will only be through small means that the great things will come to pass. I know the men and women we have to lead us are doing the level best they can, seeking the constant companionship of the Spirit to guide them in their endeavors, and will continue to do good work balancing our history, current attitudes, and the will of God in helping this Church to progress and prepare for the millennial times. We’ve a long way to go, and should try to keep humble enough to remember it, no matter how much of this life we’ve lived or how much we think we know.