Relief Society Lesson #5: The Holy Priesthood—for the Blessing of God’s Children

I am going to dive right into this lesson by addressing what I think is the most predominant challenge it presents: everything about this lesson is masculine.  George Albert Smith grew up in an age anxious to re-establish an ideology of masculinity that was perceived to be dying out as a result of Victorian/Edwardian (Progressive) Era industrialization. It was also a period of wars– the First and Second World Wars played out in Smith’s lifetime. Important to note is that during the Second World War, women gained employment  in workplaces that were absent of male employees as a result of the draft. At the end of the war, and the start of George Albert Smith’s tenure as prophet, women were removed from the workplace, primarily to reinstate men in traditional “breadwinner” roles that were seen as necessary for war recovery. In this period, the church was focused on providing relief to church members who had been devastated by war (I can’t help but think of President Uchtdorf’s talk, “You Are My Hands”). Because of George Albert Smith’s time in history, much (but importantly- not all) of his work, but most certainly this lesson, are centred on men and men’s priesthood responsibilities which echo the masculine re-building attitude in this historical period. (The text for the lesson is here.)

Because of the outward manliness in the text, I am starting this lesson plan by addressing the most obvious issues and adding some thoughts on how to avoid an outwardly masculine-dominated lesson:

1. Find a female voice / encourage the Holy Ghost. I often download audio files, including the Relief Society lessons from lds.org. There is one voice used for all of the George Albert Smith lessons and the voice is clearly male. I would think that since a narrator is reading the lessons (not an actor verbalising the part of George Albert Smith), that a female voice would be used sometimes for the online audio files since this book is for Relief Society and Priesthood lessons. Not so. As a result, when listening to a male voice telling me about the priesthood keys of males, it was extremely difficult to comprehend that this particular lesson was directed to women in the least. So, in teaching this lesson—ask yourself and your class to share the female voice. How is this accomplished? With an emphasis on the Holy Ghost. As Julie Beck said in 2010, “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.”(The talk this is taken from is also a good resource for this lesson, “And upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit”).

The Holy Ghost resides with each of us after confirmation and is a reminder that a priesthood ordinance has given us the power of personal (priesthood) revelation. Outside of the temple, this is the only gift of priesthood that women personally use; invite the spirit and invite the women you teach to share the voice of women.

2. The only mention of women in the text is as wives and mothers, i.e. in roles that are created by the presence of men (wives must be married to a man and women must have a relationship with a male in order to become mothers.) Wives and mothers are wonderful, but when we position women only in support roles of men, we inadvertently teach that women have passive, or worse– are void of personal responsibility in regard to priesthood. Remember that women have an active responsibility in inviting, listening and acting upon inspiration as directed by the spirit that resides with all members of the church by virtue of the Holy Ghost. This personal authority can be used at work, in marriage and dating, at home, with friends, and otherwise. In positioning women as receivers of inspiration, the place of women changes from a passive role to pro-active contributor. Emphasise the fact that ALL women can receive inspiration and direction, and because of this should act upon the spirit, regardless of the absence or presence of men.

3. A portion of the lesson is aimed at training young men in Aaronic priesthood. The typical Relief Society knee-jerk reaction for most would be to focus on how mothers can encourage and support thier sons. Because of this, single and childless women would have no ability to participate. It also ignores mothers of all daughters, women with grown children and women who have sons who have left the church. As a result, the “how to train your sons” angle can be so deeply problematic that it can drive the spirit away. So, if your Relief Society class wholly consists of mothers, then this could be appropriate. If not, I suggest skipping this section and re-directing the class members to remember that the Holy Ghost is bestowed with the Mechezedek priesthood (the higher priesthood); that women have the righteous privilege of the Holy Ghost, and Melchezedek priesthood is actively used by women in temple ordinance work.

On to the lesson!

 From the manual: The priesthood is the authority of God. Those who hold the priesthood must be worthy and use it to bless others.

What are some things we can do to be prepared to bless others? (In other words, and to borrow from Steven Covey, how can we spiritually “sharpen our saw”?) How can being in tune to the Holy Ghost help us to serve more effectively?

 

From the manual: Jesus Christ restored divine authority to the earth during His mortal ministry.

When the Savior came in the meridian of time, He found that great city of Jerusalem teeming with evil. The inhabitants were living in such a way that they had lost divine authority, so [God] sent His Son into the world and began again a Church possessing divine power. … There were those in His line who were good people, … and there were others who were still officiating in the Priesthood, but it was necessary for the Saviour to come to restore divine authority. …

What is divine authority? Who has divine authority? Do daughters of God have divine authority? How can you use this to serve others?

Now consider this quote:

“It is very hard for some people to believe that women are acknowledged of God as holding any priesthood or power. But time will demonstrate the harmony which exists… and prove that all women are not an inferior race of beings… to those who feel there are prophetesses as well as prophets, we may speak of these things. To us, they are sacred truths.” – Emmeline B Wells, quoted in An Advocate for Women, The Public Life of Emmeline B. Wells, Carol Cornwall Madsen, BYU Press, 2006, p. 86.

How can we, as women, be prepared to heed the spirit so we can make use of the power of the priesthood that we individually have (note: this is NOT “priesthood through your husband”)? How can we remind women that we each have the divine ability to receive revelation (consider Barbara Thompson’s talk, “Personal Revelation and Testimony“)?

“All of us, men and women alike, received the gift and the gifts of the Holy Ghost and are entitled to personal revelation. We may take upon us the Lord’s name, become sons and daughters of Christ, partake of ordinances in the temple from which we emerge armed with power (D&C 190:22), receive the fullness of the gospel, and achieve exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. These spiritual privileges derive from the Melchizedek priesthood, which holds the ‘keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church.’ (D&C 107:18)” -Sheri Dew, “Famous Last Words”, The Arms of His Love, Talks from the 1999 Women’s Conference sponsored by Brigham Young University and the Relief Society. Bookcraft, 1999 p. 400.

 

 

From the manual: The priesthood was restored in our day by men who held it anciently. (Spunky’s note: women also held the priesthood anciently)

It is recorded and recognized in heaven and on earth that creeds and denominations multiplied after [Jesus Christ] left the earth, and the churches increased in number upon the earth, until in the days of Joseph Smith, our beloved prophet, there were many denominations. There were many men who pretended to possess divine authority, and I think some of them thought they had received it. …

When the time came and the world had lost the authority or Priesthood, the Lord called a humble boy and gave him a heavenly manifestation and talked to him, told him what he should do, and sent other messengers and heavenly beings from time to time, the result of which was the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in that Church was deposited divine authority. …

Before The Restoration, was it common for religious leaders to anoint members of their congregations to hold powers of personal revelation? Why not?

Why is it important for us to note that proper priesthood keys needed to be restored through John, then Peter, James and John? (Because it was a direct line from God through proper lines and ranks, it was not created or diverted by man.)

Elder George Q. Cannon wrote: “The spirit of the Church of God is that manifested by Moses. … The genius of the kingdom with which we are associated is to disseminate knowledge through all the ranks of the people, and to make every man a prophet and every woman a prophetess, that they may understand the plans and purposes of God. For this purpose the gospel has been sent to us, and the humblest may obtain its spirit and testimony” (in Journal of Discourses, 12:46).

Consider this:

When Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society, its members were women who had already been blessed by some priesthood ordinances and covenants. They had been baptised for the remission of sins. They had received the gift of the Holy Ghost, giving them the right to to the constant companion of the Spirit and the ability to be guided by personal revelation…The Lord had healed them, comforted them, and instructed them according to their needs, their faith and His will. – Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 128.

Using priesthood keys, we are ordained with the Holy Ghost. When we are in tune, we can be personally directed and influenced by the spirit, which makes active use of that priesthood ordination. What are some ways that we can we sustain the continuous influence of the Holy Ghost?

From the manual: Priesthood ordinances are essential for us to enter the celestial kingdom.

Why are ordinances necessary for us to enter the celestial kingdom? (I think the most obvious answer would be the cleansing of sin by partaking of the sacrament; because I love all discussion of the Atonement, I would encourage any dialogue emphasising the Atonement).

“Through priesthood ordinances (such as partaking of the sacrament), the recipient gains knowledge of God and received the power of godliness, that is, the power to live ‘godly lives. It is the power of godly men and godly women, through the ordinances of the priesthood.’” -Richard D. Draper, A Fullness of Joy, Covenant Communications, 2002, p. 98

From the manual: The priesthood … is a blessing that, if we are faithful, will open the doors of the celestial kingdom and give us a place there to live throughout the ages of eternity. Do not trifle with this priceless blessing.

Why are we warned to not “trifle” with the blessing of the priesthood? What would misuse of the priesthood feel like? What does proper use of the priesthood feel like?

 From the manual: Priesthood holders have a responsibility to live exemplary lives and use the priesthood to bless others.

[George Albert Smith:] Some men think that because they hold the Priesthood that that gives them a special way in which they may conduct themselves in their homes. I want to tell you that you men who hold the Priesthood will never get into the Celestial Kingdom, unless you honor your wives and your families …

The authority of our Heavenly Father is upon the earth for the blessing of mankind, not to make those who receive that authority arrogant, but to make them humble; not to make those who have received special privileges feel that they are greater than others, but to make us humble in our souls, prayerful in our hearts, and considerate of all men in all that we do, and thus exemplify by upright lives that which our Heavenly Father desires us to teach.

A short example I have of this is through a beloved friend of mine, who I will call Annie. Annie was considering becoming a surrogate for a woman she knew who could not have children. When she told her husband and asked for his thoughts on the topic, he responded that the choice was up to her, and he supported her choice no matter what it would be. Annie took her time, and decided that she should offer to be a surrogate. She did this, with her husband’s full support. Her husband later said that when she first asked him for his advice, he immediately felt the spirit witness to him that it was right for her to do, if she chose to do it. But he didn’t say anything at that time. “I knew it needed to be her choice,” he said, “So no matter what my prompting was, I knew she was the only one who could gain revelation for her body. When she told me what she had decided, I knew my job was to support her in her choice.”

How did Annie make use of the divine revelation with which she had been endowed? How did her husband’s support manifest a shared witness of the priesthood in their lives?

In closing, consider this quote:

“In showing this relationship [of Adam and Eve], by a symbolic representation, God didn’t say that woman was to be taken from a bone in the man’s head that she should rule over him, nor from a bone in his foot that she should be trampled under his feet, but from a bone in his side to symbolize that she was to stand by his side, to be his companion, his equal, and his helpmeet in all their lives together.” – George Albert Smith, quoted by President Harold B. Lee, Ensign, February 1942.

(If needed, clarify the term “helpmeet”: In Hebrew, two words are used to describe Eve in the bible; Ezer, which means strength or “to save”, and k’enegdo which means “equal”. In Eve’s case, as is the case of all women, the literal translation of helpmeet is “a power equal” [to Adam/men]. See here)

How is your personal influence of the spirit side-by-side (equal) to the spirit that is used by men? How can you improve recognition of the spirit and thereby apply the priesthood in your life? How does being humble prepare you to act and teach by the spirit?  What are some things you can do to feel in tune to the Holy Ghost?

Suggested hymns: #2 The Spirit of God -or- #157 Thy Spirit, Lord, Has Stirred Our Souls

What are ways that you can encourage the voice of women in this class?

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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43 Responses

  1. This is so great. I wonder if my feelings about the Church would be different if I had had lessons similar to this growing up–which focused on inclusion rather than exclusion and on the power of women as individuals.

  2. Ryan says:

    Spunky, you said:

    >>(Spunky’s note: women also held the priesthood anciently) <<. Your link led to an article on lds.org entitled "Deborah and the Book of Judges." That article specifically states that prophetesses, while not necessarily unusual in ancient Israel, "didn’t hold the priesthood and did not have equal authority with the prophets."

    Second, I'm not sure if your example of listening to the Spirit regarding surrogacy is meant to be controversial, but section 21.4.16 of the CHI regarding surrogate motherhood states that "The Church strongly discourages surrogate motherhood."

    Again, I'm not sure if you're deliberately trying to choose controversial or frankly, inaccurate, examples, and if you are, feel free to disregard my comment since it obviously won't make a difference. On the other hand, if you weren't aware that Deborah did not hold the priesthood, or that surrogacy was strongly discouraged in the Church, I would sincerely hope to spare you the experience of having that pointed out to you after you've taught it or innocently misleading those you teach.

    • I don’t know that the example of surrogacy should be controversial. It was a personal decision, one obtained by revelation and confirmed by revelation. It is not prohibited by the Church, only discouraged. There is no discipline for deciding to aid in surrogacy. I thought it was a brilliant example.

      For Deborah, it should be a reminder to us that callings and gifts are seperate – a prophet is not necessarily a priest. I think if she wanted to be controversial, she would have pointed to the people who believe that Mary and other women of the New Testament were also Apostles, not merely Disciples.

    • spunky says:

      Ryan,

      Thanks for your concern, but I recommend you read the Ensign reference and check further on the resources in regard to Deborah. The Ensign quotes early in the article: “One of these shophetim was a woman named Deborah. A prophetess, judge, and deliverer, she not only followed the example of earlier Old Testament women in acting upon the word of the Lord, but she fulfilled her role as shophet, or judge, better than most. Based on the information in the Bible, only Samuel and Gideon equalled her accomplishments.”

      The section that you reference later in the article is the author quoting from Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life. It is NOT an LDS reference and, in its product description, it states that “This book is in non-technical language. It is meant to be of help to the layman rather than the scholar.” (gospel essentials vs. gospel doctrine) If the author had used a resource that was more scholarly, she would have found resources that conclude Deborah’s rank was in association to the priesthood she held. There are countless of LDS resources in regard to women and priestesshood. I suggest you attend the temple to start, then I recommend you check further resources written by Chekio Okasaki, Emmaline B. Wells, Jerrie Hall, etc. just to name a few. I used the Ensign reference for simplicity, but am happy to provide further resources if it seems as though women need it for their lesson material.

      Yes, I am very well aware of the surrogacy policy of the church. However, I suggest that you not confuse “policy” with “commandment.” As I am familiar with the parties involved in this particular case, I can state that the parties did everything through personal (as Frank Pellet articulates) as well as administrative priesthood lines. They also had countless blessings and support of administrative priesthood leaders. As I suspect that you are not even remotely familiar with surrogacy, I suggest that if you are interested, you should check out any one of the many personal Mormon Surrogacy blogs to find countless witnesses of inspiration in regard to the blessings of surrogacy. I might also suggest you consider the Mother Mary and Ruth, if you are in want of biblical references for alternative family construction.

      • Again, I just want to emphasize that your lesson is wonderful, your outlook refreshing, and if I stay in the Church it will because women like you (and men like Frank Pellet).

      • spunky says:

        Thank you, Taylor Berlin! I love your words, and I especially appreciate this comment. Thank you so much—please keep sharing your heart and mind with us, your words have a healing effect and you are appreciated here, every whit.

      • Ryan says:

        Spunky,

        I’m not quite clear: are you still suggesting that Deborah held the priesthood? Despite the fact that the article you cite for support clearly states she did not? If so, I’d be interested in any specific references supporting that. And of course the reference would have to be from a Church approved source. I imagine there are many unapproved sources claiming women were ordained to the priesthood, etc. The article you cite was of course in the Ensign, which I – and I think most LDS members – view as generally authoritative. Your quibble with the citation within the Ensign article would, I believe, need some support.

        Also, are you suggesting that Cheiko Okasaki or the others you reference assert that women hold the priesthood? If so, I wouldn’t take that as authoritative but I would be interested to read about that, if you have any specific references.

        Regarding surrogacy, I think you’re missing my point. The difference between a strong encouragement and a commandment is obvious. However, by choosing an example of “following the Spirit” which purportedly led a couple to do what is generally strongly discouraged by the Church, it invites the inference that perhaps through personal “revelation” we can justify going against the Church’s counsel on other issues. Take for example, gay marriage. I have heard a few individuals claim that they received “personal revelation” that gay marriage was good and that they should support it, despite the Church’s very clear position to the contrary. If you’re saying that inviting this inference was not your intent, then fair enough. But when so-called Mormon feminists claim that women should get the priesthood, the Church is wrong on gay marriage, and that President Packer’s counsel should be disregarded in favor of feminist philosophy, you can’t blame me for being a bit skeptical.

      • Spunky says:

        Oh, dear Ryan.

        I apologise that the reference to Deborah is causing you so much strife. Eliciting strife was not intended, though the highlighting of prophetic women was intended.

        Because temple ordinances are sacred, I will not discuss them here, but rest assured, you really need to study the temple to better understand women and the priesthood (hint: focus on ordinances, not covenants). In short, the temple is my authoritative reference and if you disrespect the temple, your comments will be blocked.

        You have made it clear that you will only accept references that you like (I hope you like the temple!), i.e. you like a general Ensign article that quotes non-LDS, non-academic sources better than you like a member of the general Relief Society board’s quotes and teachings (which -ironically- are often printed in the Ensign). You bring up additional points that seem to be aimed to attack Mormon feminism/suffrage, yet have nothing to do with the lesson or this post.

        Because I cannot read your mind, do not know what you will randomly/willfully accept as references and as I am under the impression that you only wish to argue points that do not convey the spirit in this lesson, I am choosing to disengage in this conversation.

        Best of luck in your lesson preparation.

      • Ryan says:

        Spunky,

        Please don’t take this as a personal attack but I assume you are resorting to sarcasm since there aren’t really any authoritative sources supporting your assertion that Deborah held the priesthood. Also, I’m guessing if you’d read the portion I cited you might have linked to the interesting, if unsupported, power point presentation instead of the Ensign article. I would think lds.org isn’t a very helpful site if you’re looking for evidence of women being ordained to the priesthood.

        Also, your “defense” of the Temple is very interesting, considering my total support for it, and the strong disagreement with it expressed by many commenters on this site. I believe I know what you are referring to, but suggest that you study its meaning a bit further. I do not think it means what you think it means.

        Finally, am I to believe I was correct about your subversive intention regarding the surrogacy example? I’m not sure if you thought it was subtle. I don’t think it was.

      • Spunky says:

        Ryan,

        I am not using sarcasm, nor do I intend on being subversive. In short, if you don’t like the surrogacy example, then omit it from your Relief Society lesson.

        The Ensign article is still linked in.

        LDS.org is a limited resource. I suggest you search BYU archives (Journal of Discourses, anything from Education Week or the Women’s Conferences), as well as have a look at “Priestess among the Patriarchs: Eliza R. Snow and the Mormon Female Relief Society, 1842- 1887.” Religion and Society in the American West: Historical Essays, ed. Carl Guarneri and David Alvarez, 153–70. Lanham, MD: University, Press of America, 1987.

        Good luck in your research.

      • @Spunky
        Thank you. I appreciate it.:)

  3. Christopher Taylor says:

    @Ryan: I’m not going to argue with you, because I don’t think you’d listen to me anyway, but could you please clarify what you meant by “so-called Mormon feminist”? In my mind a “so-called Mormon feminist” would a Mormon who says they support equal rights, but also says the only acceptable role of a woman as wife and mother. Or, does the “so-called” refer to Mormon, and not feminist? Are you questioning the faith of the many who post here?

    • Ryan says:

      Christopher,

      While not on point with the original post, I have described what I believe to be the oxymoronic nature of the term “Mormon feminist” in other places, on this blog I believe. What I thought was very interesting was the response of one of the (so-called Mormon feminist) commenters that her Mormon friends thought it strange she considered herself a feminist and her non-Mormon feminist friends thought it was ridiculous that as a Mormon she considered herself a feminist.

      In a nutshell, it is very interesting to me that those who would voluntarily belong to a highly patriarchal organization would subscribed to a philosophy which fundamentally hates anything remotely patriarchal.

  4. Deborah says:

    Beautiful lesson, Spunky.

  5. “it invites the inference that perhaps through personal “revelation” we can justify going against the Church’s counsel on other issues.”

    It absolutely does and it’s beautiful–if it is truly personal revelation (and no one but the individual can know that). I feel that’s the point of PERSONAL revelation. Church leaders are good men, but they are fallible. Also, church doctrines and policies change considerably over time. It makes sense, to me at least, that a loving God would give us the ability to discern if what is said by leaders is applicable to our own lives and what is not. Otherwise, what is the point of personal revelation? Why would the Church teach personal revelation if we weren’t meant to use it? I do not ascribe to the notion that “when Church Leaders speak, the thinking been done”. I believe God knows my individual needs in ways my leaders might not and directs me accordingly.

    That does not mean, of course, I should preach the revelation I receive. Personal revelation is only for the individual–and that’s why Spunky’s example was appropriate. It didn’t suggest every one should follow suit, it just gave an example of a woman receiving personal revelation and acting on it.

    Also, I think it’s important to consider why the Church might discourage surrogacy. I wonder if the reason behind the Church’s discouragement of a woman using a surrogate is based in the fear that a healthy, fertile woman might use a surrogate to avoid losing her figure by being pregnant and giving birth.

    The story Spunky relates seems be discussing a completely different issue entirely. The woman in the story volunteers to carry a child for another women who cannot have children herself. In fact, this scenario seems like it would likely be supported by a Church which promotes motherhood and child rearing for women above any other endeavors. In my mind, it is Christlike service that one women would carry the child of another woman who could not otherwise have children of her own.

    • I mean, holy cow! Sacrificing your body for nine months, going through all the discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth in order to allow another women to raise a child of her own? Don’t mean to harp on this, but it blows my mind.

    • Spunky says:

      Thank you, Taylor. I agree– few other things equal the Christlike service I saw in this woman.

  6. Hillary says:

    Wow, Ryan, talk about missing the point(s) entirely. The fact is, in many accredited, church-authored/sponsored/published sources, there are examples of women performing priesthood ordinances. There are examples of women blessing their children. There are examples of midwives anointing and giving blessings to their patients. And there are biblical examples like Deborah who performed both prophetic and priesthood work.

    While I don’t wish to discuss too much regarding the temple, you might not be aware of how the initiatory ordinance works for women. Without oversharing, the initiatory is undoubtedly a Melchizedek priesthood ordinance involving the laying on of hands. And it is performed and administered by women. That, to me, is holding the priesthood.

    Finally, regarding surrogacy and other church policies you seem to think are unequivocal commandments, I direct you to the quote from Julie Beck, General Relief Society President: “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.” Note: she did not say “the ability to take or agree with every suggestion an apostle makes”. Plus, there’s an enormous difference between receiving revelation for yourself as a result of a close, personal relationship with God and receiving revelation for (and preaching to) a church of millions. A lot of church policies are what they are because they might be what’s best for the majority. But we have been reminded countless times of the importance of heeding James 1:5 by praying to know what God’s will is for you personally. It might be the same as church policy, and it might not be. But a relationship with God, not perfect obedience to church policies, is the real goal here in life, isn’t it?

    • Dave says:

      Wow Hillary:

      “by praying to know what God’s will is for you personally. It might be the same as church policy, and it might not be.”

      God’s will for me might be contrary to church policy? Really?

  7. Matt W. says:

    Thank you for this lesson. I need to teach it to the EQ in a couple weeks, and I will be using some of it. I was wondering if you have any thoughts around how to teach priesthood and feminism to men? I like what you are saying, but need to tweak it to be more consumable for my men.

    • spunky says:

      Matt,
      Thank you so much for asking! Happy to try to help. I won’t have time to do anything today- but I will think on that, perhaps do some more research and put something in the next couple of days. In the meantime, if you have ideas, please share them here 🙂

    • Spunky says:

      Matt W.,

      Here are my long-winded thoughts. What do you think?

      As you say that you have a particularly manly group of men who may better comprehend lessons in manly terms, I have drwan in some military comparisons, which might sit well with George Albert Smith and his place in post-war church organization. With that, here are my thoughts in teaching this in to men (and women) with some further discourse on masculinity vs. feminist ideology:

      Most churches are structured after the pattern of the military. Popes are Cardinals in Medieval times excommunicated other Popes and Cardinals as a matter of general European political control which had little, if anything, to do with religious devotion. It is no mistake that Elizabeth I was not only the head of the British armed forces, but she was also the head of the church of England. Even Joseph Smith was declared a military leader in regard to Zion’s camp.

      Likewise, the structure of the priesthood of the church is similar to a military structure. For example, the Mission President in South Africa is the father, or the leader of the missionaries in that area. However, that is his limitation. The Mission President does not have a priesthood that is “higher” than a bishop; therefore a mission president does not lead or “command” a bishop in his role. A further example is that a president in South African has no more command over the Mission President in the Ukrane, than a Captain in the Army has command over a Captain in the Navy. The parties (Mission Presidents) are in the same overall church organization, just as an Army and the Navy in the same country serve that country. But their assignments are no better than the other, nor are they in command of each other, nor are they in competition.

      The priesthood is structured in a similar manner, but unlike the military, the power of the priesthood has no authority unless it has the companionship of the holy ghost. It is also imperative to note that the priesthood of the church is NOT military in structure. Priesthood leaders do not command in a church structure.

      Consider this excellent example from The Women of Mormondom in chapter XXXVII about Mary Smith. Her husband, Hyrum had been martyred, so she alone in care of her sons, vowed to go with the saints to Utah Valley. She had no oxen, no money, and no one to ask for support from. So, “cows and calves were yoked up, two wagons lashed together and a team barely sufficient to draw one was hitched onto them, and in this manner they rolled out from winter quarters some time in May.”

      In summary of the story (I highly recommend you read the whole thing), she reported to President Kimball, who assigned her to travel with a certain group. The captain of that group rudely said that she would be a burden on the other wagonloads, so she was not allowed to go. She said, “I will beat you to the valley, and ask no help from you, either.” She managed to get some oxen on credit, still not what was considered sufficient, and began the trek west.

      From the story:
      “As they journeyed on the captain lost no opportunity to vent his spleen on the widow and her family; but she prayerfully maintained her integrity of purpose, and pushed vigorously on, despite several discouraging circumstances.” (There is another story where she basically commands some men to perform an ordinance- remember she had the priesthood as she had been through the temple, but she did not have keys to do ordinances work outside of the temple, so—in seeing a need, and when the men gave up- she command the men to use the priesthood keys assigned to them. Her faith, and their priesthood keys, caused a miracle.)

      In the end, she ended up arriving in the valley “twenty hours in advance of the captain,” and after he had abandoned her on the trail.

      In consideration of priesthood keys and responsibilities:
      1. How did Mary Smith recognise and make use of her bestowment of the Holy Ghost?
      2. How did the captain refuse the Holy Ghost which removed any priesthood in his communication with the widow? (stubborn, pride, “commanding” others, rather than heeding the spirit for direction and influence- he became a wordly leader, not an inspired leader)
      3. What is the difference between a command post and a calling? (This is not raising the “arm to the square” situation- but in every day operations- does a bishop command a ward to have a pot-luck dinner? Likewise, does he command anything, or is he called to heed the spirit on behalf of the congregational operations?).
      4. Does any man have command over any woman? (NO)
      5. Does a man have command over his wife? (NO) Why not? (The SPIRIT is in charge. Any time “commanding” {unrighteous dominion begins} when not listening to the spirit, especially the same spirit that is bestowed unpon a rightoeus wife, the spirit cannot reside.)
      6. Does a 12 year old with the Aaronic priesthood preside over a righteous woman who has received the ordinances of the Melchezedek priesthood in the temple? (NO- her priesthood ordinances are to a higher order)
      7. How can we teach men to respect the priesthood maintained by women who have the Holy Ghost, as well as the women who have accepted partaking priesthood ordinances in the temple? (this has nothing to do with motherhood- charge men to not use the “M” {mother} word, but to refer to women as women.)
      8. Why is the denial of the Holy Ghost an “unpardonable” sin? When we think of the captain and the men in the story who Mary commanded to use the priesthood keys, were they in denial of the Holy Ghost, or were they just unaware? How can we be aware, and be respectful of the spirit and influence of the spirit in the women in our lives?

      • Matt W. says:

        Thanks, this gives me a lot to think about! I am ending up teaching my wife’s lesson on Isaiah in 2 Ne. this week, but will return and report when I get back to preparing this lesson. I love the Mary Smith example. I think I may end up discussing the 5 bases of social power, and how priesthood is a type of “legitimate power”, which can be lost or tarnished based on the group at large’s usage of the position or role. For example, the role of Father no longer carries much weight in society due to a large number of fathers abusing that role. I think the Mary Smith example ties nicely into that.

        I’ll think through it more and get back to you.

      • spunky says:

        Thank you! I am looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on this!

      • Alan says:

        Thank you for the time and effort to put that information together. I’ll second your suggestion to read the chapter you referenced and appreciate the link to the free downloan you included. Very helpful perspective and post.

  8. EmilyCC says:

    Spunky, this is awesome! I’ve struggled (a few times on this blog) to figure out how to make the PH lessons applicable to women without being too feminist or falling into incorrect but often well-accepted ways of teaching the lesson (like PH=motherhood).

    I’m a little bummed because this lesson follows so closely to the one that was on GAS’s testimony of Joseph Smith. It’s hard to bring women’s voices into lessons like the priesthood and a man’s testimony of another man. Thank you for doing it so well!

    • spunky says:

      Thank you, Emily! I always bothers me that priesthood and its power seem so broad and grand… yet at church, its is most often viewed through the narrow lense of patriarchy. Seems like a sin of ommission to me to teach it so narrowly. I really hope this lesson helps women gain a wider understanding of the Holy Ghost (priesthood) in their lives.

  9. Bob says:

    Outstanding discussion of seldom comprehended principals.

  10. Marcia says:

    Spunky,

    Thank you for your your words. I (like many others who have commented) have struggled teaching the PH in RS before. I am always scared I will preach false doctrine so I keep to reading the sections and asking the given questions.

    Your questions and thoughts have helped me to push the envelope. I wouldn’t necessarily say it is a feministic approach but more of an equality approach. Instead of women talking about the power men have the whole class, we can focus on how WE have power as well.

    I will be using your blog more often!

    • spunky says:

      Marcia,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I have a sense that you have much to offer, so in that mind, I hope you come back often and share your wisdom and light with us.

  11. Lisa says:

    This lesson plan made me think about my little girl and how I would respond if she asked me why she could not pass the sacrament or have the priesthood. I appreciate your lesson plan and your help in enjoying the balance of being a woman and the priesthood. I found this from the Daughters in My Kingdom book and thought it might be pertinent to the lesson as well.

    http://www.lds.org/relief-society/daughters-in-my-kingdom/manual/blessings-of-the-priesthood-for-all-an-inseparable-connection-with-the-priesthood?lang=eng&query=priesthood+women

    • spunky says:

      Thank you, Lisa! Like you, I read that chapter in preparation for writing this lesson plan, it is a good resource and I am glad you have brought it up.

      However, I made the choice to not rely on it to heavily as a resource as there is some emphasis on marriage and families. Whilst I LOVE marriage and children and families, I have deep empathy for sisters who have been divorced, are unmarried, are separated, are childless or are otherwise not in an ideal “married with children” situation. Because I am concerned about not alienating people who may be going through deep trials of loneliness and /or frustration (perhaps even because of an imperfect marriage or exhausting children), I wanted to present something that women from all walks of life could easily invite into their lives. In other words, I wanted to give women a break from being wives and mothers, and remind them that they are daughters of God in their own right, right now. I am not sure I accomplished this goal, but that was my heartfelt intent.

      Thank you for being so switched on in regard to additional, edifying content. I hope you come back here and participate and share often 🙂

  12. Merrill says:

    The great bless of the restoration of priesthood is that it allowed for the keys of sealing to be given to mankind. Without Elijahs’ sealing keys, it would not matter who holds the priesthood for there would be not much purpose of holding it. Sealing families together is crowning purpose… and families are made up of everyone… Mothers, Fathers, Moms and Dads, sons and daughters. The function of the sealing keys is where you need to focus, and not much on who holds these keys.

    my 2-cents.

  13. The Queen Vee says:

    This would have been a fairly good lesson plan if the lesson subject had been about the Holy Ghost unfortunately it’s not.

    I think grown women of all ages and circumstances would have much to contribute in a discussion about training and strengthening youngmen priesthood holders. I think it’s condesending to think that only mothers of sons would find such a discussion interesting or of value.

    • spunky says:

      I am not a mother so I obviously don’t have sons, so I am personally bored silly and completely unedified in discussions about “young men priesthood holders.”

      To each their own.

  14. Rox says:

    Thank you so much for the insight. I’m a BYU student and was struggling to make this lesson applicable for a YSA relief society since as you said women are only mentioned once. With your help my lesson was very successful. I cannot express my gratitude enough.

  15. Braaap! says:

    Spunky, you said:

    As a result, the “how to train your sons” angle can be so deeply problematic that it can drive the spirit away. So, if your Relief Society class wholly consists of mothers, then this could be appropriate. If not, I suggest skipping this section……

    What makes you think that a discussion on how to raise sons in the church is offensive to The Spirit? Does The Holy Ghost have something against discussion about raising sons in the church? Is it not better for Satan, who is desperate to have our sons, that we don’t discuss their upbringing in church?

  1. July 5, 2012

    […] Although the modern LDS church does not currently set apart women with active priesthood keys, it was Joseph Smith who said that the Relief Society was based on an antediluvian female order. As quoted by Eliza R. Snow, “Although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet that the same organization existed in the church anciently.” (5) If we consider that the scriptures referencing Phebe are canonized, and that Jospeh Smith’s revelation that Relief Society is based on an ancient organization, then we must ask: Is this message suggesting that visiting teaching is the core duty of priesthood-bearing women? […]

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