Relief Society Lesson: Women and the Priesthood
After thoroughly enjoying Caroline’s post and the comments about the ideal Relief Society , I decided as the Teaching for Our Times teacher I was going to do my part to make RS more of the ideal we’d discussed in that thread. Little did I know how soon I’d have to do that…
The lesson the next week was titled, “An Outpouring of Blessings.” I think, no problem, gratitude. I can do a lesson on gratitude with my eyes closed! So, I didn’t read the lesson until Friday.
This wasn’t a talk on gratitude. It was on equality in the priesthood. (Btw, I thought this was a very well-done talk. It focused on what we share in the priesthood rather than who has what, a welcome change from the usual priesthood talks.) Now, there’s only one other lesson I could give that would make me feel more vulnerable, and well, I don’t think anyone is going to ask me to give a Heavenly Mother lesson anytime soon.
So, here’s my attempt at being vulnerable in Relief Society and trying to bring out more of the discussions I would like to see. (Note: the intro is written out, but the rest is in outline form with the more obvious points taken out since it’s pretty long already. Lines in italics are direct quotes from Sister Beck’s talk.)
An Outpouring of Blessings: Priesthood
I don’t think it’s possible for me to teach a topic that is more personal to me than this one. Those of you who heard Julie Beck’s talk “An Outpouring of Blessing,” may not even have heard what I did. I feel very vulnerable giving this because the topic of the priesthood is an issue that I struggled with. It’s taken me a while to be at peace with the fact that women don’t hold offices in the priesthood.
I don’t know if any of you have struggled with this, but I think it’s an issue facing a significant number of women in the Church. I’ve had a few friends and family members leave the church because of this.
That said, I know this isn’t an issue a lot of women struggle with. But, I suspect that those who do struggle with this don’t feel comfortable to jump up and say so (heaven knows, I wouldn’t be telling you this about myself if I could have figured out another way to teach this lesson).
I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to discuss equality through priesthood ordinances. I think we can draw strength and understanding from each other through open discussion. And, I’d like to have a discussion here about how we all experience the priesthood in our lives. I think we all experience it differently, and I hope we can all feel free to talk about those.
Let’s define PH
I think sometimes the traditional Mormon definition of PH is too tied up with offices of the PH or it is used to mean men.
“Will the PH please stay behind to put up the chairs?”: Men doesn’t = PH
Priesthood authority functions in both the family and the Church. The priesthood is the power of God used to bless all of His children, male and female. Some of our abbreviated expressions, like “the women and the priesthood,” convey an erroneous idea. Men are not “the priesthood.”
Dallin H Oaks
The priesthood is intricately woven into who we are and have ever been
What does she mean by this?
D&C 88:36-45: all these things were created, organized by the power of God
Who has the PH?
Abraham 2:9-11 we all have access to it as the literal seed of Abraham
Moses 6:66-67 “thou are after the order of him”
Adam’s conversion and baptism
Here we see Adam becomes a follower of the order, ie priesthood through being baptized/redeemed. He doesn’t yet hold an office in the order of the PH
Do we all have access to the powers of heaven? I think we all do in different ways—answers to prayers: feelings, words, etc.
What are men’s roles? men hold offices of PH (OT and NT tend to limit defining PH to this), so I see most of our info in PoGP and D&C about what the PH actually is
What are women’s roles? women have access to PH but do not hold an office (D&C 121:35-36)
What are our responsibilities as women in terms of the priesthood? Are they different from men’s? Note: we are not just third-party observers
We all have the same responsibilities (ie being worthy to have the PH work in our lives, wearing our garments, participating in the ordinances of the temple)
Ultimately, no one holds the priesthood; the priesthood holds us—it blesses us, it works for our eternal lives. This applies to men as well as women. I think sometimes we think that priesthood holders control the priesthood. They don’t. My husband often talks about having to give blessings where he had not control over the words he was saying.
What are our gifts/blessings through the priesthood?
One I often don’t think of: repentance through the Atonement as an ordinance
I think spiritual gifts are another manifestation of the power of God working in our lives.
Because the priesthood has been restored, we also share equally in the blessings of spiritual gifts. The Lord gives us these gifts for our own benefit and to help each other.
Moroni 10:8-11 “there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.
When I was a little girl, I often experienced serious illness. My father was always willing and worthy to use the priesthood power he held to bless me. But I have also felt that my mother’s special gifts contributed to my healing. She was truly gifted in her ability to minister to my needs and help me get well. Her great faith that the Lord would lead her to answers about medical treatment was a comfort to me. How blessed I was to have two parents who lovingly used their spiritual gifts.
I love how Sister Beck describes her parents using their spiritual gifts to compliment each other to heal their daughter. It reminded me of one of my favorite section in the scriptures: 1 Corinthians 12: 11-12, 17-18, 25
Every man and woman who is willing to serve the Lord and can qualify for a temple recommend makes covenants of obedience and sacrifice. Each is endowed “with power from on high.”
D&C 95:8 Being chosen
When I first went to the temple, I was struck by the ordinances, the way we all dressed, where we sat all worked to convey equality.
Does anyone have anything they’d like to share that they’ve learned at the temple about the priesthood?
A man and a woman who enter into the full partnership of a covenant temple marriage share equally in the blessings of that covenant if they are faithful. The Lord has said that their covenant will be in force after this life, and together they are promised power and exaltation.
D&C 131:1-2 We’re talking about “man” as in man and woman here…
D&C 132:19-20 Ok, so man and woman, husband an
d wife are equal participants in this, the highest order of the priesthood, this covenant
Ok, so this makes us feel pretty good—ta, dah—equality, if you’re married.
As someone who’s married, I don’t feel like I should delve into this; I’m sure I haven’t come up with anything as insightful as someone who’s dealt with this because I think this feels like, to me, a hard piece of doctrine.
My sister and mom are single, and I have a lot of friends in the Church who are single, and I watch them struggle. I see them unintentionally marginalized.
Could this doctrine contribute to this?
Would anyone like to share their thoughts about this?
Through the blessings of the priesthood, the Lord shows us that He is “no respecter of persons.” In my travels, I usually have the chance to visit members in their homes. Some of those homes are very basic dwellings. At first I would say to myself: “Why am I blessed with a house that has electricity and plumbing when this family does not even have water near their home? Does the Lord love them less than He loves me?”
Have any of you ever wondered that?
Is there equality here?
I talked about earlier that women didn’t have offices in the PH. We have different responsibilities. I think we are given a bit more freedom here than men to explore what those responsibilities are.
What is your office? What is your function as someone blessed by the PH?
How can you be like Adam in Moses 6:67 and “be after the order of the Son?”