The Global Need for Priesthood Keys
I am currently a member of a small branch in a geographically large region. My branch is a rented building that is an hour’s drive away from my home, while the permanent regional building is a four hour hours’ drive while the mission offices… well, to be honest, I’ve never been to the Mission office, but I am aware that they are about 12 hours’ drive from where I live, in the same town as the temple. I still love this small branch.
As a member of a small branch it is impossible to not consider women and the priesthood. The branch president, though he lives in town, rarely seemed to find the time to attend Sunday services. The first counsellor retained the majority of operational duties (assigning talks, making sure the building is open), but he does shift work, making it impossible for him to attend every Sunday. A little over a year ago, the regional president visited with an order stating who was in charge. It was a priesthood assignment line, directing the fewer than 10 active males (including the 2 male missionaries) who would be in charge of branch operations in the common case that only 2 or 3 priesthood holders were in attendance on a Sunday.
Prior to our branch being assigned missionaries, I attended one meeting where no males over the age of 8 were present. This meant that we officially could not have a sacrament meeting, because we couldn’t partake of the sacrament because there was no priesthood there to perform that ordinance.
I think an issue in arguing for women to have the priesthood is that most seem to argue for equality. Women want to bless their children. Women want to baptise their children. While this is a righteous desire, I think this is what initially created apathy for me in regard to women and priesthood keys. I don’t have children, so the ability to have priesthood keys for use within motherhood didn’t have a practical application in my life. If the reason women were given priesthood keys was only to bless their own children, then I wouldn’t be ordained. In this argument, I could only comprehend priesthood keys being bestowed on mothers, which would leave me without keys and retain my second-class, non-priesthood keys status. This did not make me an advocate (nor did it make me the opposition) for women and priesthood keys.
Until this branch. Because right now, in my tiny branch—men are absent. We don’t just want the keys because we want to bless children, we need the keys so we can take the sacrament. I wanted to partake worthily of the sacrament, but no one was there to perform the sacramental ordinance for me. It was then that women with priesthood keys became a need for me. This practical argument in support of women and priesthood keys is persuasive enough to me that it simply makes sense to encourage women to be ordained. Because we need to be able to perform ordinances.
Herein lies an argument that in the absence of worthy males, women need to be able to perform ordinances. But in following the argument that women should only be given priesthood keys when men are absent, we run into an issue with the church as an international organization. Consider women in World War II Germany, when all males above the age of 12 were conscribed for defence service. The women in these branches were given priesthood keys for the term of the absence of males, and when men returned, the keys were removed from the women (see Women of Covenant). In a quiet conversation I had today in the temple baptistery, the male ordinance worker suggested that this was because in World War II, people thought the second coming was at hand. So the world was in enough crisis to give women priesthood keys. In that one area. Temporarily.
Does this mean that it needs to be a national or global crisis of apocalyptic appearance in order to allow women priesthood? What about in the region I live in? Why must we be denied the sacrament because the national and church governments are NOT in crisis? And…if the women in my branch are given priesthood keys so we can take the sacrament, what about the worthy women live in Salt Lake City who should be able to perform ordinances because of their righteousness? What about the single mother in California or Spain or Argentina who has a desperately sick child? What about the new widow in Japan who begs her visiting teacher for a Mother’s blessing to see through the current crisis going on there?
My apathy in regard to women and the priesthood is cured in consideration of the church as a global organization. There are women in the church today who NEED the priesthood so they can perform and take part in ordinances and make it possible for others to partake in ordinance work. This isn’t a want. This isn’t even about equality or authority. This is a requirement in order to do the Lord’s work. It is a need.
Just like today. I went to the temple to begin work for some of my female ancestors. My branch is twelve hours’ drive from the nearest temple. We don’t have an assigned “temple night” wherein we regularly attend, much less supply priesthood. Months ago, I made an appointment to tag in with a youth from another ward on a Saturday. I planned. I booked in. I travelled. But this ward youth group didn’t show. No one called, even though they had my number and the temple had my number. So I sat. In the baptistery. With one male, and 3 female ordinance workers. And I watched the sisters store the clothes and towels. One sister mopped the floor. Then they closed the baptistery. Because there wasn’t enough priesthood. So I could not do the work.
My tears are not equivalent to eternal ordinance work. I need priesthood keys.