Emergencies and a Male-Only Priesthood
I’m noticing a lot of people praising the implementation of home centered church right before Sunday meetings were temporarily shut down, which is fine – but I have something to add. Wouldn’t another great step be to ensure that every household has an adult in it who can bless the sacrament for their family or themselves during a lockdown?
I’d love a second part to this revealed change – that we could have home centered church AND ordain women to the priesthood. Because without the second half, a whole bunch of pieces are left hanging.
Below is a section of an email message that came from my very nice bishop last night:
I can think of a lot of homes of active latter-day saints without a priesthood holder there to do this. Like myself, when I was a college student with all female roommates. Or myself again, whenever my military husband would deploy to the Middle East for a year. I also have a divorced neighbor, and an elderly widow in my old ward boundaries. I have another friend who is very active in the church, but her husband no longer believes or attends. Who is going to bless the sacrament for them? Are the men in their ward or branch going to travel all day on Sundays going to these homes? That might be possible in Utah, but in other parts of the world with much wider geographical areas in church boundaries, that would be a logistical impossibility.
I understand that this presents a beautiful opportunity for service. Priesthood holding men and boys get an increased opportunity to help others, which is great… but what about all the women like me, who have nothing similar to offer? If we’re trying to limit social contact as much as possible for that elderly widow I mentioned, we’ll want to limit the number of people coming in contact with her. Nursing homes are putting extremely strict limits on the number and type of visits their residents can have, and those living alone should probably be doing the same.
If there’s only one of us who can visit an older woman, who gets to go – me or my husband? Let’s say I’ve sat by her in Relief Society with her for 10 years, she taught me how to knit, and I adore her perfect old lady-ness and soft wrinkled cheeks (I’m imagining a real lady from my ward that I used to know). I’d be delighted to go and see her, but…we want to send one person from my family to check in on her, not two. My husband barely knows her. Who do we send? Well, my husband would go, not me. He is the one who could give her the sacrament and leave her with a blessing.
This isn’t just a hypothetical situation. Years ago my friend’s 10 month old daughter was in the hospital for a complication following heart surgery. The original surgery went well, but at her two week check up they noticed she wasn’t healing correctly and checked her into the hospital without warning. My husband and next door neighbor were the home teachers for this family, and my friend’s husband (an airline pilot) was currently flying a plane away from Utah and wouldn’t be able to return immediately. She asked if her home teachers could come and give her daughter a blessing and they agreed. Unfortunately with the short notice, these men were both at work and couldn’t go until late into the evening. My husband arrived home close to 9:00 pm, picked up his home teaching companion, and headed to the hospital with him.
When they finally arrived, my friend was upset and yelling at nurses. She told her home teachers rather coldly “never mind”, and to just leave. They were confused and felt a little put out. After all, they had just taken a long drive to the hospital late at night after a long day at work, only to be told to go away when they finally arrived. When he got back home close to midnight, my husband told me she hadn’t even bothered to thank them for coming.
The next morning we received the shocking news that her baby had passed away. My husband and his companion had arrived just as things were starting to go downhill, hence the chaos and yelling and lack of attention or concern for a priesthood blessing from them. It was a horribly tragic day and what had happened at the hospital the night before suddenly made perfect sense.
I’ve thought about these events many times over the years. I don’t really think that the baby would have miraculously lived if she’d got a priesthood blessing an hour earlier. What happened was going to happen either way. However, a blessing would have comforted the mother immensely, and having her friends there would have helped as well. Her husband couldn’t get back yet, her family lived far away, and she was alone all day at the hospital with her daughter. The home teaching companion’s wife and I are both friends with this woman, but all day long we didn’t go up to the hospital. We stayed home with our kids, and we weren’t the ones requested anyway – our husbands were the ones who could administer a blessing.
But what if we’d had priesthood power and authority, instead of just them? We could’ve come at any time during that afternoon or evening to give a blessing. Even if we’d waited until our husbands were home from work and just gone in their place at the same time, we would’ve been there for our friend when her daughter passed away – female friends, and mothers ourselves. I understand why she just told the men to leave. It was quickly turning into a medical emergency and she hardly even knew them.
Because women don’t have the priesthood, we don’t have the same ability to help others in our church community that our male counterparts have. Sitting on the sidelines once again during the coronavirus outbreak, I see that our usefulness in certain things (such as ordinances) is limited to twiddling our thumbs and waiting for a man to come and do it for us. How is this good emergency preparation in a church so focused on readiness for the end of times?
The coronavirus outbreak is a great opportunity to fully implement home centered church, but it’s also a great opportunity to ponder how we can be even more prepared in the future. I believe that a church where women share the responsibility and opportunity to administer to the needs of their congregation is a church that can survive anything – even the coronavirus.