Ordinances that are performed by women
We talk so much about the priesthood and ordinances at Church, and we usually connect the two together. Since only men are given the priesthood, ordinances are always associated with men (with the exception of female ordinance workers performing ordinances in the temple).
Are there ordinances that are under the women’s stewardship? Are there ordinances that are unique to women? Or in other words, ordinances that only women can perform? I’m sure there are, but women’s ordinances in the church are not well-known. I think that people at church don’t speak much about women performing ordinances probably because these ordinances are not public or are not widely known in the church. For example, initiatories that women perform in the temple are only seen by women who have a temple recommend. Ordinances that men perform (like baptisms and the gift of the Holy Ghost) are public and can be viewed by members and non-members alike, since these ordinances can be done in a church building and aren’t limited to a temple.
Then there are also non-ordinances that men do, such as giving blessings. I believe that giving a blessing and offering a prayer are the same thing, so for this reason, I don’t view a blessing as an ordinance. Back in Emma Smith’s day, it was common for women to give blessings, especially in relation to childbirth and healing, and it’s very sad that the practice went away. It would have been very empowering to women if it had continued, but I think that church leaders connected ordinances too closely to the priesthood, which is connected too closely to men, and that’s probably one of the reasons why the practice was discontinued.
While reading Understanding Your Endowment, by Cory B. Jensen, I discovered a quote that refers to an ordinance that is performed only by women. On page 94, Jensen writes: “While we may not usually think of it in these terms, birth may be considered the first great ordinance of this life. It is a new living endowment, wherein a spirit is miraculously endowed with a physical temple or body…In light of this, perhaps there is no holier priesthood ordinance than the ordinance of birth.”
Jensen suggests that birth is “the first great ordinance” and that it’s the holiest ordinance. He makes a valid point. At Church we usually focus on the future, the potential ordinances we need to receive to reach the Celestial Kingdom, so for that reason the focus is very much on ordinances such as temple ordinances, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. We often forget that birth is an ordinance too. After all, a person can’t be baptized unless they’re born first.
I’ve often heard quotes referring to women as “co-creators” with God. To me, this wording implies that birth is an ordinance of creation. We only learn about the ordinances that men do, but the ordinance in giving a spirit a body is something that only women can do. One blog says, “The only possible way to enter this mortal world is through the body of a woman and by the shedding of her blood… there is no other way.” Since birth is an ordinance, church members should give it the same spiritual honor and prestige they give to other ordinances.
Jensen suggests that there are three stages of the ordinance of birth. “The first step is performed by the priestess in giving birth, the second by the priest in the baptism, and the third by God Himself in bestowing the Holy Ghost” (94). All three of these have to do with birth (whether physical or spiritual), so it makes sense that they’re all part of the ordinance of birth. While Church members are accustomed to referring to baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost as ordinances, I’ve rarely heard people speak of birth as being an ordinance.
I believe that church members should give more thought to and talk about the ordinances that are unique to women. Men with the priesthood are not the only ones who perform ordinances in the world and in the church. Also, not all women give birth to children. I believe there must be other ordinances that are performed only by women. I’m not sure what they are, but I sincerely hope that new revelation will come that will shed light on ordinances that are performed by women. Who knows, maybe in the future we will find out that women have been performing ordinances all along and that church members just never recognized it.
Do you think birth is an ordinance? Why or why not? Can you think of other ordinances that only women can perform?