Relief Society Lesson 8: The Everlasting Priesthood
Just like most of these lessons, there’s too much to cover. I’m highlighting what I think will serve for the best discussion and be the most inspiring. The second part of the lesson is particularly centered on women’s relationships to the concept of priesthood.
First section: The priesthood is everlasting and has been held by prophets in every dispensation.
“There has been a chain of authority and power from Adam down to the present time “ is JS’s first line in this section.
Can we use that first line to help develop a common definition of the term priesthood?
I think it’s important to start out trying to define the word, which is used in many complicated ways in our LDS rhetoric. Encourage the class to throw out terms, ideas, words, phrases that they associate with “priesthood” and put those ideas into three columns/categories on the board. (see my 3 definitions below) Ex: if they throw out “officiate ordinances, I’d put that in column 2. If they throw out power of heaven, I’d put that in column 3. When they are all done, they you can summarize and formulate these three different ways the term “priesthood” is used.
Lead the class to come up with 3 definitions.
1.) It means priesthood holders ( i.e. men). “We’d like to thank the priesthood for passing the sacrament.” “We’d like the priesthood to set up the chairs.”
2.) It means the authority of God to officiate in ordinances and to govern the Church.
3.) It means the power of God in a very broad sense. A universal principle that transcends organization or person. (“Rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” D&C 121:36)
Note that the most common definition of priesthood is ‘the power and authority of God’ (this is the definition at lds.org), but that it can be useful to break up those two ideas of power of God (available to anyone) and authority of God (available to men ordained to the priesthood). I personally like thinking of priesthood in this way, but you may want to ask the class if these categories/definitions work for them.
If I were teaching, I would mention how I dislike the way “priesthood” is often synonymous with “priesthood holder” (Definition 1.) Unfortunately, this usage connotes that men are the power of God.
Throughout this section and the whole lesson, JS speaks of the everlasting and eternal nature of the priesthood. How have you seen the priesthood operate in your life? How has it enhanced your personal relationship with God?
Section 3: The priesthood ordinances have been established from the beginning and must be kept in the way God has appointed.
JS writes ““… [God] set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever, and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them. ‘
This brought up a question in my mind. How does one reconcile this statement –that God’s ordinances are the same forever and ever – with the reality that ordinances have indeed changed over time?Ex: The temple endowment ceremony was changed in the early 90’s, both in wording and in ritual action. A year or two the initiatories were changed. So what could JS mean here?
What ordinances have been particularly meaningful in your life and why? Have you gained any greater insight or perspective through a particular ordinance?
Section 4:The Melchizedek Priesthood is the channel through which God reveals Himself and His purposes.
JS writes ““… The Levitical [Aaronic] Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinance, [is] made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant.”8
“The Melchizedek High Priesthood [is] no other than the Priesthood of the Son of God; … there are certain ordinances which belong to the Priesthood, from which flow certain results. … One great privilege of the Priesthood is to obtain revelations of the mind and will of God. It is also the privilege of the Melchizedek Priesthood to reprove, rebuke, and admonish, as well as to receive revelation.”
How do you see yourselves – as women – in relation to these statements about the priesthood? He says it’s a privilege of priesthood holders to obtain revelations of the mind and will of God. Do you feel you can do that as women too? Do you feel like you also have the right, without holding the priesthood, to admonish and receive revelation? And if not through the ordained priesthood then through what?
-This should elicit a conversation about stewardship. Class members should talk about how they have stewardship within their families to receive revelation, rebuke, admonish and so forth, as well as in their church callings, in which they might preside and receive revelation. This, of course, parallels priesthood holders, who likewise within their stewardship of family and church, are entitled to revelation and the right to reprove.
– Also, point out the difference between gifts of the spirit and priesthood. Gifts of the spirit (prophecy, discernment, healing, etc. are available to both men and women). Joseph Smith told the women at their third meeting on March 30, 1842, … “there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water. . . . If the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues.” Of course, our current policy is that we call in priesthood holders for blessings of healing, but that is a policy not a doctrine. Quote found in Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government.
–Could the above ideas help members who are troubled that women aren’t ordained to the priesthood? What else might be helpful to say to them?(other than that bit about receiving the blessings of the priesthood – they’ve heard that too often). One could mention that our newest apostle, Christofferson, said in an interview that it was conceivable that at some point in the future women might be ordained to the priesthood. This is the gospel of progression, this is the church of progression. Because of our belief in continuing revelation, there is always the chance for a change.
Often when women talk about their relationship to priesthood, the conversation turns to supporting and sustaining their spouses. This is an important thing for both women and men to do, but I personally like to think of my relationship to the priesthood more directly. I like to think of my personal connection to the powers of heaven , the powers of God.
Whenever I act as God would have me act, I feel that I have direct access to the power of the priesthood. Whenever I receive inspired revelation for my calling or my family, I see myself using the powers of heaven. When I reach out a hand in loving kindness to someone suffering, I’m allowing the power of the priesthood to flow through me. When I act with, patience, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned – all qualities associated with the priesthood in D&C 121, – the power of God transforms me. My hope and belief is that the powers of heaven operate through all of us, regardless of gender, race, or culture, according to our faith and righteousness.
*Quotes by women about priesthood:
“ Priesthood isn’t a matter of who’s in charge and who gets to give orders. It’s a matter of serving others. Every officer and every member, whether man or woman or child, needs that feeling of being sustained, both by members who hold the priesthood and by those who do not, so that all the members, men and women, can be strengthened. Chieko Okazaki, Disciples p. 65