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

Spiritual Gifts
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?”


EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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35 Responses

  1. stacer says:

    You’ve already given this lesson, then? Or you’re going to give it on Sunday? I’m curious what the responses to your question about singles not being equal were.

  2. AmyB says:

    I’d also be interested to hear the responses to that tough question.

    Emily, you are brave to be doing this. I could never give a lesson or talk on the priesthood. A while ago when I was primary president I had a little girl ask me why boys had the ph and girls didn’t. For some reason that was a bit of a breaking point for me; I just wanted to burst into tears when she asked.

    I know we hear from time to time that “men are not the priesthood.” I’ve yet to be in a unit that doesn’t call men “the priesthood.” A change in the way we use that language in the church would be welcome . . I wonder how that could come about.

  3. stacer says:

    If saying it over and over in General Conference doesn’t do it, I don’t know what will. But then, there are still people who don’t listen in Conference to what a testimony should be, and continue blithely on with their travelogues and thankalogs with nary a testimony to be found.

  4. Caroline says:

    This sounds like a fabulous lesson. I love the way you are opening yourself up and being open about your own struggles with this, and I would give anything to attend. That said, this is probably one of the most sensitive subjects for me personally, and I did not have such a positive reaction to Beck’s talk.

    I actually liked a lot of what she said, particularly about her mother and father healing. But I was soooo disappointed in the way she was insisting on equality for girls and boys, men and women, despite the fact that women are NOT treated as men’s equals in the Church. I actually started crying I was so upset by the way I felt she was sweeping important things under the rug. Like girls are not given priesthood at 12 like boys. Like women having to make covenants in the temple that reinforce a hierarchy that firmly places God at the top, then men, then women. It broke my heart that she was telling this to young women, and that they would go to the temple unprepared by the baffling and hurtful hierarchy that is presented there between husbands and wives.

    Anyway, back to your lesson. One way I like to think of the priesthood: I like to think of it as “power of the priesthood” which every one, male and female, has access to. So every time I do my visiting teaching or something else righteous and Christlike I am exercising the power of the priesthood. Not just getting the blessings of it. This “Power” is opposed to the “authority” of the priesthood which I think of as referring to the offices that only men hold.

    I like your questions about women’s responsibilities with regard to the priesthood. Beware, however, of the ubiquitous answer of “My responsibility is to support my husband in his priesthood duties – like encouraging him to home teach.” Ugh. You may want to tell them initially in your question that you’re not looking for a support and sustain answer.

  5. Caroline says:

    Oh yeah, one last thing about this talk. I felt it was a classic example of someone talking the talk, but not walking the walk. I love the talk of equality, I just wish the Church were doing more to bring that about in practice.

    It reminded me of that talk on patriarchy by Oaks a little while ago. He was trying to insist on the equality of men and women at the same time he was insisting on the righteousness and importance of the patriarchy. That’s a tough sell, at least for me.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    Actually, I already gave the lesson, and by the end, I felt like everyone had seen me naked with no one wanting to reveal anything about themselves. In fact, it’s taken me about two months to be ready to really think about this again.

    Stacer, the singles question was met with dead silence. Nothing, which in a way is progress because no one gave the typical, “they’ll be married after they die”–an answer that doesn’t adequately address getting through this life, IMHO.

    Also, people kept wanting to take the easier routes a. PH=motherhood, so we’re all equal, and b. men need the PH because they’re not as righteous as we are. Those drive me crazy, and I did address both for the faulty logic behind them. Who knows if anyone heard, but I was glad for the opportunity to address both (they are HUGE pet peeves of mine).

    Women in the audience were visibly uncomfortable with my introduction, but I think it really help provoke discussion. It was certainly one of the more lively discussions we’ve had, and I think people felt comfortable asking questions about inequality that they hadn’t before.

    Also, I should give credit to ideas like “we don’t hold the PH, the PH holds us” and the ideas about Adam becoming a part of the order of the PH before he held the authority as being from Kathleen Flake’s keynote address at an Exponent II retreat a few years ago. Every time I read my notes from that talk, I get chills.

    Caroline, while Sister Beck’s talk can feel a little watered down, I am impressed that she tried to address a difficult topic, and I am impressed with the GA’s for letting her give it. From hearing about my grandmother giving talks in General Conference, I’ve heard that GA’s do edit for content. So, I was surprised and encouraged to hear her story about her mom and dad. When the Church has to deal with a myriad of other concerns, I’m glad to see that they at least gave a nod to what many of us struggle with every day.

    I’m glad you do bring up “power” over “authority.” That’s a great way to do it, Caroline. I’m going to try and be more conscious about that.

  7. Kiskilili says:

    Wow! I wish I could have heard this lesson!

    It’s so difficult to be honest in RS and make yourself vulnerable and then watch what happens. Many times I’ve seen people ask good hard questions, of all types (“I don’t have the motivation to pray in the morning,” for example) only to watch their concerns get immediately quashed (“obviously you don’t have faith”).

    I think singlehood is a mixed bag. On the one hand, certain of our doctrines lead one to believe God’s radar picks up men, and by extension, those they’re married to; single women seemingly don’t register on his screen. On the other hand, the social subordination of marriage would irk me–I would hate to have people address and make eye contact only with my husband in my presence (as my sister Eve has exerienced). The advantage of not being attached is that nobody can treat you as an appendage.

    Sister Beck makes a lot of worthwhile points. But I think her talk sets up a flimsy tightrope over the issues rather than going through them. The very fact that we talk about priesthood and equality in one breath fascinates me (I take it as indication of our anxiety about obvious inequalities). Her logic about equality would work very well if the priesthood were a giant impersonal bin of blessings which anyone could dip into at will. As a matter of fact, those blessings are administered through individuals, and the fact that those individuals are granted that authority directly affects their experience in the Church.

    And everyone has the equal opportunity to make covenants, sure. They’re just not making covenants of equality.

  8. rebecca says:

    Wow. I wish I could have been in that Relief Society class. I don’t think I’ve ever even read this talk. (I don’t usually hear any talks at General Conference because of the kids.) I will have to look it up. I’m so glad that you approached it the way you did, with honesty and candor. If more people gave lessons this way, or responded to lessons this way, people wouldn’t be so afraid to admit when they’re struggling with things.

  9. D-Train says:

    I just wish we lived in a Church where we could just honestly admit that there’s a disparity in power and that it’s a problem, even at the local level. I feel like there’s more institutional effort to reify traditional gender roles and priesthood authority in the Church than in any other area. For all we talk about the Church hiding history and not being fully honest about a number of issues, I think we’re probably more willing to address everything else than we are the issue of gender and authority.

  10. D-Train says:

    What I mean by that is that nontraditional gender roles seem to threaten people more than pretty much any of the “tough issues” in the Church.

  11. Kiskilili says:

    I just wish we lived in a Church where we could just honestly admit that there’s a disparity in power.

    I could not agree more. (Warning: rant alert! Read at your peril!) The inconsistencies and contradictions in the way we talk about gender frustrate me as much as anything. What I find especially disturbing about approaches like Sister Beck’s is that I think they hinder honest examination of the implications of our policies by giving us a facile way to gloss over them. Our anxiety could lead us to take a closer look at the implications in what we believe, and at the very least openly acknowledge the disparity in power.

    Instead we tie ourselves in knots with claims that “patriarchy” is a code-word for equality, or that “preside” involves nothing more than who calls on someone to pray during FHE.

    Even if I disagreed with it or found it offensive, I wish we would make a clear statement about our position toward gender roles, rather than trying to embrace every position on the spectrum simultaneously.

  12. Eve says:

    EmilyCC, I wasn’t crazy about this talk, but I’m _so_ impressed with your lesson, with your commitment to talk about the difficult issuess honestly and your willingness to stand in front of a Relief Society classroom and be vulnerable about your struggles. That takes real courage. I’m really sorry, though, that no one else stepped up to the plate or risked much about themselves. I can see how that could leave you feeling kind of sick and not particularly eager to do it again. At least that’s how I think I’d feel.

    Too bad I can’t recruit you to come teach in my ward…I’d sit on the front row with bated breath–and I promise, I wouldn’t leave you alone up there. I strongly believe that people who are willing to be vulnerable deserve the courtesy of reciprocation.

  13. Seraphine says:

    Kiskilli, I agree with you (and D-Train). While I get frustrated at the problems I see in church structure, discourse, etc., when it comes to gender, I often get more frustrated by others attempts to explain away the problems using even more convoluted formulations.

    Emily, I would have loved a lesson like this. When I taught a lesson on the Priesthood (about 4 years ago) in RS, I didn’t have the courage to be honest about my difficulties with this subject until the very end of my lesson (in my closing thoughts I said something about this being a difficult topic for me). I had some women come up to me afterwards and say that they really appreciated my honesty at the end of my lesson. It made me wish I had had the courage to be honest earlier in my lesson and perhaps hear the thoughts of others on their own struggles. But as you and others have noted–it’s terrifying to make yourself that vulnerable.

  14. Sally says:

    I, too, struggle with these issues. But I think I would be hesitant to share such feelings teaching a RS lesson because there may be women who are weak in faith and bringing up difficult issues could turn them away completely. I may be wrong, I wish we could discuss things more openly. But I would hate to put seeds of doubt or discontent in the minds of those who would struggle with it.

  15. Eve says:

    Sally, I’m sympathetic to your concern, but I think treating difficult issues with candor is actually _more_ faith-promoting than avoiding them. Pretending they don’t exist sends the message that our faith is a delicate flower, too weak to withstand the slightest challenge. On the other hand, what could be more faith-affirming to someone struggling than to see a woman willing to affirm her faith in the face of her own struggles? I find that it’s the women and men who are honest about their problems and issues, whatever those issues are, who really visibly demonstrate the strength of a living faith.

  16. Tam says:

    I believe it is truth, spoken with honesty and plainness, that strengthens faith and makes people strong in testimony. Sally, with all due respect and kindness, I disagree with the idea that avoidance of difficult issues will promote faith. The reason many women (plus men and children as well) have weak faith, is because they see contradictions within the church and they have trouble sorting them out. People who claim not to be bothered by certain issues are often those who have chosen avoid to the issues. They appear to have great faith, but their faith does not have a sure foundation. It is only by truthfully confronting the contradictions and seeming inconsistencies, in some way and at some level, that a sure foundation can be built.

    And I would like to point out that contradiction is not a bad thing. Imperfections in the church should be expected because it is made up of imperfect people. God is at the helm, but He gave us agency and we are imperfect. That adds up to a mortal church organization that is not perfect. Thus, inherent contradictions and imperfections do not mean the church is untrue. And contradiction can even be perceived as a good thing because it will cause us to increase in knowledge as we turn to God to solve the inconsistencies.

    The main contradiction, as I see it, with regard to men and women, is that we are taught that God wants husbands and wives to be one, which is the doctrine of equality and oneness. Yet, we are also taught that God said men are to rule over women (preside, direct, lead, have authority over – all the same thing), which is the doctrine of hierarchy and separateness. Doctrines of hierarchy and separateness are simply incompatible with doctrines of equality and oneness. It is not possible for a woman to be ruled over by her husband and to be one with him at the same time.

    Avoiding this contradiction won’t help anyone. I think lessons like Emily’s are greatly needed. Perhaps though, what is needed more, are lessons on how to discuss different and unfamiliar ideas without becoming offended or frightened. When we can learn to do that, we will really progress as a church.

    Thanks for your post, Emily –lots of good stuff in that lesson. I wish more lessons were like it.

  17. Tam says:

    And after I posted I saw Eve’s comments. Looks like we’re of the same mind on this subject, Eve, but you managed to say it with far fewer words. 🙂

    Nicely stated – thanks.

  18. EmilyCC says:

    Kiskilili, d-train, and S, you’ve all addressed the thing that bugged me most about the discussion during the lesson…no one wanted to admit there’s a problem. There’s that crazy language that tam pointed out so well–we’re quick to say that women and men are equal, but then, many Church members go on to say how men preside *over* the home?!

    S, I also have to confess, I gave this lesson a few years ago in RS and was embarrassed that I didn’t mention my struggles. It just felt too hard at the time, so I’m impressed a. that you did it in your lesson, and b. that people came up to you afterwards! How great!

    Eve, thanks for the vote of confidence. As I read the comments here, I can’t help but think how fun it would be if we could have our own Exponent II Relief Society class 🙂

    Sally, I understand where you’re coming from. I’d hate for someone to be upset with me for a lesson I gave because it made them have doubts. On the other hand, I know I’ve grown a lot from my struggles with women and the PH. Although it’s not comfortable or easy, I think sometimes it’s good to come away from a lesson with questions and concerns. Still, it’s scary to have that responsibility as a teacher.

  19. Eve says:

    Tam, indeed it does! Thanks for the kind words.

    Emily, it’s too funny you say that about an Ex II RS–Kiskilili mentioned exactly that idea in an email earlier today :>

    And you lead me to reconsider Sally’s concern again, more seriously. The more I think about it, the more I think honestly and appropriately representing both one’s faith and one’s struggles is really, really hard. I encounter a related problem from time to time when people at school ask me about my faith and I feel as if they want a quick, sound-bite answer. I often find myself frozen, unable to respond to questions in any short or simple way.

  20. Seraphine says:

    Emily, I’m lucky to be in a very special ward where even if people disagree with you, they are very accepting. Also, the people in leadership positions in the ward are all pretty mellow and open-minded (the RS president and former RS president were the two main people who thanked me for my thoughts after that lesson). I’m in the process of moving, and I’m changing ward boundaries, and it’s going to be *really* hard to leave this ward.

    As for the question of representing both faith and struggles–it’s tricky. When it comes to people I know well, I’m able to share my doubts and leave it at that at times. But when I’m in more general church settings, I always feel pressure to add affirmations to what I say (i.e. “I think the GAs are human men who are working from mortal understandings. But I have a testimony that GBH is the Prophet and is called of God to lead the church.”) I never feel okay leaving things on a note of doubt for fear of the response.

  21. Janna says:

    It makes me wonder how many other sisters sit in silence, feeling guilty about not being honest about their feelings and thoughts about this topic. I wonder if most Mormon women feel this way.

    With that conjecture in mind, I’m curious about the feelings and thoughts of women who *are* completely comfortable with the traditional approach to this lesson. Why do they feel comfortable with and celebrate what Caroline describes as the God-Man-Woman hierarchy? How do they continue to function with a sense of self intact in this culture? I’m asking these questions for understanding, not attack.

    The reason I ask is that I’ve been nurtured in the soft womb of Exponent II affiliation since I was 12 years old. I have never understood or empathized with women who have an opposite position than mine on this issue, and I’m finding that I don’t like these divisive feelings inside of me. In the past, I’ve just figuratively given them “the hand.” I’m beginning to wonder if there is learning in understanding their fierce adherence to these traditions.

  22. harijans says:

    I wish I could go to relief society.

    Some people do not like being at the top of a hierarchy. For these individuals the God->Man->Woman hierarchy is perfectly acceptable and comfortable.

    Part of the reason why I think it works for them is because they do not view this model as linear, but circular which is impossible to graphically display on a blog except maybe:


    In a spiritually ideal home this model exists and does not give rise to conflict unless someone drops a bracket. I feel that the second model is much more in line with what the church teaches. We all have fundamental access to God through which all direction and truthfulness can be confirmed. This is the doctrine that started the entire Mormon faith.

    I have been a priesthood holder since age 12. I have actually felt the priesthood working through me maybe 20 times in the last 18 years, and except for a few late teen, early 20 years I have worked dang hard at staying worthy. In each of those instances where I felt the priesthood working, if a woman had been present at the same time in the same place, and was living righteously, that woman would have felt the promptings of the spirit and reached out to use the priesthood in order to complete God’s work, and she would not have been denied because of her gender.

    Men and women are both given every right of power, authority and Godhood in the temple. We go through the same ceremony and make the same covenants with God. The only variance is when women are asked to follow their husband’s as long as the husband follows God. If you and your husband are both following God, why would anyone care who is first in line? And if a husband ever stops following God, then they are no longer playing for God’s team, and the wife need not rely on the husband’s priesthood. The assumption I make here is that if the husband is unworthy, then the wife can rely on her own priesthood if necessary.

    The language in this part of the temple ceremony is not entirely equal, but in my opinion it is fair and workable. There are acceptable checks and balances included, and most importantly, that part of the ceremony is one small part. Looking at the ceremony as a whole it is hard to argue that women are given a lesser role. All priesthood, covenants, promises, and blessings are given equally to men and women. The eternal potential of a human being is not gender specific in the temple or in church doctrine. It is only a matter of time until the culture of the church grows to match the doctrine.

    We do not even know if gender is a part of our spirits, or confined to earthly bodies. There is certainly nothing in the scriptures or the temple that indicates gender to be eternal. The closest it comes is kings and queens, priest and priestesses. Queens rule equal to kings, and any priestess is as good as any priest, they are working from the same recipe book.

    Analogy: Standing 8 inches from a Van Gough and examining the painting, the artwork appears childish, haphazard and generally unattractive. Stepping back and looking at the painting as a whole brings out the true masterpiece quality of the work. I feel like we often do this with our issues in the church, get so focused on one uncomfortable detail, that we forget what the bigger picture is. If we do it too much then even stepping back to see the bigger picture we cannot ignore that small flaw we perceived upon close examination.

    In closing, know that when it comes down to it, almost all men in the church do not consider their priesthood some great right or privilege selectively given to them as a display of their dominant sex. Instead having the priesthood means the third hour in church is much more boring, we don’t get to go to book groups or any of the cool enrichment activities (many of which have food), if you show up too early for church you may have to pass the bread, and its always good to have a little olive oil on hand.

    Oh, and having the priesthood means we get yelled at twice a year for looking at too much porn, not providing sufficiently for our families, working too much, and generally not honoring our priesthood.

  23. Kiskilili says:

    The only variance is when women are asked to follow their husband’s as long as the husband follows God. If you and your husband are both following God, why would anyone care who is first in line?

    If my husband and I are both following God, why would we need a line at all? The fact that there is a line, I believe, indicates that the wife submits to her husband in the same manner the husband submits to God (one might say that the wife’s god is her husband). If we were really intended to follow God in the same way, a line would be nonsensical.

    Queens rule equal to kings, and any priestess is as good as any priest,

    In what culture? Kings rule over queens. It’s clear from the language of the temple that this is the case there as well.

    The eternal potential of a human being is not gender specific in the temple or in church doctrine.

    I don’t understand this. Is it possible for me to become a god? Is it acceptable for me to preside over my husband, now and in eternity?

    I feel like we often do this with our issues in the church, get so focused on one uncomfortable detail, that we forget what the bigger picture is.

    I don’t believe women’s issues in the church constitute one single small issue. I think they’re part of the big picture. Consider the following:
    a) Men predominate in scripture, whereas women (especially in the BoM) are frequently referred to along with children and cattle (as property?), often in opposition to a term such as “Nephite.” That is, there is no such thing as a female Nephite. A Nephite (citizen, one might say) is by definition male.
    b) Heavenly Mother is absent, hinting that women’s eternal role is one of passivity and subordination.
    c) Women covenant to play a subordinate role to their husbands.
    d) Women do not have the same degree of authority, either on the local level, or on the general level, that men do.

    The biggest picture I see is myself turning into a shadow of a person for the rest of eternity.

    Thanks, I’d rather take the increased responsibility and get yelled at.

  24. Caroline says:

    Sorry, Harijans, I think you’re great, and I liked the first few paragraphs of your comment, but I agree with Kiskilli on the latter half.

    I think you may be seriously underestimating how devestating and painful that very clear hierarchy is in the temple. It DOES matter that the woman has to hearken to the man, but the man does not have to hearken to the woman. Even if both are righteous or only one is. It still matters. Big time. It informs us of our relation to God and it firmly gives me, a woman, a middleman. (And I don’t care if that middleman is righteous or not. He shouldn’t be there regardless.)

    And I only wish I had your problems when it comes to holding the priesthood. Like Kiskilli, I’d gladly endure porn talks and yelling if it meant that I could bless the lives of others through service only allowed to priesthood holders.

  25. D-Train says:

    The Proclamation on the Family (which is essentially scripture in today’s church) indicates that gender is an eternal characteristic. One can interpret that a few ways, but there’s no reason to assume that gender is an eternal characteristic unless there’s some differentiation in roles, and much of the differentiation we have on earth in the Church is of subordination and submission. Our doctrine isn’t sufficiently developed to indicate any sort of reason for this differentiation or any future reason why that would change.

  26. Colleen says:

    Interesting what you can stumble across in google searches…I would like to comment here but wonder if I can be as articulate as the rest of you. Although I have heard others’ comments about their struggles with the Priesthood issue, I haven’t really been offended by it or felt like I was in anyway slighted or of less worth to anyone. Perhaps that is because of the way my father, husband, mission president and others have treated me. My dad may have presided in our home but my mother’s opinion and actvities and life were just as important as anything he did or said. My husband is the same way.
    I have plenty of responsibilities and opportunities to serve and bless others with out consecrated oil or office in the PH. I will admit tho’, that I am very frustrated by sisters who are led to believe that just because a man holds the PH anything he says is doctrine and that his will must be done. I have known of devastating situations because of those attitudes. Perhaps this is part of the reason so many sisters struggle with this whole concept.
    (Just an aside, neither my mother nor I are Mollys. I am not musical, my house does not belong in any Better Homes and Garden magazine, I don’t sew all our clothes or can everything or decorate lavishly, I work full-time and could easily live most of my life in Levis. Hopefully, you get the picture)
    I think I subscribe to the circle theory stated by harijans. My husband also would rather attend RS. I have a feeling most of us–men and women alike don’t really have the big picture in our minds.
    I also think it is great when sisters in RS can express their doubts and concerns honestly. It seems in our ward that is usually the case. But we’re kind of rebels here. Sometimes a few eyebrows will raise but usually other sisters will bring up their own questions and I feel, as RS president, that I am coming to better understand the sisters in my ward what their individual challenges are and how to relate to them personally.
    I have no doubt that my Heavenly Father loves me and EVERYone else. And I am glad that He gets to sort it all out.
    I love attending the temple and have such strong evidences that the covenants are personal and protective so the differences between my covenants and my husbands are, to me irrelevent. I just try to live my own life the way I understand my HF’s directions.

  27. Deborah says:

    Colleen: Welcome to Exponent II — glad you found us and hope you come back for other discussions!

  28. Kiskilili says:

    Apologies, Harijans–I should not have come off that harsh! No offense intended; I appreciate your comments.

  29. harijans says:

    No apology required, and I would have never considered your comments harsh. I am outside of the problem, not subject to the discrimination. It makes it harder for me to comprehend the bad feelings inherent with women participating in a patriarchal religion.

    On some brief occasions I get a small glimpse of how hard it has been fore Emily, my mother and sisters. Unfortunately, communicating the issue to a point where sympathy is truly felt is very difficult for anyone.

    I do not pretend to feel sympathetic to women’s rights in the church, I understand the issues, and more often than not side with those who want more equality. I can identify the inequality, but I do not pretend to feel the same discrimination or oppression.

    It is a difficult distinction to make. I guess the best analogy is that of a sports fan. When the U.S. Men’s soccer squad was eliminated from the World Cup this morning, I was sad and dejected. I support the team, support youth soccer, and played soccer all my life. But I could never begin to feel the sorrow and disappointment that those players felt when the whistle blew. I have a similar relationship with many issues women face in the church today.

    I may not agree with many details of the issue, or how some people go about trying to bring about more equality, but I am also not the one being affected by the inequality of cultural Mormonism. This alone disqualifies me from ever having a qualifying opinion on the matter.

  30. EmilyCC says:

    Janna, I also have been thinking about how some women are comfortable with the current situation of the Church. Hmm…as I try to write my ideas about why they’re comfortable they just sound like really bad stereotypes.

    I suppose it comes down to the fact that we all came down here to struggle with and learn about different things. Colleen, I appreciate your post for reminding me of that.

    Sigh…Harijans (he’s my husband for those who don’t already know) and I have this discussion quite frequently. Kisikili and Caroline already did an excellent job of addressing the issues in his post. One of the things I love most about Harijans is that he always has an open mind and is willing to think out the hard questions with me about the Church. We just don’t often come up with the same answers 🙂 But, I guess eternity would get a little boring for us if we agreed on everything.

  31. Steve says:

    (ironically, as I de-lurk, I find my husband already has an account and a user name, so I’m posting as him. Oh, well.)

    When I joined the church at 15, my father was leery of its “oppressive” reputation. Perhaps I’ve been blessed, but for me the church was a place to “act and not be acted upon”–unlike the home where I grew up. Maybe my expectations weren’t all that high, but the priesthood rhetoric has never been an issue because the key priesthood holders (with a spectacular exception or two) in my life have worked hard to reconcile the disconnect between equality and patriarchy–something my father the “women’s libber” non-member never did. I’d been married 3 years before I finally realized that my husband really, really didn’t want to have to give me permission to go to the store!

    On my mission, I had horrible menstrual cramps a lot. One evening, they were literally so bad that I was not going to be able to get home from the church (on a bike in a dress in the dark in the snow). So I asked the zone leader for a blessing. He was appalled and uncomfortable (“she’s not really sick”), and I was mad at him for that attitude. Yet, when he laid his hands on my head, he gave me a blessing that both stopped my pain and healed me on many other levels besides.

    I suppose if my comp. had held the priesthood, she could have blessed me with less embarrassment. But this ZL, who was “blessed” to have to help me like this more than once, wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn about the “tribulations of womanhood”–a lesson I’m sure he’s needed in the years since his mission.

    I guess I’m just really glad _someone_ has it…

  32. RoAnn says:

    I’m one of those who has thought long and hard about this issue, and yet does not have a problem with not holding priesthood offices, etc. Perhaps part of the reason that I don’t is that I take exception to these statements in an earlier comment: “Doctrines of hierarchy and separateness are simply incompatible with doctrines of equality and oneness. It is not possible for a woman to be ruled over by her husband and to be one with him at the same time.”

    Like harijans, I think that the equation is more God<->man<->woman<->God.

    God exhorts us to become one with Him, and we strive for unity with Him and with each other. But in becoming “one” with God, do we think that means He will not still preside over us in some way? Unless we are to lose all our individuality, there will probably always be some sort of organization and hierarchy, but if we are of one mind and heart, does that really matter?

    Some men (and women) exercise unrighteous dominion. Some women (and men) resent or sorrow over the fact that they don’t have specific opportunities to exercise certain kinds of power and authority at the present time.

    Perhaps we sometimes get caught up in worldly ideas of exactly what constitutes “power” and “authority,” and miss how those concepts might operate differently in the celestial order of things towards which we are striving.

  33. EmilyCC says:

    Steve’s wife (sorry, didn’t see your name in the post), thanks for your comments. I do think PH holders have the opportunity to learn about things like “the tribulations of womanhood” because of their ability to give blessings. I’m just thinking of my own brother on a mission, he can’t even see a box of tampons without blushing, but I hope he’d be a little more sensitive if he had to give a blessing to one of the sisters in his area.

    Roann, I’m glad to have your perspective of someone who has thought the issue out and resolved it. I like what you said here: “Perhaps we sometimes get caught up in worldly ideas of exactly what constitutes “power” and “authority,” and miss how those concepts might operate differently in the celestial order of things towards which we are striving.”

    An eternal perspective helps me when I struggle with this issue. I know that God has all this equality and oneness stuff figured out, I just sometimes wish that the Church could embody it a little better.

  1. July 6, 2010

    […] Need more ideas?  Additional priesthood lessons here at The Exponent: Caroline’s The Everlasting Priesthood Emily’s Women and the Priesthood (based on Pres Julie Beck’s talk, “An Outpouring of Blessings… […]

  2. February 24, 2016

    […] “Relief Society Lesson: Women and the Priesthood” by EmilyCC: This is a Teaching for Our Times lesson I did on President Beck’s talk, “An Outpouring of Blessings.” […]

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