Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Thoughts about LDS Women and the Priesthood

There is a small but vocal group of LDS women who have requested tickets to the priesthood session of General Conference next week.  They wanted to attend priesthood training because they are hoping to receive the priesthood themselves. 

I’ve never heard of this happening before. It made me ponder the different ways people choose to handle something in the church that they don’t fully understand. As a teenager I didn’t understand why LDS men held the priesthood and women didn’t.  But I’m at peace with it now. 

Here are a few ways I've noticed people reacting to something in the church they don’t understand:

1) Let doubt overshadow faith. 

Some people pick up that little pebble of “I don’t understand this part of the church” and hold it so close to their eyes that it fills most of their vision, covering the things they know are true. If they hold it there long enough it’s only natural to start forgetting and questioning what they once knew as true.

2) Work hard to receive the truth from the source.

Some people pick up that little pebble of “I don’t understand,” hold it out and away from their eyes to keep things in eternal perspective, and ask God what the truth is in that matter. They pray, study the scriptures and words of the prophets, fast, and attend the temple until they get a witness from the Spirit of the truth.

3) Set it on a shelf for now. 

What if you have a pebble, an “I don’t understand” question, and don’t receive an answer yet? My advice is to pick up that pebble and set it on a shelf.  Don’t pretend it’s not a question, because questions are good. That’s how we got most of the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph Smith asked many inspired questions and got revelatory answers from God. 

The key is not to hold the pebble so close to your eyes that it covers the big boulders of what you already know, like that Jesus is my personal Savior, that the Book of Mormon is true and has changed my life, that the Holy Ghost guides and comforts and helps me find lost items, that God is my father and loves me, that President Monson is a true prophet called of God. These are boulders of truth that I cannot deny. The Spirit has witnessed them to me.  

For my shelf, I have a metaphoric list, a list of things I don’t quite understand that I plan on asking God one day. Like why are women rarely mentioned in the scriptures. I don’t give my list much energy really, until one of those subjects comes up again, and I remember that it’s tucked safely away on my list.  I know I’ll understand these things later, when my mortal brain isn’t getting in the way of understanding the things of God.

After all, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  In that context it’s understandable that we don’t fully understand every detail.

Why do LDS men hold the priesthood and not LDS women?  

I don’t know why, but I do know that Heavenly Father is in charge and that is how He has set things up.

I do know that Heavenly Father is our God and He is all-knowing and all-powerful, and He is in charge. His Son Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and He is the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. God has called prophets again to the earth, just like in Bible times. 

Today that prophet is President Thomas S. Monson, and He follows the will of Heavenly Father and Jesus for the rest of us.  I know that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Christ, and backs up the Holy Bible. I know that Christ’s priesthood power is restored, which is the power and authority that seals families together forever in holy temples. 

I also know that God has given mothers and fathers equal value with different roles. 

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners." ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World")  

"Preside" doesn't mean to boss, control, or manipulate. It means to be a spiritual leader in the home, to show the family how important God is to Dad by calling them together for family prayer and scripture study and family home evening.  

To nurture doesn't mean just being nice, although that's important. I dare you to take out a notebook and brainstorm as many ways you can think of that mothers nurture. It may take you hours. Nurturing includes nourishing hungry teen boys' bellies with filling dinners, teaching your children the topics you're passionate about, kissing toddler's sore elbows, hugging crying children or a worn-out husband. I really believe the luckiest children in the world are those who have the blessing of both roles actively engaged in their home, mothers and fathers, with their unique and divine roles. I don't want my children to have two mothers or two fathers. I want them to have one of each, magnifying their God-given roles, the ideal. 

And did I mention that I know God is in charge, and wiser than the rest of us? 

As Neal A. Maxwell said, “What we already know about God teaches us to trust him for what we do not know fully.”  

And Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. ... Don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.” 

Please understand. I am not writing to criticize these women. From what I’ve seen they are doing what they believe is right, and I’m grateful they’re choosing peaceful means to get their points across. I am impressed that they keep coming to church even if they disagree with on this issue of priesthood. Watching their deep discontentment with how things are fills me with gratitude that God has helped me find peace with this issue and anything else I don’t fully understand. I pray that these women will find a peace through the Holy Spirit that things are as Heavenly Father has set up, even if they don’t fully understand why. 

Besides, in the years that my husband has been serving as an LDS bishop, I wouldn’t want that responsibility!  I’ve carried plenty of other responsibilities in the church, but when I watch the load he carries with this one, I’m grateful my husband has it and not me! 

Update from Elder Oaks.  

Since writing this post, Elder Dallin H. Oaks clarified that when women are set apart in a calling by a priesthood leader, we are given priesthood authority to perform that calling. I love this clarity. 

“We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.” (“The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign, May, 2014)


I recommend a fabulous talk on this subject:  "Let Us Think Straight" by LDS Apostle Elder M. Russell Ballard.


SkiTwo said...

Thank you for posting this Becky! So timely! When one of the RS teachers talked about males holding the priesthood she likened it to God's Power and Authority being an entire loaf of bread. The Authority is just one piece of the whole loaf of bread. Men hold that part and women can act with the power of God and that is another part and there is still a whole loaf of bread that we share together. I liked that analogy. Personally I think holding the priesthood keeps them humble because they can't use it to bless themselves. They can only use it to bless the lives of other people. Most Women already do this and probably don't need to be reminded. Just my thoughts!
Chrystal K.

Elisabeth said...

What a great post! I personally have never understood the issue that some women have regarding their desire to hold the priesthood. To me, it makes perfect sense that men have the priesthood and women support them in that, hand in hand, as joint disciples of Christ. Just as men and women are physically made different to compliment each other as husband and wife, to bring children into the world, so it is with the gospel. Women who feel the need for complete equality, greatly error in their assumption that they deserve it. Men and women are physically created as a compliment for each other and if each were the same, how could the full measure of creation be reached? If Father in Heaven and the Savior wanted women to hold the priesthood, it would have been given since time began. To fight and argue against it, indicates that mere mortals are smarter than God and are entitled to more than He's already given.
Your points are completely valid and true. Have FAITH that God has all knowledge, intelligence and wisdom. PRAY for greater understand and a testimony. And lastly, if it's still hard to understand, set that particular issue on the shelf. There are far more truths gained and understood in the Gospel than the unknown. Without faith we have nothing. Faith is the founding blocks of all knowledge and understanding.

Anji Sandage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anji Sandage said...

Becky, what a great article :) (I followed the link to your blog from your email) I wonder if women had the priesthood, would we ever stop to work together with our husbands to get important ordinances done? I know that I tend to take on a lot of things when it comes to my family and it would be easy to say well my husband doesn't have time to preside and to give the kids blessings etc. or instead of calling him at work to let him know one of the kids needed a blessing or some other thing, it would be too easy to just cut him out of the loop and just take care of it myself. I wonder if this may be one of Gods ways of getting us to work more as a team? After all there are things that women do that men can't, and no one questions that because guys don't have the physical capability to bear children. With all the responsibilities that being a mother gives me (who do the kids ask for? most of the time, they want mom! My husband used to get jealous about this, but now he has realized that it's just the natural order and he is ok with it now.) I think that taking on all the responsibilities of the priesthood would be overwhelming - especially for a lot of women who like me tend to take on more than they can really do already because it's sometimes just easier to do things ourselves. God wants us to have balance in our lives, and where we focus on one thing, other things often tend to get neglected. I think women were foreordained before they came to earth with certain responsibilities that could rightly be called priesthood responsibilities, because of the very nature of women - and those have to do with home and family and the blessings of the temple, where women actually do perform certain ordinances such as washing and anointing etc.