How My Wife Exercises Her Priesthood

Shawn LarsenCulture, feminism, Mormon, Priesthood, women 62 Comments

Tired of talking about gay marriage?  How about women and the Priesthood? 🙂

In all seriousness, let me share with you a recent experience that has had a profound impact on the way I view the concept of Priesthood, and that has convinced me, once and for all, that I am not the sole Priesthood bearer in my family.  I believe it’s high time we recognized the service rendered by faithful LDS women as more than simply the fulfillment of a Relief Society assignment, or being a good visiting teacher.  Such efforts constitute the righteous exercise of Priesthood power.

Over the past year or so, some of our closest friends — Lori (not her real name) and her husband — have been struggling with marital difficulties. Since we live close (and are in the same ward), Lori and my wife talk often. My wife, the daughter of a school psychiatrist, has listened to Lori and, where appropriate, offered advice. The situation, however, continued to deteriorate.

One Sunday afternoon as my family was sitting down to dinner, the phone rang. I just happened to be the one who picked it up and said, “hello.” All I heard in response was a woman’s heavy sobbing, through which I could barely discern fumbling attempts to speak. The caller was hyperventilating, so it took her a few tries to get out my name. “Sh-Shawn, can you come over here now?” It was Lori, and it was obvious she was in distress. So, I did what anyone else would do — I told my wife I would be home soon, then immediately got in the car and drove over. When I arrived, I found Lori and her children huddled together on the living room couch, all in hysterics. I soon discovered that only minutes before I got there (and only seconds before the phone call), Lori and her husband had had a particularly nasty fight that resulted in his packing up, walking out, and saying he was gone for good.

Once inside the house, it was clear that I was I out of my depth. I’m an employment lawyer, not a family counselor. Faced with a room full of crying women and girls, all of whom were suffering real emotional trauma, I had absolutely no idea what to do but give hugs and offer some mewling words of encouragement. Then my instincts kicked in — I called my wife and told her get over there on the double. Of course, she agreed to be there as soon as she could get someone to stay with our daughters.

Immediately after I hung up the phone with her, I called our Bishop. He was there in a matter of minutes (just enough time to put on a tie and drive over, I’ll bet). He’s a great Bishop and had been working with Lori, in particular, for some time on trying to keep her family together through a very rough patch. To my great surprise, however, his reaction to the situation was not much different than mine. He, too, had that “deer in the headlights” look on this face and, while his words of comfort were a bit more eloquent than mine, they didn’ t seem to be having much more impact.

Then my wife walked in and took over. Within seconds, the Bishop and I were relegated to (our rightful place at) the other end of the couch. She gave the kids a squeeze, wrapped Lori in her arms, and proceeded to offer some very wise words based on her ongoing involvement with the situation. I’m not exaggerating when I say that, over the course of the next hour, the mood noticeably changed from despair to hope. My wife identified potential lights at the end of the family’s very dark tunnel, and helped them to find the physical, spiritual and emotional strength to press forward. Before we left, Lori asked that the Bishop and I give her children blessings. We did, while my wife sat silent with her arms neatly folded.  We were stuck.

As I have pondered this experience over the past several months, it has become clear to me that my wife did much more that afternoon than simply offer sisterly counsel to a friend. She was exercising her Preisthood to serve someone desperately in need.   Using that power and her accompanying gift of discernment, she was able to able help a family in ways that I and our ecclesiastical leader simply could not.

Before going any further, let me say that I don’t have the stomach for yet another long-winded (and assuredly acrimonious) debate about whether, and to what extent, LDS women hold the Priesthood, and whether they should be included in ecclesiastical leadership positions.  Such posts are legion on the Bloggernacle, and I have nothing new to add on the subject here.  My opinion, for better or worse, is that by virtue of their temple endowment, women receive at least some modicum of the power we refer to as Priesthood.  It is that Priesthood that my wife and other faithful LDS women exercise on a daily basis through their service.

When we talk about Priesthood, we often place far too much emphasis on the administration of ordinances, such as the blessing of babies, the laying on of hands, etc.  Clearly in today’s Church, women do not “exercise Priesthood” by participating such rituals.  However, I believe the Priesthood to be a much broader, and at the same time a much simpler, concept.  If Priesthood is the power to act in God’s name here on this Earth, as we teach, it cannot be limited to ordinances — God certainly has much more in store for us than going around laying hands on one another.   Instead, as our leaders have instructed, Priesthood power truly manifests itself in the rendering of what Spencer W. Kimball referred to as “selfless service.”   If this is the case, then endowed women have equal claim to Priesthood as their ordained male counterparts.   Godly service is godly service, no matter the sex of the provider.

We often speak of the “compassionate service” offered by women in the Church as something other than the Priesthood, i.e., as an auxiliary of, or support to, the Priesthood held by men. This distinction does not make sense to me.  Why does an afternoon spent by Deacons digging up Old Lady Smith’s weeds qualify as “Priesthood service,” while delivering meals to new mothers does not?  Similarly, for many men, and most certainly for up-and-coming Aaronic Priesthood holders, the very ideal of Priesthood service is honorably serving a full-time mission.  Adding up all of the baptisms, confirmations, blessings and grave dedications I performed, only a fraction of my two years in Guatemala were spent actually administering Priesthood ordinances.  By contrast, the vast majority of my time was spent serving others in all manner of ways, including formal service projects (i.e., hours spent at the hospital), informal service to those in need (i.e., visiting a sick member or investigator), and simply trying to share the Gospel with others, which arguably is the highest act of service possible.  But for the infrequent ordinances, women missionaries render these exact same types of service in exactly the same way; there is no gender differentiation.   If that is the case, why should my mission be deemed “Priesthood service” status, if the work of valiant female missionaries is relegated to some lesser status?

All of this has opened me up to a new understanding of what it means to hold and use the Priesthood.  To believe that women can be Priesthood bearers, I need not accept the notion that women should be Bishops (that’s a different can of worms).  Rather, I recognize the efforts my wife makes as something more than mere acts of thoughtfulness.  I see them for what they are:  the proper exercise of her Priesthood power.  Put another way, the fact that my wife did not actually lay hands on Lori’s children does not mean that she is without Priesthood.  Rather, working together on an equal plane –with me administering a blessing and her comforting the family — we made a great team (a quorum of two?), using our individual abilities to achieve a common goal.   And isn’t that the ideal for an eternal family (think back to the words used in the Endowment and sealing ceremonies)?

So, with that in mind, let me proudly echo the sentiment I hear expressed in testimony meeting exclusively by wives and mothers:  I am very thankful to be married to a worthy Priesthood holder.

Comments 62

  1. Great post–thanks. Why is it that people have been disciplined by the church for expressing similar sentiments?

  2. Shawn–I respectively disagree with your conclusion. My wife, as yours, has displayed power through the gifts of the Spirit and often I have seen her do works that eclipse what a priesthood holder is able to do. This has been especially manifest when working with children and other women. She is blessed with many gifts and talents. She is a true follower of Christ. She would never, worlds without end, claim priesthood power as her source because she has a testimony of that the men who lead the church speak for God. She sustains them as prophets, seers, and revelators. She knows that church history has conflicting accounts on this issue, and she understands that women in the temple are given special authority. She knows, as I do, that to stand in opposition the the Lord’s apostles and prophets is to stand in opposition to Him who ultimately leads this church, and bears His name.

    I am not interested in a debate. Unless you have a question for me I would like to make this my only comment on this subject.

  3. Thank you for your post. I have served as a RS President and my husband as a Bishop and we learned through our experiences the same lessons you have articulated very well. It really does take both roles for the eternal betterment of all.

    When Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society he spoke of how the RS sisters, play a vital role in the organization of the church and in the salvation of the human family. He stated, “I have desired to organize the sisters in the Order of the Priesthood. I now have the key by which I can do it. The organization of the Church of Christ was never perfect until the women were organized
. I now turn the key to you in the name of God and this society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time. “

    Elder Oaks has explained the significance of this event, “It opened to women new opportunities for receiving knowledge and intelligence from on high, such as through the temple ordinances that were soon to be instituted.”

    Joseph Smith spoke at the third meeting of the newly organized RS, at this time he prophesied that “This society shall have power to command queens in their midst; queens of the earth shall come and pay their respects to this society. They shall come with their millions and shall contribute of their abundance for the relief of the poor. If you will be pure, nothing can hinder.”

    Here are a few examples of Joseph Smith’s prophecy:

    Utah was the second state (right after Wyoming) to give women the right to vote in 1870, a full 50 years before women in other states were given that chance. The women of Utah help to influence the women’s suffrage movement at the turn of the century which ultimately leads to all women having the right to vote with the adopted 19th amendment in 1920 granting the same right and privilege to all women in the United States.

    It was Brigham Young who sent women back east to study medicine, many of them becoming doctors. (These women were among the first women in the country to be doctors); this lead to these women opening the Deseret Hospital.

    In 1871 Relief Societies in Utah gathered enough means ad money to send $14,000 cash to relieve victims of the great Chicago fire.

    In 1921 the relief society, primaries and young men and women’s organization combined and filled a Red Cross request for 15,000 garments for children to be sent to Europe.

    During WW1 the President of the United States Woodrow Wilson made a personal visit to the RS General President Emmeline Wells to “heartily thank her for the part played by the RS during the war, by releasing tons of wheat to Europe.

    Again in WW2 RS sisters came forward to help with quilts, 500,000 articles of clothing to war torn Europe, 47,000 bars of soap. The Dutch planted potatoes for the Germans. Swedish sisters collected clothing for the less fortunate people in Norway and Finland. Sisters in Norway sent 100 packages of food to church members in Germany, the Sisters in Hawaii reached out to “our Saints and friends in Japan”

    In 1999 at the Women’s Conference at BYU ; 31,000 hygiene kits were assembled, 31,000 sewing kits, 1200 surgical drapes, 2000 leaper bandages, 400 quilts and 4000 button kits. All of this was done between classes in 2 days. These kits were sent all around the world to provide relief.

    In late summer of 1999 there came a need for quilts to go to Kosovo the goal was 30,000 quilts were needed in about 2 months. The quilts poured in! 30,000 quilts were sent to Kosovo, 30,000 to the earthquake victims in Turkey, 2400 were sent to Mexico, 5000 to Armenia, 5000 each to Georgia and the Ukraine. Quilts continue to poor in. In our ward over the last year and a half, we completed 150 newborn blankets, 100 hygiene kits and 200 school kits. Many of the school kits and newborn blankets, went to Africa, the hygiene kits were just completed in time to send to Florida after the devastation of the three hurricanes .

    For all of this great service, as sisters in Zion, daughters of God, there is no greater influence or role that we have, then what we do with-in the walls of our homes. This is a divine role, it is a calling of eternal blessings, sisters our influence in our families will impact generations. As President Hinckley state, “ You sisters are the real builders of the nation wherever you live, for you have created homes of strength and peace and security. These become the very sinew of any nation.”

  4. In line with Joseph Smith’s teachings about the blessings available to her:

    My wife has given me several blessings of health, when it has been inconvenient to call an Elder, and has done so for others when no-one else was available.

    We have also jointly blessed our children, as was once a common practice amongst the Saints.

    Joseph Smith said there was no more harm in it than wetting the face with water. Yet few sisters are bold enough to claim this privilege, which the Prophet said they were entitled to.

    There has been occasional ruffling of feathers among local leaders, but when informed of Joseph’s teachings they have let the issue drop.

  5. The curtain of the holy of holies was rent. We are a royal and holy priesthood of all believers. That is if you side with Luther’s argument leading to the Reformation 😉

    2 Peter: 4-9

    Having been in a terrible marital situation where my wife and I were broken and on the brink of divorce I’ll say that an unprepared and untrained local clergy certainly doesn’t help matters, but the loving outreach of believers whom you trust into your life sure does. I’m glad Shawn’s wife had that kind of relationship that made her ministering of the Spirit possible for “Lori” and her family.

  6. I teach my newly ordained son that priesthood is the power to bless.I hope that our behaviour as an endowed couple will bare witness of this.

  7. #3 — I won’t try to drag you into a debate on this, I promise 🙂 Let me just say that I fully support Church leadership — you’ll see that I am careful not to critcize, find fault or demand change (my wife, by the way, takes the same approach — she does not think she is slighted by not being an official “priesthood holder”). The point I’m trying to get across here is that one need not “stand in opposition” to the Prophet, Apostles or God to recognize that the abilities that women have come from a divine source. You call it “special authority”; I call it Preisthood.

  8. I tend to agree with Jared on this issue. I would never discount the power and authority that the Priesthood gives to the righteous women of the Church nor deny their ability to comfort and heal. But I would stop short of calling a woman a “Priesthood Holder.” I have seen my wife, who is an RS President, give incredible counsel and comfort to the sisters of our ward. Given that we have a Bishop who does not excel in that area, it is much needed and welcomed.

    Other than that, I agreed with and loved Shawn’s story and the remarkable ability of the women of the Church.

  9. BTW, mowing a lawn or digging up weeds is not “Priesthood Service.” Anyone can do that. Giving a blessing or passing the sacrament is “Priesthood Service.”

  10. First of all, exceptionally well written post, Shawn. You made your point and stayed focused on it, which I really appreciate.

    I also want to make one simple point:

    Often, we construct “doctrinal” statements by juxtaposing them in opposition to whatever heresy we see around us. I understand that need, but it tends to limit the scope of our understanding of the overall concept.

    Grace vs. works is a great example of this. Due to the pernicious concept of “easy grace” (confess name once, sin without attempt to repent, get beaten a bit, end up “saved” anyway), we have tended to swing to the other extreme and talk almost as if we “earn” salvation and exaltation. Now that society around us has lessened its emphasis on easy grace, we are able to moderate our own stance and move more toward the balance I see as “real” and “comprehensive”.

    I believe Priesthood discussions are the same. When juxtaposed against the type of stridency that calls primarily male **administrative leadership** sexist and bad, we tend to react by entrenching within that structure and condensing in our minds all exercise of the Priesthood to official Priesthood ordinances that must be done through a recitation of that Priesthood. That militant opposition didn’t exist nearly as much in Joseph’s day, so the Church in that time didn’t swing as radically as in our current situation.

    I am OK with that as a general trend, but I think it limits our understanding of what “The Priesthood” is at the most comprehensive level. In simple point of fact, women who have attended the temple and remain true to the covenants they make there have been endowed with promises and blessings and carry the Priesthood with them in a very real and physical way. ***(I am being very careful with my wording here, and I ask everyone to respect that and not get more explicit than that.)*** They “hold the Priesthood” in a very literal way, and, even though they cannot perform ordinances through the recitation of that Priesthood, they still carry the power of the adherence to those Priesthood covenants they have made – the power of the Priesthood endowment they receive.

    Imho, there is NO conflict with such a view (like Shawn expressed in this post) and anything written or said by any of our current prophets and apostles.

  11. BTW, mowing a lawn or digging up weeds is not “Priesthood Service.”

    That’s not the way Church leaders, both local and higher up, generally view the issue. Ask your ward DQ advisor, or check out the links in my post. “Priesthood service” is used very broadly, generally to include any act of service conducted by a priesthood holding male.

  12. Shawn (#12) – Maybe you should write a post, then, about the misuse of the term “Priesthood service” by Church leaders.

    I do appreciate the underlying point of this post (as I see it) of the power of women, and the power of a couple working together. I personally don’t think that anything in your experience other than the blessings given constitute acting with priesthood. After all, isn’t godly service godly service no matter the sex, endowed status, or religion of the provider? Think about all the amazing service that both women and men outside of the LDS faith provide, none of which I consider “Priesthood service.” I think you (inadvertently?) discount their service.

  13. I see “Priesthood Service” as a description of WHO is doing it, not in what they are doing unless it reflect real Priesthood duties. As a former DQ and TQ adviser I never used that term for anything but what we, as a Priesthood could only do. As in, we exercise our Priesthood by passing or preparing the sacrament.

  14. I think Ray has done a great job addressing the nature of the “pendulum” regarding the sensitivity to the word “priesthood.” Now certainly the LDS temple practice informs a distinct nuance beyond the biblical doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” It really is boggling to me, given this perspective, that the LDS culture so stridently avoids using the term “priesthood” when describing acts of everyday Godly service through spiritual gifts exercised by women (and men).

    The book of Hebrews is very strong on the matter of priesthood ushered in by Christ. Exegetical and historical analysis is strongly in favor that Jesus “as a priest like Melckizedek” represents his breaking of the barriers of that interceded between humankind and God. Even Lutherans and Catholics who still maintain the necessity of hierarchical ecclesiastical organization for the administration of sacraments do not deny the reality of “universal priesthood” as a Christian doctrine. Even though I don’t affirm their perspective on sacramental administration, I see from where they get their tradition. Since all of traditional Christianity affirms the necessary role we as individual believers have in this priesthood, that we have the role to seek God and exercise the spiritual gifts to His work and glory, I find this traditional ecclesiastical denominational division one that is bridged wonderfully in this doctrinal affirmation. In this believers can find unity.

    I don’t see that the LDS church boldly and clearly denies this doctrine. It just seems to get very, very, very uncomfortable in calling it by the term “priesthood.” Why? This isn’t just a matter of nuance. Priesthood is a very significant term in its meaning. To say we “are just” exercising the gifts of the Spirit but not “the priesthood”, IMO, is to not express confidence in the authority and power from which these gifts and works spring — in God — empowered in the Spirit, interceded by the Lord Jesus, and done to the glory of Father God. That He empowers and trusts us in His work is very literally a priesthood. I also think this term avoidance dehumanizes our gender equality before God in the very foundational, everyday, practical priesthood by which each of us who believe in Him assist to bring about His work, authority and glory.

  15. Just to consider:

    I often wonder if very many members, including those who eventually leave the Church, truly understand the nature of the Gift of the Holy Ghost as a bestowal of access to the power of godliness – which is one definition we use to describe the Priesthood. After all, the command is, “Receive the Holy Ghost” – with the taught caveat that such a reception can provide access to the Holy Ghost (a member of the Godhead) **continually**.

    I am NOT saying that all members who are confirmed “hold the Priesthood”. I’m just saying most of us don’t realize how expansive “the power to act in the name of God” really is. Priesthood administration is important, but it’s only one aspect of it.

  16. Frankly, gifts of the spirit and the HG have always been sufficient for me. The priesthood is administrative and only for the benefit of others, not the holder. So, I don’t really see what the big deal is. I really never have. Those who think women are in any way inferior for not being priesthood holders don’t get it and would demean women anyway. My missionary service was equally valuable in every way to an elder’s. It’s like lamenting that there aren’t enough women window washers or janitors.

  17. Hawk,

    A pat on the back for your service! We always like the Sister Missionaries better than the Elders. Much more focused, more spiritual, more compassionate and had the ability to get into houses no one else could. We just lost our Sister’s recently. We have Elders again. So that means Splits!

  18. Shawn!

    First, great article. I enjoyed reading this and another. You wax tres eloquent, hermano. So, I couldn’t figure out how to send this to just your email account, so hopefully you won’t mind my method. Would love to catch up. You can reach me at

  19. Jeff Spektor said, “I don’t read anything in the scriptures that specifically ties the Gifts of the Spirit to the Priesthood. Clearly the Priesthood exercises certain gifts of the spirit but the fact that Priesthood is conferred upon men does not limit women from possessing their own “gifts of the spirit.”

    The New Testament establishes the “priesthood of the laity” in numerous instances, explicitly and implicitly. As I cited earlier, a strong one is the dialog on the order of the King of Salem, or gentile high priest, Melkizedek, in Hebrews 7. The usage of Melkezidek is not only significant, but the chapter goes further to talk how “the priesthood is changed” and ends with the significant statement,

    27. For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27. who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: [see Lev. 9.7] for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

    Another significant and interconnected symbolism comes in 1 Peter 2 as we are referred to as “living stones” of a new temple and a “chosen generation, a (royal) kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people.” This address is directed to the Body of Christ, which is all believers. In 2 Corinthians 2 we the believers are referred to as the “sweet fragrance” of sacrifice, and in Ephesians 5 Jesus is referred to as the same sweet fragrance — connecting us the believers as the Body of Christ, standing in contrast to the smoke of the burnt offering of the Levitical order. These believers, the Royal Priesthood, are not just males. And not just called for administrative functions we often consider hierarchically contained.

    Hebrews 13 calls us to continually offer our sacrifices of praise. These “spiritual sacrifices” — our spiritual works performed through us — in numerous instances are cited as coming through the Spirit and as function of the Body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12 explicitly connects the gifts of the spirit to the various parts of the Body of Christ.) I’m not sure how one could argue that such spiritual works are disconnected from the teachings of the universal priesthood.

    Furthermore, to support the necessary and valued part of women in this priesthood, we can look at Acts and Romans for diverse examples. Acts 2 , referring back to the Hebrew scripture, cites that “daughters shall prophesy” along with young and old men seeing visions and dreams. In the Gospels we see women anointing and being praised for it, including at the death of our Lord — which is significant because lay people, and especially women, were forbidden from such an act. We see women in Acts and Romans, including extra-biblical historic documents, called as disciples, including Anna, Mary, Prisca, Phoebe, among many other named and unnamed women. We see them anointing the sick and the dead, blessing, prophesying (specifically as prophetesses), teaching, proselytizing, acting as deaconesses.

    Jesus’ new priesthood was not a culture of Pharisaic separateness nor a priesthood confined to lineage, but one of much greater inclusiveness. Just because the later male-only administrative Catholic priesthood (and its tradition) considered these important female priesthood roles to be carried forward only within Orders, we should remember in times earlier these roles had not been quite so strongly separated. The function of lay women — and indeed also lay men — performing and leading vitally within the Body, strengthened by God and empowered by His Spirit and gifts, is not separate from the term of ‘priesthood.’

  20. First of all, I cannot accept the Lutheran concept of the “Priesthood of all Believers.” It does not appear in the Old Testament, where Priesthood was patriarchal and certainly NOT given to all men, let alone “all believers.” It does not appear in the Ancient Church, as organized by the Savior. He called and ordained Apostles as His leaders, holding the Priesthood and administering the ordnances, even after He ascended to Heaven. It did not even appear in the apostate church, after all the Apostles were killed off. The concept of the “Priesthood of all Believers”was well known to have originated with Martin Luther. This was his clear attempt to break from the authoritarian Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. That there might be some scriptures that can be proof-texted to support that concept is of no consequence since the Authority comes from Heavenly Father through His Son, and not from the Bible.

    I continue to submit that gifts of the spirit are not exclusive to Priesthood and of course, Women enjoy them just as men. As for the other scriptures you have quoted, it is very clear. When we have faith in Jesus Christ, repent and are baptized by one having authority, and receive the Holy Ghost, we are His. There is no example in scripture where a woman receives the Priesthood and yet, countless examples and declarations regarding the use of Gift of the Spirit by women. You say that is the “Priesthood of all Believers.” I would say it is the Holy Ghost that we have as a constant companion.

  21. I never understand why some people refuse to accept the gospel for what it is. It is so straightforward that its clarity seems to be a stumbling block for some of us. The idea of extending rights, privileges or authority based on some imagined justification is not only dangerous but is harmful to those who don’t fully understand the gospel or the culture of the church.

    As a convert, one of the great things I loved learning about the gospel was the order and clarity that is provided by a living prophet. Issues like this are not subject to public opinion no matter how filled with lofty ideals one supposes that a notion possesses. To say that women exercise the priesthood is to actually diminish the role they have not just in the church but in society at large. Such a declaration seeks to nullify the tremendous power that women exercise in performing charitable works, the role of primary child rearer and the endless amounts of service that is done each day by humble and righteous servants of God. Such women do not aspire to something to which they are not asked by God to bear. To claim that women must have the priesthood in some capacity is to nullify the work they do because it is tantamount to expressing that serving God is somehow less valid without a priesthood exclamation point behind it.

  22. Jeff (23): Luther never argued for the term “priesthood of all believers”. Never once does the term appear in any of his writings. What he did argue against was the Two Walks [German: StĂ€nde] or Two Classes of Life that had become norm within the Catholic church — where there was a “spiritual world” composed of the ordained priesthood and hierarchy and a “lay world” that was composed of every other believer. Much like the biblical doctrine of grace that he argued had become diminished through the ages, yet was everpresent in the bible that was supposedly championed, he sought reform in emphasis.

    Similarly, using all the the scripture sources which I have cited he argued how all believers have authority conferred on them. Therefore, when a man was ordained to the clergy, authority was not conferred upon him, rather permission by the body to act in the office was. Luther still favored order and a hierarchy — a priesthood — of leadership. What he argued against was the belief they had special authority that raised them as a StĂ€nde above the rest of the believing laity. Luther was right to condemn the perspective that the Catholic Priesthood had become. It had become ahistorical and anathema to the model of the apostolic church. Most importantly his argument was centered on Bible scripture, which had been deemphasized by literate clergy for so long as to have been functionally removed from the minds of the Body — resulting in the perceived and accepted two StĂ€ndes. There is only one spiritual class, world or StĂ€nde before the Lord and the cross. Yet Luther never argued for the “priesthood of all believers” as I believe you are perceiving it, which is more informed by the American Protestant perspective of the last two centuries.

    I appreciate the measure that Luther maintained for order and dislike for anarchy within the Body. And truly in Protestant history, especially from the 18th century forward, we have seen some anarchy result, especially in the meritocratically-oriented United States. Yet in spite of this, or perhaps a hidden virtue of it, the core scripture that informs this doctrine has been upheld by the modern traditions including the Catholic and Lutheran traditons. Yet have they disbanded their clergy? No. Nor do I think they should. Yet it is our duty as the Body to stand aware to abuse, whether in the traditional denominations or by anarchist renegades, of those who would use the authority conferred by the Lord on all believers to usurp authority, position or control and even claim special spiritual privilege.

    I think if you would study this matter greater you could overcome your distaste for referring to this authority all believers bear as the priesthood scripture declares it to be. I am not advocating anarchy, and I respect the denominational traditions that maintain order in the Body, including that of the LDS tradition. I, merely, in the spirit of Luther, think he had it right to remember the Bible in our emphasis. There are not two worlds where authority is conferred. Where organizational models within the Body result differently, that is more a reflection of our cultures but not of Him who we all claim we serve. And, especially, where women do not share leadership roles, I think it wise to remember this is a function of culture, tradition and order, but not to devise silly notions that dismiss or diminish the authority they bear, yes even a priesthood, to be empowered to carry of out work of our Master. Such righteous and spiritually empowered women may not always be ordained clergy, but they certainly are priests of the Lord in their authority.

  23. Luther’s full contribution to this topic really is impressive – and what he taught is strikingly similar to what Joseph created in his day. JfQ’s #26 is a very good summary of Luther’s main points, and it is extremely similar to Mormonism’s big picture of priests and priestesses sharing ordinal authority in the temple, “lay clergy” administering within an order for the individual congregations and all members being endowed with access to the Holy Ghost and its spiritual manifestations.

    It is easy to conflate Luther, Calvin, Wesley and other reformers (to jumble their messages and confuse their primary points), but, frankly, I view Luther as one of the most inspired men since the death of Jesus – and I believe that his inspiration shines brightly when you compare much of what I see as his preparatory work to what was implemented by Joseph.

  24. Just a note: When J.S. organized the RS, it was not open to all of the sisters who were members; it was a select few, about 20. The purpose at that time was to prepare these chosen women for administering temple ordinances to other women attending the temple. Yes, women do hold the Priesthood then and now for this purpose.

  25. tk or others claiming women have the priesthood

    If women hold the priesthood which priesthood is it? Is it the Aaronic or Melchizedek or is there another women’s priesthood that is not named? Also, when is their priesthood conferred upon them and do they have different offices such as deacon, teacher, priest, etc.? To my knowledge, my wife has never received the priesthood so I am curious how she obtained it (she and I were sealed in the temple 20 years ago and I didn’t see it happen there but I admit perhaps she received it during mutual or maybe when I had my back turned). Certainly to make such claims there should be evidence for the statements that you are making or defined ordinances for something of such significant import. My three sons of priesthood age all had specific interviews and rites performed to confer the priesthood upon them. If women hold the priesthood wouldn’t it be valuable if not essential for them to know it so that they can perform their responsibilities correctly and effectively. In addition, shouldn’t the RS teach sisters about the female priesthood so they can understand how to exercise it?

  26. James (29): your understanding of capital-P Priesthood, and particularly the Aaronic/Melkisedek modern delineations are an LDS worldview and don’t have a parallel or support within Christian history, including the Apostolic age. Therefore, I don’t know if all the New Testament support I cited to support the doctrine of the “priesthood of the laity” would be persuasive to you or not. I know that sounds critical to say. I’m saying it to highlight that this is a difference in terminology makes mutual understanding across denominational barriers challenging.

    Still, given that this site is the venue for the discussion, and that I was once a Mormon, I understand the difficulty in separating capital-P Priesthood/clergy from that of the little-p priesthood we all believers in Christ possess. (Or, perhaps, the capitalization should be reversed…) My point was that I think it is significant to use the term ‘priesthood’ to apply to this universal empowerment in Christ’s Body, as I think it gives credit where it is deserved for the good work that is accomplished in Him: to Jesus, and not to the “two worlds” of perception that clergy vs. laity often creates — not only in the LDS faith but also within the larger Christian body. Yet I also appreciate the order and familiarity that many pursuers of Christ have for ecclesial hierarchies. Therefore, my point in addressing the priesthood import of women wasn’t really from that perspective. What role women should have in ordained clergy is another discussion.

    I do think it would be a huge positive to see LDS women’s role within the church described as a function of (little-p) priesthood. It’s [New Testament] biblical. It’s a very important word that shouldn’t be sidestepped to allieve discomfort about encroachment on ordinational tradition. And, I think, it’s good and ennobling human relations, especially because ordinational Priesthood does not create an exalted, spiritual or leadership class. Our Savior is the suffering and triumphant servant of us all. Clergy likewise are also servants of the Body who have special permission and roles but not special authority. I’m not sure that is really that foreign of a concept to the LDS worldview, is it?

  27. “I’m not sure that is really that foreign of a concept to the LDS worldview, is it?”

    No, it’s not – if what you are saying is understood. Sometimes I hate the limits of language.

  28. James Ballou – women do not administer in the offices of the priesthood as men do. Actually, the post doesn’t say that at all. tk has a point about the temple. Most women I have talked to consider temple ordinances and explications to signify female priesthood at least within that context.

  29. I was under the impression that the initial post was submitted in connection within an LDS context. Clearly in the LDS church there is no female priesthood or Priesthood and women do not exercise any such authority. I think learning about other faiths is interesting but I fail to see how applying non-LDS interpretations or information from ex members furthers a discussion on priesthood within the church. Wouldn’t it be more advantageous to rely on the insight of members in good standing at a minimum and better yet those called by God to clarify the finer points of gospel doctrine regarding the priesthood in connection with women.

    Having said that I would not presume to stifle the viewpoints of others but I will be more careful in replying to people and take into account their perspective.

    With that said what is the distinction between priesthood and Priesthood in the LDS church? I have never heard of such a concept so I look forward to reading the reply. Also what, if any doctrine is there to support the distinction? Thanks.

  30. James, you said:

    “I think learning about other faiths is interesting but I fail to see how applying non-LDS interpretations or information from ex members furthers a discussion on priesthood within the church. Wouldn’t it be more advantageous to rely on the insight of members in good standing at a minimum and better yet those called by God to clarify the finer points of gospel doctrine regarding the priesthood in connection with women.”

    I’m not sure where this came from, frankly. Much of the discussion here comes from “members in good standing”, and I (for one) am serving in a position where I have been called partially to “clarify the finer points of gospel doctrine” for members. The various interpretations and perspectives here haven’t claimed that Mormon women “hold the Priesthood” in the classic sense understood by most members (meaning having the authority to administer Priesthood ordinances generally and acting as presiding authorities – although the Relief Society originally was described by Joseph as a quorum); what is being said is that there are things women do that fit the original “priesthood of believers” concept taught by Luther. 1 Peter 2 can be interpreted as applying the term “an holy priesthood” (lower case “p”) to all members, since the chapter is addressed to all converts, and it is this concept (all members working through the power of the Priesthood as “an holy priesthood”) that is a legitimate usage to discuss how women can “exercise Priesthood power”.

    Finally, there is no denying the fact that women perform “Priesthood ordinances” in the temple. There also is no denying that endowed women are “clothed in the Priesthood” – both inside and outside of the temple. They “bear” or “hold” the Priesthood symbolically, at the very least. (I won’t get explicit here; please respect that.) It is this aspect of what occurs in the place we deem most representative of the ideal (and what women take with them when they leave that ideal place) that is intriguing to me – and many others.

    Re-read tk’s #4. There are some interesting quotes there.

    Finally, James, I will reiterate something I said earlier. When a member is confirmed, they have hands laid on their head and are told to “receive the Holy Ghost” – generally with counsel to hearken to the promptings they receive from that member of the Godhead. We believe the Holy Ghost will help us ascertain the will of God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son – meaning that all who are confirmed have access to the will of the Godhead. We literally teach that a member of the Godhead can share God’s will with us *continually*, if we strive to live in harmony with His will for us. Therefore, the ideal is that we act through the direction of the Godhead in everything we do – men and women.

    We speak of “the Priesthood” as the “power and authority to act in God’s name” – and all who are baptized covenant to “take His name upon them” and “keep His commandments”. This means they promise to “act in His name” through the power and authority of the Holy Ghost they have received. That’s not the same as being ordained into the presiding, ordinance administering Priesthood, but it is a pretty good description of Luther’s “priesthood (lower case “p”) of believers” and Paul’s “holy priesthood” that includes men and women – and all baptized children.

  31. Firstly, the “Priesthood of all Believers” is a concept that is embraced by most, if not all of the major Protestant denominations. I check about 20 or so sources on the Internet including most of the “official websites. Martin Luther did originate the concept (in spite of what JFQ says above) using the phrase, “All Christians are Priests.” Of course, he didn’t really include women in that phrase, because, as we all know, at that time, women did not have the same station as men.

    There is a distinct difference between three concepts which are lost in this discussion. The Priesthood (capital P) held by Christ and given to man by ordination and authority, The Power of the Priesthood, which is held jointedly by husband and wife (if the man is properly ordained) or delegated to women, for example, to administer certain ordnances in the Temple, and Gift of the Holy Ghost, which is given to all who are properly baptized and receive the laying on of hands for that gift.

    There is a big difference between holding the Priesthood and administering the Power of the Priesthood by delegation. There is also a link to administering certain keys of the Priesthood (like a calling of Bishop or Stake President) but not actually holding those keys except for the time which they are administered. Same basic concept as what goes on with women as set apart Temple Workers. Same holds true for men in the Temple. You cannot administer those ordnances unless you are set apart to do so.

    So, if you want to describe all that as the “Priesthood of all Believers,” I guess that is ok, but the key here is having the Authority and I do not see that outside the LDS Church. If it were so, then all Churches would be the same and, in my mind that is not the case.

  32. What I am saying is that when you cut through the semantics of the different ways we phrase things, we do teach of a “priesthood of all believers” – even as we also teach of a “Priesthood of ordained men”. We have to be willing to overlook phraseology differences and hold to the unique aspects of the Priesthood ordinal authority that we believe empowers our “priesthood of believers” in a special way, but I believe it is not fair to think that other Christian denominations don’t constitute a “priesthood of believers” in a real and laudable way. We can hold to our own unique Priesthood claim without denigrating in any way their (and our) priesthood claim, imho.

    In a real and important way, this is one very good example of Joseph Smith’s and Gordon B. Hinckley’s belief that others can bring every good thing (their understanding of the priesthood of believers) with them when they join the Church and have more added to it (our concept of an ordained Priesthood). We needn’t throw out one just because we have the other, imo.

  33. Ray,

    It is not my intention to denigrate any one else’s beliefs, but to support the concepts of the restored church. I would be surprised if you really thought that all things are equal.

    It is, and has been, my intention to have a reasonable dialog about the subject. As I have said all along, one of the things that brought my to the LDS Church was the more logical explanation for things in the bible. That I never really understood where the other Christian denominations were coming from. In many ways, that is still true for me.

  34. James #33:

    “I was under the impression that the initial post was submitted in connection within an LDS context.”

    Yes, it was/is.

    “Clearly in the LDS church there is no female priesthood or Priesthood and women do not exercise any such authority.”

    I simply disagree with this. Other commentators have already dealt with this subject, so I won’t repeat their arguments here. All I will say is, listen to what’s said in the Temple. That language is unambiguous, as far as I am concerned.

    “Wouldn’t it be more advantageous to rely on the insight of members in good standing at a minimum and better yet those called by God to clarify the finer points of gospel doctrine regarding the priesthood in connection with women.”

    James, don’t assume that just because I espouse a point of view that is different than yours that I am necessarily not “in good standing.” Such assumptions can lead to nasty prejudices. If you had taken the time to read anything else I have written here on this site before making such an accusation, you would see how ill-informed your statement is.

  35. It seems that the phrase “priesthood of all believers” can be used many different ways. Does it mean that there is no need for a liturgical priesthood (as most protestant religions would say, frankly out of expediency)? Does it mean that priesthood = spiritual gifts (although many protestant churches have abandoned the concept of spiritual gifts as a basic tenet)? Does it mean that all believers have access to the blessings and ordinances of the priesthood?

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t see the need for female priesthood that is administrative. We could probably cut back on how many members have that type of priesthood and not be at a loss at all. If there were large societies of women living without men (which wouldn’t last for more than a generation by my reckoning, despite what people may think of SSM’s equality), that would make a case for it. As for spiritual gifts, I’ve got plenty of those. I can be healed by my faith, with or without the laying on of hands, and I have access to the guidance of the HG. So-called “leadership” roles in the church are administrative and necessary, just like janitors and window-washers. Not having access to those callings isn’t prohibiting me from anything but more work.

  36. Thank you for such a beautiful post. I have enjoyed many of the respectful comments on this thread as well. At the heart of much debate as to women and priesthood power – I am always drawn to this one absolute eternal principle – and it is this:

    Faith is THE power of the priesthood.

    With this in mind, little debate is necessary…

    Wonderful discussion:-)


  37. Hawk,

    I think you are right as to where the two POVs diverge. We have an organized Priesthood where most protestant denominations do not.

  38. My reference to listening to members in good standing was in direct response to someone who indicated that he/she was an ex-Mormon and was posting on the validity of female priesthood. Perhaps before being so quick to presume to refer me to read the previous posts, those who provided such direction to me would be so good as to follow their own instruction.

    Moreover if my statements made you feel as though you were accused personally then perhaps some soul searching is in order. I mentioned no names but it was clear that some felt the reproach not from me from within themselves. No one in good standing has need to presume I meant them because no such inference was made.

    The evidence in this matter is that (temple ordinances referring to an afterlife notwithstanding)there is no female priesthood or Priesthood on this Earth in the church. The great lengths and parsing of phrases that many use to promote such false doctrine shows the very weakness of the proposition. Were it not so there would be ample evidence among the writings and teachings of modern day prophets. Gathering scraps to form support for such a notion is not in keepimg with God’s House of Order. There simply is no evidence and straining at the point should surely help provide a clue. The scarcity of evidence proferred through choosing a single word such as quorum and extrapolating meaning is better evidence of the fallacy of such an idea. As faithful Latter-day Saints We should take as a matter of principle that when we must rely on interpretations from other faiths and non members that our point is not only invalid but smacks of influence from the adversary. Again I am not speaking to anyone in particular nor even of this specific issue on this point but provide that standard as a yardstick for measuring the distance one has strayed from the Iron Rod.

  39. James,

    With all due respect, we strive to have civil conversations here about the topics we post on. Not a finger pointing contest as to who is more faithful and holding tighter to the iron rod. That is better left to our own introspection. We invite all points of view as long as people are nice and respectful. I am sure you can respect that.


  40. Post

    “Moreover if my statements made you feel as though you were accused personally then perhaps some soul searching is in order. I mentioned no names but it was clear that some felt the reproach not from me from within themselves. No one in good standing has need to presume I meant them because no such inference was made.”

    Oh, please.

  41. James was taking a shot at me. It hit and I understood. And fair enough, I am not Mormon. And I do present my contributions here from an Emerging, transformationalist, missional, non-denominational, evangelical-leaning Christian perspective who still tries to have righteous sympathy and interfaith dialogue with Latter-day Saints. I know by definition my being a comfortable former Mormon in perspective is challenge and fear-provoking enough for some.

    I liked what Shawn had originally posted because, first, it describes a true experience that I think is fair to say all contributing here have observed first-hand in our own lives. I don’t think Shawn is being heretical in any sense to LDS orthodoxy to describe such ministering of women as “priesthood.” I tried to divert what I’ve posted on this matter from issues of gender within the ordinal Priesthood, toward that of the “priesthood of the laity” because I think that herein we find support from the Bible and Christian tradition for what Shawn described. I wanted to add an underline to the validity and significance of what I think he expressed.

    I am flummoxed why the doctrine of the priesthood of the laity so challenges the allegiance some LDS may have to their hierarchical Priesthood. I think the LDS tradition is admirable in the Relief Society organization and mission. I just think it is regrettable when some LDS persons, men especially, get their authoritarian defenses up to describe this “laity” ministry as “priesthood.” As I said before, “priesthood” is a very significant term we shouldn’t sidestep nor dismiss.

    Is the Luther argument really that threatening: that authority in God’s Work is bestowed on all believers, but that order in role and administration of ordinances/sacraments by the clergy is still important even if a matter of permission and culture, if not unique or privileged authority? What I tried to make a point is that Luther did not “invent” the doctrine — it’s easily observed within the Bible and apostolic history — nor did he coin the terminology — that came after. (Just like Calvin wasn’t quite a “Calvinist”.) Yet, Luther was not in opposition to an ordained clergy nor am I. Even in Protestant tradition there is still administrative Priesthood order. For LDS not to recognize that I think is just a matter of ignorance, and I hope becoming less so a matter of willing and head-strong prejudice. Protestants may call this Priesthood by more New Testament terms, frame them within distinctly informed Protestant culture, and define “offices” more by scope of roles and permissions, but the belief and function of a capital-P Priesthood is still there.

    What Luther did was to observe, revolutionize and formulate an explanation for what had occurred within the Roman Catholic Church — the distinct and unfortunate separation of spiritual worlds (of access to God) between clergy and laity and confront directly the matter of authority. It’s an important question as authority informs the validity of God’s Work. So the communication barrier starts as a matter of parsing what is “doctrine” — doctrine is both our reasoned explanation for scripture but also the scripture content itself. But I suspect, even in my effort to recognize the validity of Christ’s work, His priesthood of all believers, in the lives of dedicated Latter-day Saints of both genders, the barrier may be the one of tossing down the usual gauntlets that prevent unity in the Body between traditional Christians and LDS. We creedal Christians end up fighting over the term “Christian” and dismiss Christ’s work among Latter-day Saints. And Latter-day Saints, similarly, dismiss the ultimate authority of Christ’s Work in our Body, and lay claim to “only Trueness.”

    If that’s where we’ve ended up again, then this helps inform the barriers to my hopeful ideal of lessening the religious apartheid that exists in my life and community between LDS and other Christians.

  42. JFQ,

    It may be, as Ray stated, just a matter of semantics and terminology. It may be what Hawk and I have agreed on, which what you are calling priesthood, we are calling “the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

    As for Luther, you say he did not “invent” the doctrine. But most of my sources, non-LDS, seem to say that he did espouse it as “All Christian are Priests in direct response to the RCC structure.” And I do disagree that it is part of the Bible and apostolic tradition. The tradition, going back to the Old Testament, speaks to a established pattern of hierarchy and structure.

    The difference, I think, is while the protestant tradition allows for an ordained clergy, it does not require it in the same sense that the LDS Church and the Catholic Church do, in order to show a direct link with the organization as set up by Jesus. the RCC is not quite in line but, as you know the LDS claim the church is patterned directly after Christ’s organization.

  43. Jeff(46):

    I’m not so sure one should dilute the discussion down to “just” semantics and terminology. I think such are important. But I also agree with you that there may be more agreement on the core of what I raised, and particularly what Shawn raised in terms of the LDS laity being empowered in God to accomplish His Work. I’m glad we see who is behind it.

    Because the male ordinational Priesthood is pretty much the only framework by which LDS understand the term, despite the clues within Temple Mormonism describing otherwise, I think there is a significant nuance and benefit the faith would derive to look to the New Testament, as Luther did, to enlarge what had changed between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant when it comes to priesthood. (In this forum, I am a bit surprised to find resistance to this context.)

    Do you read Hebrews, 1 Peter and Corinthians as they teach about the new priesthood, new temple, new covenant, spiritual gifts, body of Christ and dismiss what Luther invited us all the reflect more diligently upon? Furthermore, how do you explain in the Gospels, Acts and Romans women being called into the core discipleship, teaching, functioning as deaconess, prophesying as prophetesses, anointing the sick and the dead, etc.? How can you say this is not part of the apostolic tradition? Do you think (little-p) “priesthood” is a renegade, imprecise or heretical term to describe what the epistles teach and what the historical narrative records — especially where it concerns women? (I’m not talking ordinal clergy, here.)

    I agree that within denominational traditions that ordained clergy does have a different emphasis, but I see this more as a reflection of denomination not Gospel. (I recognize others may disagree.) Hence I don’t get too bothered with the variety, though I do side more with Protestantism’s sola scriptura emphasis for answering the question of authority — and what is meant by the “new priesthood” “new temple” and “Body of Christ”. I also admire the balance in emphasis that the RCC has stuck on matters of Priesthood clergy and priesthood laity even though I’m not Catholic. I think theirs is a healthy nuance.

    Obviously, the modern LDS claim to be “patterned directly after Christ’s organization” is to impose an order and unity that never has existed within the Body once the group of believers and disciples grappled and worked to perform the Savior’s Great Call. (That’s not to say such a “unified organization” isn’t a noble ideal, and not to say that the Catholic/Orthodox denominations don’t have some great things to show for aspiring to that ideal, but it certainly is historically specious, to my mind, to insist on a total apostasy and claim modern Mormonism represents a “restored” organization. “Reimagined,” “reinterpreted” or “refreshed” might be more accurate, and polite, terms.)

  44. Jeff Spector

    I’m not sure about the issue you are raising so if you would like to clarify your point I would appreciate it (by email preferably so that we don’t get this subject off on a tangent). My intent was to respond to issues that had been raised with respect to my previous post. I made no suggestion about anyone being further away from the Iron Rod than I myself am – in fact my own fallibility is something that I fully acknowledge. If there are specific analysis that are prohibited on the site please direct me to them so that I can familiarize myself with the guidelines. In addition, if you have a specific objections to a stylistic method I have used feel free to contact me via email and please be precise. If my remarks were interpreted as uncivil that was certainly not my intent so if I offended you or anyone else with a remark please allow me to apologize for the offense. I want to engage in an exchange that is meaningful and substantive so I am open to your advice on which points are considered inappropriate. Thanks.

  45. Just for Quix

    I am sorry if you viewed my statement as taking a shot at you. My point was that non LDS sources are inherently inferior to LDS sources when discussing LDS doctrine. If you found my response to your citing Luther as defensive then I failed to communicate my point effectively. As a former Lutheran I appreciate the work done by the great reformer and recognize that without him the spread of the restored gospel would have been significantly more difficult.

    What I was trying to point out was the idea that we observe in the church that relates to the reliability or relevance of various sources. As a former member you no doubt know that the words of a live prophet are more relevant than those of a dead prophet. Moving along that idea it stands to reason that the words of an LDS authority have more weight and more relevance than a non LDS authority. I am not saying that there is no value in such writings or observations as many general authorities quote C.S. Lewis who, despite not having the advantage of the restored gospel wrote great truths and provided tremendous insight into the nature and workings of Christianity. That said, members of the church would not be well served by referring to Lewis when discussing important doctrinal points where modern day revelation or direction has been given on a particular topic.

    I do take issue with non-members, particularly former members who attempt to define doctrinal points. The reason it concerns me is that misunderstandings can lead to considerable heartache. If a member of the church was seeking guidance on a doctrinal issue on a site called Mormon Matters they could be easily confused by non-members attempting to define LDS doctrine. I don’t say that with any animosity I am simply making an observation. Many converts struggle as I did attempting to grasp the vastness of the gospel and reach out regularly for assistance. I was given considerable incorrect information in the years following my conversion which made things extremely difficult for me. Because of this I am naturally zealous in the defense of the church which sometimes, as in this case, has come across poorly. For this I apologize.

  46. James,

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

    This is a direct response to you because you posted a direct response to me. I am not claiming that your wife received the priesthood when she went through the temple. (Please reread my post #28 also my post #4 for context) However, ask your wife, who performed the initiatory work for her and other women in the temple. These women in the temple who perform these ordinances have been given Priesthood authority to perform the initiatory ordinances. Having this authority does not mean they have keys, which is separate; however Melchizedek Priesthood authority has been delegated to women for the performing of these initiatory ordinances to women. That is all my post is referencing nothing more nothing less.

  47. James (52): No worries. I didn’t take offense. Cool?

    As to your statement, “As a former member you no doubt know that the words of a live prophet are more relevant than those of a dead prophet.” I don’t think that is true now nor did I ever think it in my adult life as a Latter-day Saint. I have long admired, probably because I’m “wired” this way, the story of the Bereans in Acts 17. They actively received the Word with the Spirit but went home and studied it out with scripture. Their thoughtful (and skeptical?) nature was not criticized by Paul. Instead they were praised as “noble.”

    The rest of your argument doesn’t follow with me, though I appreciate your perspective. I never could quite reconcile what made something ultimately a trustworthy and authoritative LDS source — even ‘prophethood.’ But I still was and am an avid reader seeking out different thoughts when it comes to faith and religion. That doesn’t mean that I devalued an LDS argument, living or dead, just because something was contradictory with what seemed sensible to me. But neither did I buy the de facto “living trumps the dead” argument either. That seems more like public relations management than faith and the pursuit of God.

    Still, I appreciate your skepticism if you perceive I am trying to define LDS doctrine from inappropriate sources. Where I state LDS doctrine, I try to do so honestly from within the LDS framework as I know it. Yet I do often present Christian theology and biblical exegesis as a point of making it, if not sympathetic, persuasive and possibly bridge-building for interfaith purposes, at least a little better understood and worthwhile for discussion.

    In the end, I probably don’t contribute anything worthwhile for any except kindred spirits “wired” similarly as me. We kindred may not believe the same, but it is enjoyment enough to think through my own thinking by writing and see what holes, flaws, responses, whatever, comes of it though the dialog of others.

  48. JfQ – “As a former member you no doubt know that the words of a live prophet are more relevant than those of a dead prophet.” That’s funny because it was the exact same quote that I saw in James’ note that I saw as being out of whack. James, I would just caution you that this statement is more a cultural belief than actual doctrine. Remember that the BOM and much of the NT is written for those of us “in the last days” very specifically, and is extremely relevant to us. Also, living prophets are unlikely to re-state things that don’t require clarification but are still totally relevant.

  49. hawkgrrrl

    The idea that the words of a living prophet are certainly more relevant than those of a dead prophet is not simply a cultural issue – it is dogmatic. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is actually built on that concept. Examine if you will the restoration of the gospel wherein a living prophet (Joseph Smith) restored the gospel and provided guidance on the depth and breadth of key points, restored ordinances and established organization. He even revised certain texts providing clarity and correction where necessary. It is hard to argue that there was a dead prophet who possessed more influence and relevance than Joseph Smith did during his life.

    I understand what you mean by saying that it is a cultural issue but I think you are mistaken given the counsel of the brethren who have definitely established the fact that the words of living prophets take precedence over the words dead prophets. The church focus, initiative and direction is defined by who the living prophet is and what his current counsel is. Take for example the initiative by President Hinckley to have every member read the Book of Mormon in a given time frame and his expansion of Temples. This was clearly a manifestation of the point I was making. Another example is what had been revealed by President Kimball regarding blacks receiving the priesthood. Go back further and review the direction provided by President Snow and the issue of tithing. The statement I made is not simply cultural issue it is even larger than doctrine – it’s fundamental.

    There is certainly an abundance of information that is available and useful for us written in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon written by dead prophets that I acknowledge is important. However, when seeking direction on issues that confront church members at this time or for clarification on such issues as women holding the priesthood we should be taking our counsel from President Monson more than any previous prophet. For example, President Monson has provided the direction for how the church views homosexual marriage and has made it very clear what church members should be doing in response to efforts that attempt to redefine marriage. His words are more relevant and more important for us now than even referring back to the Proclamation given not long ago of which he was a part though not the prophet. Having a living prophet is important for the church and for gospel because it provides clarity in the time we live about issues that may become murky due to a change in society or a cry for better understanding.

  50. tk

    Having been a temple worker I can state unequivocally that women never are delegated the priesthood nor do they perform rites that are required to be performed by someone holding the priesthood. Everything that must be done by a member of the priesthood in the temple is done by a man.

    It is important to examine things not so much for what we want them to be but for what they actually are. Without any doctrinal evidence to support the idea I fail to see how or why it is even a point of confusion. I understand how this issue could be frustrating for some who want women to hold the priesthood but it should not be for those who are simply examining how church responsibilities are assigned. Consider that if women did hold the priesthood wouldn’t we all be taught about it. Would God make it a mystery for the sisters of the church to have to unlock and decipher? If so, what would be the point of holding such an important truth in such enigmatic coverings.

    The evidence from what we are taught by LDS sources (which are the authority on this matter) is that no women hold the priesthood in the temple or without in this Earthly existence. It is a responsibility that men bear alone. Having said that I know that my wife’s influence on how the priesthood is exercised is very significant and should not be minimized but I am addressing only the actual issue of the bearer of the priesthood.

    I must also say that it is curious to me why anyone would attempt to convince others (in the church or not) that women hold the priesthood. Such a proposal is baffling especially given the logical contortions that must be done to support such an idea. I am very curious as to what the motive is for making the claim? I ask this in all sincerity.

  51. James, we are hung up on the use of the phrase “hold the priesthood” – which I don’t think anyone here is saying women do **in the traditional sense of that phrase**. Let me try one more time to say it a little differently, but first realize this.

    Shawn said in the original post:

    “Before going any further, let me say that I don’t have the stomach for yet another long-winded (and assuredly acrimonious) debate about whether, and to what extent, LDS women hold the Priesthood, and whether they should be included in ecclesiastical leadership positions. Such posts are legion on the Bloggernacle, and I have nothing new to add on the subject here.”

    To respect that statement, this is my last word on this specific issue.

    I also have been a temple worker. I have tried hard to distinguish the way that women are endowed with power through the Priesthood that they then can exercise – and I was very careful not to go into any detail that would be inappropriate to discuss here. Just because I won’t share that detail in an open forum like this, doesn’t mean it is not real.

    Let me be perfectly clear:

    I don’t “want women to hold the Priesthood” in the traditional sense. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with the way that the Priesthood operates in the Church. In fact, I am convinced it is inspired, especially as I look around at far too many men in the world today. Nothing I have said disputes that or challenges the Church in any way.

    All I am saying is that even our baptized and confirmed children are able to “act in the name of God” in a very real and powerful way – and that is exactly how we normally define the Priesthood. My firm belief is that once you are blessed through the Priesthood in any official, ordinal way, you carry a residual portion of that Priesthood, if you will, that allows you to act in the name of God. Frankly, I don’t see how that can be disputed, given the actual wording of the ordinances themselves and our understanding of the covenants we make through them.

  52. Perhaps it helps to say that all things done with the Priesthood are done in the Spirit, but not all Spiritual gifts must be done in the Priesthood. When we are baptized and become members of the Church, we take a place within the hierarchy of the priesthood (as mentioned in this scripture, for example.) To become a member, one must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is the point at which one is ordained to that gift and can then exercise the right to wield Spiritual gifts under the authority of God (dependant upon worthiness), as opposed to simply being influenced through the Spirit from time to time.

    From my understanding, we are not ordained to anything, in or out of the temple, except in the offices of the Priesthood as typically understood. Even in the temple, I believe we are making covenants to become, not to be. I don’t understand much about one’s calling and election being made sure, but I imagine it is an exception and represents the point at which we are rather than are learning to become. As has been mentioned before, anyone who is a member can be given the authority to administer in Priesthood ordinances by one who has both the keys and the authority to do so. This is reflected in the doctrine that those not of the lineage of Aaron may act in that priesthood so long as one who is a high priest in the Melchizedek priesthood authorizes it.

    The Priesthood authority is the authority to act in God’s name, whereas the Spirit might move someone to act in His stead. There is a difference in this. I think we have lost some of the nuance of acting in another’s name in the course of daily thought, though I imagine the lawyers of the group may understand a little better. Essentially, acting in someone’s name means you can make decisions as if you were that person, where acting in a person’s stead means you do what they would do, were they there. It is a subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless.

    At any rate, the things that most describe here as women “holding the priesthood” are actually, as has been said to one point or another, gifts of the Spirit which they can have as members of the Church. It is parallel to, but distinct from being ordained to a Priesthood office. It is neither greater than or less than the Priesthood, merely different than it. A member with the Spirit may pray a prayer of blessing, but only one with authority may pronounce a blessing upon a person. I think that we are all mostly in agreement to what women can and cannot do, despite the argument, because we are getting caught in terminology rather than the meaning behind the words.

  53. I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. Though I’m not a member of the LDS Church, I do try to keep myself informed of what’s happening. I find it so awesome that you spoke so highly of your wife. That’s a sign to me that the two of you have a wonderful marriage. God has truly smiled upon you and your family. I’d like to offer my own prayer on here for y’all, if I may.
    Heavenly Father, I pray that you continue to smile upon Shawn and his family. Matthew 12:25 says that a house divided against itself cannot stand. I pray that you give Shawn and his family the strength to stand no matter what comes their way. I pray that the Holy Ghost will continue to use this couple for YOUR glory. Father, YOUR word says in Proverbs 28:20 that a faithful man shall abound with blessings. I pray that, according to Ephesians 1:3, that Shawn and his family be blessed with ALL spiritual blessings. I pray, Father, that as YOUR spiritual blessings fall upon this family that those around them will see the physical manifestation of YOU in their lives. Proverbs 22:6 says to train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. I thank you Father that their child(ren) are being taught YOUR ways. I stand on YOUR word that, according to Isiah 55:11…So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Thank you Father for listening to my prayer. In JESUS name, Amen.

    I would, however, like to now give my 2cents worth (if I may). I don’t want to start a debate or anything, just give my opinion. It seems as though some have forgotten about the two women Prophetesses that I know were mentioned in the Bible: Deborah (Judges 4) and Anna (Luke 2:36). Also, don’t forget that God even used a donkey to get HIS point across.

  54. Deedee – welcome! It’s nice to have another perspective added to the mix, and I always love having more women commenters.

    The key difference in how LDS view the priesthood (compared to other Christian sects) is that we usually distinguish between spiritual gifts that we all have as members of the church and the administrative offices of the priesthood (more formal like the Roman Catholic version of the Priesthood). We believe that priesthood authority was lost on the earth as a result of apostacy (many protestant churches agree). Where we differ is that we believe that it was restored. Because protestant churches are not restorationist, their organizations do not have this form of administrative priesthood. The term priesthood is more generally applied in that context to mean spiritual gifts or a “calling” to preach rather than an official administrative role. But, the general definition of priesthood (performing action in the name of God) can be applied to all forms of doing God’s will. It is just not how we normally use the term in an LDS context because of the more formal priesthood roles. Shawn’s post was a nice reminder that we believe all members can do great things in the name of God, regardless of official capacity, and that the administrative roles aren’t always the most effective method for God to do His work.

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