Motherhood and Priesthood–Take 57!

May 21, 2006 | 151 comments
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I think that motherhood and priesthood are parallel; I know that many of you don’t. And one argument against my position that I see frequently is that you need the cooperation of the opposite sex (not to mention the blessing of fertility) to be a mother but not to be a priesthood holder. I’ve never found that argument persuasive, but until now, I haven’t been able to articulate why.

Today I observed a teacher of Valiant 11 boys write on the board priesthood functions. And as I looked at his list, I’m thinking: wow, if you weren’t a father, you would never (or rarely) do these: baptize a child, give a baby a name and a blessing, bless a family member, etc. And thus the kernel of my idea: priesthood is largely exercised in the context of fatherhood. (Gee, it doesn’t sound like an incredibly brilliant insight when I put it that way, does it?) Now, my thesis here is still in the trial balloon stage, so I’ll use this post to run it up the flag poll and see if anyone salutes (or just attacks me for mixing metaphors). Let me pre-empt what I imagine will be some of the responses to my idea:

(1) “Yeah, but what about all the ordaining and setting apart that bishops and stake presidents do?” To which I reply: When was the last time you met a bishop or stake president who wasn’t a father? While fatherhood may not be a de jure requirement for these roles, it appears to be a de facto one.

(2) “What about home teachers, etc., who give blessings to their home teach-ees? They aren’t necessarily fathers.” True, but not something that undermines my thesis. I’m not sure if my husband is typical, but over ten years of marriage, I think he’s been asked to give maybe 2 or 3 blessings to home teachees, etc. In other words, he’s used his priesthood outside of the family context with about the same frequency as one of my married-but-childless friends has, if you will, ‘exercised her motherhood’ by babysitting my children.

(3) “What about the Aaronic Priesthood passing the sacrament and such?” Ah, you’ve got me there. Perhaps I should dismiss this as the preparatory priesthood and confine my argument to the Melchizedek priesthood. Or perhaps this is the place to acknowledge my general, ongoing discomfort with the disconnect between the roles YW and YM play in the Church (a discomfort that does not exist for me if we were discussing adult men and women in the Church).

(4) “What about the worthiness issue? You don’t have to be worthy to have a baby, but you do to hold the priesthood.” Maybe we should start thinking about unworthy mothers as exercising unrighteous dominion. While no one interviews you for worthiness before you become a mother, the fact remains that a man could unworthily exercise the priesthood much as a woman could unworthily mother. In other words, both men and women have the same opportunity to decide to worthily or unworthily exercise their stewardship. And, much as a worthy male brings something to the exercise of priesthood that an unworthy one doesn’t, a worthy woman brings something to her mothering that an unworthy one doesn’t. Again, there is no de jure worthiness requirement for motherhood, but there certainly is a de facto one if we are thinking of the kind of motherhood that the Church promotes.

To sum: A worthy male Melchizedek priesthood holder has a roughly equivalent opportunity to exercise his priesthood as a worthy female non-mother has to exercise her motherhood; that is, occassionally a little around the edges, but not very much. Motherhood and (Melchizedek) priesthood are equivalent roles in the Church, in that they are primarily exercised within the nuclear family, meaning that a childless male is about as cut off from the blessings and responsibilities of priesthood as a childless woman is from the blessings and responsibilities of motherhood.

What think ye?

151 Responses to Motherhood and Priesthood–Take 57!

  1. D-Train on May 21, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    Julie, your thoughts are helpful, but I think they’re ultimately misguided on this one. I certainly do agree that priesthood is often exercised in the context of fatherhood, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ll list a few of my misgivings here:

    1) “Mother” is a status conferred on women who bear or adopt children, “Father” is a status conferred on men who assist in the procreation or adoption of children. Deacon, teacher, priest, elder, high priest, apostle, etc. represent other statuses (grammar?) given to the priesthood. In essence, men are “dad” and “Elder”, while women are just “mom”. The status of a priesthood holder is in no way dependent on being a father, even if its use can be limited in practice for non-fathers.

    2) The “are we not all mothers?” discourse that was discussed over at Zelophehad’s Daughters exemplifies this point. The reason this discourse is there is because motherhood is considered the ultimate role of women in the Church. We can argue in normative terms about whether this is true, and you would certainly be right to respond that the ultimate role of men in the Church seems to be as priesthood holders. In this sense, I agree with you that priesthood and motherhood are somewhat analogous. I would respond, however, that this discourse about motherhood represents a pretty shoddy attempt to dodge the real issue: the role of men in the priesthood is given to all men that are willing to take it, while the role of mother requires a man’s cooperation and blessing. Women without children may be “future mothers” or “mothers in waiting”, but they are NOT mothers any more than a “prospective elder” actually holds the Melchezidek priesthood. The problem of women needing men to fulfill their ultimate role in the temporal Church is exacerbated by our tendency to rhetorically place the woman in a supporting role rather than as an actor with her own agency and destiny. I agree that the Church also teaches that we’ll all eventually need someone to help us reach our fullest potential, but the woman’s need sure seems to be more immediate and severe, at least in this life.

    3) The most logical counterpart for motherhood is fatherhood. Just because they’re most alike on the surface doesn’t mean that they represent the best analogy for one another, but it does indicate that we need a pretty darn good reason to pick something else.

    4) The priesthood is not an essentially familial office. Motherhood and fatherhood are both inherently about families, while the priesthood doesn’t have to be. Many functions of the priesthood are used within the family, but the priesthood itself is about authority to perform ordinances and a hierarchical order within God’s kingdom. It is also very easy to imagine the family without the priesthood (even a conventional family, with a mom, a dad, three kids, and a dog, given the vast world of good families outside of Mormonism). The priesthood can similarly be divorced from the family: we just need people to baptize, perform other ordinances, and be authorized to organize the Church and receive revelations for those within their stewardship. Motherhood and fatherhood, on the other hand, can’t be divorced.

    I agree wholly with your suggestions regarding young people in the Church and the idea of worthiness to exercise one’s stewardship, whether it involves the priesthood or not. However, I see the answer to empowering women within the Church as a real confrontation of the gender inequalities present in our doctrine, rather than our present approach of placing rhetorical flourishes on traditional gender roles. Julie, I want to emphasize that I don’t think this is what you’re doing, but a lot of the “we’re all mothers” rhetoric really gets to me.

  2. Jim F. on May 21, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Julie, isn’t that true that in an eternal perspective priesthood is only about fatherhood? I don’t see any bishops, stake presidents, etc. in the Celestial Kingdom. But, then, in the Celestial Kingdom, motherhood is also only about priesthood, right? D-Train is right about the temporal world–which leaves us with a lot of issues to resolve–but not about the eternal one.

  3. Mark Butler on May 21, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    There is a very good case to be made for deriving the ultimate authority of the Priesthood from Fatherhood. Who is the highest Priesthood authority? None other than Heavenly Father.

    What is the true name of the Melchizedek Priesthood? Why none other than “the Holy Priesthood after the order of the *Son* of God.”.

    Not the priesthood after the order of divinely appointed persons, but priesthood after the order of divine *Sonship*.

    So our first conclusion should be, that the Melchizedek Priesthood is simply a matter of representation for the authority of Father. The Messiah is the *anointed one* – anointed why? – in recognition of delegated authority. The Son speaks on behalf of the Father by divine investiture.

    Now where does the Father get his authority, or rather what legitimizes it? His very name implies it – Fatherhood. And how does the Son become like unto the Father – by serving in the same role – loving sacrifice and service, thus becoming the Father of our salvation.

    So thus we see that though this principle of Patriarchal Priesthood is not in full effect here on the earth, the only known ultimate legitimizers of divine authority are associated with familial relationships – leaving the road wide open for an account of the authority and respect owed to Motherhood as a more fundamental aspect of salvation than mere administrative delegation seventeen steps removed from a Father.

    Indeed, the doctrine of sealings, the historical practice of the Patriarchal order, the doctrine of the House of Israel and the children of Abraham, prophecies about the roles of the House of Ephraim and the House of Judah, the doctrine of birthright by faithfulness, family based government down through the ages, including rules of inheritance and presidency, all favor the ultimate primacy of family based government over appointed authority.

    Now it is true that is not the way things are run now – but by all indications it is the way it will be. In heaven it is ultimately the Patriarchal Priesthood that will bear sway, not the Melchizedek – which, like the Aaronic, should be seen as an earthly expedient. And whereever Fatherhood rules by the proper principles of Priesthood authority (cf. D&C 121) is there is Motherhood.

  4. Lynnette on May 21, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    You’ve made some thought-provoking points, particularly about the ways in which both priesthood and motherhood might be talked about in terms of “worthiness.” But I think a real disparity nonetheless remains in that all worthy men have the opportunity to hold the priesthood, but the same can’t be said for all worthy women about motherhood. I, a single woman without children, really can’t exercise my “motherhood” in the way that a single man can exercise his “priesthood.” A childless man may have fewer opportunities to use his priesthood, but he’s nonetheless more than a potential or future priesthood-holder. (My perspective on this may admittedly be a bit biased by the years I’ve spent in singles wards, where single, childless men do in fact have numerous opportunities to use their priesthood.) And while bishops are usually (but not always) also fathers, I don’t see that as being at all connected to their ability to use their priesthood in the context of that calling.

    I do like the connections you make between priesthood as it’s often exercised and fatherhood; it makes me realize that I might be less bothered by the situation if priesthood were simply about what fathers contributed to their families. (I’ll have to think about that more.) But where I see the parallel breaking down is that motherhood (or fatherhood) is a particular relationship you have with certain people. Priesthood, on the other hand, can potentially exercised in the context of a wide number of relationships, even if in practice that scope turns out to be fairly limited.

  5. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 21, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    Julie, I think this works reasonably well in describing the ministering functions of priesthood. However, I don’t think it makes a dent in explaining why all the administrative functions of the Church belong to men–there just isn’t any reason why father/ward clerk is a more likely pairing than mother/ward clerk. (Not that I’m agitating to be called as ward clerk!!)

  6. Allison on May 21, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    “When was the last time you met a bishop or stake president who wasn’t a father? While fatherhood may not be a de jure requirement for these roles, it appears to be a de facto one.”

    We were in a CA ward that had a single (never been married) bishop. He was a Levite.

    “a childless male is about as cut off from the blessings and responsibilities of priesthood as a childless woman is from the blessings and responsibilities of motherhood”

    On missions and in Young Single Adult wards, unmarried Melchizedek priesthood holders regularly give blessings, perform ordinations, set ward members apart for callings, etc.

  7. J. Stapley on May 21, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    Julie, you are fundementally mischaracterizing the Priesthood. The ordinances you cite are only the thin veneer that covers the priesthood…moreover, righteous women have also been able to participate in the ordinances of: healing, blessing and grave dedication. Moreover, families used to have to have the ward elders bless their babies – it is not a father’s duty. I think missionaries are the greates example. Here, men have the Melchezidek priesthood and do tons of ordinances in a capacity other than father.

    KHH, is very much correct. The priesthood is more about governing than anything else.

    Despite Sister Dews views to the contrary, women are not “foreordained” to be mothers like men are to be priesthood holders. They are foreordained to be Priestesses and Queens.

  8. Julie M. Smith on May 21, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    D-Train, thanks for your thoughtful comment. (And thanks for numbering your thoughts! I’ll respond point by point.)

    1. I”m not sure that ‘parity of titles’ constitutes the best criteria by which we might judge whether motherhood and priesthood are parallel. But in any case, maybe I’m weird about this, but I do tend to characterize mothers as follows: new mom (one child under one year), mother of young children (preschoolers, regardless of what other age kids she has), mother of school aged children, mother of teens, empty nest mothers. Again, you don’t get a worthiness interview before your children are allowed to turn 13 (oy!), but there does seem to be a similar progression.

    2. I, too, am not enamored of the ‘all women are mothers’ theology, but what I was trying to show in this post was _not_ that all women are mothers but that all men are _not_ (full) priesthood-exercisers unless they are fathers.

    3. I know that the etymological similarity makes a motherhood-fatherhood parallel irresistable, but I think it is flawed nonetheless. The Church (partially) defines motherhood as follows: in an ideal situation, the motherhood of young children precludes the pursuit of a full-time career on the part of the mother. This, obviously, is not the case for fatherhood, which calls the motherhood-fatherhood parallel into suspicion.

    4. You are, of course, correct as you describe less-than-ideal circumstances. But I’m not talking about those. In ideal circumstances, priesthood is no more or less divorce-able from the family than motherhood is.

    Jim, you are right.

    Lynette writes, “I, a single woman without children, really can’t exercise my “motherhoodâ€? in the way that a single man can exercise his “priesthood.â€?

    To some extent this is true, but neither of you can exercise either stewardship fully, so I’m not sure how useful it is to quibble about which of you is more disenfranchised. I would probably also disagree with you about the (lack of) opportunity that you have to “exercise your motherhood.” I suppose ultimately it depends on how you define it.

    KHH, you are right, this does nothing to help us understand priesthood-based exclusions of women from certain callings. (Aside: How do we understand the exclusion of men from certain callings?)

    Allison, of course there are exceptions. There are exceptions for women, too: a woman who takes in her sister’s baby if her sister can’t care for it. But I don’t think exceptions delegitimate my main point. Exceptions occur in less than ideal circumstances (ideally, that bishop would have been married!), and I am writing about ideal circumstances.

    J. Stapley wrote, “Julie, you are fundamentally mischaracterizing the Priesthood.”

    I would agree with you if you had written that I was fundamentally mischaracterizing the 19th century understanding of Priesthood. (Because I am.) But I think that what I wrote fairly well describes the 21st century understanding. (I’d also imagine that understanding of motherhood has changed just as radically in that time frame.) In a Church where, I’d imagine, less than half of members are even aware that women participated in the ordinances that you mention, I don’t think that your list provides a useful counterpoint to my thesis.

    That said, your comment does highlight an interesting issue: How should the variability of the theology of and practice of both priesthood and motherhood over the last two centuries shape our understanding of both today? We are probably guilty of claiming that many things are eternal that weren’t around even 150 years ago!

    As far as missionaries performing tons of ordinances, I would imagine in a case where a male member of the church sees their adult child convert to the church, he would perform the convert baptism–not the missionaries. Hence, a missionary is acting in a less-than-ideal situation as a ‘substitute father’, if you will. (I do realize we don’t conceptualize it in those terms.) Therefore, I don’t think missionary practice undercuts my thesis to any great extent.

    As far as foreordination is concerned, there’s a Pres. Kimball quote that I’m too lazy to look up about how women were foreordained to many tasks. This would suggest to me that we don’t know that women were _not_ foreordained to be mothers.

  9. Starfoxy on May 21, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    ” “What about the Aaronic Priesthood passing the sacrament and such?â€? Ah, you’ve got me there. Perhaps I should dismiss this as the preparatory priesthood and confine my argument to the Melchizedek priesthood. ”

    In that case, I would like to suggest that girls ages 12-18 should be watching all the babies in the ward during the preparation and passing of the sacrament. They’re preparing for motherhood right? ;)

  10. Mark IV on May 21, 2006 at 8:21 pm

    Julie, I’m interested to know how you understand the claims from church leaders that the most important priesthood work a man will do will be in his home.

    I take an very expansive view of statements like that. I don’t know if it is proper, but when I am doing things with my children, I think of it as priesthood work. Camping, cleaning out the garage, playing catch in the back yard – in my book, it is all priesthood work, because it is good fathering. I think it is best to understand priesthood as much, much more than holding FHE and giving blessings.

    Given all that, is it possible at all for us to think of a man who doesn’t hold priesthood office, but who is a great husband and father, as exercising priesthood? This is where your analysis breaks down, in my opinion.

  11. Julie M. Smith on May 21, 2006 at 8:49 pm

    Mark IV, interesting thoughts. I imagine it would be beneficial to all involved to think of playing catch with your children as priesthood work, but I disagree with “think[ing] of a man who doesn’t hold priesthood office, but who is a great husband and father, as exercising priesthood” because it is a little too expansive a definition of priesthood that renders the term meaningless. While your priesthood adds a level of depth and understanding and duty to what you do with your children, saying that a nonmember playing catch is exercising the priesthood goes a little too far for me. Kinda like the ‘all women are mothers’ business.

  12. Mark IV on May 21, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    Julie, agreed, and that is precisely my point.

    As Jim F. noted in comment # 2, from an eternal perspective priesthood is only about fatherhood.

  13. Seth R. on May 21, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    Julie, I think the problem is that “Priesthood” has always been presented and thought of (both in scriptures and in Mormon culture) as something “additional to fatherhood.”

    As a practical matter, I think you’re right that there isn’t much real difference between fatherhood and the Priesthood. But the Priesthood isn’t about practicalities. It’s primarily about symbolism.

    And the symbols (and how we use them) define our world view. Men get a symbolic title that the women don’t get. It’s meant to be a distinguishing factor. I don’t think you can simply start equating things, when so much of Church practice and doctrine is built on largely symbolic gestures.

    This being a faith of symbols, it just flat-out means something when the men get a symbol and the women don’t.

  14. Julie M. Smith on May 21, 2006 at 10:00 pm

    Seth, can you point me to a scripture that states that priesthood is something additional to fatherhood? Because I can’t think of any. (And I don’t think I’d agree with your characterization of my argument as ‘there isn’t much real difference between fatherhood and priesthood.)

    Your thoughts about symbols intrigue me, but I’m not convinced that priesthood is primarily about symbols. I think it is primarily about exercising God’s authority on earth and secondarily about rendering service–concepts that make for a nice parallel to motherhood.

    And what, then, does it mean when women get motherhood and men don’t?

  15. D-Train on May 21, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    Thanks for your response, Julie. One difficulty here that nobody has mentioned is that coming up with precise analogies is quite difficult even when such emotionally and intellectually charged issues are at stake. I suspect that nobody has all that perfect an answer here: On the points we’ve contested:

    1) I can buy some level of progression between “states of future/actual motherhood” (my terms), but I think the real issue here is that of status. There is a status that comes with being a priesthood holder, especially in the Melchezidek priesthood, that isn’t approximated in the idea of motherhood. Even if we agreed that priesthood can only really be exercised by fathers, the status of priest or elder still carries a lot of water in the Church and in our doctrine, even to the point of requiring an individual to have that status to perform ordinances, although we contend that the power comes more from righteousness than the office itself. Motherhood does not bring such ascribed status in our doctrine or culture, although there has been a tendency to praise it more.

    2) I can agree that fatherhood brings more priesthood responsibilities. However, the oath and covenant of the priesthood still applies to non-fathers just as fully and one can be derelict or praiseworthy in his duties in the priesthood as a non-father. For example, a valiant missionary can be said to be performing all of his priesthood obligations, even if there will later be more obligations than he presently faces. While women can prepare for motherhood and be more or less praiseworthy in their preparation, they’re not actually exercising the office in any way. So, while we agree that priesthood is exercised more in the family, I am more persuaded by the idea that motherhood is not at all exercised by women that don’t have kids yet. Of course, men don’t get the priesthood at birth, so there could be more of a parallel than I’m willing to acknowledge.

    3) I definitely don’t want to assert that we should stop our analysis at “father=mother”. I will argue, though, that your argument about motherhood being the primary obligation for a woman (as measured by giving up a full time career) is problematic. Priesthood, of course, does not require giving up a full time career. Perhaps a more apt argument would be that motherhood=priesthood + fatherhood + a career?

    4) I’ll grant that priesthood wouldn’t be divorced from the family in an ideal circumstance. However, does this get around the conceptual point that priesthood isn’t a necessary condition for a family, but that fatherhood and motherhood are?

    Thanks again for a very stimulating post. I always seem to get something from your posts here at T&S, even when I don’t agree.

  16. J. Stapley on May 21, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    Julie: I would agree with you if you had written that I was fundamentally mischaracterizing the 19th century understanding of Priesthood. (Because I am.) But I think that what I wrote fairly well describes the 21st century understanding.

    This, perhaps, is the crux of the issue. As far as I can tell, the understanding of the priesthood hasn’t changed; the theology of the priesthood is pretty much the same now as it was in the 19th century.

    Praxis, on the other hand, has changed radically. Consequently, you are trying to draw theological conclussions by dismissing the theological evidence; instead, you use only praxis (and modern at that) as the data for your conception. This process cannot yield valid theological assertions.

    At most you can only hope to describe the sociological framework in which we currently function…and I admit fully, you seem to have some resonance.

  17. Adam Greenwood on May 21, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    Julie in A.,

    your points about unworthy motherhood are very suggestive. One thing that lot of commenters are missing here is that a lot of the differences they see between motherhood and priesthood are only temporary. That is, ultimately, in the eternities, priesthood and fatherhood become synonomous and motherhood becomes reserved for the worthy (I’m pretty sure this is retroactive too, applying to mortal instances of physically becoming a mother. That is, if a mother is unworthy in the eternities then amen to her motherhood and her bishopric is taken from her and given to another. In a sense, she never was a mother). My reading of the temple ceremony is that ultimately, priesthood becomes impossible without a wife just as motherhood becomes impossible without a husband.

    In this eternal perspective, the conflict between Julie Smith’s perspective and the 19th Century perspective disappear.

  18. Rosalynde Welch on May 21, 2006 at 10:52 pm

    Julie, you’re a tireless and able ideological warrior! Your position has already won the day in the battle for popular understanding, of course, but I just don’t think it (not *you*, of course!) has got the intellectual resources to win the battle for theoretical coherence.

    The basic argument that priesthood is a function of fatherhood only holds true in a thoroughly patrilineal society, in which priesthood is a generational and genealogical inheritance—and thus it describes pretty well the way priesthood works in the OT and, to some extent, in the BoM (although we know very little about how priesthood worked among the Nephites). But of course the sociology of patrilineality also makes perfectly clear the *exclusion* of women from priestly functions, and thus undermines the logic of equivalency so necessary to accommodate the argument to liberal notions of equality. But the restored priesthood is emphatically not patrilineal, and thus your description of priesthood bears almost no resemblance to the descriptions of its functions in the D&C. To insist on the identification of fatherhood and priesthood is to purchase legitimacy at the expense of coherence.

    Also, maybe we’re doing something wrong, but the SS teacher’s description of priesthood bears nearly no resemblance, frankly, to my husband’s experience. In the twenty-three years that he’s held the priesthood, he’s performed items on the list a grand total of four times: three baby blessings, and one blessing to a sick child. (What can I say? We have healthy children.) The vast, vast majority of his priesthood exercise has taken the form of the administering of the sacrament and, if it counts, instruction to the elder’s quorum and home teaching.

  19. Kim Siever on May 21, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    “True, but not something that undermines my thesis. I’m not sure if my husband is typical, but over ten years of marriage, I think he’s been asked to give maybe 2 or 3 blessings to home teachees, etc.”

    FWIW, In the 11 years we have been married, I have given too many non-family blessing to keep count. When I lived in Vancouver, I taught only single mothers, and it was rare that one month of home teaching visits to go by without me having to give at least one blessing of comfort or healing to one of those whom I home taught. In fact, I was even asked to confirm one of the girls I home taught when she was baptised.

    In addition, the first time I was elders quorum president, I was regularly asked to give blessing of comfort and counsel to members of my quorum. I would say that in the first three years of my marriage, I gave several dozen blessings outside of my family.

    Just this year, I was called upon to bless my first counsellor, the daughter of one of my home teaching families, a woman who was meeting with the missionaries, a woman recently moved into our ward, and the high priest group leader.

    But, maybe I am the atypical one. :)

  20. Julie M. Smith on May 22, 2006 at 12:07 am

    D-Train:

    (1) Your point about status is compelling. However, the conclusion “therefore, motherhood and priesthood are not parallel” is less tempting to me than the conclusion “therefore, we need to give more status to motherhood.”

    (2) You write, “I am more persuaded by the idea that motherhood is not at all exercised by women that don’t have kids yet. ” As I said above, this gets into how we define motherhood, which we, er, haven’t yet.

    (3) You write, “Perhaps a more apt argument would be that motherhood=priesthood + fatherhood + a career?” Perhaps. This does seem to be a more accurate parallel than what I initially suggested.

    In fact, at the risk of instituting my own thread-jack, I think I might have been beating the wrong horse in this post. (I was seriously considering another post–Take 58!) to argue thusly:

    No one thinks that motherhood and priesthood are 100% parallel because that would make them identical, which they clearly are not. I don’t think anyone can hold that they are 0% parallel; clearly, they have a few things in common. So maybe instead of debating whether they are 10 or 40 or 80% parallel, a more fruitful question would be: What can we learn from the parallels between motherhood and priesthood? Here are some ideas:

    (a) God gives to God’s children–male and female–similar but different opportunities to serve and grow.

    (b) Motherhood should, in an effort to parallel priesthood, be more spiritually oriented, more leadership oriented, etc.

    (c) Fatherhood, should, in an effort to parallel motherhood, be more service oriented and less title/position oriented.

    etc.

    (4) You write, “However, does this get around the conceptual point that priesthood isn’t a necessary condition for a family, but that fatherhood and motherhood are?” Priesthood is very much a necessary condition for an ideal and/or eternal family.

    J. Stapley, I don’t think the LDS worldview allows the neat distinction between theology and sociology, doctrine and practice, that you are making. (Especially since your initial post based your argument on 19th century _practice._) And I still cannot figure out why I would consider 19th century practices that are currently forbidden by the church and unknown among (most of) its members as a better basis for understanding what priesthood (and, therefore, motherhood) is than the current practice of the church.

    Rosalynde, I don’t think my theory requires a patrilineal priesthood because I am describing ideal conditions, not prevalent ones. You also write that “the sociology of patrilineality also makes perfectly clear the *exclusion* of women from priestly functions” except that I don’t think that some of the OT (namely, the requirement that the matriarchs be from certain lines) supports this, but I realize that that is debatable. Nonetheless, the exclusion of women from priesly functions that you argue for in no way undermines the logic of parallelism; rather, it enhances it if you believe in the justice of God. (If God is going to completely disenfranchise women from the priesthood, what _is_ God going to give them?) Further, I am most emphatically _not_ identifying fatherhood and priesthood (I think I said this in #14) but rather claiming that the full expression of priesthood is generally not found outside of fatherhood.

    Re Your last paragraph, which seems to largely echo Kim Siever’s comment: I may have been wrong in my original post to suggest some sort of numerical equivalence in the non-fatherly exercise of priesthood to the non-motherly exercise of motherhood. A better way to put it might be this: in cases where, say, a man gives a blessing to someone or baptizes someone he is, in effect, acting as proxy for that person’s unavailable father or husband. (Meaning: that if the father or husband were available, he’d be the one performing the ordinance.) In other words, he is acting in a less-than-ideal circumstance, as Kim Siever makes clear concerning the single mothers. I don’t know why we would privilege this acting in less than ideal circumstances any more than we would motherhood outside of temple marriage. (And, Rosalynde, I wouldn’t consider teaching EQ a priesthood function, but I quibble.)

  21. Brad Kramer on May 22, 2006 at 12:15 am

    I couln’t agree more fully with Adam’s comment (#17). Ultimately the priesthood is not about performances and ordinances. I can perform a baptism unworthily and the only person it affects negatively is myself (unless the person baptized has a vested interest in my worthiness, i.e. my son). The ordinance is still efficacious. Priesthood, the way I understand it, is about using covenants and obligations, self-discipline and worthiness standards, to make me a better man, to compel (for lack of a better term) me to behave in a godly manner–i.e. without compulsory means. When I exercise the priesthood righteously, when I try to influence others–ALL others–only by meekness, gentleness, kindness, love unfeigned, longsuffering, etc., those who benefit most from that, both temporally and eternally, are: 1) me (I become more worthy of forgiveness, blessings, exaltation), 2) my family (wife then kids), 3) those over whom I might have stewardship (home teachees, GD students, etc), and onward and outward. If I use it unrighteously, including trying to use my priesthod in itself to influence others, then my actions act as a circuit breaker and I’m just a sad, sad man, kicking against the pricks. Priesthood is there the exalt me, not through esoteric or arbitrary means, but by constraining my behavior and allowing the power of the atonement full access at changing my nature.

  22. Julie M. Smith on May 22, 2006 at 12:16 am

    Just FYI, here’s the list that the teacher put on the board; it is from the Primary manual:

    . . . the following blessings that come through the priesthood:

    Receiving a name and a blessing

    Being baptized

    Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost

    Receiving a blessing when sick

    Partaking of the sacrament

    Serving a mission

    Being married in the temple

    Omitting 5 and 6 (which I address in #3 in the original post–I’m also not entirely sure where they were going with ‘serving a mission–the priesthood ordination of an elder? the endowment? something else?), these are all meant to be done–ideally–by a husband or father, in the context of a family unit. Again, the numerical incidence may or may not play out that way, but I’m thinking about the ideal. I think it is interesting that church admininistration isn’t mentioned. . .

  23. s on May 22, 2006 at 12:40 am

    While I think much Priesthood work happens in the home, the meaning and implications of “Priesthood” in the church are much broader than the work the father does in the home with his nuclear family. The Priesthood is the power that God grants to His servants to administer his Kingdom here on earth, to perform a variety of saving ordinances (including, but not limited to, the sacrament), etc. It is a system of hierarchical authority in which women have a very limited role. Equating a role that results from a power being conferred from an external source with the role that results when a woman chooses to use the natural ability of her body to procreate just doesn’t work for me.

    Perhaps in the eternities everything will be organized according to family units, and so Priesthood will function only within the family, but that is currently not the case, so I have a difficult time accepting the motherhood-priesthood parallel.

    As for your dissatisfaction with the motherhood-fatherhood parallel, I agree that motherhood and fatherhood are not identical. Mothers can bear children while fathers cannot. The church defines the function of these roles in different terms (which is something else I find problematic, but that’s something to be explored another day). So, while there are differences between motherhood and fatherhood, I still think they are roles that much more closely resemble each other than motherhood and priesthood. They both pertain to the relationship a parent has to a child, the power each individual has to procreate, etc.

  24. Jack on May 22, 2006 at 12:47 am

    Priesthood is essentially motherhood on a macro-level. And motherhood is essentially priesthood on a micro-level. They both seem to be performing similar functions. i.e., gathering many into one unified body.

  25. sue on May 22, 2006 at 12:54 am

    Motherhood is hard (and of course also rewarding). Motherhood requires great sacrifice. I hear lots of mothers talk about how hard getting through the day was, or how they are upping their anti-depressants, or how they have no idea how to do the job. Don’t hear much of that about exercising priesthood authority.

    I don’t know that holding and utilizing the priesthood requires much of a sacrifice, other than occasionally being asked to give blessings at inconvenient times and staying worthy (but that is required of everyone).

    If they are parallel, it seems to me that women got a pretty raw deal.

  26. LRC on May 22, 2006 at 1:51 am

    “Today I observed a teacher of Valiant 11 boys write on the board priesthood functions. And as I looked at his list, I’m thinking: wow, if you weren’t a father, you would never (or rarely) do these: baptize a child, give a baby a name and a blessing, bless a family member, etc. And thus the kernel of my idea: priesthood is largely exercised in the context of fatherhood.”

    A teacher gear the lesson toward the students (i.e., children relate to PH as recipients of PH ordinances and blessings and, for the most part, those PH ordinances and blessings come from their fathers or other male relatives. A very familial pattern.)? What kind of a list would a High Priest Group Leader come up with in teaching a similar lesson? If Bloggernacle discussions of PH responsibilities are any indication, Elders and High Priests appear to be more concerned with the extra-familial duties of ward and stake leadership and home teaching (or at least that is what they say when trying to understand why women would want these tough jobs, or rather, priesthood ordination). Rarely do they identify baptizing and blessing their children as PH responsibilities and duties, although women often reiterate that a significant reason they want to hold the PH is to bless and baptize their children, not lead wards and stakes and be responsible for home teaching a dozen less-active families.

    “When was the last time you met a bishop or stake president who wasn’t a father? While fatherhood may not be a de jure requirement for these roles, it appears to be a de facto one.”

    When was the last time you met a bishop or stake president who wasn’t married? Most, if not all, bishops/stake presidents are married LDS men. Most married LDS men are fathers. That doesn’t mean fatherhood is related to the callings mentioned. Everyone who eats carrots dies, but carrots are rarely the cause of death.

    When was the last time you met a Relief Society or Primary President who wasn’t a mother? If motherhood is on a parallel with priesthood, then why do we allow childless women to lead Relief Societies, YW organizations and Primaries?

    “I’m not sure if my husband is typical, but over ten years of marriage, I think he’s been asked to give maybe 2 or 3 blessings to home teachees, etc. In other words, he’s used his priesthood outside of the family context with about the same frequency as one of my married-but-childless friends has, if you will, ‘exercised her motherhood’ by babysitting my children.”

    I’ll see your anecdote are raise you another: Anyone who has spent time in singles wards or in places where there is a dearth of MP holders knows that active PH holders frequently give blessings to non-family members.

    The only blessing a childless PH holder cannot perform is a Father’s Blessing. But then again, any father can give his child a father’s blessing, regardless of whether or not he is an ordained MP holder. So PH is not necessary for that fatherly duty at all, just as PH is not necessary for the motherly duty of giving a Mother’s Blessing.

    “What about the Aaronic Priesthood passing the sacrament and such?� Ah, you’ve got me there. Perhaps I should dismiss this as the preparatory priesthood and confine my argument to the Melchizedek priesthood. Or perhaps this is the place to acknowledge my general, ongoing discomfort with the disconnect between the roles YW and YM play in the Church (a discomfort that does not exist for me if we were discussing adult men and women in the Church).

    Interesting that there’s a disconnect for the church roles of YM and YW, but not the church roles of adults. Women’s church roles are much more narrow, compared to men’s church roles, than the church roles of young women and young men (whose limited leadership and service opportunities are nearly identical). This is assuming, of course, that motherhood is not a church role. There are far more opportunities for men to serve in callings within wards and stakes than there are for women to serve in those same callings, and local units can be, and often are, aligned according to how many active MP holders there are in a ward. If there aren’t enough men to staff a ward, even if there are hundreds of women, the ward will not be created.

    “What about the worthiness issue? You don’t have to be worthy to have a baby, but you do to hold the priesthood.� Maybe we should start thinking about unworthy mothers as exercising unrighteous dominion. While no one interviews you for worthiness before you become a mother, the fact remains that a man could unworthily exercise the priesthood much as a woman could unworthily mother. In other words, both men and women have the same opportunity to decide to worthily or unworthily exercise their stewardship. And, much as a worthy male brings something to the exercise of priesthood that an unworthy one doesn’t, a worthy woman brings something to her mothering that an unworthy one doesn’t. Again, there is no de jure worthiness requirement for motherhood, but there certainly is a de facto one if we are thinking of the kind of motherhood that the Church promotes.

    What makes a woman worthy to be a mother or not? Exactly how can a woman exercise her motherhood unworthily? What is the difference between an unworthy mother and an uneducated mother?

    TECHNICALLY, a man can hold the PH and be unworthy to do so. Once he is ordained, unless he is excommunicated from the church or otherwise formally disciplined, he need not prove his worthiness other than in obtaining a temple recommend. He may continue to exercise his priesthood – bless and pass the Sacrament, baptize and confirm new members, count tithing money, set apart Seminary teachers, sit on disciplinary councils, etc. – and the only ones who will be the wiser are that priesthood holder and God. Furthermore, we are counseled and taught that should an unworthy PH holder perform an ordinance or give a blessing, that ordinance or blessing are not negated due to the fact that the PH holder was not the purest, cleanest vessel operating at the time. Same with the PH holder’s office – that’s why there’s no difference between having the local newspaper delivery boy and the prophet baptizing you or your children.

    To sum: A worthy male Melchizedek priesthood holder has a roughly equivalent opportunity to exercise his priesthood as a worthy female non-mother has to exercise her motherhood; that is, occassionally a little around the edges, but not very much. Motherhood and (Melchizedek) priesthood are equivalent roles in the Church, in that they are primarily exercised within the nuclear family, meaning that a childless male is about as cut off from the blessings and responsibilities of priesthood as a childless woman is from the blessings and responsibilities of motherhood.

    Actually, a worthy MP holder is quite capable of exercising his PH authority without regard to his parental status and is not necessarily cut off from blessings and responsibilities of priesthood. He can (and men do) be a fully functioning, worthy, childless man ordained with the power and authority to act for God upon the earth. He may not be called to be bishop, stake president or Institute Director if he is unmarried, but if he is merely childless, that status will not hinder his being called to a local leadership position. Moreover, most Melchizedek PH roles are primarily exercised beyond the confines of the nuclear family, as MP leadership duties, which are primarily leadership of a ward or stake, not of a home, (particularly if you look at the hours per week a bishop or SP spends raising his kids versus the time he spends meeting with and counseling the members of his flock).

  27. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 22, 2006 at 2:25 am

    I read the quote to which Julie referred, and it gave me some thoughts. First, the quote.

    The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.315-316
    We had full equality as his spirit children. We have equality as recipients of God’s perfected love for each of us. … Within those great assurances, however, our roles and assignments differ. These are eternal differences—with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood—but the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 11:11). Both a righteous man and a righteous woman are a blessing to all those their lives touch.
    Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to.

    OK, some thoughts.
    1. In all of this (and Julie hinted at this), we need to remember God’s perfected love. He just simply does not love His sons more than His daughters. And I think we might even be able to find more evidence and manifestations of this perfected love in THIS life, not just in the next. So, in asking this question (from above), (If God is going to completely disenfranchise women from the priesthood, what _is_ God going to give them?) I would suggest we consider modifying the question to “What IS God giving women NOW?” Of course, some elements of our fallen existence will only be made perfectly just in the next life. But I submit that there is more balance even in our mortal sphere and in the Church. We may just have to look at things a little differently.

    2. Perhaps sisterhood is a better parallel than motherhood. I’ve always gone with the motherhood parallel, but it appears that it may break down, unless we have a more broad definition of motherhood (like the Julie B. Beck “Mother Heart” approach and the “are we not all mothers?” approach). Sometimes I hear the complaint that women can’t given blessings, etc., but really, how often are women out there serving and blessing others? I would argue that most (or at least many) RS presidents do a lot more ministering and serving in that one-on-one kind of way than bishops do. Or at least they do _as much_ “blessing” of others …just not through the formality of the laying on of hands. I think sometimes we get caught up in that formality associated with blessings and Priesthood and such and limit our definition of what it means to “bless” someone else. And we think that somehow a priesthood blessing is higher on a chain of “good ways to bless.” I’m not trying to undermine priesthood at all, but just to take a step back and remember that priesthood is not the ONLY way to bless people’s lives.

    3. My husband and son just got back from a Father’s and Son’s outing. It was one of the first experiences we have had with this, and as a mother who tries to teach things like safety, hygiene, not wandering off unsupervised, etc., I nearly had a heart attack when my husband (unwisely) shared with me all that went on. (Some of you more experienced mothers may laugh at this, but I seriously freaked out.) No one could ever convince me that a ward without women would be the same just because the men have the Priesthood! I will probably forever fear for my son’s life as he goes on male-only outings! I suppose my son needs to each with mud-cakes hands, be a pyromaniac and wander off into the woods alone to really be a boy (because only the men would really have such a camp, right?) I am very grateful, however, as much respect as I have for the priesthood, that women are with my children in Primary, that they will be the ones to minister to my daughters in YW. I am grateful that it is my sisters with whom I get to meet in RS to share things as women. The sisterhood is so essential, I think — on a personal level as well as on a larger scale. There is balance in the force because we have men and women to do what they do best and to fulfill their “separate but equal” roles.

    In short, I think we should not underestimate all that women DO do in the Church administratively and otherwise to keep healthy units healthy (both symbolically and literally!!!) No ward could truly function with _just_ priesthood, as esssential as priesthood authority is. This topic has been mentioned more than once in Conference, and I think we can trust that it is true. “Man is bot without the woman nor the woman without the man, in the Lord” — and that applies in our Church units as well as in a marriage.

  28. Mark Butler on May 22, 2006 at 2:27 am

    My first comment was about the ultimate legimitization of priesthood authority being familial in nature, a concept that seems fundamental to me, but apparently not relevant to anyone else.

    Now I would suggest that in practice the essence of the concept of the Melchizedek priesthood (insofar as it is distinguished from Christian service) is the delegation of divine authority.

    The prototype for this priesthood is the delegation of the authority of the Father to his Son, Jesus Christ. That is why the Melchizedek Priesthood is known as the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God.

    A holder of this priesthood derives his authority *not* by fatherhood, nor by his own merits, but simply because he has been delegated authority, to act as an agent for and in behalf of God within certain contexts.

    An ordinary holder of the Melchizedek priesthood has authority limited largely to participating as a full member of a (Melchizedek) priesthood quorum, blessing the sick, blessing a baby before the Church, and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Fathers who do not hold the Melchizedek priesthood are not allowed the same privilege, because these functions are scripturally reserved to the Elders of the Church.

    That covers the common functions – the more particular functions of the Melchizedek priesthood concern the exercise of priesthood keys – and priesthood keys are nothing more than the *delegated* right to direct the work of the Kingdom within some domain. They can be withdrawn at any time, for any reason, according to the discretion of the granting party.

    So we should say that for most practical purposes the Melchizedek Priesthood is simply an implementation of the law of agency.

    So while sisters and other non-priestholders may have spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues, healing, operations, administration, and so on, the most material difference is simply that the powers that be have chosen not to delegate authority beyond a certain level – local Relief Society / Primary President, Young Women’s President, generally speaking. While in those callings an effective sister operates under virtually identical constraints as a Sunday School President, and not horribly different from an Elders Quorum President or a High Priest’s Group Leader. The difference is mostly a formality.

    However the division into women’s auxiliaries and men’s “auxillaries” is not – that is first an foremost a matter of propriety. One cannot expect even a single man and a single women to be “home teaching” companions, as my stake president once (seriously!) suggested for our singles ward.

    So people agitating for the locus of sisterly responsibility to be expanded should perhaps give some thought to the practical difficulties of mixed gender presidencies as well as the administrative difficulties of having a parallel ecclesiasticum that goes all the way to the top.

    Perhaps in heaven there is such an organization of sisterly ministering angels/spirits, or perhaps sister angels are more closely attached to family organization, I don’t know. The question is interesting though.

    I have one more comment – I suggest that the preservation of the practice of kingly primogeniture – as in delegating the authority of a father / king to his first born son rather than his first born child, lies almost wholly in the responsibility of the leader / heir to lead the defense of his clan / nation by force of arms.

    So while the Priesthood as we know it is a somewhat softer administrative function, in its original context it extended to military defense as well, as the Old Testament amply testifies. While no doubt there are women who make excellent military leaders, we might reasonably speculate that the general male superiority for
    the exigencies of combat (perhaps even in the War in Heaven) has something to do with why this familial authority was delegated to sons and not to daughters.

    Ultimately, the question is supposing that some manner of “Priesthood” was restored to women, what precisely should they do with it? Administering blessings has a precedent. A recognition of spiritual status seems reasonable. But are we talking about mixed gender quorums, presidencies, and administration all the way up the line?

    There is no precedent for that. I personally have a hard time imagining the Kingdom of Heaven runs that way – parallel organizations perhaps, but full gender transparency sounds impractical for reasons that are more serious in religious organizations than in commerce, civil government, or academia.

  29. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 22, 2006 at 2:33 am

    There is a status that comes with being a priesthood holder, especially in the Melchezidek priesthood, that isn’t approximated in the idea of motherhood.

    If we equate priesthood with status, then I think we are missing the boat completely and really imposing a mortal construct on this concept that causes problems. We are not here to compete for some title or prestige or power. I think removing this idea of status could go a long way in helping us understand priesthood and women and all that relates to this tender issue.

    Also, if we cannot see being “co-creator with God” as having supernal and value, we are really missing the boat there as well. Priesthood is not only about fatherhood, it is the power by which worlds are and were created. What approximates God’s power to create in this life more than motherhood?

  30. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 22, 2006 at 2:49 am

    Administering blessings has a precedent.
    Not really, because they were never priesthood blessings per se. Elder Oaks has clarified this, adding some explanation of those early days of blesings that women gave.

    In considering the Prophet’s instructions to the first Relief Society, we should remember that in those earliest days in Church history more revelation was to come. Thus, when he spoke to the sisters about the appropriateness of their laying on hands to bless one another, the Prophet cautioned “that the time had not been before that these things could be in their proper order—that the Church is not now organized in its proper order, and cannot be until the Temple is completed.� (Minutes, 28 Apr. 1842, p. 36.) During the century that followed, as temples became accessible to most members, “proper order� required that these and other sacred practices be confined within those temples.
    Dallin H. Oaks, “The Relief Society and the Church,� Ensign, May 1992, 34

    I think saying that there is precedent for women giving blessings is not seeing why they were able to give them in the first place. It appears that it was more a stop-gap (for lack of a better term) until women could act fully within the “proper order” within the temple. That would suggest that what women are able to do in the temples today is better than what women could do in the 19th century.

    Elder Oaks also said:
    President Harold B. Lee repeatedly told men that “the most important of the Lord’s work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.� (Ensign, Feb. 1972, p. 51.) That direction also applies to women, and it should engage the best teaching efforts of the Relief Society. We cannot overstate the supreme importance of the task our Father in Heaven has assigned to the mothers, who are the teachers and workers and standard-setters in the homes of the Latter-day Saints. The mothers in those homes give the impressionable sons and daughters of God their earliest and most formative orientation for their mortal journey toward eternal life.

    I think this ties into something Julie said earlier about the “stages” of motherhood, perhaps taking it a step further. The men may be the ones to administer in the ordinances as listed in the SS manual above. Generally speaking, however, the women play a HUGE role in the preparation that makes the fulfillment of such ordinances possible. (If we want a type of this reality, who is it usually behind a boy’s reception of the Eagle Scout award?) Again, we cannot and should not forget the role of women (particularly, of course, the mothers) in children (and later adults) being able to receive the ordinances as administered by the priesthood. At some point, the ordinances can be even detrimental if they are not received with the right preparation beforehand. What makes the ordinances meaningful is the individual’s readiness to receive them.
    And the mothers play such a vital role in that process. (So do the women in Primary organizations.)

  31. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 22, 2006 at 3:23 am

    p.s. with my thoughts re: sisterhood, I am only constraining that comparison to mortality, as I think others have made clear — in the next realm, the roles that will be exalted roles will be mother and father, together, as partners. I didn’t mean to imply that, eternally, priesthood will equal sisterhood. I am thinking more in terms of service, blessing others’ lives, etc in this life. Don’t know if that makes sense…..

  32. Christian Y. Cardall on May 22, 2006 at 8:13 am

    Julie, I think that at this point any serious treatment of this subject has to engage the distinction between the hierarchical and patriarchal excercise of priesthood recently articulated by Elder Oaks in General Conference.

  33. Julie M. Smith on May 22, 2006 at 9:28 am

    S writes, “Equating a role that results from a power being conferred from an external source with the role that results when a woman chooses to use the natural ability of her body to procreate just doesn’t work for me.”

    If that is how you view motherhood then, no, they wouldn’t be parallel. But this is how I view motherhood, in your words with a few changes:

    “While I think much motherhood work happens in the home, the meaning and implications of “Motherhoodâ€? in the church are much broader than the work the mother does in the home with her nuclear family. Motherhood is the power that God grants to God’s servants to do the most important work of God’s Kingdom here on earth, to perform the most important teaching and saving work including, but not limited to, the bearing and nurturing children), etc. It is a system of implicit authority in which men have a very limited role.”

    Jack, in a thread of unusually long comments, you have made an unusually good point in just a few words.

    re #25–I think there is a social culture of men never complaining about the priesthood but women complaining a lot about motherhood. While women do generally sacrifice more to be mothers than men to do be priesthood holders, I’m not sure that the best conclusion is that we should find them unparallel but rather that we should expect more sacrifice from priesthood holders and less from mothers :).

    LRC, it seems that your comment responds to the original post and not the thoughts that have developed since then. I’ve conceded that my ‘numerical equivalency’ argument doesn’t fly, but I still think that we overestimate (and ignore rhetorically) the extent to which a non-father can fully exercise his priesthood.

    Mark, you’re off on quite a tangent with the idea of mixed presidencies. Most people, I think, acknowledge how awkward they would be in mortality; fewer have the problems that you do with the thought of them in eternities. For my money, I think the unity of husband and wife in the eternities pretty much demands that they would function jointly in whatever we might think an eternal presidency structure would look like.

    m& m, interesting thoughts, thank you. However, there is something about the concept of sisterhood that has never resonated with me, but I think that’s just my fault for being misanthropic. And you should know (you may already) that many people dispute Elder Oaks’ interpretation of women’s early healing work, largely because what was done (1) is not really parallel to what is done in the temple and (2) didn’t cease when women’s temple work was initiated. I’m extremely hesitant myself to dismiss an interpretation offered by a modern apostle, but I would be curious to know how Elder Oaks would respond to those two arguments against his position.

    Christian, good point. It does seem that my initial thesis, as KHH pointed out, has a lot more to do with the patriarchal than the hierarchical.

    Also: I want a Niblet next year for the post that generated the longest (i.e., length of comment, not number) comments. I’m also proud of y’all for the number of thoughtful comments on a potentially explosive issue and complete lack of rancor in the discussion.

  34. D-Train on May 22, 2006 at 10:34 am

    Julie, thanks again for your response. I can get behind your conclusions about what we should learn from the parallels between motherhood and priesthood, especially if we’re actively seeking to promote spiritual leadership in both roles in all spheres. Leadership is not primarily about hierarchy, but about initiative.

  35. Mark Butler on May 22, 2006 at 11:18 am

    Julie, My position is precisely that the mode of the Melchizedek Priesthood (delegated authority / proxy representation) is an earthly expedient that will yield to the mode of the Patriarchal Priesthood (authority derived from family structure) in the eternities.

    So the only mixed presidencies I see in the celestial kingdom are those of husband and wife, presiding over their lineal (and adopted) posterity.

  36. Diane on May 22, 2006 at 11:37 am

    I need help with an answer for a twenty-something daughter who is divorced and now inactive in the Church. She says she is happier now than she’s ever been in her life and doesn’t understand how she can be happy when she’s not living the gospel. Any thoughts?

  37. Christian Y. Cardall on May 22, 2006 at 11:37 am

    Julie: It does seem that my initial thesis, as KHH pointed out, has a lot more to do with the patriarchal than the hierarchical.

    If that is so, it seems your post collapses to the statement ‘in the Church, motherhood and fatherhood are parallel,’ and therefore sheds no light on Church (as opposed to family) governance. Perhaps Church governance is not what you were aiming at. Come to think of it, however, I guess I’m not sure what illumination of even only the restricted scope of family governance was supposed to result from deciding whether motherhood and priesthood are “parallel” (whatever that means), when this argument about your point of view on such a parallel apparently originated a long time ago in a post far far away…

  38. J. Stapley on May 22, 2006 at 11:49 am

    The only blessing a childless PH holder cannot perform is a Father’s Blessing. But then again, any father can give his child a father’s blessing, regardless of whether or not he is an ordained MP holder.

    This is no longer the case. The 1998 CHI states that only Melchizedek Priesthood holders can bless.

    I think saying that there is precedent for women giving blessings is not seeing why they were able to give them in the first place. It appears that it was more a stop-gap (for lack of a better term) until women could act fully within the “proper order� within the temple. That would suggest that what women are able to do in the temples today is better than what women could do in the 19th century.

    This is to ignore all of our history and every first presidency statement on the matter. There is nothing more (in fact there is less) that women do in the Temples now than they did in the Nineteenth century. Elder Oaks is quite educated on the matter, and, like Julie, I am typically reticent to controvert such a statement, but it seems that Elder Oaks is either not saying what he seems to be saying or he is mistaken.

  39. Mark Butler on May 22, 2006 at 11:52 am

    The Patriarchal Priesthood as traditionally understood, has always been hierarchical, just a different sort of hierarchy. Adam didn’t get his status in LDS theology by accident.

  40. Christian Y. Cardall on May 22, 2006 at 11:57 am

    Mark, I agree, which is why I used the phrase “brilliant Orwellian move” to describe Elder Oaks’ novel definition of patriarchy in terms of “equal partners.”

  41. Mark Butler on May 22, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Christian, I appreciate the issue in marriage, but I am speaking of the Patriarchal order in terms of parental presidency over not just their children, but all their lineal and adopted descendants – the original basis of the authority of Kings and Queens and the reason why Father Adam occupies such a unique position in LDS theology – why he is said to hold the keys to all dispensations for example, and why he is seen to preside over the whole human family.

    Consider the patriarchal order as the basis for the importance of the “unbroken chain” concept of sealings. We tend to think in terms of familial atomism these days, but the nineteenth century Saints had something rather different in mind – witness the importance of the law of adoption.

  42. Mark Butler on May 22, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    The only thing notably gender discriminative about the Patriarchal order from a global perspective is the convention that parents preside over the families of their sons and not the families of their married daughters – patrilineal rather than matrilineal administration.

    The adherence to this particular convention in the eternities could certainly be disputed, but it seems one or the other must be adopted to avoid the confusion of having two lines of authority, not to mention the topological and geographical problems – the very same that motivated ancient rules of entailment, redemption, and adoption in the first place (c.f. Lev 25:25, Ruth 4).

  43. Julie M. Smith on May 22, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    geographical problems in the eternities?!?

  44. Mark Butler on May 22, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    I say “geographical” because that is how we appreciate the problems today. The communications / authority problems that might arise under a system of celestial government however distributed across or within worlds, star systems, galaxies or whatever are a conformal mapping of the problems of geography – even when physical proximity is not the primary issue.

    If the patriarchal order of administration amounts to no more than occasional picnics and parties then no problem. But if there is any sort of actual governance or federalism going on, then the question of which family has the proper claim of presidency is a relatively serious question.

    Geography comes into the question as a matter of economy – if a couple presides over some subset of their descendants, but their descendants live in a far country, then generally speaking the presiding couple is not close enough to the problems at hand to give useful direction. And so by course of natural development we get geographically based authority (parishes, wards, stakes, etc.) instead of familial authority.

    This problem is eliminated by following the pattern of the ancient Israelites and dividing the land up by family or tribe, and providing a means for the land to be redeemed back into the original (patrilineal) family. That generally tends to colocate patrilineal descendants in the same area, making such a system much more practical than a situation where extended family / nation / tribes are scattered hither and yon.

    So we may justly say the the prime impediments to a restoration of the patriarchal order are 1) Death and 2) Distribution.

  45. Kiskilili on May 22, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    Julie, thanks as always for the thought and care you put into your posts and comments; I enjoy reading them.

    One of the things that makes me most uncomfortable about drawing parallels between priesthood and motherhood is that there’s a tendency for fatherhood to get eclipsed. If a father fulfills his familial obligations primarily through his exercise of the priesthood, we’re talking about a father having personal contact with his children maybe every couple of years (baby blessings, baptisms, blessings of healing, etc.), and then in a very formalized setting. Obviously fathers are enjoined to provide for their families as well. But I’d like to think our model of righteous fatherhood entails nurturing behaviors (such as those enumerated by Mark IV) that have nothing to do with exercising the priesthood. I think fathers are obligated, in addition to fulfilling familial priesthood roles, to interact informally and consistently with their children the same way mothers do.

    Several commenters have discussed whether fatherhood is a significant part of priesthood. I’m wondering, also, whether priesthood is a significant part of fatherhood. I think there’s a lot more to fatherhood.

  46. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 22, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    many people dispute Elder Oaks’ interpretation of women’s early healing work, largely because what was done (1) is not really parallel to what is done in the temple and (2) didn’t cease when women’s temple work was initiated. I’m extremely hesitant myself to dismiss an interpretation offered by a modern apostle, but I would be curious to know how Elder Oaks would respond to those two arguments against his position.

    I will offer my thoughts on these two potential points of dispute.

    1. If the opportunity to bless by laying on of hands was meant only to be as a foreshadowing of what was to come in the temples, then I think we may be misplacing emphasis and focus on what was done earlier. What goes on in the temple may not be “parallel” but, from what I understand from JS and Elder Oaks, the 19th century blessings were of lesser import than what goes on in the temple. I don’t think we need to have parallel concepts to have Elder Oaks’ comments (based on JS’s comments) still be valid. If I undertand JS correctly (and Elder Oaks as well), what goes on in the temple is of greater importance when compared with what women used to be limited to without more widespread temple use.

    2. From what I have read, what went on after temple ordinances were instituted (and somewhat established with various temples operating) sometimes shouldn’t have been going on (these types of blessings were on their way out, it appears), and sometimes were done in ways and in times when they probably shouldn’t have been. Also, I wonder if the same concept as took place with the Word of Wisdom took place here. The WoW did not become a binding commandment for decades after it was received as a revelation. The Lord gave the people time to “ease into” this new way of life and thinking and such, and I wonder if the same kind of transition period is part of why blessings were continued for a while…there may have been a transition period from what I am going to call precursor blessings (as JS and Elder Oaks have described) to temple ordinances performed by women. Just some musings on that one….

    I also think it’s extremely important to remember that the blessings women gave were never priesthood blessings…they were “faith” blessings. By saying there is precedent for administering blessings, I think we may put undue emphasis on what seems to have been meant to be temporary anyway until the “proper order” was established by having access to temples.

    I still think we also underestimate the fact that women can still exercise faith through prayer and action when and if priesthood holders are not available, or in conjunction with priesthood blessings. Women can also bring healing in spiritual and emotional ways, and also tend to be the ones who help toward healing physically as well. Just because we don’t “lay on hands” anymore in healing blessings or whatever does not, in my mind, mean we are left to be detached bystanders while the men “do all the work” (or the blessing or the service) through the priesthood. (Julie B. Beck talked a little about this in her last Conference talk…about how mother and father worked together toward her healing as a child.)

  47. Tanya on May 22, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    KHH, is very much correct. The priesthood is more about governing than anything else.

    I have been so amazed reading the comments after this great post. The one thing I have been taught about the priesthood is that it is all about service, it is not about governing. There is nothing a Priesthood holder can do for himself, someone else has to do it for him. I really hate the idea that because the men hold the Priesthood that some how women are second rate. I have never gotten that in my experience. Although I have heard it said that women are mothers as discussed, but I think it is more about the gifts we are inherintly given to be a mother. Not the physical act of being a mother, but the emotional, and mental strenght to nuture and listen. I don’t like this battle of the sexes. I think it is demeaning to both Men and women. We are commanded to not covet and I find that this whining by women that we don’t hold the priesthood to fit in that category. Holding the Priesthood is symbolic of the Saviour and his life. It is about service and love and giving. That is why being unworthy to hold the priesthood is so serious in my mind. Shame on the men that think themselves better than women. We are to be of one mind and one heart, and if there is bickering about holding the priesthood how can we attain that goal?

  48. J. Stapley on May 22, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    From what I have read, what went on after temple ordinances were instituted (and somewhat established with various temples operating) sometimes shouldn’t have been going on (these types of blessings were on their way out, it appears), and sometimes were done in ways and in times when they probably shouldn’t have been.

    This is simply not true. Every official statement from the First Presidency (the last being 1914) affirmed that this was the righteous order of things. There has never been a retraction.

    from JS and Elder Oaks, the 19th century blessings were of lesser import than what goes on in the temple.

    This is really the point Joseph was making. Joseph went on to confirm that the Sisters had authority to bless…as did every prophet after him until Heber J. Grant.

  49. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 22, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    47
    I”m not sure I understand what you are saying. Perhaps I have been misunderstood? It was the righteous order of things for a while (I didn’t mean to imply that it was never OK…sorry if I came across wrong), and then statements indicated that it was no longer the practice (there was some fizzle time after those statements, but it wasn’t the regular practice anymore). I read some of the history of what happened after that, and it appeared to me that some of the blessings took place because women chose to do them, but not because they were generally and widespread accepted practice any longer.

    Relief Society sisters and administering to the sick, October 3, 1914
    1914—October 3—Original circular letter. Church Historian’s
    Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
    Presidents Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff had all issued instructions to the Church or to the sisters of the Relief Society and the Church concerning their proper role in their ministrations to the sick. The practices mentioned in this letter of 1914 had begun in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to April, 1842, and had continued in the Church down to the time of this circular letter of the First Presidency, and were to continue for a brief period thereafter.
    Presidents Smith, Young and Woodruff had made it clear that the practices herein enumerated were in no sense to be considered either as a priesthood function nor as a substitute for the administration to the sick by the elders of the Church as enjoined in James 5:14-15 and Doctrine and Covenants 42:44.
    This practice of sisters in the Church administering to the sick through faith, but not through any priesthood authority, was more or less standard Church procedure for many years. [I]t is no longer a practice in the Church….[again, this was written on 1914…and, as mentioned earlier, it did continue a little, but was no longer commonplace, and didn’t last much longer].

    (James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, Vol.4, p.312) A statement that “it is no longer a practice” may not indicate a formal retraction, but it does indicate a change in the way things were. If we look at Elder Oaks’ comments, it is because, by then, temples were pretty readily available.

    I think even these blessings that did happen may not be a parallel to priesthood when they happened…does my memory serve me correctly that not all women were allowed to participate in administering such blessings? I got the sense they were more limited in scope than priesthood blessings have been all along. ??

    This is really the point Joseph was making. Joseph went on to confirm that the Sisters had authority to bless…

    OK, so I guess I am mulling over what “authority to bless” means. I tend to think that we don’t have to limit the ability of women to bless as being a 19th century thing when they were laying hands on heads. Couldn’t it be that some measure of authority can be more inherent in our womanhood/RS sisterhood/motherhood? Elder Oaks quotes Joseph Fielding Smith, and I think this is worth pondering….

    President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the Prophet’s action opened to women the possibility of exercising “some measure of divine authority, particularly in the direction of government and instruction in behalf of the women of the Church.� (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1965, p. 5.) President Smith explained: “While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, … that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. Authority and Priesthood are two different things. A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord.� (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1959, p. 4.)

    Obviously, I don’t fully understand all of the ins and outs of all of this, but I tend to think that women have more influence and importance in the Church than perhaps we realize sometimes because we sometimes focus on what we don’t have or can’t do intstead of what we do have and can do. Once again, just mulling and musing…. :)

  50. Kiskilili on May 22, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    The question of complentarity is thorny in part because the issue of what the priesthood is exactly is thorny. If we say that women can essentially do through faith what men do by exercising the priesthood (at least in terms of blessings), we’ve gone Protestant: it sounds suspiciously not unlike a “priesthood of all believers.”

    The fact that “equality” comes up so often in discussions of the priesthood is fascinating in itself. But I think focusing our energy on demonstrating the complementarity between men’s and women’s roles obscures a more interesting, and more fundamental question: what is it about women that prevents their holding the priesthood?

    If motherhood precludes a woman from worthily fulfilling priesthood roles (for whatever reason), why wouldn’t we ordain infertile women? Or why not ordain 12-year-old girls, and then take the priesthood away from them when they bear their first child?

    If it’s not physical motherhood that’s simply incompatible with the priesthood but a nebulous quality of “motherhood” which women are asked to develop–maybe a requirement to care for others–it would make sense to me to relabel the term “charity” and acknowledge that everyone is commanded to have it. Charity doesn’t prevent a man from holding the priesthood, so it alone can hardly explain why it would prevent a woman.

    I think the parallels between motherhood and priesthood are interesing. But I still don’t understand a theological reason why a person couldn’t be BOTH a mother AND a priest.

  51. J. Stapley on May 22, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    m&m, you have to be careful with that first quote. You copied strait out of the Messages of the First Presidency, but the text is the introduction to the 1914 message written in 1970 by a BYU professor (i.e., son of J.R. Clark), the message comes later. There really hasn’t been anything pronounced since then. But it is true that the current CHI limits blessings to those holding the Melchizadec Priesthood.

    JFS’s authority/priesthood discussion is one that arises out of 20th century temple practice and is challenging.

  52. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 22, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    50
    Thanks for the reminder that I need to be careful about quoting from books written later and looking back. (I missed where the letter began later in that chapter.) Sorry. (Still, it might be interesting to consider. And, as you pointed out, the practice of the Church doesn’t allow for women administering blessings. However, I think it is worthwhile to look at this not as a removal of (like we are somehow less able or less valued as women now because we don’t administer blessings by laying on of hands) (which was really such a limited aspect of what women did anyway), but to seek to understand what women can do and perhaps recognize that we don’t fully appreciate that if we are looking back pining for days gone by. Just my point of view, anyway. And Elder Oaks isn’t exactly an idiot when it comes to history and facts and such, so I tend to trust his interpretation of what happened. I realize people take issue with what he says, but I think it’s then possible that they misunderstand, not that Elder Oaks is wrong. :)

  53. J. Stapley on May 22, 2006 at 7:06 pm

    No one is saying Elder Oaks is an idiot! He was an excellent scholar of the Nauvoo era and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I will, however, take 100 years worth of First Presidency unanimity over one comment from an apostle.

  54. MDS on May 22, 2006 at 7:38 pm

    Quote: Julie, I think the problem is that “Priesthood� has always been presented and thought of (both in scriptures and in Mormon culture) as something “additional to fatherhood.�

    I’m not sure Abraham thought that way. He viewed priesthood as “the right belonging to the fathers.” Check out Abraham 1: 2-4. These verses have fatherhood and priesthood intertwined.

    Note how hometeachers sometimes serve as standins for father’s blessings. From the YW lesson manual, YW 2, Learning about the Priesthood, 12: Fathers’ Blessings, Objective, 43

    In cases where a father cannot give a blessing, a young woman can ask her grandfather, brother, home teacher, bishop, or any other Melchizedek Priesthood bearer to give her a blessing.

    Quotation

    “If no one in the immediate or extended family can give the blessing, the home teacher should be invited to perform this sacred ordinance. This order of the Church provides for every member. … Worthy and faithful home teachers are able through their faith and prayers to receive the same inspiration that might come through priesthood leaders� (Vaughn J. Featherstone, “I Have a Question,� Ensign, Feb. 1979, p. 41).

  55. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 22, 2006 at 7:51 pm

    53 — Oh boy. I never said that anyone said he is an idiot. All I was saying is that Elder Oaks tends to be pretty thorough in his research. Elder Oaks never denied what was practice for a while. Neither did I. Elder Oaks gave an explanation for why it doesn’t happen now, and that’s what I was addressing. And I trust his interpretation of the way things more than I will those who want to claim that women should have more “rights” in the Church. Some of this can boil down to interpretation and understanding, and I will trust that from an apostle more than I will from historians or social scientists or others who want to make women sound like they get a bad end of the deal somehow. In my mind, this isn’t about pitching 100 years of “First Presidency unanimity” against Elder Oaks’ statement, for the practice of the Church as it is today has been around longer than Elder Oaks has been an apostle. Continuing revelation allows for such changes in practice, so I’m extremely interested in what is done and said in our day, because that is what is applicable to us. With that as the foundation, then I like to try to understand what happened and why, and to understand where we are now and why, and to try to do that with some perspective that perhaps even “one comment” can give. I think his entire talk is really insightful, and he’s certainly not the only one who has talked about the general issues at hand, so all of that comes into play in my mulling and musing.

    As a note, my thoughts are all still work in progress…. I enjoy threads like this that give me more to chew on.

  56. Toby on May 23, 2006 at 8:49 am

    Just a few thoughts: (1)at the earliest moment of conception, aren’t we all female? (2) If doctors operate on a hermaphrodite child and make it female, did they just take the priesthood away from someone? (3) In the 19th century, weren’t females who had been through the temple considered to have the priesthood, and did they not perform priesthood functions, such as healing the sick?

  57. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 23, 2006 at 10:51 am

    m&m, I’ve seen you several times now suggest that people who read history differently than you do are disgruntled agitators for more “rights” for women. I think this is both inaccurate and unneccessarily divisive–the fact that I read the history as influenced by human prejudices and social customs as well as divine guidance, while you read it as inevitably tending towards God’s perfectly revealed will in current practice, doesn’t have anything to say about my faithfulness or yours, or my contentment in the church, or anything else except my preferred mode of historiography. Saying that women did exercise what we now think of as priesthood prerogatives, and that no good practical or theological explanation has ever been given for the shift in practice, is NOT the same as calling for change or asserting that current policy is uninspired. It’s important not to unfairly categorize your interlocutors and assume their conclusions based on your categorization, rather than their actual words.

  58. bbell on May 23, 2006 at 11:31 am

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2889#more-2889

    Opening comments final paragraph

  59. DavidH on May 23, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    bbell:

    If, by referencing Kristine’s earlier post, made at a time when M&M was not participating in T&S, you meant to imply that Kristine could indeed be perceived as a “disgruntled agitator”, I think it is important to recall the incident to which Kristine referred in that post:

    “On the way home from school this afternoon, my daughter was talking about her plans for when she grows up. She said she wants to work with animals or own a store. Her older brother slapped her down with ‘well, you can’t own a store, because store managers are men.’ I managed not to drive off the road, despite the simultaneous raising of every last hackle. As calmly as I could, I named all the store managers and owners we know who are female, and threw in the examples of our pediatrician, the headmistress of the children’s school, and my husband’s boss, just for good measure.

    “Peter, uncowed, replied that men are better at being in charge. ‘Like at church. That’s why men have the priesthood.’ Good little American meritocrat that he has, he has drawn the nearly inevitable conclusion from what he sees.”

    I think it is appropriate to be concerned by children’s receiving that message from Church, just as it would have been appropriate 50 years ago to be concerned if children received a message that one race was inferior based on the Church’s then practice regarding priesthood and temple blessings. That was not the message intended then; the message Peter received was not the message intended now.

    While I tend to view the world and the Church more in the manner that Kristine articulates in her posts than I do in the way M&M may articulate, I am glad there is room in the Church and gospel for all of us.

  60. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 23, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks, David. And bbell, please note that I did *not* (there or ever) call for women’s ordination, though I said (and believe) that our current practice is sexist. I don’t claim to know the answers, hence my anguish–as you can infer from the paragraph you reference, if I really believed that I could figure it out myself, if I didn’t feel it was important to wait for revelation to come through God’s anointed, then I would have left a long time ago.

  61. KLC on May 23, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    Kristine,

    I have to say that one of the things I admire about m&m’s comments in the bloggernacle is that while assuming a very conservative stance they are always thoughtful, polite and far from divisive. She never descends into the rabid attack dog style of so many iron rod mormons. Could you perhaps be transferring your own discomfort for her very doctrinaire views into your perception of divisiveness?

  62. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 23, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    KLC, I agree with your general assessment, and that’s why I bothered to point out this one thing–this is the third time this week that I’ve noticed comments that suggest those who interpret the history of women’s priesthood involvement differently than Elder Oaks “want to claim that women should have more “rightsâ€? in the Church.” While some have taken women’s historical practices as grounds to call for a reinstatement of those practices, not everyone who asks questions about women’s past and present priesthood participation (uh-oh, I think I’m channeling Neal Maxwell :) ) is to be distrusted on the grounds that (s)he is agitating for more “rights.” It’s a sloppy mistake with potentially unkind consequences, and it’s precisely m&m’s usual thoughtfulness and civility that makes me think it’s uncharacteristic and she might want to rethink it.

    I’m not uncomfortable with her views; I just disagree.

  63. KLC on May 23, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    Kristine, I don’t question your disagreement, just your perception that her comments have been divisive. I don’t see it, they’re not even close.

  64. Mark Butler on May 23, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    I am the one who introduced the word “agitate” into this thread, but only in terms of pragmatics, which I think are a fundamental issue. To me the Priesthood as we know it today is first and foremost a matter of economy and expediency – something that will dramatically change in the next life, for reasons I have described earlier.

    I think the questions of why we have this structure in this life, and what prevents it from being the same as the structure we are told will prevail in the next life, and the question of the pragmatics of making changes beyond a restoration of 19th century practice are what are interesting, more than the implicit suggestion that the order of the Priesthood is a historical artifact from a less enlightened age without any suggestion of how or why it should / could be different without some considerable problems.

  65. Lynnette on May 23, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Motherhood is the power that God grants to God’s servants to do the most important work of God’s Kingdom here on earth, to perform the most important teaching and saving work including, but not limited to, the bearing and nurturing children), etc.

    I’m not entirely clear as to what what you see “motherhood” as including that goes beyond the bearing and nurturing of children; I think I’m still trying to get a sense of how you’re using the term.

    I really like the point that talking about motherhood/priesthood as an all-or-nothing parallel is a mistake; I hadn’t thought of it quite that way before, but it makes a lot of sense to see it as something with both continuities and discontinuities.

    For me, the question inevitably lurking in the background of such discussion is— in comparing the two, are we making some sort of claim about why women don’t have the priesthood? One could theoretically point out similarities between motherhood and priesthood while remaining agnostic on the issue of women’s ordination, but usually the question seems to arise in the context of providing a justification for a male-only priesthood.

  66. Kim Siever on May 23, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    “Omitting 5 and 6 . . . these are all meant to be done–ideally–by a husband or father, in the context of a family unit.”

    And omitting the ordinances of initiatory and endowment. I also do not see how #7 (being married in the temple) is normally done by the father. I know of no one personally who was married in the temple by his/her father. These things being taken into consideration, of the nine in the list (including my two addenda), over half are not normally done by the father.

  67. Adam Greenwood on May 23, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    Note that M&M never referred to “disgruntled agitators” or made a blanket statement that “any woman who disagreed with her on church history” was one. A call for more civility for tolerance should try not to misrepresent what people have said.

    What is ironic is that all this came within days of KHH accused me by name of being opposed to the current prophet: http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=3159#comment-156189

    Also, I understand that there may be a distinction between publicly labeling men-only priesthood as ‘sexist’ and publicly calling for the ordination of women, but its pretty slight.

  68. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 23, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    Adam, I used the conditional! I think you disagree with the current church practice of leaving family size to the discretion of the couple involved, and you would like to see a return to the days when large families were vocally encouraged. Am I mistaken about your views?

    Noting that a practice is sexist is neither the same as, nor close to proposing a specific alternative practice. For the record, I don’t think ordaining women within the current church structure would meaningfully address the problem of sexism in church governance, at least not without wholesale cultural change which I don’t believe would necessarily follow a move to ordain women.

  69. Adam Greenwood on May 23, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    “Adam, I used the conditional! I think you disagree with the current church practice of leaving family size to the discretion of the couple involved, and you would like to see a return to the days when large families were vocally encouraged. Am I mistaken about your views?”

    Kristine, to my knowledge I’ve never disagreed with anything the Prophet has said on the subject or publicly disagreed with the current church counsel (I don’t think I’ve done it privately, either, but I’m less sure about that). Certainly there was nothing in the thread you made your comment in that was critical. If you reacted the way you did to M&M’s hint of an implied general statement that, if applied to you, would put you in opposition to church practice, you should be more careful about directly accusing people of being opposed. Tolerance for thee but not for me isn’t much of a standard.

    “Noting that a practice is sexist is neither the same as, nor close to proposing a specific alternative practice. For the record, I don’t think ordaining women within the current church structure would meaningfully address the problem of sexism in church governance, at least not without wholesale cultural change which I don’t believe would necessarily follow a move to ordain women.”

    It’s hard to get worked up about someone falsely accusing you of wanting ordination for women (which, to be clear, M&M has not done), when your view is that the church is so sexist that even ordaining women wouldn’t fix it.

  70. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 23, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    “Certainly there was nothing in the thread you made your comment in that was critical.”

    You’re right. I’m sorry.

  71. Adam Greenwood on May 23, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    “And omitting the ordinances of initiatory and endowment. I also do not see how #7 (being married in the temple) is normally done by the father. I know of no one personally who was married in the temple by his/her father.”

    Think of them as levirate ordinances.

  72. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 23, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Boy, I guess I’ve learned not to forget to check T&S for a half of a day.

    Kristine, I’m sorry if you felt my words were divisive. Sometimes I may use generalities when I shouldn’t (which I think we all do from time to time, don’t we?). I will try to watch that, though. Perhaps if you go back and read my comments, however, you will find that I didn’t label anyone. I was explaining how I approach understanding our history. I realize not everyone takes that same approach. I also realize that, with such a tender and charged topic such as this, misunderstandings are not surprising.

  73. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 23, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    You didn’t label anyone in particular, it’s true, but you did say you wouldn’t pay attention to people who “want more rights for women.” I don’t think anyone on this thread has been arguing for that, and so I thought you were mischaracterizing those who disagreed with you. Since you’ve done the same thing on BCC and fMh this week, it jumped out at me here.

    That’s all. Really. I’m not upset, never was, just want not to have my point of view dismissed because some people who share it choose a different course of action than I do based on that understanding.

    But we’ve spilled too much ink on such a dumb quibble already. Truce!

  74. s on May 23, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    “While I think much motherhood work happens in the home, the meaning and implications of “Motherhood� in the church are much broader than the work the mother does in the home with her nuclear family. Motherhood is the power that God grants to God’s servants to do the most important work of God’s Kingdom here on earth, to perform the most important teaching and saving work including, but not limited to, the bearing and nurturing children), etc. It is a system of implicit authority in which men have a very limited role.�

    Julie, Lynnette echoed my thoughts exactly. What are you defining as the broad role of “Motherhood” in the church that goes beyond the work that mothers do in bearing and nurturing children? Also, how does “motherhood” function in the church in a way that fatherhood does not? How do women have authority through motherhood in a way that fathers do not through fatherhood?

  75. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 23, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    73 — Just to clarify (apologies for spilling more ink), I meant to also say that I have learned about some things that I had misunderstood in this thread, and that came from people that you may have felt I was dismissing. In other words, I *am* listening and not patently dismissing anyone (I think you may have read too much into what I said). Part of the reason I am here is to try to gain more understanding along the way through discussion and from people who may see the world differently. On the flip side, I appreciate when people don’t dismiss me completely just because I’ve acquired an “iron-rodder” label in the ‘nacle. Sometimes I feel as though people won’t stop to hear what I’m trying to say and instead react more emotionally to my “iron-rod”-ness (whatever that means). I do appreciate you helping me see a reason why sometimes I might be misunderstood. Like I said, I will try to do better.

    Generally speaking, I have thought this discussion has been fairly civil, and also interesting to read. It’s given me lots to think about.

    OK, sorry for adding one more side comment to this thread. Back to your regularly scheduled discussion….

  76. manaen on May 23, 2006 at 7:02 pm

    5
    I don’t think it makes a dent in explaining why all the administrative functions of the Church belong to men–there just isn’t any reason why father/ward clerk is a more likely pairing than mother/ward clerk. (Not that I’m agitating to be called as ward clerk!!)

    My mother was the ward clerk for a year.
    This was during the 1950’s, the nascent period for the Church in Orange County. My mother was called, set apart, and served as ward clerk. She kept the records and signed all the certificates of baptism, confirmation, ordination, etc. This ended when Marion G. Romney was the visiting authority for our stake’s conference and noticed her name as he reviewed the callings in the wards. The bishop and she hunted down as much paperwork as they could find and he countesigned it. She was released but because of her expertise and the paucity of able replacements, she continued to prepare all the forms for one of the ward’s priesthood leaders to sign.

  77. Adam Greenwood on May 23, 2006 at 11:16 pm

    Remember that record keeping has a strong theological component in the doctrine and covenants thats tied in with sealing and other priesthood powers.

  78. Brad Kramer on May 24, 2006 at 3:48 am

    I have a next door neighbor who served as a (3rd) counsellor in the primary presidency in HIS previous ward. 15 years ago, my mom, then primary president, tried to call a male counsellor and had the idea vetoed by the stake pres — so there’s been progress just in the last decade or so. I have another neighbor whose mother was just called as an “assistant” to the bishop. She regularly attends high council meetings — where she is regularly shunned by some of the HC members, even to the point that they won’t even acknowledge her presence in the room or respond to direct questions she asks. I think in this day and age a bishop would be crazy to not try and call a female 3rd counsellor — even a councellor TO rather than IN the bishoprich. Then again, maybe that’s why I’ll never be made bishop.

  79. cchrissyy on May 24, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    I don’t think preisthood has a counterpart, and that looking for the “women’s compensation” just can’t work. there isn’t one. On this earth, in this dispensation, only men have it. but eterally, I look forward to every blessing, every power, and every authority that any ohter child of God, amle and female, can attain in exaltation.

    On earth, motherhood and fatherhood are comprable roles. All this talk about mother’s influence, service, and responbilties- if you ask me- are exactly the things a good and involved father does. At least in my home, my husband’s childcare, teaching, and disiplining isn’t suplemental to mine and sidelined, but as a full partner in childrearing.

    I’m very uncomfortable hearing about a mom’s role as if it weren’t exatcly a dad’s role too, and as if dad is just on call for conception and ordinances, providing a paycheck and making decisions in the backgorund while only the mom is growing, teaching, and comforting the children.

    I know some famiies and some societies work that way. (those roles actually remind me of polygamy! yikes.)

    but that’s not the ideal. and it’s not, therefore, a framework to draw gospel paralells from.

  80. Mike on May 24, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    (3) “What about the Aaronic Priesthood passing the sacrament and such?�

    I haven’t read the other comments but I think this will be rather original. I have children of the sacrament passing age of both sexes. My daughter describes the deacons as hopelss geeks. Their cloths don’t fit, they are growing too fast. Their hair looks like a collection of janitoral tools; mops and brooms and feather dusters and scrubbing brushes. They look like they slept in their cloths. They stumble and trip around in a seemingly drunken daze.

    She thinks the Bishop should turn the passing of the sacrament over to the girls. They would dress up and look much better. Lots of mascara and eye liner. Cloths that don’t fit due to rapid growth and development make girls look “better.” It would really give them a chance to strut their stuff. The aisles in church would become like run ways in the fashion shows.The girls would perform the passing of the sacrament with the precision of a drill team. Possible leg kicks and cartwheels included.

    In the big picture, the youth of that age have been given the assignment to pass the Sacrament for whatever reason. I think the problems that the boys cause are less distracting and more easily corrected than the problems that the girls would cause. And at that age there will be problems.

    This is a male perspective from a guy who is not above physically bull-dogging a young teenage son into the bathroom to get his hair wet enough that he might as well wash it and take a bath while he is at it; but doesn’t quite know how to tell his daughter that her skirt is a bit too short and is relieved when her mother does.

  81. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 24, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    I don’t think preisthood has a counterpart, and that looking for the “women’s compensation� just can’t work. there isn’t one. On this earth, in this dispensation, only men have it. but eterally, I look forward to every blessing, every power, and every authority that any ohter child of God, amle and female, can attain in exaltation.

    I had actually thought of posting something that said, “The reason men have the priesthood is because that is the way God wants it to be.” But that doesn’t mean women don’t have equally important roles in God’s plan.

    That said, I don’t agree that fatherhood and motherhood are exactly equal, either. That a woman’s body is capable of creating a life is no small thing.

    Also, I tend to think that the concept of gender will still be important in the next life (part of our “eternal identity and purpose”). I don’t know what that means; I know we have equal opportunities to receive exaltation. I sometimes wonder, however, if gender roles of some sort will continue into the eternities. But I suppose it doesn’t do much good to speculate at this point, since we just don’t know…..

  82. J. Stapley on May 24, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    On this earth, in this dispensation, only men have it.

    This is not particularly true. See here.

  83. Adam Greenwood on May 24, 2006 at 7:07 pm

    “That a woman’s body is capable of creating a life is no small thing.”

    Beautiful.

  84. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 24, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    I think this is relevant to the conversation. Quotes like this help me square my thinking about tough topics…
    Even though men and women are equal before God in their eternal opportunities [to receive eternal life], they have different, but equally significant, duties in His eternal plan. We must understand that God views all of His children with infinite wisdom and perfect fairness. Consequently, He can acknowledge and even encourage our differences while providing equal opportunity for growth and development. [according to His infinite wisdom]
    Our Heavenly Father assigned different responsibilities in mortality to men and women when we lived with Him as His spirit sons and daughters. To His sons He would give the priesthood and the responsibilities of fatherhood, and to His daughters He gave the responsibilities of motherhood, each with its attendant functions….
    Most of what men and women must do to qualify for an exalted family life together is based on shared responsibilities and objectives….
    Our task is to integrate the principles of the gospel into our lives so that our lives will be in balance. When our lives are in balance, before you realize it your life will be full of spiritual understanding [in contrast to limited mortal understanding] that will confirm that your Heavenly Father loves you and that His plan is fair and true and we should strive to understand it and enjoy living it.

    M. Russell Ballard, “Equality through Diversity,� Ensign, Nov. 1993, 89

    I know it annoys some people when I include quotes like this, but I think he addresses a lot of what we have been talking about. I highlighted some things that stuck out to me relative to discussions like this. Food for thought, anyway….

  85. cchrissyy on May 24, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    82) Thanks, that link was helpful to my thinking last year :) It’s still good.
    I know, I could have naunced it more. I don’t exactly believe that “only men have rpeisthood”.. second annointings aside, I’d more accurately state my opinion as this: endowed women have the power, but are not granted the authority or office yet, but are promissed the authorization will come later on.
    So, in the simplist terms I had, I said only men have the preisthood in this world, at this time. what i meant was, endowed women have it too but are restricted to not use it. yet :) And, if the 2nd annointing stuff does really exist, and means what we think it means, then maybe a handful of men and women are excericizing a greater power and authorization already.

  86. Julie M. Smith on May 25, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    All:

    Perhaps this post is dead (I’ve been at the beach all week), but I did want to respond to those who have commented:

    Kiskilili: I agree with you that eclipsing fatherhood is a potential danger of focusing on the motherhood-priesthood parallel. Perhaps what I wrote above about using the parallel to ask ‘Since priesthood is parallel to motherhood, what does that teach us about how a priesthood holder should act?” and concluding with “more like a mother!” would solve this. Note that technically all one has to do to be a mother is to give birth, but we expect more than that (much, much, much . . .) from LDS motherhood, and the same from LDS priesthood.

    m & m in #46: Reponses to your responses:

    (1) the fact that temple work is “more important than” healing blessings seems irrelevant; I suppose the argument you are making is something like, “Why should anyone complain about the loss of the institutionally-approved right to give healing blessings when they now get to do the more important work in the temple?” and I suppose the answer is: “For the same reason LDS men would complain if we turned over doing baptisms to Catholic priests and reminded them that exercising the Mel. priesthood is more important.”

    (2) J. Stapley said what I would have in response to this.

    Kisilili asks, “But I still don’t understand a theological reason why a person couldn’t be BOTH a mother AND a priest.”

    I don’t understand the theological reasons either; but I do understand the sociological ones: I’m already in the spiritually-intensive environment of full-time caretaker to my children, I already have the opportunities for growth that come from it, I already feel overwhelmed when I think about what I need to do to ‘plant the seed of faith’ in my children, and I already sense the creeping alienation from the family unit that can befall my husband because he isn’t in our nest all day (and he leaves at 9 and is home by 5:30!). Because of who he is, we’d make it work, but I do believe that many families bringing fewer strengths, blessings, and luck to the table would be far worse off if the father (and only the father) didn’t hold the priesthood.

    Re MDS in #54: That’s exactly the kind of thing I was thinking; thanks for those quotes.

    In #65 Lynette wrote, “I’m not entirely clear as to what what you see “motherhoodâ€? as including that goes beyond the bearing and nurturing of children; I think I’m still trying to get a sense of how you’re using the term.”

    So am I :). I will note that I revolt at the idea that motherhood is bearing and nurturing children; perhaps I need to put up a separate post on how we define LDS motherhood.

    Lynette also asks, “For me, the question inevitably lurking in the background of such discussion is— in comparing the two, are we making some sort of claim about why women don’t have the priesthood?”

    Very good point; thanks for making it. I am making that claim, based on some ideas that I have tossed out on this thread, but I haven’t made it systematically. Perhaps another post.

    Re #66–I was thinking that the person being married in the temple is doing that in the context of a family–ie. with his new wife’s cooperation.

    Re #74. S wrote, “How do women have authority through motherhood in a way that fathers do not through fatherhood?”

    Please, please tell me that this was a joke or a thoughtless comment and that you aren’t seriously asking this question.

    Re #80, Mike, I’ll assume your comment was meant to lighten a heavy thread, but I’ll still admit that I’m not happy with your stereotyping of either gender–I don’t think it is helpful.

  87. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 25, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    I suppose the answer is: “For the same reason LDS men would complain if we turned over doing baptisms to Catholic priests and reminded them that exercising the Mel. priesthood is more important.�

    Julie, I may not always agree with you, but at least I usually understand you, but this just doesn’t make sense to me. Turning something over to someone who has NO authority doesn’t come close in my mind to what has happened re: blessings given by women (which were not blessings by some authority in the first place and which have been replaced by blessings that ARE performed by authority of some sort) (and turning blessings to those who DO have authority and were supposed to be the first choice for most blessings anyway). I think you have actually turned my thought 180 degrees and run the other direction with it. Or did I miss something? (Which is very possible…if so, please explain).

  88. Julie M. Smith on May 25, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    OK, m & m, it was a poor analogy; try this: Let’s say from now on, only (LDS) men with green eyes can perform baptisms. And when my earnest, non-ark-steadying, blue-eyed husband asks, “Hey! I used to perform baptisms! What gives?” you tell him to quit kvetching because he still has the MP. How do you think he would respond?

    I still may not understand your position, but if it is that women’s ability to perform ordinance work and/or officiate in the temple should more-than-compensate for their lost ability to give blessings, etc., then I can understand why that argument doesn’t convince many women.

  89. s on May 26, 2006 at 3:14 am

    I was seriously asking the question, though I think that perhaps it came off in a way I didn’t intend. I’m not asking the question because I believe the opposite (i.e. that fatherhood is identical to motherhood). I guess I was trying to get at your definition of motherhood (as Lynnette was). And I was trying to get a sense of how you imagined the authority of motherhood (and how that differed from the authority of fatherhood). I have a suspicion that I do disagree with you on a number of points, but my questions were just trying to get at your definitions, etc, so that I could have an better understanding of your beliefs and ideas before responding further. I hope that clarifies things.

  90. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 26, 2006 at 4:02 am

    I still may not understand your position, but if it is that women’s ability to perform ordinance work and/or officiate in the temple should more-than-compensate for their lost ability to give blessings, etc., then I can understand why that argument doesn’t convince many women.

    Actually, remember that I got “my” position essentially from what Elder Oaks said. He may not have used this concept of “compensation” but he did mention the concept of proper order (from JS), and that once temples were well established, the practice of women giving blessings faded.

    At the surface, I can understand why “*some** women aren’t satisfied with the explanation (as a side note, I think it’s important to remember that relatively only a small fraction of women in the Church care about not being able to lay hands on heads for blessings anymore), but my purpose has been to try to understand what Elder Oaks was saying, and trust that maybe we should be more grateful for what women *are* able to do. Besides, I still think that the power of faith exemplified by the women who used to lay on hands can *still* be exercised, just without the laying on of hands. Remember, there was no authority involved, only faith, so is it really that big of a deal that the faith can still be exercised, just without that external action? Maybe you can help me understand why that matters so much, when the “spirit” of what happened can still happen through simple prayers of faith and other faith-filled actions (think of that story of the mother of the boy who had been shot (Alma ???), who prayed and received revelation that saved her son’s leg…maybe even his life). Why do we not share more stories like this as examples of what women have done and can still do, instead of feeling “melancholy” (to use a word from BCC) about only an *element* of something we can’t do anymore?

    BTW, I am still not really moved much by your example (nothing personal, of course). If the practice of the Church included a restriction based on eye color (which seems pretty trite and insignificant compared to the concept of having blessings be the responsibility of priesthood holders, which has been the preferred order all along anyway), and especially if this practice was continued by Church leaders consistently for decades, it seems to me the best thing your husband could do is simply obey and not worry about it too much, and be grateful for what he can do. If he’s a non-ark-steadying kind of a guy, that’s what I would expect. I’m pretty old-fashioned that way, perhaps. I think there is a lot to be gained by quietly doing what we have been asked to do, even if we don’t agree or don’t have all the whys answered.

    Let me just say that it’s not that I can’t grasp why some women are unhappy about this. But, in the end, sometimes it just is good to let things like that go…cuz it’s just not that fun to be unhappy about something over which we have no control. And I wonder if it causes some women to lose sight of what they CAN do, in the same spirit of service and desire to exercise faith. Why spend energy longing for something from days gone by? Why not focus on what IS and CAN BE done ? Any thoughts? I’m sincerely interested in understanding, if you feel like sharing your perspective….

  91. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 26, 2006 at 4:48 am

    p.s. Julie, as I was getting ready for bed, it occurred to me why your examples haven’t clicked with me. It’s because they are arbitrary. On the other hand, the change from “women giving blessings is within normal practice” to “it’s not the practice anymore” isn’t really arbitrary (although I understand the frustration surrounding the fact that the change was more gradual, and not formalized in any way). There is precedent in scripture that supports the way things are now (in ancient and modern scripture)…men have always been the ones to hold the priesthood, the scriptures (and latter-day prophets, including those who were leading during the time women gave blessings) have counseled people to “call for the elders” when in need of a blessing, etc. It’s not like this is some crazy, out-of-the-blue thing that isn’t consistent with anything else. It’s all very consistent with patterns for millenia. If anything, it appears to me that, even without the ability to give blessings as in the 19th century, women have a lot more involvement in the Church in many ways today than in any other dispensation, at least as far as we know. Again, I just think it behooves us to be grateful for what we do have. And to remember that the Lord gives and He takes away.

    One other thought (for Julie)…you started this thread stating how you think motherhood is equal to priesthood, which implies (to me, at least) that you are OK with the whole issue of women and the priesthood. But then I read other comments that seem to indicate otherwise (here and in other places). So, frankly, I am confused as to where you stand. I’d be interested in your thoughts there.

    (Just as a note, I’m not trying to pick a fight…I really want to understand where you are coming from.)

  92. Julie M. Smith on May 26, 2006 at 2:53 pm

    s, I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t even attempted to define what I mean by motherhood or the authority of motherhood on this thread. As I said, I think that’s a horse to beat on a different day.

    M & M, to clarify: Like you, I have no complaint about the current order of the church. I think, however, that I am more sympathetic to women who struggle with this issue than you are. No, that’s not right, I dont’ mean to imply that you aren’t sympathetic; I just mean that . . . when you say we should be grateful for what we do have, I think that a very unsatisfactory answer for women who are struggling with the issue.

    You wrote, “I think it’s important to remember that relatively only a small fraction of women in the Church care about not being able to lay hands on heads for blessings anymore”

    Very few women in the church even know about it, so I think your conclusion is misleading. I have no idea of what % of women who know about LDS women’s history are bothered by it to any extent, and I don’t know how you would know that, either. I’m not bothered by it, but I’m not convinced that’s normal. :)

    You wrote, “there was no authority involved”

    I’ll let J. Stapley handle this if he is still reading, but I’m not sure that that is true.

    You wrote, “Besides, I still think that the power of faith exemplified by the women who used to lay on hands can *still* be exercised, just without the laying on of hands.”

    This has always led to a conundrum for me: if faith can do exactly the same thing a blessing can, then what the heck is the point of a priesthood blessing? Why bother?

    m & m, maybe I can’t defend my example as well as I could if I were someone who WERE bothered by the fact that women no longer give blessings, but I am just trying to convey to you a sense for why what I perceive to be a ‘pat answer’ doesn’t hold water for people concerned about this. Should we just suck it up and obey? Of course. But I feel for people who struggle with this issue. Your last paragraph in #90 would not, I think, provide anything useful for a woman struggling with this issue.

    As for #91, you are going in circles. You say eye color is arbritary, but some people think that gender distinctions for who can give a blessing are also arbitrary! I also disagree with you about how you are interpreting the scriptures here: we’ve got examples of female prophets and deacons and anointings and blessings and healings in the scriptures, so if we were only relying on the scriptures, we would not restrict women from these roles. To me, it is NOT at all consistent with the patterns for millenia, as you say. I don’t have a problem with the way things are today, but I also don’t think they represent eternal verities.

  93. Lynnette on May 26, 2006 at 3:04 pm

    m&m, you’ve given me some things to think about; I appreciate your point that there is a lot that women can do, and perhaps sometimes in frustration it’s easy to overlook that.

    I hope I’m not mangling your views here, but am I understanding correctly that you see women as being able to accomplish through faith things that are more or less equivalent to what can be done through the priesthood? I have a hard time making sense of that, because then I’m left wondering why then exactly anyone has the priesthood. I guess my take on it is that the priesthood is in fact something special, something different, that there’s something about a priesthood blessing that’s not the same as just having someone pray for you (though I don’t mean at all to dismiss the power of prayer!) It’s precisely because I think that that I’m troubled by the gender discrepancy, if that makes sense.

  94. Julie M. Smith on May 26, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Lynette, that’s what I was trying to get at, but you said it much better than I did. This is something that I’ve never been able to resolve–not as a feminist per se, but just trying to figure out what the priesthood can do that faith can’t (when we are talking about healing or something similar–it would be different, I think, for an ordinance or something).

  95. J. Stapley on May 26, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    m&m: He may not have used this concept of “compensation� but he did mention the concept of proper order (from JS), and that once temples were well established, the practice of women giving blessings faded.

    This is simply demonstrably false.

    there was no authority involved

    Joseph Smith and many prophet’s after state otherwise. What authority do women have to do ordinances in the temple? This question was a lot easier to answer 110 years ago.

    And to remember that the Lord gives and He takes away.

    I’m not sure I remember him actually taking anything away.

    Julie wrote: This has always led to a conundrum for me: if faith can do exactly the same thing a blessing can, then what the heck is the point of a priesthood blessing? Why bother?

    We may disagree on some things, Julie, but this is right on. Why lay on hands or anoint with oil, ever if you can do the same thing with simple faith? I believe it does mean something and I know that our people have definately believed the same historically.

  96. Beijing on May 26, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    “And I wonder if it causes some women to lose sight of what they CAN do, in the same spirit of service and desire to exercise faith. Why spend energy longing for something from days gone by? Why not focus on what IS and CAN BE done ?”

    That may not be quite the argument you want to make to someone on the edge. Because when some women quit longing for something like the female LDS priesthood of the past and focus on what they CAN do, they might start to be annoyed by the discrepancy between what they CAN do and what they are allowed to do in the LDS church. They might think about becoming members of a church where they can jump right in and do what CAN BE done without the need for male approval for their service initiatives, and without spending any energy trying to justify to themselves and others why they CAN but MAY NOT fulfill certain roles.

  97. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 27, 2006 at 3:50 am

    M & M, to clarify: Like you, I have no complaint about the current order of the church. I think, however, that I am more sympathetic to women who struggle with this issue than you are. No, that’s not right, I don’t mean to imply that you aren’t sympathetic; I just mean that . . . when you say we should be grateful for what we do have, I think that a very unsatisfactory answer for women who are struggling with the issue.

    Julie, I appreciate you giving me some benefit of the doubt here (smile). I am sorry if I ever come across as unsympathetic. I suppose I’m still trying to figure out what really would help in such a situation. I understand the struggle; I really do. I’m not sure what the answer is, but sometimes I feel that there is so much focus on the struggle that there isn’t any resolution gained (I’m making a generalization here, and I realize that isn’t always the case). Maybe someone can help me understand what does help someone who struggles. Just knowing someone else struggles, too, helps, I know…but what can help get beyond that struggle?

    92, 93, 94 — Lynnette and Julie:
    I completely understand what you are saying, and I am still mulling over that point. Because the women never were exercising priesthood and were acting in faith, I guess in my mind, if they were acting in faith, I can still do that, even without laying on of hands. I realize there IS something significant in that action in ordinances, etc, so I realize my thoughts break down at some point. I can’t take away the fact that laying on of hands has significance in our doctrine. I still lean on Elder Oaks comment with regard to that (about blessings being allowed until temples were prevalent enough to allow women to administer ordinances in the temple).

    I do have to say that this has given me a lot to think about in terms of how I can be my husband’s partner in his priesthood. I’m going to write something about this on A Prayer of Faith sometime in the next few days.

    Where I am right now on this point you all bring up (the “conundrum” in Julie’s words) is that we are left, I think, to really go back to the main focus of Julie’s post…the parallel importance of motherhood (and I would add womanhood and sisterhood) and priesthood. There IS something special about priesthood, no doubt about it, but there is something extremely special about motherhood (and womanhood, and sisterhood). And so I try to rejoice in what we can do as women. It’s empowering and exciting to me.

    I have this strange sense (or maybe it’s a hope) that there are things that we can understand if we ponder the way things are and try to recognize that maybe what we define as “equal” “fair” or “arbitrary” or whatever may not always be the way things are. I believe there are gems in our doctrine, but we may have to hunt for them a little. Call me an idealist, but I just have such a faith in God’s love for His daughters that I can’t believe things are as bleak as some women feel they are (this could also be that I have had, almost without exception, extremely positive experiences with men and the priesthood in my life). I’m not knocking those feelings…just aching for a solution…but that solution, in my mind, could only be clearly understanding things as they really are (which is a “spiritual eye” thing). Not that I DO have that understanding, but I have the faith that we can gain it. Don’t know if that makes sense, or sounds heartless, or whatever…. My heart is there, really.

    Julie: we’ve got examples of female prophets and deacons and anointings and blessings and healings in the scriptures

    Can you share some specifics that you are thinking about? What I had in mind was, for example, the Levitical Priesthood being passed to males only, the high priest (male) being the only one to perform tabernacle ordinances, priesthood itself always being given only to males, instructions to call upon the elders for blesings, etc.

    RE: my comments about authority. That was the wrong choice of words. What I meant was priesthood.

    J. Stapley said: This is simply demonstrably false.
    OK, it is clear that you know an awful lot about these things. I am no match for your knowledge. But if you see somewhere where you think I am wrong, I would appreciate you kindly taking a moment to help me understand better why I might be off, rather than just making curt statements such as this that do nothing but tell me I’m wrong. I clearly have strong feelings about these issues, but I also want to understand what I may not; sometimes I feel like you want to just cut me off at the knees more than anything. Perhaps I’m reading into your comments too much, but there have been enough times that I’ve felt this way that I thought I’d mention it. Thanks in advance. (And apologies in advance if I’m misreading you.)

  98. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 27, 2006 at 3:56 am

    They might think about becoming members of a church where they can jump right in and do what CAN BE done without the need for male approval for their service initiatives, and without spending any energy trying to justify to themselves and others why they CAN but MAY NOT fulfill certain roles.

    OK, I understand what you are trying to say, and like I said above, I’m not trying to be unsympathetic, but the priesthood, a patriarchal family system and a heirachical church system are what we have. I like to believe that as we understand these things as they really are, we won’t see them negatively (when they are executed and handled correctly, of course). I just don’t see the purpose of focusing on what is “wrong” or what “can’t be done.” What benefit does that serve? How will that really help someone on the edge? (Again, if I sound heartless, I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I really don’t. Care to share your thoughts?)

  99. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 27, 2006 at 4:22 am

    p.s. J. Stapley…an example of a time when you helped me understand an error in my comment was in comment 51 and I really appreciated realizing how I was misreading that. So thanks.

  100. Julie M. Smith on May 27, 2006 at 10:55 am

    m & m,

    Well, I wrote once on how I found resolution: through personal revelation. I do agree with you that a small portion of people seem to delight in the struggle, but most that I have known seem more interested in resolving it.

    You wrote, “Because the women never were exercising priesthood and were acting in faith”

    Hm. I suppose we just have to agree to disagree here; but I don’t think that this is how 19th century men or women would have understood their experience.

    You asked for examples. Here’s just a few:

    prophets: Deborah, Huldah, Anna, daughters of whatshisbananas in Acts, promise of Joel

    deacons: Phoebe and others in the NT

    anointing: anointing woman in Mark 14 and parallels

    healing: Abish in Alma 19:29

    You are right about the OT priesthood, but remember that that is the lower priesthood. (What is potentially interesting is how this relates to my angst about YM/YW roles: the lack of institutional role for YW may be parallel to the lack of role of Israelite women in the levitical priesthood. I’ll need to think about this more . . .)

    m&m wrote, “I just don’t see the purpose of focusing on what is “wrongâ€? or what “can’t be done.â€? What benefit does that serve? How will that really help someone on the edge?”

    Well, I used to be someone ‘on the edge’ and if you had told me to just ignore my doubts, I probably would have thought that that meant you (and the church) had no real answers for me and I should probably cut my losses and jump ship. When doubts exist, ignoring them is fatal. There are better and worse ways, I think, to deal with them–but denying them is the worst way. My prescription for anyone wrestling with doubt is study, prayer, service in the kingdom, obedience to the commandments, and discussing the issue with people who feel that they are aware of all of the issues but either have resolved them or learned to live with them.

  101. Beijing on May 27, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    “I just don’t see the purpose of focusing on what is “wrongâ€? or what “can’t be done.â€? What benefit does that serve? How will that really help someone on the edge?”

    M&M, you don’t have to focus on it. But by saying “stop focusing on it”…you’re still focusing on it!

    It would help if you didn’t ask people who see serious problems to just look on the sunny side and snap out of it. What would you have told black people struggling under the apartheid system? Just accept the current system, have faith that if you learn to see it as it really is and if it is executed properly you won’t see it negatively, and focus on the good you have here and now! The colored water fountain isn’t so bad! Did you realize that the water you drink comes from the same water main the white folks drink from? The white water fountain and the colored water fountain are really fundamentally the same! Focus on the water you CAN drink, and the jobs you CAN hold, and the houses you CAN live in!

    Now, I’m not saying the women and the priesthood issue is anywhere near as unjust as apartheid. But let me assure you that many people on the edge do see it that way, and do feel it just that keenly, and thus that is how your words can sound to those ears.

    An attitude of “your feelings are valid even though I don’t share them, and I hope you find some peace” would be more helpful than an attitude of “stop dwelling on it, negative nellies!” Some people simply have strong feelings on topics that barely register a blip for you, and the more you can accept that you and they simply feel differently, without trying to “fix” other people’s feelings, the closer both you and they will come to peace.

  102. Elisabeth on May 27, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    Excellent comment, Beijing. Thank you.

    m&m, I just wanted to say that I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here (and elsewhere on the blogs), especially because I find your perspective difficult to agree with most of the time. But you take the time to share your reasoning for why you believe the way you do, and the work that you do to explain your reasoning to your readers helps me better understand your perspective (which I think approximates the perspective of many, many women in the Church). Thanks.

  103. Lynnette on May 27, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    m&m, I’ve been thinking about this, and I wonder if one of the reasons why we might sometimes not understand each other so well is because we’re operating on different assumptions regarding how change happens in the Church.

    If I believed that continuing revelation was unrelated to what Church members were thinking about, asking about, or ready to accept, I might take more of your view of things. In other words, if the situation is how it is and there’s nothing we can do until and unless God speaks further, I can very much see why someone might question the value of focusing much on the things that appear to be wrong.

    However, my reading of Church history is that things have changed in ways that were related to the members. God didn’t institute the Word of Wisdom, for example, completely out of the blue; it was in response to a concern that someone raised. I see the revelation giving blacks the priesthood in the same light–I do think it was inspired, but I also doubt it would have taken place without the social turmoil that made the issue something people were thinking about and agonizing over. Women weren’t allowed to pray in sacrament meeting for a while; it’s hard for me to believe that that would have ever changed if everyone had simply focused on what women could do and not questioned what they couldn’t.

    I was about to say that I’m not trying to assert that we can lobby God to change his mind, but it occurred to me that there’s an OT tradition of people doing just that, of arguing and bargaining with God, so maybe I shouldn’t entirely rule that out. ;) In any case, however, I think that talking about these issues can make a real difference, because it shapes the kinds of questions we ask, and consequently the kinds of revelation we’re able to receive.

    Of course, I do have to keep reminding myself that my personal vision of how things should be likely doesn’t precisely line up with God’s, and I’ll be the first to admit that I have a lot of work to do when it comes to exercising patience and humility and trust, and being open to the possibility that I’m wrong. :)

    One other thought–I can see how women talking about their struggles with this could at times come across as just people complaining and not being interested in resolving anything. But for me, that kind of thing has been more vital than I can say–the sense that there are other people out there how actually get it, who understand my concerns, is a large part of why I’ve managed to stay.

    I hope that’s helpful in explaining a bit more where I’m coming from. Like Elisabeth, I’ve appreciated you explaining your views; it’s been helpful to me in understanding not only your perspective but that of many of the other women I know.

  104. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 27, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    Lynnette, that’s exactly the perspective one would expect from one of the daughters of Zelophehad!! :)

  105. Lynnette on May 27, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    lol–Kristine, that’s great! I hadn’t even thought of that example in writing my comment; thanks for pointing it out. I’m happy to be living up to the original Zelophehad’s daughters.

  106. J. Stapley on May 27, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    m&m: He may not have used this concept of “compensation� but he did mention the concept of proper order (from JS), and that once temples were well established, the practice of women giving blessings faded.

    Fair enough; my last resonse was abit curt. Well, when you look at the temples being established – the Nauvoo Temple, Endowment House, St. George, Manti, SLC and Logan – Women’s administrations were in fact gaining institutional traction. A great example is President Richards’ address the sisters in 1888 (while president woodruff was in hiding), where he recolected the meeting (he was there) at which the Prophet Joseph expounded on the sisters’ authority to administer (Franklin D. Richards, July 19, 1888, Women and the Priesthood. Collected Discourses vol. 5). The relief society presidents, well into the 20th century, instructed the sisters to anoint and lay on hands.

    So, if temple building didn’t change praxis, what did? Well, that is currently an area of research that I am working in. I have several hypothoses, but if I had to go out on a limb, it would be that after those who lived in Nauvoo passed away, no one was there to remember. The manner in which the fullness of the priesthood was administered recieved a similar change as did women’s annointings. This, I believe, had much to do with schismatic polygamy and institutional control. This too is related (I think).

  107. Julie M. Smith on May 27, 2006 at 10:41 pm

    J. Stapley, can you clarify for me what you mean by “after those who lived in Nauvoo passed away, no one was there to remember”? Because it would seem that people right up to today (Kevin Barney commented on this once . . .) remember the experience of women’s blessings. Perhaps you meant ‘remembered that Joseph Smith had given women this authority’, in which case I’m curious: Why was it necessary for them to remember JS; that is, why didn’t later leaders continue the practice? Or maybe I’m misreading you completely . . .

  108. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 27, 2006 at 10:50 pm

    if I had to go out on a limb, it would be that after those who lived in Nauvoo passed away, no one was there to remember.
    But does that make sense, if blessings continued well into the 20th century? Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems that the next generation (post-Nauvoo) would have picked up on things. Or no?

  109. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 27, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    Oh, I thik Julie already sort of addressed my question. From what I have read as well, there was less insitutional support from the leadership as time went on, or at least that is the sense I got.

  110. cchrissyy on May 28, 2006 at 12:12 am

    m&m
    “there IS something special about priesthood, no doubt about it, but there is something extremely special about motherhood (and womanhood, and sisterhood). And so I try to rejoice in what we can do as women.”

    It doens’t even paralell in my mind.
    Priesthood is the Power and authority of God. how could it have a paralell?

    sure, motherfhood is speical. teaching is special, virtues and callings and childhood and unordained men… wow, they’re speical. Seriously- we can value anmd apreciate them, and develop spritually thorugh them. they can draw down godly traits through faith and blessed moments. But how can anything ever match, or aproximate the POWER and AUTHORITY of God, by which the world was created and is managed?

    even motherhood, with all the service and virtues, and now necesary it is, or chidlhood with it’s purity and learning and wonder… they’re amazing roles we can hold, but I can’t accept that anything parallells the Lord’s power.

    *except inasmuch as these roles grant His power. If motherhood endowed women with God’s power and authority, at least regarding her kids, I’d be all ears for that argument :) Because his Preisthood would paralell a lesser endowment of his Prietshod

  111. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 28, 2006 at 12:18 am

    cchrissyy: Motherhood is the power to create life. What approximates God’s power better than that?

  112. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 28, 2006 at 1:05 am

    102 Elisabeth: Thanks.
    103 Perhaps we do have different views on prophets receiving revelation. I don’t think what we have today is a lack of understanding about these issues on the part of our leaders. I just trust that they lead us in ways that are appropriate. I don’t feel comfortable lobbying them to change things. I hear them teaching us about our divine roles, and I am trying to understand more about what that means. That is my approach. It would drive me crazy to feel like I couldn’t be happy until things change. (I have tried that in other areas of my life with my own personal and heart-rending trials, and all that got me was misery. So some of my own experience comes through on this to. I have found, in my own life, that it is easier to let go of my frustrations and try to put on an eye of faith…at least easier in the end. I tend to think a little perspective can go a long way — for anyone and everyone….that whole eye of faith thing (Pres. Faust actually talks a little about this in the First Pres. message in the June Ensign). But if that doesn’t work for you, then at least we understand why we may differ on some things (and this is probably not uncommon on issues such as this). Thanks for sharing.

    100, 101 — Perhaps I can’t quite articulate why, but I feel we might be talking past each other. And it makes me think that perhaps I shouldn’t really say anything more in response to what you said, because I think we might just keep going around in circles. Thanks for making an effort to respond to my questions and trying to help me understand how I may be perceived.

    I will say this, as a general comment…please know (and to anyone else who is annoyed with me) that I am seeking to acknowledge and recognize how tender this topic is (and to try to understand), while still trying to express my own point of view — or, perhaps, better said, my own testimony. I am anxious not to change feelings, but to share what I feel is a hope that things aren’t as bad as they may seem (although I know what it feels like to feel things ARE that bad, just with different issues). But if that’s offensive, quite frankly, there may not be much more I can do, except maybe shut up. [slight and tired grin]

    If I goof (or have goofed), please just remember that people like me need some sensitivity and some benefit of the doubt as well. I care. I really do. But I make mistakes, and in sharing, I may push buttons. If I have pushed a button, I ask you to please forgive me and know it wasn’t my intention. The LAST thing I want to do is push someone off the edge. If my comments come close to that for you, then please, JUST IGNORE ME. And I do hope you find the peace you desire!

    (Was that any better?…I’m pretty discouraged right now….)

  113. Kathy J on May 28, 2006 at 4:53 am

    All I can say to m&m is that you seem to be trying a lot harder than anyone else here to be understanding and to not judge or offend anyone. Do not be discouraged. Why is it that people characterized as “iron rod mormons” (whatever that is) must be so constantly careful and appologetic to avoid being seen as callous or judgemental while people with opposing views do not seem to be under the same constraints when expressing their opinions? Not that there is anything wrong with being careful and trying not to offend, I just think it is interesting that the onus seems always to be on m&m not to get anyone’s nose out of joint, while no one seems to be worrying as much about what they say regarding m&m’s opinions.

    I struggled with this very issue for a few years as well, but finally realized I was looking at the whole thing upside down. I was looking at divine power and authority in the same way as worldly power and authority. In the world, power and authority are used for self aggrandizement, and things to be coveted for self advancement. Such is simply not the case with divine power and authority which are only correctly used to bless others and advance them.

    I also came to see that holding the priesthood was very important for men in much the same way that being a mother was important for me. I liked Julie’s comment about seeing why it was important that her husband, and only her husband, held the priesthood.

    When I became a mother it was, and is, barr none the most refining experience of my life. Beginning with pregnancy and advancing as my children were born and grew up, I got constant demands to serve selflessly–by getting up at 3 am to feed them, even when I didn’t feel like it. By applying a nebulizer every 3 hours for a 72 hour period to my 6 month old while simultaneously nursing her as well, and so effectively not sleeping for more than 1 hour stretches at a time for three days, while I had 2 other small children to care for all day and my husband was out of the country. And as they get older I realize that in many ways that was the easy stuff. Any mother can tell you stories like that. If that is not a way to refine from you all that is not Christlike, I do not know of one.

    My husband is a good father, but his demands as a father were not and are not the same as mine as a mother, mostly because he spends so much time away from the home in order to provide for our temporal needs. Is his role as provider difficult and challenging? sure! But the workplace is not designed very well to make one Christlike. It is too Machiavellian. In fact, that is what arguably his biggest challenge as a father, connecting it with his world as a professional. And so, if he did not hold the priesthood, I don’t know where he would learn those same things about Christlike leadership and service and humility and faith and reliance on the Lord. If we both held it on an equal status, it would be far too easy for him to retreat into the world and let me handle everything spiritual, and he, and many others, would never experience that spiritual growth.

    I do not think the priesthood is given as a reward to men by a God that somehow likes or values them more than he does women, or limited to men by a Church that is behind the times. I think the priesthood is given to men along with fatherhood in order to refine them. They must be worthy to use it (which is hard and refining). They must use it to serve others (which can be hard and refining). They must use it according to a whole set of rules and covenants (which is hard and refining). Motherhood is given to women in much the same way and to serve the same purposes. I think that is the parallel.

    I guess once I saw it that way–which I’ll admit, came for me only after experience– talking about whether the two were “equal” no longer made sense, because they werent rewards, but challenges or opportunities for growth, and I’ve never been one to complain that I wasn’t given the same challenge as someone else or as much challenge;^). I’ve seen what the Bishop does, and, frankly, it’s not something I would ever covet or have time for along with exercising my motherhood.

    I think society sells motherhood way short. The church does not to the same degree, but often we as women in the church have our feelings about it colored by society to some degree–I know I do. The less you value motherhood, the more disatisfied you are with it. If you feel it is pointless drudgery (as I sometimes do) or somehow less important than giving a priesthood blessing or being a Bishop (as I have in the past), then it is completely consistent to yearn for something that has more meaning or eternal import.

  114. Kiskilili on May 28, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    Kathy: “Why is it that people characterized as “iron rod mormonsâ€? (whatever that is) must be so constantly careful and appologetic to avoid being seen as callous or judgemental while people with opposing views do not seem to be under the same constraints when expressing their opinions? Not that there is anything wrong with being careful and trying not to offend, I just think it is interesting that the onus seems always to be on m&m not to get anyone’s nose out of joint, while no one seems to be worrying as much about what they say regarding m&m’s opinions.”

    I’m curious about this perspective, because it hasn’t been my impression of the discussion at all.

    Elisabeth (103): “m&m, I just wanted to say that I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here (and elsewhere on the blogs), especially because I find your perspective difficult to agree with most of the time. But you take the time to share your reasoning for why you believe the way you do, and the work that you do to explain your reasoning to your readers helps me better understand your perspective (which I think approximates the perspective of many, many women in the Church). Thanks.”

    Lynnette (102): “Like Elisabeth, I’ve appreciated you explaining your views; it’s been helpful to me in understanding not only your perspective but that of many of the other women I know.”

  115. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 28, 2006 at 7:29 pm

    Kiskilili — This discussion has been really quite tame, and I have appreciated the comments that you pointed out. (Thanks again, Lynnette and Elisabeth and others who have sought to maintain a level of respectful discourse!!)

    I also appreciated Kathy’s comments because I think she could sense my general discouragement. It is clearly very difficult to talk about these issues without offending, regardless of how careful, or sensitive or loving one may try to be. And we rarely talk about the fact that those who take offense do have some responsibility in that (and we don’t mention it because we don’t want to offend!) I think Kathy was recognizing that general meta-issue, not necessarily characterizing this particular discussion.

    I think she also, from her own experience, shared some wonderful insights that really illustrate what I have been trying to say – that a little perspective can go a long way. Thanks for sharing, Kathy!

  116. Kiskilili on May 29, 2006 at 10:23 am

    Oh, I’m not offended at all! I appreciate your civility, and enjoy discussing issues with you, even if we don’t always agree.

  117. cchrissyy on May 29, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    111 m&M
    “cchrissyy: Motherhood is the power to create life. What approximates God’s power better than that?”

    I’ve got a couple reactions to this. first, I have now had 6 pregnancies (2 live children) and can testify that “creating life” is a pretty automatic and unconcious process. I don’t control it, I can’t take any credit.

    sustaining that life in feeding, teaching and protecting it, yes those are valuable and demanding services. they can make you more Christlike. they mirror God’s nurting and protecting us. but so much of life can mirror His divine traits. Teachers teaching, doctors healing, police protecting, friends uplifting and encouraging and mouringing with you. All good things have divine attiributes, and can bring them out in us. Motherhood as best and anything!
    but how do you make the mental leap to call it parelell to being enodwed with God’s power and authority? It’s a great calling, but like the lesser callings I listed above, it is only great when the indiviudal touches the divine virtues..
    .
    I see 2 solutions- 1) that these callings, great or small, have nothing to do with having the Lord’s power and authorization to do His will on the earth. they’re important, they’re sanctifying, but they’re nothing like preisthood or 2) a mom has power and authority in her home as steward of her children, and that is God’s desisgn. well, in that case, it’s not a parelell to priesthood, that IS preisthood! Unordained, not transferable outside her home, but still given to every mom in the world by His plan.

    It bugs me that there could be any paralell to Priesthood. How could there be a match to aproximate, in any amount, divine power? It’s like saying there could be a paralell to eternal truth or justice.
    And it seems to me that the conversation looks at the quetsion backwards- by noticing that only men have it, and then asking, “well, what do women have? it must be something big, because God is fair”. well, he isn’t always fair when we meassure earthly things- sometimes blessings are concrete, sometimes they’re spiritual when we wanted temporal, sometimes they’re postponed to be future rewards.

    and in this case, there is the obvious logical problem that women get motherhood, men get Priesthood- oh, and fatherhood! And thus we get posts discussing how glorious motherhood is, but dad just isn’t there enough, dad’s making the money, dad can’t nurse… it requires devaluing Fatherhood itself rather than giving that role it’s EQUAL importance and virtue. Don’t you see that in the effort to make men and women’s roles equivalently blessed, it requires this exaltation of motherhood and concurrant minimization of the father’s part? If dad isn’t there enough, get him home! if he isn’t teaching and disciplining and nurturing and sacrificing every bit as much as mom is, let’s FIX that, not degrade his calling beacuse of it.

  118. Julie M. Smith on May 29, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    cchrissyy writes, “I don’t control it, I can’t take any credit.”

    I would expect priesthood holders to say the same thing about exercising the priesthood.

  119. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 29, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    Julie,
    Great point in 118.

    Back to my comments regarding the fact that there is a pattern in the scriptures, I just found an example of a quote (that I didn’t have at my fingertips) that supports the idea that there is precedent for millenia for priesthood to be a male thing.

    Those responsibilities of the priesthood, which have to do with the administration of the Church, of necessity function outside the home. By divine decree, they have been entrusted to men. It has been that way since the beginning, for the Lord revealed that “the order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son. … This order was instituted in the days of Adam.� (D&C 107:40–41; see also D&C 84:14–16) (Boyd K. Packer, “For Time and All Eternity,� Ensign, Nov. 1993, 21)

    The examples you give of women in the scriptures are interesting, but I don’t find any indication that those situations were in any way related to priesthood per se.

  120. Julie M. Smith on May 29, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    m & m,

    You are taking the Elder Packer quotation out of context: he states very clearly in the first sentence that he is talking about the administration of the church. This statement has nothing to do with healing, blessing, ordinances, etc. I’ll grant you that we have only the barest glimmer of hints (Deborah, Huldah, Phoebe, Lydia) that women have ever been formally involved in the administration of the Church to the extent that they are today. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

    “The examples you give of women in the scriptures are interesting, but I don’t find any indication that those situations were in any way related to priesthood per se.”

    How do you think one acts as a PROPHETess or a DEACON or performing a HEALING or an ANOINTING or PROPHESIES without having something to do with the priesthood? You are going to have to do some amazing mental gymnastics to convince me that someone could prophesy or heal without the power of God.

    You seem to be starting with the assumption that ‘if women have something to do with it, it can’t be priesthood’ and I don’t think that that is a teneble position. As you know, I have no beef with the way things are in the Church today, but I think it inconsistent with the scriptural and historical (i.e., early LDS history) evidence to claim that women have never had any part of the blessings and responsibilities of the priesthood. And thinking that doesn’t mean that one desires change today–it just means recognizing that God gives different people different responsibilities at different moments in history for different reasons. It also means recognizing that the current order of things may or may not be the eternal order of things.

  121. Hippo Man on May 29, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    I’m not sure on what grounds we can rule out that women will never receive the priesthood. We can scratch up obscure and non-conventional stories, blessings etc from early Church history, or more objectively we can think of the temple today. Ordinances require priesthood authority to be efficacious and binding. Temple ordinances are some of the most sacred and binding that we have today. And women officiate (whether by provisional, temporary or de facto authority) in temple initiatory rituals to other women (when no other men are present).

    So if women can officiate in priesthood ordinances at specific places under sanction and jurisdiction from authorized priesthood holders. What’s the big leap to think in the future they could enjoy this priviledge with greater lattitude and similiar oversight that men are allowed?

  122. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 29, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    How do you think one acts as a PROPHETess or a DEACON or performing a HEALING or an ANOINTING or PROPHESIES without having something to do with the priesthood? You are going to have to do some amazing mental gymnastics to convince me that someone could prophesy or heal without the power of God.

    I’m not sure mental gymnastics are required.

    The title of a prophet isn’t always associated with priesthood. From the Bible Dictionary: “In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost, as in Num. 11: 25-29; Rev. 19: 10.”

    You mentioned “Phoebe” as an example of a deacon in the NT. I’m assuming you meant “Phebe”; I see nothing that indicates she was a deacon (except one meaning (of three that came up in my software) of the Greek. She could have been a waitress for all we know (“waiter, one who serves food and drink” is another meaning of “servant” in the scripture mentioning Phebe). Either you are making a bold inference here or you know something that is not obvious in the scriptures; either way, I’m not convinced this is a reasonable support of your position.) Also, if she had been a deacon, she wouldn’t have fulfilled the requirement mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:12: “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” I don’t think Phebe or any other woman could fulfill that requirement! Deacons are also in that role in adminstering in the Church, so that example seems to contradict the point you are trying to make about priesthood outside of Church admin roles.

    Healings are by no means only a gift associated with the priesthood. Neither are prophecies. The gift of healing and the gift of prophecy are gifts of the Spirit, which are available to men and women alike. A healing can also be brought about simply from a prayer, or a name put in faith on a prayer roll.

    I think it’s important to separate what comes directly and exclusively as a result of priesthood from what gifts of the Spirit we all can enjoy. I don’t see anything to support the leap from gifts of the Spirit to priesthood. Priesthood is not a prerequisite to spiritual gifts (which is actually one thing our leaders point out as to the equality of men and women in God’s eyes). Yes, women can have the gift of healing; yes, they can prophesy (although not for the Church); this does not indicate they have the priesthood. It means they have the gift of the Holy Ghost and gifts that have been given them as a result.

    The example in Mark 14 with the woman pouring oil on Jesus’ head does not convince me that there was any priesthood involved, either. Once again, I feel you are making a leap to assume that anointing automatically means priesthood. Why are you so convinced that this action had something to do with priesthood? Just because we see the word “anoint” does not mean priesthood is involved. Isn’t there a NT cultural element to consider there as well?

    Speaking of that, would you mind passing along quotes you mentioned that could support your idea that women giving those earlier-Church blessings were actually exercising priesthood? What I have read has said otherwise. Thanks in advance.

  123. Julie M. Smith on May 29, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    m & m,

    Every interpretation you raise above is disputable; I think all are in error. However, I don’t think it is useful for me to respond because you didn’t address the main issue that I brought up before:

    “You seem to be starting with the assumption that ‘if women have something to do with it, it can’t be priesthood’ and I don’t think that that is a teneble position.”

    Except for wishing that I had spelled ‘tenable’ correctly :), I stand by this and don’t think it productive to continue our discussion because I don’t think you are willing to reconsider any of your positions. You have impressed me before as one of the more reasonably commenters on the blogs, but you seem to have dug your heels in here and aren’t willing to be open to any other possibilities.

  124. Seth R. on May 29, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    m&m

    I think the Bible Dictionary’s definition of “prophet” basically strips the word of any real meaning. Prophets have always been identified as something special and unique. If you just make the word describe “anyone who has a testimony” it becomes meaningless.

  125. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 29, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    Every interpretation you raise above is disputable; I think all are in error. However, I don’t think it is useful for me to respond because you didn’t address the main issue that I brought up before:
    “You seem to be starting with the assumption that ‘if women have something to do with it, it can’t be priesthood’ and I don’t think that that is a teneble position.�

    …I stand by this and don’t think it productive to continue our discussion because I don’t think you are willing to reconsider any of your positions. You have impressed me before as one of the more reasonably commenters on the blogs, but you seem to have dug your heels in here and aren’t willing to be open to any other possibilities.

    Julie, if you want to agree to disagree, that is fine. But I think it is unfair to simply label me as unreasonable, and “unwilling to reconsider” and claim that I am simply digging in my heels. Just because I don’t see things the way you do at this point does not mean I am digging in my heels or am unwilling to consider any other point of view. I simply shared my point of view relative to what you said; I’m willing to listen to what you have to say in return. (If I was so unwilling to be open to other ideas, why would I ask for the quotes I did?) I’m calling things as I see and understand them, according to my study and my perspective. In short, if YOU choose to cease and desist, it is not because *I* am unwilling to listen.

    As to your assumption about assumptions I am making (perhaps you are doing this out of frustration?), I am not unaware that the concept of priesthood is bigger than what we typically discuss. I don’t pretend to understand all of those implications. I simply haven’t seen any kind of consistent, authoritative teaching that connects women and priesthood in the way you seem to be doing. But I think if all I wanted to do was dig in my heels, I would have never begun studying more about this issue in the last few months. I have yet in my own study and pondering (or in what you have said) to find something that convinces me of this idea of women explicitly exercising priesthood. I frankly don’t understand why you want to associate every instance of healing or prophecy or other such acts with priesthood (except as they are possible because of the ordinances that unlock the powers of heaven in our lives, like the gift of the Holy Ghost). That is not stubbornness; that is just my perspective and understanding at this point. Don’t fault me for having a perspective. I am interested to hear what you have to say in response, and frankly I’m surprised that instead of sharing more of your point of view, you responded by just questioning me and my open-mindedness and shut down discussion — all, it seems, because I just don’t accept your point of view at this point (or maybe it’s just because I don’t understand your position well enough yet — but I need your help for that).

    So, if you feel like sharing more, I am listening. I do not want to be ignorant, as you seem to think I am. But you have hardly given me anything to think about, let alone anything compelling to convince me of whatever you want to convince me of. But that has nothing to do with *my* heels. I’m still listening. If it would help you feel better, I will just listen and not respond (except maybe with a question or two for clarification).

    But if, for whatever reason, you don’t want to share your thoughts, that is your choice, and I will respect that. I understand that this may be beyond what you want to discuss. But if that’s the case, just say that; please don’t turn this into a personal attack on me. A cessation of a conversation at this point is not be a reflection of my unwillingness to consider what you have to say. I think you have misjudged (or at least misunderstood) me.

  126. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 29, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    I think the Bible Dictionary’s definition of “prophet� basically strips the word of any real meaning. Prophets have always been identified as something special and unique. If you just make the word describe “anyone who has a testimony� it becomes meaningless.

    I would agree with you on one point…prophets are men called of God to lead His Church. But, since the gift of prophecy is essentially available to anyone who has the gift of the Holy Ghost, what do you do with that? The word prophecy and the word prophet are connected at some level, are they not? What would you call someone who is speaking by the spirit of prophecy who is not called of God to be one of His chosen apostles, prophets and seers?

  127. manaen on May 29, 2006 at 8:26 pm

    121 & 123

    I believe the Bible Dictionary’s been misrepresented here. I’ve long appreciated the part its definition of “prophet” immediately preceding the final sentence m&m cited because it explains how, for example, Pres. Hinckley can be a prophet in the scriptural sense without foretelling the future. Here’s the complete entry:

    “The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. The message was usually prefaced with the words “Thus saith Jehovah.â€? He taught men about God’s character, showing the full meaning of his dealings with Israel in the past. It was therefore part of the prophetic office to preserve and edit the records of the nation’s history; and such historical books as Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Sam., 1 and 2 Kings were known by the Jews as the former Prophets. It was also the prophet’s duty to denounce sin and foretell its punishment, and to redress, so far as he could, both public and private wrongs. He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller. In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost, as in Num. 11: 25-29; Rev. 19: 10.”

    m&m’s quotation is more like the last meaning of several listed than the entirety of what the BD tells us about the office of a prophet.

  128. manaen on May 29, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    126
    aack — Fumble Fingers here didn’t cease italicizing after “foreteller” !

  129. Kristine on May 29, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    Huldah is actually one of the clearest and most complete examples of all of the criteria enumerated in that definition.

  130. Julie M. Smith on May 29, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    m & m,

    I’m not dismissing you because you disagree with me. It just seems that you have shifted to pat answers instead of engaging the real issues. For example, we have Huldah (1) at the request of the high priest (2) issuing a statement (3) that begins ‘thus sayeth the LORD’ and (4) reflects the Lord’s will for the Lord’s people–the entire community–at that time and (4) is taken seriously by the king and (5) predicts–correctly–the future and (6) she is called a prophet in the story. If THAT doesn’t meet the definition of being a propet, I cannot imagine what would. For one to try to define a prophet as acting in the absence of priesthood authority and power seems to be contrary to everything we believe: what can you point to in LDS thought that would suggest that anyone could do 1-6 in the absence of the power of the priesthood?

    So for you to dismiss this and all of my examples with a curt “The examples you give of women in the scriptures are interesting, but I don’t find any indication that those situations were in any way related to priesthood per se” suggests to me that you aren’t seriously engaging the issues and therefore made me wonder whether it was worth the effort to respond to each of your interpretations–all of which have major problems. Again, this is not me lobbying to change the church–it is just me pointing out that the exclusion of women from the exercise of the priesthood (which I believe reflects God’s will) is the current practice of the church but, given what we know of scripture and LDS history, not necessarily an eternal verity.

    Your last comment suggests to me, however, that you are serious and that I may have misread you. So chew on the Huldah story for awhile–give me some evidence that you are at least willing to consider the notion–and I’ll get back to you on the other stories when I can–which may not be until after I return from vacation (four days without kids! woohoo!)

    P.S.–I’ll address the scriptural examples, but I hope we can get J. Stapley to comment on women in LDS history or perhaps you could read one of his posts at BCC because he is the expert on that topic.

  131. Julie M. Smith on May 29, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    Dang: Kristine and I were posting at the same time but she made the point better than I did and with amazing economy.

  132. Kristine on May 29, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    While we wait for J. Stapley, here are a few quotations that illustrate the confusion that has always surrounded this topic:

    “In the beginning God created man, male and female and bestowed upon man certain blessings peculiar to a man of God, which woman partook, so that without the female all things cannot be restored to the earth, it takes all to restore the Priesthood.” (Newel K. Whitney, RS Minutes, May 1842)

    “Women could only hold the priesthood in connection with their husbands; man held the priesthood independent of woman. The sisters have a right to anoint the sick, and pray the Father to heal them, and to exercise that faith that will prevail with God; but women must be careful how they use the priesthood in administering to the sick.” (Angus Cannon, SL Stake President, SL Stake Conference 1878)

    “[Women] hold the priesthood, only in connection with their husbands, they being one with their husbands” (John Taylor, 1880)

    “A wife does not hold the priesthood in connection with her husband, but she enjoys the benefits thereof with him; and if she is requested to lay hands on the sick with him, or with any other officer holding the Melchizedek priesthood, she may do so with perfect propriety. It is no uncommon thing for a man and wife unitedly to administer to their children, and the husband being mouth, he may properly say out of courtesy, ‘By authority of the holy priesthood in us vested'” (Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era, 1907)

    If you can parse those into something like a clear and uncontradictory statement on how women’s authority is or is not related to the priesthood, knock yourself out. I still think the best answer is “we don’t know.”

  133. Ben H on May 29, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    Yow! Intriguing quotes, Kristine! Thanks!

  134. Julie M. Smith on May 29, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    I’m with you, Kristine. (Although I think that what those quotes actually show is a shift from thinking that women DID hold the priesthood to that they only held it with their husbands to that they DID NOT hold it. Maybe J. Stapley can drag me through the mud on this, but I think that when you look at the dates on statements like these, the pattern becomes apparent.)

  135. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 29, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    Nope. I don’t think the dates even show a clear pattern, though there’s a definite move away from saying women hold priesthood at all. But even very early, there are cautions that women administer only by faith, or in the name of Jesus, and not by priesthood authority, and you have disagreement over the terms “set apart” and “ordained” in relation to RS offices, and questions about whether women’s administrations are RS functions or to be restricted to endowed women, or simply prayers of faith that any worthy member can offer.

    But even within a single paragraph, as in the one from JFS above, there are contradictions–if women don’t hold the priesthood with their husbands, why would “courtesy” make it ok to say the “priesthood vested in us”? It’s hard to imagine that etiquette is more important than an accurate statement of authority.

    What I don’t see anywhere, ever, is clear evidence that a prophet has received an unambiguous revelation about the doctrine, though I’m willing to accept (far less enthusiastically than you are, however :) ) that current practice is acceptable to God, or at least that getting it straightened out is not the most important thing on the agenda at the moment.

  136. Julie M. Smith on May 29, 2006 at 10:01 pm

    Kristine,

    It seems that JFS’s writing style is rubbing off on you if you can say ‘no clear pattern’ and ‘definite move’ in the same sentence. :) That said, you are probably right that the situation is murkier than I make it out to be, which is what we’d probably expect when a doctrine/policy is evolving.

  137. manaen on May 29, 2006 at 10:10 pm

    133
    Although I think that what those quotes actually show is a shift from thinking that women DID hold the priesthood to that they only held it with their husbands to that they DID NOT hold it.

    And, in the boader view, this is about the same time that the thinking was that Blacks DID NOT hold the priesthood, to we wish they did, to the DID hold it.

    Confusing time to be a Black Woman LDS !

  138. Kristine Haglund Harris on May 29, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    “‘no clear pattern’ and ‘definite move’ in the same sentence. ”

    Ugh. That was bad.

    Back to the original subject of your post–I’d be interested to know when the first official (or quasi-official) rhetorical equation of priesthood and motherhood comes up. Do you know? Is Widtsoe’s “gift of equal magnitude” reference in 1875 the first?

  139. obi-wan on May 29, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    If you can parse those into something like a clear and uncontradictory statement on how women’s authority is or is not related to the priesthood, knock yourself out.

    You need to distinguish the fullness or Patriarchal Order of the priesthood from the offices of the Melchezidek and Aaronic priesthood. Then the quotes, if perhaps not 100% coherent, make a lot more sense.

  140. Julie M. Smith on May 29, 2006 at 10:22 pm

    manean, you are about 70 years off, no? Interesting, however, that a very public, very formal revelation was involved in one case but a much quieter process (similar to the shift on birth control) in the other.

    Kristine, that is a _fabulous_ question that I have no answer to. I have been struck by how little attention motherhood gets in 19th century LDS discourse, at least relative to 1950-now discourse.

  141. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 30, 2006 at 12:52 am

    129
    You were right that I didn’t spend enough time mulling over Huldah. Apologies for that.

    Here are some thoughts, for what they are worth.

    As a general statement, if you interpret my tight hold on what prophets say (and I look to current prophets first, then consider past prophets), then maybe you could say I dig in my heels. You will have to walk me through your logic of how a woman prophesying means she has the priesthood. Call me thick (actually, don’t — I’d rather keep personal attacks to a minimum! [grin]), but I personally am not comfortable with making that jump. In fact, consider this by James E. Talmage, speaking of the gift of prophecy:

    “No special ordination in the Priesthood is essential to…receiving the gift of prophecy; bearers of the Melchizedek Priesthood, Adam, Noah, Moses, and a multitude of others were prophets, but not more truly so than others who were specifically called to the Aaronic order, as exemplified in the instance of John the Baptist. The ministrations of Miriam and Deborah show that this gift may be possessed by women also.”
    James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, Ch.12, p.228 – p.229

    Some of my thoughts follow (written before I found that quote…which gives me more confidence in this idea that she was one with a gift, but not with priesthood…but I’m listening if you have a different thought):

    1. I see various definitions, or gradations, or whatever you want to call it of what a prophet is, even in our current world. Pres. Hinckley is THE prophet; he holds and can exercise all the priesthood keys. He is the one and only person on earth who is authorized to do so. The other 14 men we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators can prophesy, speak for the Lord, be watchmen telling of the future, and can reveal doctrine and things that can never be revealed. But they do not have the same rights that Pres. Hinckley does, as long as he is alive. The only time they will is when he dies, until another Prophet is called. The authorization to exercise keys does not go to every prophet. These men are also ordained.

    Although people may disagree, I think a prophet could apply to someone with the gift of prophecy. I think it’s possible that Huldah had a special gift, and that is why she was consulted to know God’s will. (The entry on the gift of prophecy by Talmage seems to indicate that this is a gift that can be possessed by any person, but is limited in scope and reach).

    I wonder if she could fall somewhere in between. if she is an example of another classification of what a prophet, or one who holds the gift of prophecy.

    2. The Greek definition of prophetess related to her (in my software, anyway) is one “consulted for a word.” That sounds like a reactive role to me. If she was a prophet in the full sense, why was she not proactively out pounding the pavement and calling the people to repentance and letting the will of God be known? We have only two instances of her prophesying, and that could be a result of something missing in the record, but, considering what we do know, I don’t see her playing the full role of a prophet. She sat in her house waiting for someone to seek her out.

    3. Also, not only does her role appear more reactive (she was consulted and then shared the word), but she also didn’t deliver the word herself. That isn’t really consistent with how prophets work. They are usually the ones to deliver the messages they want to give.

    4. Whatever authority or gift she had appears limited, because she wasn’t performing any ordinances (that was Hilkiah’s job as high priest). It doesn’t seem consistent that she had priesthood but didn’t do anything related to the ordinances (which is part of why I’m not convinced yet that early church women were exercising priesthood per se). I understand the mortal exercise of priesthood as being inextricably tied to ordinances. (But, Julie, your point about priesthood healing blessings as performed by men and the fact that they are not ordinances is something I’m mulling over, so I’m still listening.)

    These are some reasons why I am not convinced that Huldah (who was clearly a prophet of some sort, able to seek and speak God’s word) actually held priesthood. A gift? Yes. Priesthood? I can’t see anything that makes that absolutely assertable. Even if I didn’t study her example completely, I still need more clear reasoning to assume that she herself held or exercised priesthood. Did she have some measure of authority? Very possibly, but it is my understanding that holding and exercising the priesthood and having authority aren’t necessarily the same thing. I’m open to hearing a differing opinion.

    As to the quotes Kristine included, the point has been made that they contradict each other. I’m also not sure that we would all interpret them the same way anyway. I would tend to agree with Kristine that “we don’t know” is probably the best answer of all. I probably shouldn’t have just jumped to sound like I think women have no association with priesthood (which isn’t what I was saying, but probably the way it sounded), and I’m not comfortable with someone making assertions that women have somehow absolutely exercised priesthood. You might share something that might make me mull more over that position, but I think if we are to have a fruitful discussion on a topic such as this, we have to assume that no one knows for sure how things are or were, and so we are discussing and sharing viewpoints, not necessarily discussing absolutes. If there are real absolutes, great. But it seems that most of what we are discussing involves at least a little bit of ambiguity, and definitely a range of interpretations.

    Again, this is not me lobbying to change the church–it is just me pointing out that the exclusion of women from the exercise of the priesthood (which I believe reflects God’s will) is the current practice of the church but, given what we know of scripture and LDS history, not necessarily an eternal verity.

    Let me be very, very clear. I have never said anything about women not exercising priesthood being an “eternal verity”. If that is what you think I have been saying, then we are in a state of misunderstanding. Talking about what will be eternally is a completely different level of discussion and I don’t think I want to do that here because I don’t think we really know what priesthood means in an eternal, exalted, eternal marriage sense. And I have never come close to touching on that subject. So please don’t extrapolate my comments to mean more than they do. In this discussion, I am seeking to explore this concept of whether mortal women have exercised actual priesthood power, not to determine how priesthood and gender roles and such will play out in an exalted existence.

    Perhaps you think my view of the mortal exercise of priesthood as too narrow; if that is the case, you can walk me through your reasoning. I think we need to recognize, however, that since there are many different possible interpretations of scripture and also of church history (with also the different prophetic statements), it is not easy to make accurate assertions about exactly how much women have actually exercised priesthood (if at all). Once again, I can be open to opinions, but I’m not going to easily be convinced that we can be certain about much of what we are discussing (again, that is why this is a discussion and not one person giving a sermon); the only absolute may be that our view is pretty limited here in mortality. And I think a lot of what there is to understand about these things will not only come from extensive study, but also through the Spirit. And that process becomes pretty personal, so we may be limited to what we can really communicate with each other. That’s ok….it’s still interesting to discuss. At least I think so. :)

    Sorry for the long post. Hope you have (had) a wonderful vacation! Fun to have a little break!

  142. J. Stapley on May 30, 2006 at 1:19 am

    m&m, it is not particularly proper to discuss the esoteric doctrines of temple theology in such a forum; however, Mark 14 anointing of Jesus was definately viewed as a priesthood ordinance by the early members of the church.

    As far as women having the priesthood, there has been a shift and it is not inconsistent. It simply relates to the availability of certain ordinances to the majority of the Saints. Here, again, those that new Joseph had a very different way of regarding women and the priesthood than did those who never heard him. There is a shift from saying that women do hold the priesthood to women don’t. For a more indepth explication, may I refer to a post at bcc (which I already referenced, I believe, but that has several relevent quotations).

    I also referred to a talk in a previous comment, where President Richards, who was there when Joseph preached to the Sisters in Nauvoo addressed the RS in lieu of Pres. Woodruff who was in hiding:

    Now, I ask you: Is it possible that we have the holy priesthood and our wives have none of it? Do you not see, by what I have read, that Joseph desired to confer these keys of power upon them in connection with their husbands? I hold that a faithful wife has certain blessings, powers and rights, and is made partaker of certain gifts and blessings and promises with her husband, which she cannot be deprived of, EXCEPT BY TRANSGRESSION of the holy order of God. They shall enjoy what God said they should.

    It is resolute doctrine that women may recieve the fullness of the priesthood in mortality. (see also here)

  143. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 30, 2006 at 2:03 am

    Mark 14 anointing of Jesus was definately viewed as a priesthood ordinance by the early members of the church.

    Do you have any references?

  144. J. Stapley on May 30, 2006 at 2:27 am

    Heber C. Kimball Journal, entry entitled “Strange Events, June 1842,� unnumbered pg. 114, LDS Church Archives. Contained in On the Potter’s Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball pg. 55

    I’m travelling over the next couple of days, but if you are interested in more particulars, drop me an email.

  145. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 30, 2006 at 3:13 am

    J.,
    Well, I read through the stuff. Thanks for sharing in a concise place some of your sources. I wasn’t expecting my questions to lead that way, however. I still think a lot of this is clear as mud, probably because it’s very esoteric, and, in my opinion, probably falls under the umbrella of esoteric stuff we should be careful with. (I tend to agree with Aaron who made a similar comment at BCC, although I realize that you carefully selected published quotes, so I realize you respect propriety, too. We all have just have different comfort levels with what can be discussed.) In short, I won’t comment further on any of the thoughts specifically from those other posts cuz I’m personally not comfortable with discussing these things. But now at least I understand what some of the claims of women “having” priesthood come from. So thanks for that. I realize it’s probably frustrating to deal with people like me who know so much less than you do about this stuff, and I really appreciate the effort you have made to be less curt and to share information with me.

    Just for the record, my comments have been based on and directed toward the more practice- related stuff that we see now, and what our current leaders focus on with regard to what priesthood responsibilities are, and what women’s roles entail. That may have revealed ignorance of things you have shared, but I don’t think you can fault me for that, either. What you know is interesting, but not essential. And again, I am not trying to put my head in the sand, but I have to do what is comfortable for me. (I hope that makes sense. I’m so worried these days about being misunderstood cuz it’s happened a lot lately….) Thanks again.

  146. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 30, 2006 at 3:29 am

    Back several dozen comments, someone mentioned Elder Oaks’ talk from last Oct. Conference. I just wanted to put another plug in for that talk. I have been mulling over that one a lot the past few days. He talks about how priesthood authority operates in the Church and in the family. He talks about how equal partnership can be achieved in marriage, and also about the fact that all we are about in the Church is to get us to the celestial kingdom where we can be an eternal family. With that in mind, I think it’s important to remember that discussion of priesthood as it operates in the Church is a temporary thing. Priesthood is eternal, but its adminstrative roles as we know them are a means to an end. Aspiring to priesthood positions is missing the boat. What we are about is building eternal families. Motherhood, a woman’s “primary role,” is already engaged in that eternal work. So is fatherhood. The Church is not an eternal entity. The family is. I don’t know if that helps anyone else keep all of this in perspective, but it helps me. What matters in an eternal sense is our family relationships; and receiving the necessary ordinances and doctrines (as made possible through the priesthood and the Church) are simply to get us to that place where we can be with our families forever. That is why our family roles are our most important priorities (after our relationship with God, of course). Remember that Pres. Hinckley even said a man’s job, (which enables him to provide for his family) is higher on the priority list than his Church callings, which is now making more sense to me, because the Church is a temporary thing!

    When all is said and done, we are each part of a family, and those roles in our families are the ones that matter the most, whether we are male or female. Those are my thoughts, anyway….

  147. Julie M. Smith on June 3, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    m & m,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and measured comment and, yes, I had a wonderful vacation.

    As for Huldah: there’s nothing that you mention that couldn’t also be applied to one or another male OT prophet. Further, I think you are confusing ‘the gift of prophecy’ with ‘the office of prophet’. Perhaps the gift of prophecy can be exercised in the absense of the priesthood, but do you really want to go down a road that begins with believing that one could be the prophet without the priesthood? Also I would ask you: By what authority did Huldah do what she did? I think when it comes to Huldah, you (and many others) are guilty of starting from the fact that she is a woman and interpreting the story from there. Whereas if I told her story and substituted the name “Joshua” or whatever, there is no doubt that Sunday School classes across the land would confidently assume that ‘Joshua’ was God’s official, anointed, ordained, prophet for those people at that time, based on what s/he does in the passage.

    Let’s pick up another example from the list we were working on: Phebe. You want to make her into a waitress because of your Greek software, but note that Paul uses the word there translated ‘servant’ just a few verses previously, 15:8. Here it refers to Christ and is translated minister. The phrase is “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God.” Do you think Jesus was a waitress? This term will, at some future point, take on the technical meaning of a priesthood office (deacon). It probably hasn’t yet when Paul is writing, but it is incoherent to argue that Paul thinks the word means one thing when it describes Phebe but something else when it descibes Christ.

    Does this prove that Phebe was ordained to the priesthood? No. Can I prove that Huldah was? No. In fact, I’m generally not convinced that the understanding of priesthood in any given historical moment in the OT or NT would be recognizable to the Saints today, and vice versa.

    All I’m trying to do here is to refute a statement you made about 100 comments ago: “men have always been the ones to hold the priesthood.” I can’t prove the inverse, but I think there is enough evidence that an impartial jury (not that there could ever be such a thing on a matter of scriptural interpretation, but I digress) would not uphold that statement, which means that I think it a dangerous premise to argue from. Again, it doesn’t mean that things in the Church should change; it just means that “Why don’t women ever exercise the priesthood?” isn’t nearly as useful of a question as “Why don’t women exercise the priesthood today?” The historical context of the scriptures and 19th c. church history gives us hints that the current pattern is not unchanging, which is something that you and I seem to agree on anyway.

  148. DavidH on June 4, 2006 at 12:58 am

    If priesthood means power and authority of God in the Church (or family), it seems to me that women have long had it, we just don’t call it that.

  149. mullingandmusing (m&m) on June 6, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    All I’m trying to do here is to refute a statement you made about 100 comments ago: “men have always been the ones to hold the priesthood.�

    OK, but then what do you do with statements like this (which can explain why I felt comfortable making the statement that I did)?

    From the beginning the priesthood has been conferred only upon the men. It is always described in the scriptures as coming through the lineage of the fathers. (See D&C 84:6, 14–16; D&C 107:40–41; Abr. 1:3–4.)
    Boyd K. Packer, “A Tribute to Women,� Ensign, July 1989, 72 (emph. added)

    We know so little, brothers and sisters, about the reasons for the division of duties between womanhood and manhood as well as between motherhood and priesthood. These were divinely determined in another time and another place. We are accustomed to focusing on the men of God because theirs is the priesthood and leadership line. But paralleling that authority line is a stream of righteous influence reflecting the remarkable women of God who have existed in all ages and dispensations, including our own.
    Neal A. Maxwell, “The Women of God,� Ensign, May 1978, 10
    (This was quoted by Pres. Faust last year in the General RS meeting.)

    President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the Prophet’s action opened to women the possibility of exercising “some measure of divine authority, particularly in the direction of government and instruction in behalf of the women of the Church.� (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1965, p. 5.) President Smith explained: “While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, … that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. Authority and Priesthood are two different things. A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord.� (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1959, p. 4.)
    Dallin H. Oaks, “The Relief Society and the Church,â€? Ensign, May 1992, 34 [I know I included this before and some may not think it’s useful, but when I see a prophet quoting a prophet, I think it’s significant and worth attention.]

    I could includes scores of other talks that underscore this concept that we are consistently taught that priesthood was and is given to men. I think that is difficult to ignore.

  150. Julie M. Smith on June 6, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    m & m,

    President Packer is known for saying repeatedly that he teaches the rule and not the exception. That’s what I do with those quotes.

  151. Fran on June 12, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    Hello. For a few years now I have visited many websites and followed discussions pertaining to this and other similar subjects. This is the first time I have responded to any discussion because I feel I can no longer keep my thoughts to myself on the matter. I recognize that what I say will be refuted and most likely ridiculed, and perhaps I will be accused of apostasy, but nevertheless it is true.

    About four years ago while attending an endowment session at the temple it was revealed to me by the spirit that women hold the priesthood through the endowment. I perceived that we stand equal with men before God and hold the priesthood to the same degree that men do. I also perceived that it is not a privilege to hold the priesthood, but rather a tremendous responsibility, and that endowed women will answer to God in this responsibility to the same degree that men do. Upon receiving this knowledge a feeling of great desire to step up to the plate and fulfill my responsibility to God as a priesthood holder overcame me. I felt a desire to follow God like I had never felt before. I knew our Father in Heaven values his daughters as much as his sons in that moment more than I have ever known before. I saw clearly through the spirit that we (endowed women) are 100% equal with men in regard to holding the priesthood. Since this experience, on another occasion in the temple, I have had the same reassurance given to me that, in fact, women do hold the priesthood through the endowment and the question asked of me, “why would God deny the priesthood to his righteous, faithful daughters who are worthy?” The answer is that he does not.

    You may say that I wanted women to hold the priesthood, therefore, I conjured up the experience in my own mind. Not so. I never cared to hold the priesthood. It had never been a concern of mine. I had never prayed once in my life about women and the priesthood, although I prayed consistently to know where women stand before God and if he values us as much as his sons. As soon as I returned from the temple I immediately started a search regarding women holding the priesthood through the endowment, and I found that the prophet Joseph Smith taught that women hold the priesthood through the endowment. I had never heard this before. It was literally news to me. As a matter of fact, I had received the exact sentence in the temple that the prophet Joseph Smith is recorded as saying.

    I recognize that the brethren teach other than what I am telling you now, and I cannot give you an explanation why. I have prayed about it and feel that I am still trying to understand the reasoning, so I will abstain from giving any opinions. I am an active member of the church with a testimoney of the gospel. Also, I am not critical of the brethren, but I cannot deny what I have received even if it is contrary to what is taught at the pulpit.