Today I sit down with two great friends of mine: Suzette Smith and Chris Bloxham. We talk about the possibility of female ordination. What would it look like? Why is ordination important to some sisters in the Church? Would female ordination be the same as male ordination – or something different? We take a look at how LDS women have accessed Priesthood power throughout the church’s history – and how they might access it today. Finally, what about Heavenly Mother and how might she be connected to the Godhead? All this in less than an hour so buckle up and hold on tight!!!
Suzette also has agreed to begin a podcast series (as part of Mormon Discussions) that will discuss these different aspects of ordination in depth. So, be looking forward to future contributions from her.
A Gift Given and a Gift Taken Away
Women giving Blessings in Early Church history
Relationship of Women and Priesthood
Wheat and Tares Post on Women’s Blessings
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Here are some thoughts I’ve previously written down that might be helpful for those pondering this issue. Of course, this is my opinion only, and will likely differ from Ordain Women and from the Church position…but it is a few things I felt I learned as a result of the great questions Ordain Women have been asking.
First, no matter what the temple does or does not actually convey to women (or men for that matter), there is a difference between administrative AUTHORITY OF the priesthood, and POWER IN the priesthood. In that sense, whatever the temple conveys, it does not seem to convey the Aaronic or Melchizedek authority to administer in ordinances or governance (assuming that is what those priesthoods are for). Even if the temple conveys the fulness of the Melchizedek priesthood power (I’ll get to that later), it doesn’t mean a woman suddenly has authority to lay hands for the gift of the holy ghost, or be a bishop.
Second, I don’t believe that the temple endowment actually gives anything to a man or to a woman, simply by their having completed the ordinance. I believe that the endowment (just like all ordinances of the church), are invitations to awake, arise, and receive literally what is symbolically being offered by the ritualized ordinance. Baptism is nothing without a newness of life, HG is nothing without taking it upon yourself to seek after a baptism by fire and the holy ghost (which may not happen until years after someone laid hands and commanded you to receive it).
So too with the washings and anointings, and the endowment itself, and even a sealed marriage. Going through the ritual motions does not mean anyone has received the blessings that are symbolically being extended to both men and women (which among other things includes an invitation and understanding of how to cast out Satan in your life, entertain heavenly messengers, learn to live according to a terrestrial sphere in preparation for a conversation with the Lord through a veil, and eventually be prepared to be received by him and receive power IN your priesthood).
One who goes through that ritual for the first time is no closer to having been true and faithful in all things at the end of 2 hours than an 8 year old is to their baptism by fire and the holy ghost.
A careful study of D&C 84:19-22 will show you that the POWER of Godliness is in the ordinances of the priesthood (in other words the proper reception and magnification of ordinances), and not in the authority itself. Meaning, though as a man I may have received a right to administer ordinances, I have no more automatic access to POWER in the priesthood than my wife does, and we both will only receive that power as we are faithful to the covenants we make through ordinances designed to show/invite us both how to receive that power.
Perhaps what is really being shown in the temple, is that as you dress in robes of the priesthood (or are symbolically clothed with the power the ordinances of each priesthood invite you to receive), you are able to progress in power in the priesthood until you, man or woman, are capable of entertaining Christ as a second comforter, which Joseph described as a fulness of the priesthood. The fulness of the priesthood is the ability to dwell in the presence of God, even in this life. And until that happens, perhaps none of us, male or female, have received true power at all.
The temple seems to teach that fulfilling fully the covenants extended to you through aaronic priesthood ordinances qualifies you to 1) be born of the spirit, 2) cast out satan in your life (have no more desire to do evil), 3) entertain heavenly messengers, 4) and be prepared for further light and knowledge. Fulfilling the covenants and ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood, prepares one to 1) make their calling and election sure, and 2) received the second comforter, and 3) be embraced of God and told to enter His presence and receive an individual covenant of salvation, posterity, and power. (Check out what Abraham did in Abr. 1:1-3
Isn’t this what the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood is all about in D&C 84? That men and women should take upon them two priesthoods vs 33 (receive the ordinances of each thereby being clothed symbolically by the righteousness they convey/invite you to receive), and then magnify the calling (keeping the covenants associate with each priesthood ordinance and receiving the correlated blessings – like Baptism of Fire, Angelic Communication, Second Comforter), which will cause the renewing of their bodies.
Isn’t that what it means when when God says if we receive those priesthoods (take upon us the ordinances of each), we receive him (vs. 35). That if we are faithful to the point that we can receive and entertain messengers from God, we are also receiving Him (vs. 36). That receiving Him at the veil allows us to eventually be received of the Father (vs 37), and receiving the Father allows us to receive all that the Father has (vs. 38)? (which is where that covenant promise at the end of the endowment comes in…which is what the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood is)
When will we realize that the Oath and the Covenant is for men and women? And has nothing to do with receiving priestly AUTHORITY to administer in ordinances or church governance, but has to do with being instructed in what it would take to receive a fulness of priesthood POWER which allows us to see the face of God and live (vs. 19-22).
So does the temple automatically convey priesthood power? I don’t think so. But it does invite ALL who enter there to set out on a life course that involves them seeking for further light and knowledge, messengers from heaven, that encourages us to conduct our lives consistent with covenants, so that some day in the future some heavenly messenger who watches over us just might report to God that there is someone who has been working their entire life to be true and faithful, and desires to speak with God and receive of His fulness. We are all invited to do so, male and female, young and old, black and white, bond and free.
Another thing that I feel we get mixed up is the difference between priesthood and faith. This was in part discussed in the podcast. But there are some scriptures that might shed some light on things and help us understand what the difference between Priesthood and Faith is.
First – The man after whom the Melchizedek priesthood is named has this written about him in JST Gen 14:
26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch
It’s worth noting that he performed some mighty miracles, and must have done so by faith…it was his faith in God which qualified him to enter into the order of the priesthood and not the other way around. He didn’t get ordained and then go out and stop the mouths of lions or quench the violence of fire by Priesthood.
We probably attribute too much to Priesthood, thereby limiting not just what faithful women may do in the name of Jesus and by the power of Faith…but ALL people in the church (and out of it for that matter).
The other scriptures worth considering is Hebrews 11 and Ether 12. Look at all the things people apparently did by Faith, and not by priesthood.
Faith appears to be the way in which many great miracles occur.
In that sense, I can’t possibly understand what we members of the church have against our women (or faithful men, women and children outside our faith) blessing their children, husbands, family, homes, etc….in FAITH and letting them be miracle workers.
I have friends in the evangelical community who better understand this principle…as they have women who without shame lay hands on their children to pronounce blessings. I’m aware of one woman working in an orphanage with a child who was mute most likely because of abuse. One day, she was awakened by the voice of God telling her to go lay hands on the child and command her to speak, in the name of Jesus. The woman did so, and the child spoke her first words ever.
Was that Priesthood? Or was that Faith?
I believe it was Faith. Which means it is available to all.
I believe we overstretch the ideas of what “priesthood” does to the detriment of all LDS, and to all believers.
Anyway, just some thoughts of mine that I owe to the Ordain Women movement. Thank goodness someone asked questions. I most likely do not yet have the answers, but if it causes me to disabuse myself of incorrect notions I had, and helps me become ever seeking after deeper connection with God…then thank goodness for people willing to ask a question and put their standing in the church on the line for it.
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I agree with everything that dannyk said. Excellent comments.
I would like to compliment you Bill on an excellent podcast. When I saw the title I thought: “Oh great another podcast that is going to tick me off.” It didn’t probably because I agree with a lot of what the ordain women say.
I like Chris’ role in your podcast. He actually brought up all the points that I would like to ask the ordain women so your guest was able to answer them. The only point I disagree with Suzanne about is that men will stop doing things in the Church. She obviously underestimates my laziness and ability to step back and let women run things. It hard enough to get men to step up and do things now, which is why the auxiliaries all run better than the quorums, except for YM which runs about the same as the quorum and groups. Primary would be a disaster if a women did not run it.
There was a survey out that showed that in most churches the women are much more involved than men. The exception with that is the LDS Church but the article that I read that talked about the survey said that the survey is skewed because it includes men like bishops and stake presidents that put in many more hours than the average church member. If you took them out the survey would probably look like the normal church.
I would only like to add one thing to dannyk’s excellent posts. In D&C 121:34 it says that “the RIGHTS of the priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven” To me the RIGHTS of the priesthood are different from power in the priesthood. Power in the priesthood is the same as the powers of heaven and are available to everyone, as dannyk points out, through faith, and they are available to everyone as you point in the podcast even if they are not LDS. (I would question using Muslims as an example, but I do actually believe that most Muslims pray to the same God I do, but I definitely think that some do not. But that’s another topic. I wouldn’t use Muslims as a general example because of the exceptions.) I feel the the RIGHTS of the priesthood are basically two things. One to preside, two to preform ordinances. Because of the way we do things, as Alma points out in Alma 13, the LDS member always knows where he or she should look for direction. That’s not true in any other Church that I can tell, except maybe for Catholics but even there I’m not sure since I’m not anything like a Catholic expert. Second is to perform ordinances which is closely connected to the first.
I recently started thinking of the powers of heaven as a field after our last priesthood leadership meeting meeting when Eld. Dan Jones visited our stake. I also started to think of ordinances as quanta of priesthood power. I don’t know why my sick mind thinks this way but it makes since to me, although it’s fairly recent so I haven’t really thought it through the whole way. But that’s what occurred to me during the meeting and I actually wrote in my notes. Weird huh.
I guess I also disagree with Suzette on another point. Ordination into the priesthood is not a saving ordinance. It can’t be because women can be saved without it, other than the fact that only ordained men can perform ordinances. Men need to be ordained so that they can become like women and be worthy to enter the Temple.
I also think that not only is being ushers a contrived priesthood responsibility for Teachers, but so is preparing the Sacrament. The preparation of the Sacrament is a prefect example of what would happen everywhere if men and women both held the priesthood. In most cases the YW would be there early getting everything prepared and ready well before the Sacrament Meeting started, and you would rarely have the Teacher responsible for bringing the bread showing up late and creeping up to the front of the building and passing it slyly to the Priests to finish the preparation, and that only happens when both the Teachers assigned and the YM 1st Counselor forgot to bring the backup bread, which I always did when I was the a 1st counselor, and it was distressingly common that we had to use the bread I brought to avoid the above happening.
I wouldn’t be a happy Father if my wife Baptized our children. I’m fine with women being ordain, healing the sick, but I wouldn’t want them performing certain saving ordinances.
I would prefer different roles not the same, but let them have more access to the decision making process that happens in the church.
This episode was fascinating. Thanks!
I have a question, and wonder if anyone can help: it seems like we’ve mixed up the concepts of what “priesthood” means for so long.
We (as a culture) sometimes say “the priesthood” to mean “the men.” Sometimes we use “the priesthood” to refer to God’s power. Other times we use “the priesthood” to refer to community sanctioned authority and permission to lead. Sometimes we say “the priesthood” is what heals. Sometimes we say it’s “faith” that heals. So it’s a very murky concept.
I like DannyK’s discussion of ordinances being symbolic, but not sufficient to receive God’s power. Then there’s discussion of faith allowing all people to access God’s power.
So my question is, if priesthood ordinances are not sufficient to bring about God’s power, nor are they necessary to bring about God’s power (per the orphanage and faith): why priesthood in the first place?
My personal thoughts. They give us an anchor a moment in time where we demostrated a level of faithfulness and in these covenants is demostrated a desire to be better and be more. When we have that attitude, God’s grace can have an affect on us and hence “in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest” that is what they do for me