There seems to be a big conflict about women and the priesthood. A lot of women (and men) seem to think it is the same as the ban on blacks having the priesthood. They are waiting for a revelation that will extend the priesthood to all women, as well as men.
I don’t think this will ever happen. Not because I don’t think women won’t or shouldn’t have the priesthood. I don’t think it will ever happen because women already possess every power of the priesthood, and are not excluded from priesthood service. And because the women are already organized after the pattern of the priesthood, and all we need to do is wake up and fulfill our potential that has already been given us.
Women have Priesthood Power
In a post at By Common Consent a few months ago, the post author pointed out that ordination to a priesthood office does not necessarily mean the priesthood “holder” has any kind of priesthood power.
So if ordination to priesthood office does not give someone priesthood power, then what does?
When a man (or a woman) enters the waters of baptism and receives the gift of the Holy Ghost, they are entitled to priesthood power from those gifts (repentance and revelation) based on their worthiness. In the temple, women are endowed with all the same gifts and powers as a man. There is not separate ceremony for men, there is no separate blessing. Both men and women have the same blessings given to them in the temple. These powers and blessings are also contingent on their worthiness.
So how do we get priesthood power? By our worthiness.
In a Mormon Channel episode, Sister Julie B. Beck said,
I think that there is a great confusion about this, and some of it came about through the sifting of the scriptures and when plain and precious things were removed from the scriptures, but there is confusion about priesthood and how we talk about it…sometimes [we imply] that the men who hold the priesthood are the priesthood… [but] the priesthood is the power of God… it is His power… and in His plan He has give certain responsibilities to men and to women to utilize that power he’s made available to bless His children. Some of that power comes to us through the gifts and blessings of the priesthood…some of that power comes to us through ordinances. For instance, when we are baptized and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Everybody gets that power if they’re worthy… that is God’s power speaking to us through the power of revelation... There are authorizations to perform ordinances.
Sometimes we say “Well, the men have it and the women don’t.” I hear that argument a lot. That isn’t even the right question. The question we should be having in our lives is “How can I access every ordinance that’s available to me to walk back to my Heavenly Father. How can I access the gifts and the blessings he’s made available to every one of His children.” And those blessings and ordinances are not gender specific, those saving ordnances that will exalt us. Now, men have been given the assignment to hold in trust the priesthood. To really understand this you would have to do a study of the family of Abraham and go all the way back to Adam and “Why did the the Lord give Adam to give the Priesthood to hold in trust?” It was so that every child of Adam’s family would have access to the ordinances that would save them. That was Adam’s assignment. To hold in trust that authority to perform those ordinances to bless his family. Now Eve was his sealed wife. That was a priesthood ordinance that sealed them. So the power of that ordinance was effective in her life. She also had assignments in her family. To teach her children, to nurture her children, to create the life of that child. And by whose power does that happen? That is God’s power. Women don’t need to be ordained to an office to perform that… The Lord can bless us in many many ways through the gifts of the priesthood…
This is Satan's way of confusing all of us, so that the men don’t understand what they have and value it, and the women don’t understand what they have and value it, and that neither values what the other has. If we can get into a polarizing, combative frame of mind then neither of us values really what the Lord has blessed us with in His priesthood.
This polarizing, combative frame of mind is what I see all around in the discussion about women and the priesthood. Why? Because Satan wants to confuse us so that none of us can enjoy the blessings of the power of God. I wish that we could get beyond this frame of mind and open up a real dialogue about how women can use the power of the priesthood in their lives and to bless the lives of others (which, really, when we get right down to it is the purpose of the priesthood – to bless the lives of others).
Priesthood Organization and Authority
Women will (and do and have) absolutely perform(ed) priesthood ordinances. In the post at By Common Consent a commenter suggested that women perform ordinances in the temple for “practical” reasons. I do not think that is so.
In the most recent (April 2012) General Conference, Sister Julie B. Beck echoed President Spencer W. Kimball’s call for the sisters of the Church to “catch the vision of Relief Society.” In a BYU Devotional address earlier in 2012, Sister Beck said that the Relief Society is like a priesthood quorum. “A priesthood quorum is a group of men with the same office of priesthood who are to perform a special labor.” The prophet Joseph Smith
“organiz[ed] the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.” The Relief Society, then, is a priesthood quorum for women. Sister Beck quoted a talk given by President Boyd K. Packer about quorums, stating that the words “quorum vos unum” mean “of whom we will that you be one”. She then said, “The word society has a meaning nearly identical to that of quorum. It connotes “an enduring and cooperating … group” distinguished by its commons aims and beliefs.”
Sister Beck went on to point out all the patterns of the priesthood that include women as well, such as the calling of Relief Society presidencies, sustaining our Relief Society leaders and teachers, receiving personal revelation over our stewardships, among other patterns.
When will we, as sisters of the Church, realize that our Relief Society is part of the priesthood? The Church was not fully organized until the Relief Society was formed in the pattern of the priesthood.
Equal Partners with Different Responsibilities
By divine design, men and women have different roles – both in the family and in the Church. This does not mean that we are not equal (different =/= unequal). It does not mean that men are somehow “over” women. “By divine design, [the brethren] are to preside over [the Church] in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for [the Church]. [The sisters of the Church] are primarily responsible for the nurture of [the members of the Church]. In these sacred responsibilities, [brethren and sisters] are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World – edited to apply to the Church broadly) If the purpose of the Church is to strengthen home and family then it makes sense that the Church is patterned after the family. The basic unit of the Church is not actually the ward, it is the family. So here we have it – men have different roles in the Church than women do. But, they “are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” So just as fathers are to preside in their families in love and righteousness, men are supposed to preside in the Church in love and righteousness.
Some questions to think about that may help this be more clear: Should men have wombs and carry children just as women do? Should Adam and Eve both simultaneously partaken of the fruit of the tree, rather than Even partaking first, then offering to Adam? Should there have been a male and a female Christ?
Could mortality be possible with out Eve (female)? Could immortality be possible without Christ (male)? Is one more significant than the other? Was Eve’s act any less noble, any less vital to our eternal salvation?
A Woman’s Right
It is a woman’s right to posses and exercise every power of the priesthood (based on her worthiness). The roles in exercising that power are different from men and women, but the power is the same. I do not feel any less significant in God’s plan for being a woman, nor do I feel that the doctrines (or policies) for the Church demean me as a woman. In fact, I feel that they empower me.
I feel like this is what Sister Beck has been trying to drill into our stubborn woman brains the past several years – that women have so much more potential than we even recognize. That women spend so much time worrying about why women aren’t ordained to priesthood offices they are wasting precious time they could be using to perform the priesthood duties they have already been given. Why are we sitting around arguing and complaining about why women “don’t have the priesthood” when we know and can be taught by the gospel of Jesus Christ and by His Holy Spirit that we indeed do have every blessing and power of the priesthood, that we, as women, are organized after the pattern of the priesthood? Why don’t we get up and go to work, exercising the priesthood power that is ours to exercise, doing good in God’s kingdom in the way we are called to?
Let us rise up and catch the vision of Relief Society and be the women God wants us to be.