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Women holding the priesthood?

Don - August 30, 2004

The first presidency message in the August Ensign has an interesting statement by President Faust. He says: “The priesthood is held in trust to be used to bless all of God’s children. Priesthood is not gender; it is blessings from God for all at the hands of the servants He has designated.”

What does he means the priesthood is not gender? Does that open the door for the possibility that women could hold the priesthood? Is there any scripture that in fact specifically prohibits women from holding the priesthood?

That got me thinking further. In the temple some of the priesthood temple ordainances are performed by women. Washing and annointings are priesthood ordainances, how do women perform these ordainances without having the priesthood?

The last thought was how would I feel and what would be the general membership’s reaction if the first presidency announced that women could hold the priesthood?

1 Comment »

  1. Don,
    I could be wrong, but my sense is that Pres. Faust means that priesthood does not equal maleness. One hears people in the church refer to “the priesthood,” when they mean to say, “male members of the church.” I think he is simply saying that male-ness does not, in and of itself, constitute a right to hold the priesthood.

    I also think that he may be responding to people who think that men rule the church because they hold the priesthood. Properly used, the keys of the priesthood guide the church, not men.
    Braden | Email | Homepage | 08.30.04 – 3:53 pm | #

    I think you’re right.

    Nevertheless, his last 2.5 paragraphs still ask interesting questions. Are there any scriptures that suggest that women can’t ever hold the priesthood? The temple question? That’s one that I’ve never understood.

    His last question is purely speculation, albeit interesting to see the reaction to such a hugely controversial issue. Why would it be such a big deal? Do we really know THAT much about our divine roles? Are we THAT sure? I hope not.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 08.30.04 – 4:40 pm | #

    Abraham 2:11
    And I will abless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.

    This verse might be suggesting that the literal seed of Abraham’s body is his priesthood? I’m not quite sure what to make of that. If it is so, then perhaps there is something intrinsically male about priesthood.

    By the way, I don’t favor this interpretation… I just have to wonder why this verse makes such a point of talking about priesthood and “literal seed.”
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 08.30.04 – 5:55 pm | #

    I don’t know that we couldn’t count women as the seed of Abraham. I know that in Abraham’s day and during the O.T. times women weren’t counted for anything so the O.T. references refer to seed as the male offspring. But it’s obvious that there are a few women in Abraham’s posterity (seed).
    Don | Email | Homepage | 08.30.04 – 6:32 pm | #

    There’s a woman at Beliefnet (formerly LDS) who is practically a scholar on the early practices and such of the church. Subsequentially, she can tell you quite alot about women and the priesthood. If you want, I can have her e-mail you or something.
    If we were told that women could hold the priesthood, I don’t know what I’d think about it. It’d be interesting, though.
    Sister T | Email | Homepage | 08.30.04 – 8:24 pm | #

    Endowed women have priesthood. The women who perform ordinances in the temple do so with priesthood authority. They are priestesses. In the endowment, they are clothed in the garment *of the holy priesthood*, in the robes of the priesthood, are given the tokens and signs of the priesthood, and are told (along with the men) that they are prepared to officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood. If we really pay attention to the endowment (endowed with what?), it couldn’t be much clearer.

    But the priesthood bestowed in the temple has nothing to do with Church governance, and here’s where we make a distinction. The temple deals with family, and joining our families (as kings and queens, priests and priestesses) into the family of God. In the family, husband and wife both exercise their priesthood as mother and father. But that does not have anything to do with priesthood offices or Church leadership.
    Grasshopper | Email | Homepage | 08.31.04 – 11:09 am | #

    Just to second Grasshopper, in the temple we are made priests and priestesses.

    However in common parlance by priesthood we mean the Melchezedek offices. As Joseph Smith pointed out offices aren’t the priesthood as a whole. But we tend to focus in on those. And that’s where feminists, for example, get upset. A way of considering it is that feminists don’t just want women to have priesthood in some theological sense. They don’t want gender differences as we act within the order of the priesthood.

    I don’t think Elder Faust is commenting on that debate. I think he is just pointing out that priesthood in general is just that: more general. There is no indication that there shouldn’t be gender roles within the priesthood and considerable reason to think gender is an essential aspect of how the priesthood functions.
    Clark | Email | Homepage | 08.31.04 – 12:15 pm | #

    When I gave that Abraham scripture, I’m particularly thinking of that portion of the verse that talks about “literal seed of the body.” I look at this as not referring to posterity but to something else. Why would the verse go out if its way to make such a distinction?

    I agree with the descriptions of women’s roles (in the temple) that are given above and the understanding that this is a recognition of women having priesthood.

    With the Abraham scripture, I’m just thinking that if someone wanted to literally tie priesthood to maleness, this is one of the few verses I could think of that actually seems to communicate this principle.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 08.31.04 – 1:25 pm | #

    Danithew, are you aware of the history of the Book of Abraham as it relates to the Patriarchal Priesthood? There is a famous BYU thesis on the subject, tied to the Succession crisis after Joseph’s death. Anyway without going into it too much, Joseph taught there were three orders of priesthood: Aaronic, Patriarchal, and Melchezedek and orders relating to each. The Patriarchal Priesthood was, like the Aaronic, lineage based. Many early brethren felt they were natural heirs to that priesthood.

    It’s not talked about much, but if you can get ahold of Ehat and Cook’s _The Words of Joseph Smith_ it includes all accounts of Joseph’s Nauvoo sermons and has a fair bit on this. It’s in older versions of the Deseret Books Gospel Library CD.

    Lisle Brown used to have some stuff on this on the internet. I don’t know if he still does.
    Clark | Email | Homepage | 09.01.04 – 1:10 am | #

    Clark, I agree with you, except for one modification: my understanding of the temple promises you cite is that they are preliminary, preparatory, and yet to be fufilled.
    Braden | Email | Homepage | 09.01.04 – 11:43 pm | #

    Braden, there’s an interesting assymetry in the degree of preparatoriness of the promises to men & women–worth listening for the next time you go.
    Kristine | Email | Homepage | 09.08.04 – 1:26 pm | #

    Comment by Comment Restore — November 28, 2005 @ 12:35 am

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