Shouldn’t they be called ‘Confer Women?’

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson.

On Friday, an essay entitled “Joseph Smith’s Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women” was published on lds.org, and the reactions from some quarters of the internet were entirely predictable. One of the most common complaints I’ve seen is that the Church is claiming that the word “ordain” doesn’t mean “ordain.” The most cogent of these observations came courtesy of April Young Bennett, who argues:

The authors attempt to explain away the ordinations of female Relief Society officers in Nauvoo by stating that “Mormons sometimes used the term ordain in a broad sense, often interchangeably with set apart.” Maybe they did sometimes, but not in this case. In the minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society, Joseph Smith explained that Emma Smith did not need to be ordained at that meeting as she had already been ordained previously, just like men who have already been ordained in the modern church do not need to be ordained again to take on new callings. Instead, Emma Smith received a blessing that is similar to the modern practice of “setting apart” while Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney received ordinations.

In support of her assertions, Ms. Bennett provides a link to the minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society from the Joseph Smith Papers Project website. It is instructive to read exactly what was recorded about the ordinations of Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney.

Elder Taylor was then appointed to ordain the Counsellors— he laid his hands on the head of Mrs Cleveland and ordain’d her to be a Counsellor to the Elect Lady, even Mrs. Emma Smith, to counsel, and assist her in all things pertaining to her office &c.

Elder T. then laid his hands on the head of Mrs. Whitney and ordain’d her to be a Counsellor to Mrs. Smith, the Prest. of the Institutio[n]— with all the privileges pertaining to the office &c.

He then laid his hands on the head of Mrs. Smith and blessed her, and confirm’d upon her all the blessings which have been confer’d on her, that she might be a mother in Israel and look to the wants of the needy, and be a pattern of virtue; and possess all the qualifications necessary for her to stand and preside and dignify her Office, to teach the females those principles requisite for their future usefulness.

Each of Mrs. Cleveland and Mrs. Whitney were ordained to be counselors. No mention is made of priesthood office, nor was there any mention of the conferral of any priesthood to Emma Smith, Sarah Cleveland or Elizabeth Whitney. Which leads to the main point of this post: “ordain” has never meant conferral of either the Aaronic Priesthood or the Melchizedek Priesthood in the Church.

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Guest post for Pioneer Day

This is a guest post by Huston.

“Call up your courage again. Dismiss your grief and fear.
A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.
Through so many hard straits, so many twists and turns
our course holds firm for Salt Lake Valley. There God holds out
a homeland, calm, at peace. There God decrees
the kingdom of Zion will rise again. Bear up.
Save your strength for better times to come.”

This is a quote from Brigham Young.

Here, the Mormon leader motivates discouraged pioneers as they survey the barren, hostile wilderness they’re passing through, after being driven out of their ruined home. He reminds them that they’ve already suffered greatly before and endured. He inspires them with a vision of their destined goal: the establishment of a new headquarters for their people in a land to the west. Their civilization is to be a re-establishment of a great order that had been lost. This powerful, cheering attitude helps the people strive and successfully realize their destiny.

Oh, no, wait. That’s not right. This is actually a quote from the Trojan hero Aeneas in Virgil’s classic The Aeneid (Book I, lines 238-244, Robert Fagles trans.).

“Call up your courage again. Dismiss your grief and fear.
A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.
Through so many hard straits, so many twists and turns
our course holds firm for Latium. There Fate holds out
a homeland, calm, at peace. There the gods decree
the kingdom of Troy will rise again. Bear up.
Save your strength for better times to come.”

Here, the Trojan leader motivates discouraged warriors as they survey the barren, hostile wilderness they’re passing through, after being driven out of their ruined home. He reminds them that they’ve already suffered greatly before and endured. He inspires them with a vision of their destined goal: the establishment of a new headquarters for their people in a land to the west. Their civilization is to be a re-establishment of a great order that had been lost. This powerful, cheering attitude helps the people strive and successfully realize their destiny.

Sorry for the confusion, but you can see how I got these two epic journeys mixed up. They have so much in common.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for us.

The eternal consequences of legalizing same sex marriage

By Michael J Davidson, a sometimes guest blogger at Millennial Star who happens to be active LDS, a husband, father, attorney and genealogy enthusiast.

It is not every day that the Supreme Court of the United States issues an opinion that has such eternal implications as we have in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. I undertook to read the syllabus, opinion of the court and the dissents (103 pages!) thinking that I would possibly write a legal critique of what the court did, but I found that such a critique would likely be similar to those already done. Instead, I thought about the eternal consequences of this decision and found them to be very sobering.

Frankly, a lot of what the Court does really is somewhat insignificant in the timeframe of the gospel, but today’s decision is different. Foreign affairs, healthcare, and housing discrimination are all important topics, to be sure, but they affect items that are very temporal, very temporary, when you take the long view that we should be focused on. There are some truly important things addressed there, but for the most part we won’t look back on the Chevron decision as something that impacted the salvation of souls in the world.

Families, on the other hand, are eternal. Or at least some of them are. In this brave new world, violence is being done to individuals in a manner that will impact these individuals in the eternities. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court gives legal sanction to marriage relationships (and parental relationships) that will not and cannot endure in eternity. With this legal recognition comes an increased level of social acceptance that will result in more individuals engaging in such relationships, and doing so in a manner that is more permanent. In discussing these developments, we need to keep in mind not only of the sinful nature of homosexual behavior, but also of the futile nature of these relationships from an eternal perspective.

It has long been clear from a doctrinal perspective that engaging in homosexual sex is sinful, under any circumstances. This is something the brethren have made abundantly clear, particularly in recent general conference addresses and other public statements. What I haven’t heard as much, though I expect we will hear more of, is that these new family relationships cannot endure in the eternities the way heterosexual marriages can endure.

The Proclamation of the Family could not be more clear. “THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” In 2004, the First Presidency further issued this statement: “As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family.”
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Discovering The Joys of Womanhood in Ancestors’ Patriarchal Blessings

young-woman-receives-patriarchal-blessing-fullThe following guest post is from Beth Buck. Beth is a stay-at-home mother of three. She works part time as a staff writer for an emergency preparedness website, has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies/ Arabic from BYU, and holds a black belt in Karate.

Patriarchal blessings are unique to Mormonism in concept and practice. No other denomination (save the offshoots of Mormonism) continues the biblical tradition of receiving a prophetic blessing unique to each person. The lds.org topical article describes these as “personal counsel from the Lord.”

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