I wanted to highlight a great talk by Relief Society President Linda K. Burton that was published in the June Ensign “Priesthood Power: Available to All.” The talk was originally given on May 2 at the Women’s Conference at BYU.
Anybody who wants to understand the true nature of the priesthood should read this talk and and the April Conference talk by Elder Oaks.
It does not seem accidental to me that Church leaders are making clear for members and those who have ears to hear exactly what the priesthood is and is not.
Some key highlights from Sis. Burton’s talk:
What is the Priesthood?
The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God by which He blesses, redeems, and exalts His children. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the priesthood this way: “Priesthood is the means whereby the Lord acts through men to save souls. … A priesthood holder is expected to exercise this sacred authority in accordance with God’s holy mind, will, and purposes. Nothing about the priesthood is self-centered. The priesthood always is used to serve, to bless, and to strengthen other people.”
Why is the Priesthood so important?
We know that “the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”5 As Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “Priesthood authority has been restored so that families can be sealed eternally.”6
“Priesthood authority is required to perform the ordinances of the gospel. … Each ordinance opens the door to rich spiritual blessings.”7 Jesus bestowed the sacred keys of the kingdom on Peter with the charge that “whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
Who holds the keys to the Priesthood?
“Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood pertaining to His Church. He has conferred upon each of His Apostles all the keys that pertain to the kingdom of God on earth. The senior living Apostle, the President of the Church, is the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys (see D&C 107:91–92). … [He then] delegates priesthood keys to other priesthood leaders so they can preside in their areas of responsibility. … Auxiliary presidents and their counselors do not receive keys. They receive delegated authority to function in their callings.”9
There is a difference between priesthood power and priesthood authority:
There is a difference, however, between priesthood authority and priesthood power. Priesthood authority is conferred by ordination, but priesthood power is available to all. Since priesthood power is something we all desire to have in our families and homes, what do we need to do to invite that power into our lives? Personal righteousness is imperative to having priesthood power.
Men alone are not the priesthood:
In a recent general conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife.”
As I say, the Church is making a special effort right now to help members understand the important role of the priesthood in our lives. I hope members take the time to consider the words of Church leaders on these issues rather than concentrating on the words of members criticizing Church leaders. The former have your best interests at heart and the latter do not.
New Post: The importance of Sister Burton’s talk on the Priesthood: I wanted to highlight a great… http://t.co/HfriUwZZvd #LDS #Mormon
TheMillennialStar: The importance of Sister Burton’s talk on the Priesthood http://t.co/ONwGWFy9id #lds #mormon
I was interested to review the Responsiblity Assessment matrix, sometimes referred to as RACI:
Responsible – these are those who do the work that needs to be done. In the LDS Church this includes everyone.
Accountable – this is the single individual for each project or task who will answer for the correct and thorough completion of the task at hand. For example, in LDS congregations, this accountable individual is the Bishop. For a ward Relief Society organization, this accountable individual is the Relief Society President. For the local organization of High Priests, this accountable individual is the Stake President. And so forth.
Consulted – these are those whose input is sought. They are not only kept apprised of the progress of the project, they opinions are actively sought.
Informed – these are those who are provided reports on the “task.”
Some versions of the RACI construct also include other steps, like “Support” or resources for those responsible, and “Omitted” or those specifically to be excluded from information regarding the project.
As I read the words of Sister Burton and Elder Oaks, I see them stressing that all are amongst those Responsible, those who are granted Priesthood power in the completion of their tasks.
Reflecting on the many talks over the years, it is clear that while select men are ultimately accountable for the work of the Lord, in individual families both men and women are accountable to God for their respective roles in nurturing their families – roles that are to be adapted by each couple as individual circumstances dictate.
I’m glad for the recent talks by President Burton, and Elders Andersen, and Oaks, too. Lots of meat at a time when it’s needed.
One interesting note about Burton’s talk. She says that priesthood authority “is conferred by ordination” (as opposed to priesthood power which “is available to all”). If I read him right, I think Elder Oaks clarifies that the distinction is actually between *keys*and authority. I read Elder Oaks as saying that ordination is NOT required to obtain and act with priesthood authority (“We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.” Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood”, April 2014).
I think Elder Oaks’ language will become the normative way we talk about this matter going forward. President Burton’s talk may not have benefited from being privy to Elder Oaks’ use of the language.
I agree, Meg.
Women in their role of mother are often particularly vulnerable ( pregnancy and childbirth) or in charge of children who are themselves in an almost constant state of threat as they explore their world and overestimate their capability (climbing, fires, sharp and pointy objects, household cleaners packaged to resemble fruit juice to the illiterate). Whales and humans are the only animals that make effective grandmothers because breeding ceases while they are still young enough to aid their daughters. The human child is fragile and costly in terms of time and attention. Grandmothers are scarce if they raised several daughters, but a good husband more than fills the gap. Research (fatherless cildren are twice as likely to drop out of school etc.) demonstrates that children benefit from having involved fathers. In my experience priesthood, properly understood and exercised, promotes involvement of fathers and dignifies the support and service they provide. Other women and friends may offer some support but anything that interferes with the function of a father as the most important resource of his wife will ultimately undermine the balance of a family.
“One interesting note about Burton’s talk. She says that priesthood authority “is conferred by ordination” (as opposed to priesthood power which “is available to all”).”
I think the matter can be easily parsed by talking about the difference between setting apart and formal ordination. Of course, a formal ordination involves the “conferral” of a priesthood order and then an immediate ordination to a specific priesthood office within that priesthood.
But think of a setting apart ritual. The mechanics are exactly the same! Hands are placed upon a recipient’s head. A verbal litany is recited. Specific “authority” is given (say, to teach a class) and words of counsel are offered. The same mechanics take place in a priesthood ordination. Hands are placed upon the recipient’s head, a verbal litany is recited, specific authority is given and words of counsel proffered.
Now, I am not suggesting that both activities are the “same” in essence. Clearly there is a difference between the ordination to an office proper and a setting apart to fulfill a church function. But the mechanics are the same. Both are receiving a “priesthood” assignment, if you will.
I really think that this is worth careful pondering. Both Sister Burton and Elder Oaks are teaching us some of the mysteries of the kingdom.
“If I read him right, I think Elder Oaks clarifies that the distinction is actually between *keys*and authority. I read Elder Oaks as saying that ordination is NOT required to obtain and act with priesthood authority”
Again I think we’re just unnecessarily deconflating ordinations proper with settings apart. Both are priesthood rituals with accompanying litanies. I can be ordained to the office of teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood without receiving any specific keys (aside from the inherent keys to the ministering of angels which belongs to the AP).
I guess what I’m saying is that I am not reading any conflicts between Sis. Burton’s talk and Elder Oaks’. I think we Mormons get way too clinical with this stuff.
I was at Women’s Conference as she gave this talk. It was very powerful, and I felt a very strong testimony of the Holy Ghost that the things she taught were and are true.
“Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife.”
Yet, a single man can be ordained to the priesthood and officiate in a large percentage of that authority without ever entering a marriage. A single woman on the other hand has the opportunity to participate in exactly 0% of child bearing unless a man chooses to participate with her. Of course, some men have full access to all the blessings offered as a priesthood holder by being married, but his wife has exactly 0% of the blessings of child bearing, because of a biological inability within her and/or her husband. There are arguments I can entertain as to why we only ordain males, but this is not one of them.
Also, I cringe at the constant reminder that exercising the priesthood power is an unselfish act. As if women who desire to be ordained are selfish. I was not called selfish when I desired to become a deacon and have the honor and blessing of administering the sacrament. Why can’t a young women desire that same opportunity without being called selfish?
” As if women who desire to be ordained are selfish.”
As if? I am not sure how you can make a case that the desire doesn’t spring from the personal self. It is certainly self-ish in that regard. Agitating for priesthood ordination isn’t selfish? Come now. Let us get real.
**Yet, a single man can be ordained to the priesthood and officiate in a large percentage of that authority without ever entering a marriage. A single woman on the other hand has the opportunity to participate in exactly 0% of child bearing unless a man chooses to participate with her. Of course, some men have full access to all the blessings offered as a priesthood holder by being married, but his wife has exactly 0% of the blessings of child bearing, because of a biological inability within her and/or her husband. There are arguments I can entertain as to why we only ordain males, but this is not one of them. **
You need to look at things from an eternal perspective. Ultimately there is no motherhood and no priesthood or fatherhood outside of those who are sealed.
Christian J, I’m not a fan of the equating of motherhood and Priesthood either, but your math on how much it takes of each gender to create a child, as well as your take on what was said on the need for women to exercise Priesthood is off.
A man’s input required for creating a child is so small as to be nearly zero when included with the amount of time gestating and before weaning. A man (and a woman) cannot exercise the fullness of the Priesthood without being sealed together. There are lots of differences between the two. You did, soft of, point out that gestation can’t start without a man and that almost all Priesthood acts (that we know of) can be done without a woman. Those joining points are important, but don’t an equality make.
As for your supposition that women are selfish in desiring Priesthood but you weren’t selfish for wanting it before you were a Deacon, this is a false equivalency. If you’d been gathering support of 0-11 year old boys in demanding ordination earlier, you would have been doing so selfishly. Looking forward to or desiring something you know when and how you’ll get isn’t selfish because there’s nothing stopping it from happening. It’s like saying someone who is terminally ill who is looking forward to dying is selfish. Wanting to give blessings of healing isn’t selfish. Demanding others let you is selfish. See the difference?
Elder Oaks didn’t exactly come out and say the corollary for priesthood service for women is motherhood, as he made it the central point of his talk to point out that service in the church by women is definitionally a type of priesthood service.
But he did make it pretty clear to anyone who was actually listening that motherhood is the defining characteristic and life’s service a woman can aspire to.
“The greatest power God has given to His sons cannot be exercised without the companionship of one of His daughters, because only to His daughters has God given the power “to be a creator of bodies … so that God’s design and the Great Plan might meet fruition.”12 Those are the words of President J. Reuben Clark.
He continued: “This is the place of our wives and of our mothers in the Eternal Plan. They are not bearers of the Priesthood; they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the Priesthood; nor are they laden with its responsibilities; they are builders and organizers under its power, and partakers of its blessings, possessing the complement of the Priesthood powers and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.”13
In those inspired words, President Clark was speaking of the family….”
It seems to me that some of those pushing for ordination of women are also mentioning their desires for participating in the “governance and administration” of the church. Link the two together, and it becomes not only a desire for rank-and-file ordination, but the _seeking of leadership positions_.
In all my involvement with the church, and reading the words of past leaders, the seeking of leadership positions, is something that has always been preached against. I’ve always been taught that it is unbecoming of a priesthood holder to seek position.
Yet that is explicitly mentioned by OW founders, and some of their supporters with hurt feelings, that _they want to be part of church governance_. Which is something men have been told since the days of Joseph Smith to _not seek after_.
What is it that a man is told if he seeks leadership position in the church? Whatever it is, let it be told to women who do the same.
Michael and Frank, I am not a fan of equating every progressive idea with the priesthood ban, but let me ask this in another way. Were black Mormon men selfish for desiring the priesthood pre-1978?
Also Frank, I’m really not interested in the ins and outs of how little men do in regard to bringing a life into the world. Let’s say: they perform a relatively very small but absolutely essential act. Women on the other hand are required to participate in exactly 0% of a large majority of priesthood ordination and operation. Happy?
Adam, you’ll have to expand on the idea that there is no priesthood outside of eternal marriage. I can imagine what you are getting at – that the priesthood’s full potential is only found therein. But, functionally, single priesthood holders have a great many opportunities to bless the lives of others and receive the blessing of selfless service. A single sister seems to have exactly 0%. Again, a man can also enter an eternal marriage and enjoy the fullness of the priesthood in this life without his wife ever being able to bear children and enjoy the fullness of her purpose. I’m not looking for fairness, just a consistent argument.
Bookslinger, I’m certain there are a good portion of men and women in the Church who desire important and influential positions to satisfy their pride or vein ambition. To exercise control, dominion or compulsion. I agree that this is bad. But, as I’ve listened to women who desire ordination as a means to church governance, I hear something very different. If we can agree that men and women are different and come from different places and experiences than men, then maybe we can agree that we need more female voices in our leadership. And that desiring more of those voices – whether I’m a man or a woman – is simply an interest in seeing the needs of God’s children addressed. I don’t believe prophets or any priesthood leader has ever existed in a vacuum. They bring their own experiences and personalities to their divine calling. Can I ask for more of those experiences and personalities to be women?
Just to avoid confusion:
But, functionally, single priesthood holders have a great many opportunities to bless the lives of others and receive the blessing of selfless service – *through the holy priesthood*.
Christian J: I think you made a parsing error in Adam’s statement, where he wrote: “You need to look at things from an eternal perspective. Ultimately there is no motherhood and no priesthood or fatherhood outside of those who are sealed.”
If I parse that correctly, he’s referring to the post-millennial eternity of the three kingdoms, where everyone outside of the top division of the Celestial Kingdom (the only group that are sealed and eternally married) are living _singly and separately_.
Shucks, I messed up the close blockquote. Could a moderator please fix? Thx.
Christian J – “exactly 0% of a large majority” This is the math problem. I’ve really no interest at all in comparing apples to ostriches, but you seem to think that there is absolutely no required female aspect to the Priesthood. That is simply wrong. Stop trying to debunk what is originally a bad attempt at equivalence.
As for the comparisons to blacks and the Priesthood, for those who were publicly trying to force the Church to chance, yes, they were being selfish, not to mention being counter productive to actually getting the change to happen. It’s those who worked with the Church, both in pleading and helping others to grow that helped bring about the change. It’s much the same now, where OWs efforts have been hindering the efforts of many people trying to help effect change in the Church with regards to women, both locally and Church wide. I think OW would have had much more success with both a different name and a different approach, but instead they’ve just made more divisions, more lines that everyone is on one side or the other of.
So yes, selfish.
**Adam, you’ll have to expand on the idea that there is no priesthood outside of eternal marriage. I can imagine what you are getting at – that the priesthood’s full potential is only found therein. But, functionally, single priesthood holders have a great many opportunities to bless the lives of others and receive the blessing of selfless service. A single sister seems to have exactly 0%. Again, a man can also enter an eternal marriage and enjoy the fullness of the priesthood in this life without his wife ever being able to bear children and enjoy the fullness of her purpose. I’m not looking for fairness, just a consistent argument. **
I don’t believe that ultimately there will be any such thing as a single priesthood holder or a wife who can’t be a mother. This life is temporary. It is not a permanent condition.
“Michael and Frank, I am not a fan of equating every progressive idea with the priesthood ban, but let me ask this in another way. Were black Mormon men selfish for desiring the priesthood pre-1978?”
I love how the priesthood ban is slapped down on the table like the preternatural Ultimate Trump Card. It’s the mighty Hammer of Thor that seeks to end conversation, or at least make people feel uncomfortable because, you know, *blacks and the priesthood*!!!
Let me say that the answer to your question is rather obvious: people, when acting individually, almost always do so out of personal ego. If you want a personal ordination, then you have to logically admit there is a modicum of self-ish-ness going on there. But please note: we all act in this way, to greater or lesser extents. It really comes down to our motives: do I want to genuinely bless others the way Christ has authorized or do I want to wrap myself in a religious credential? Add Elder or Elderess to my nameplate?
The priesthood doesn’t belong to a black man anymore than it belongs to a white man. It belongs to God.
@MT: J Max Wilson wrote eloquently about it:
It may have also been cross-posted at M*.
Book, I made it clear that I don’t like it as a be-all wedge issue for whatever you want the Church to change. But for this issue I think its instructive. Can a person desire an opportunity to bless their family without it being selfish? For example, on my mission, I met single Mormon mothers in the middle of nowhere who expressed frustration that they could not bless their sick child in the same way a man could.
“It’s those who worked with the Church, both in pleading and helping others to grow that helped bring about the change.”
Frank, are you suggesting that the lifting of the priesthood ban was something more than the direct will of God to his prophet at His time and His place? If so, who specifically was in need of growth?
Christian J – “Can a person desire an opportunity to bless their family without it being selfish?” Nope. That’s why we generally don’t give blessings unless asked. You’re putting what you desire over what they want/need. For those sisters in need, it would have better if you could teach them to desire they could have such blessings, rather than desiring to be the one to do it. It’d be like anyone saying they desire the opportunity to ordain an Apostle. It means you’re not doing it for them; you’re doing it for you.
For the lifting of the Priesthood ban of those of African descent (as well as they could determine it), you can’t really have “more” than the direct will of God at His time and place, so it seems I don’t understand the question. I’m also not in a position to know the hearts and minds of everyone in the world at the time to have any idea who specifically was in need of growth. I don’t think it was me. I was 4, and that year is kinda hazy aside from memories of my first year of Primary and getting the Sacrament that was blessed there (before they had the block, maybe).