Women and the Restoration of the Priesthood

Today is the 185th anniversary of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. The introduction to Doctrine & Covenants 13 states:

“The ordination was done by the hands of an angel who announced himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament. The angel explained that he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John, the ancient Apostles, who held the keys of the higher priesthood, which was called the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The promise was given to Joseph and Oliver that in due time this higher priesthood would be conferred upon them.”

AP restoration 1 finished

John the Baptist pronounced the following blessing:

”Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”

With the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood and a short time later, the Melchizedek Priesthood, the world was changed forever. Man again had the authority to perform ordinances essential for salvation for all mankind, and the door was open for the further restoration of priesthood keys.

A few years ago, my husband and I had the chance to visit the Church Historical sites in the eastern United States. We pulled off the highway and stopped at the Aaronic Priesthood Restoration Site. It was not a big place, nor was there a visitor center or name-tagged missionaries there to greet us. There were just some signs explaining what had happened there, and the foundation stones of the Smith cabin. Nearby was the cemetery where Emma Smith’s parents and Emma and Joseph’s first baby are buried. Despite the simple setting, the spirit at this site was very powerful. My husband and I hopped a fence and crossed a rail road track and managed to make our way down to the banks of the Susquehanna River. It was beautiful, reverent and the perfect setting for such an important event. The Holy Ghost testified to both of us of the power and importance of the priesthood and of vital importance of its restoration.

These days there is much chatter and discussion about the priesthood in the Church. The leaders of our church have taught us many times over the years about what the priesthood is, about who may exercise its keys and how all members of the church are entitled to access its power.

In his most recent General Conference address, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the 12 spoke about The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood. In this talk he made some key points that clear up the confusion and contention that cloud discussions on the priesthood.

First, Elder Oaks defined what the priesthood is by quoting Pres. Joseph F. Smith, “ [The Priesthood is] the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family.” As John the Baptist revealed to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry, bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood hold the keys to the ministering of angels, the gospel of repentance and most importantly the authority to baptize. Baptism is essential for our salvation and is the first step we make on the covenant path back to God. Under the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, other ordinances, including temple ordinances, can be performed for those who are living and by proxy for those who have passed away. The Lord loves ALL of His children, and extends the blessings of the priesthood to everyone.

Second, the subject of priesthood keys was addressed. “Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth.” This is an important point as well. Priesthood keys give direction as to who is authorized to perform the duties of the priesthood. Without this authority our actions lack legitimacy. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be present as the new bishop for our ward was set apart. As the Stake President set him apart, he gave our bishop the keys of authority for all of the areas of responsibility in our ward, specifically, and by name, as well. It was very thorough and complete. And as I have seen our bishop work over the past year, I have seen how he has exercised those specific keys in our ward to bless the lives of our ward members. He has the authority to lead our ward. It is amazing to watch the priesthood in action.

Elder Oaks went on to say, “In the controlling of the exercise of priesthood authority, the function of priesthood keys both enlarges and limits. It enlarges by making it possible for priesthood authority and blessings to be available for all of God’s children. It limits by directing who will be given the authority of the priesthood, who will hold its offices, and how its rights and powers will be conferred” The priesthood is not chaotic or random, it is ordered and organized. When we understand that the salvation of people is at stake with proper exercise and function of the priesthood, we understand the need for the proper use of priesthood keys. Without these keys priesthood authority cannot be used properly to bless the lives of people.

Third, Elder Oaks stressed that Christ is the one that holds ALL the keys of the priesthood and that it is He who determines how they are delegated and used. He boldly declared, ”[the presiding authorities of the Church] are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.” I know this particular fact is a sticking point with some women. If Elder Oaks ended his talk there I might have issues too, but he didn’t end his talk there. He went on to describe how the women of the LDS Church have access to, and are able to use 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.”

If you apply this principle to our families, and in our homes, we do have authority given to us via our temple covenants to use the priesthood to bless the lives of our families. We have the authority to make decisions and to participate in the creation of life. What is more important than that?

Elder Oaks addressed women further by quoting Pres. Smith again, “You can speak with authority, because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” He also said that the Relief Society “[has] been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority.” It saddens me, and frustrates me, when I read and hear LDS women claim that we do not have authority to work in the Church, or that somehow we are second class citizens because we do not hold the priesthood. We are told clearly here, by Pres. Smith and witnessed to, by Elder Oaks that we have been given authority. As long as we have been given the proper authority to act, by one who holds priesthood keys, we have power and we have equal footing. In the end, as Elder Oaks articulated, Christ holds ALL the keys for every dispensation and for everything that has happened, and that will happen on this earth. All paths of authority lead back to Him. In end everyone will answer to Jesus Christ, even the men. It should not matter where we are in the line-up, but that we are there, and willing to be a disciple of Christ.

In his fourth point, Elder Oaks, said, “In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, women and men are equal, with different responsibilities.” One of the definitions which is given in the dictionary for the word ‘equal’ is BALANCE. I like to think of a scale with two sides. If one side holds a pound of apples, and the other side holds a pound of oranges the scale is in balance. The fruit is different, but the same weight and both sides are important. Men and women are different, but equal and important in the eyes of the Lord, as Elder Oaks has testified. Men and women have been given specific, important and vital roles in The Plan of Salvation. If one side is missing, there is imbalance and chaos in the Plan of our Heavenly Father. Are we going to let ourselves be tricked into thinking that we somehow don’t matter, because we have been given different responsibilities than the men?

Finally, Elder Oaks finished this talk with some words from Elder Ballard, “When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is priesthood power. … Access to the power and the blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children.” This brings to mind the theme scripture of this year’s BYU Women’s Conference, Psalms 84: 11, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” As we walk uprightly, by participating in the ordinances of the Church, and by fulfilling our callings in our wards and stakes as well as those in our families we will have the grace and glory of God to attend us. I know that the promise given in this scripture, that he will give us the good things that He has to offer, can and will happen.

Because the priesthood was restored, men as well as women have access to all the good things of God. He has promised us that. The Lord has organized the priesthood, in a way which is ordered and organized, and which allows both women and men to access priesthood authority via the proper use of priesthood keys. The Lord loves ALL of his children and is waiting to bless all of us. I am profoundly thankful that the priesthood was restored. I have seen it bless my life, and the lives of my family members time and time again. I see it used in my ward as people serve each other and bless each other’s lives. I saw it as a missionary as we taught people, and as they changed their lives to be disciples of Jesus Christ. The priesthood power is real and available to all who are willing to come to Christ and follow Him. Sisters, especially, do not doubt the power you have given to you via your covenants and by those who hold the keys of the priesthood. As sisters in Zion we have an important and vital work to do, without which, the work of God cannot move forward.

29 thoughts on “Women and the Restoration of the Priesthood

  1. “It saddens me, and frustrates me, when I read and hear LDS women claim that we do not have authority to work in the Church, or that somehow we are second class citizens because we do not hold the priesthood. We are told clearly here, by Pres. Smith and witnessed to, by Elder Oaks that we have been given authority. As long as we have been given the proper authority to act, by one who holds priesthood keys, we have power and we have equal footing. In the end, as Elder Oaks articulated, Christ holds ALL the keys for every dispensation and for everything that has happened, and that will happen on this earth. All paths of authority lead back to Him. In end everyone will answer to Jesus Christ, even the men. It should not matter where we are in the line-up, but that we are there, and willing to be a disciple of Christ.”

    Preach it, Sister Joyce!

  2. I am certain OW isn’t necessarily worried about being ordained. Try this little thought experiment: what would happen if tomorrow Pres. Monson announced that women, sans the priesthood, could serve in bishoprics, stake presidencies, or even the quorum of the 12?
    OW has only viewed priesthood as a vehicle to being ‘equal’ to the men in the church. It’s like the conch shell in Lord of the Flies. OW thinks if they can get their hands on the conch shell/priesthood that will make them equal. I’m afraid it is more complicated than that.
    Men and women will never be equal in the church, regardless of who has the priesthood. And by that I mean the church will never conform to how the world defines equality between the sexes. We have different but equally important roles to play and while that is just fine for the vast majority of women in the church, it will never placate a small subset. And so you get what we had at conference this year.
    This is a long winded way of saying that OW wants the church to adopt the world’s idea of equality and they think (wrongly) that being ordained is the way to get it.

  3. Ben, I think you are right about what OW wants. Although this is not a post about them. I am tired of their tantrums and their embarrassing behavior, and am ready to move on from giving them any more time.

    You are wrong though, about men and women being equal, we are, even if some men haven’t gotten that memo. The best way for all of us to overcome cultural bias, is to study and understand what Elder Oaks has taught about keys and authority and apply it in our wards.

  4. And yes, if you look at equality thru the eyes of the world then yes you do have a point Ben. However, I think as members of the Church we need to stop looking thru the eyes of the world on things and teach why the way the Lord has set out is better.

  5. In addition to what Ben said, it is obvious to me that OW, or at least it’s leadership, is particularly interested in having themselves in positions of leadership (Kate Kelly has fantasized about herself speaking in General Conference during the Priesthood Session in the FMH podcast leading up to last April’s General Conference) so that they can CHANGE DOCTRINE. They complain loudly that the RS General Presidency didn’t have input on the drafting of the Proclamation on the Family and argue that it would have been more gender neutral if Elaine Jack could have put her imprint on it. Even in the most recent FMH podcast featuring Kate Kelly, she opined that the issues OW cares about won’t be resolved until such time as there are enough women in the Quorum of the 12 to affect what they consider to be necessary changes to the teachings and doctrine of the Church.

    Of course, this ignores some pretty basic things about the Church, being that the 12 doesn’t actually have power to make doctrinal changes (as Elder Oaks pointed out) and it seems unlikely that people in the OW mold will be appointed to the 12 even if women were ordained to the priesthood in any event. If women are ordained, it’ll be the Sheri Dews and Joyce Andersons who rise in the hierarchy, not the Kate Kellys and Margaret Toscanos.

  6. The first change I make is nap time in the second hour of church. Who is with me on that one?

  7. @Joyce – I should have worded my comment a little better. I DO think men and women in the church are equal in the Lord’s calculus. OW and the like think men and women in the church are NOT equal but they are using worldly math. Never the twain shall meet…

  8. For many years, on that certain weekend in May, all the boys and our dad packed up the station wagon with camping junk, and rode off into the hills to spend the night sleeping in the dirt with a bunch of other boys and dads. My dad and my uncles were always in charge of cooking. The dinner was always beef stew. Then in the morning we would wake up and cook pancakes. We would run around wild for a while, then pack up and go home.

    I have no idea what the women would do. But I presume that for them, it was always a sort of holiday. They would go shopping and to the movies.

    For a while my mom and the girls went to something of their own in the summer. It was called “Campcrafters”. But it was much better organized and structured. They seemed to have fun, but never got quite so dirty.

    I’m not sure it was ever an equitable deal.

  9. There was a recent post at either Exponent or fMh where a representative of OW goes over Elder Oaks’ talk at conference, and somehow, by proof texting, actually appears hopeful as much as ever about female ordination. I went back and re-read the talk because I figured she must have been reading another talk besides the one given at conference. Instead, as I read her post, it became clear she was taking things out of context. There was another post at Exponent that quoted various leaders, but again, they were taken out of context. The poster thought there was conflict. I thought the quotes made perfect sense. Between the sections on the priesthood in Handbook Two, and Elder Oaks’ talk, I don’t know how much more definitive the church’s position on the priesthood could be.

  10. Michael if KK is fantasizing about how she and her group would “change the doctrine” then she suffers from what I call the “Board Room Mentality”, which is that the Presidency of the Church and the 12 just sit around a board room table making things up, and that Jesus Christ is not really at the head of our Church.

    The Lord and His Son are in the business to save our souls, that takes order, organization, and as Elder Oaks has taught the proper use of priesthood keys. If we just “do what WE want” then there is chaos.

    It would be a good thing for OW, and all those who dissent from the Church to remember Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” It is the Lord who is in charge, and who the leadership of the Church answers to, not popular opinion, podcasts and facebook. The Lord knows ALL, and sees the beginning from the end, let’s trust that He knows better than we do.

  11. Thanks, Joyce. Well said. As a female, I have seen things that haven’t seemed fair to females in our church. It is easy to blame the leadership- especially when the majority are men. As I have pondered this over the years, I have come to the conclusion that my role as a female child of God, that my place in His plan is no less important, albeit a less formal role in a way because I am not formally ordained to lead in the same way the Priesthood holders have. Recently, I feel like I have gained some insight into this as I have attended the temple and thought about Eve and her role. I feel I can’t go into detail about my thoughts here, but the temple seems to give a different insight into Eve and her role than we normally get from the world’s view. I would encourage those who are temple goers to consider that perspective, as it has brought me insight and comfort in thinking of my place in the Gospel as a woman, not holding the priesthood.

  12. Amy … thanks for your comment.

    Thank you for mentioning Mother Eve. I have gained a lot of perspective from her has well. Also in the temple.

  13. The feeling of hands placed on my head in blessing is a sweet memory. Those who laid hands on my head were not controlling me or getting something for themselves, they were blessing and serving me, with a name, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, a patriarchal blessing, a setting apart, a healing blessing and more. And if those with the authority to lay hands on heads require a blessing they have to turn to another. You can’t lay hands of blessing on your own head. Joseph needed Oliver with him because he couldn’t baptize himself. What a great gift the priesthood is, a gift to all who are willing to accept the blessings.

  14. Adam and Eve; Abraham and Sarah; Joseph and Emma. All gloriously archetypal for us, and so much to learn, especially in the Temple.

    On a different point, Joyce, you mention that bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood hold the keys of the ministering of angels. That is the traditional view, and one I used to hold, but I realised not that long ago that the scriptures don’t actually say that: they say that the Priesthood of Aaron (not the bearers of the Priesthood) holds the keys of the ministering of angels. I find that profoundly different with important implications for us all.

  15. JeffC – can you elaborate your last point? Virtually every official church publication says the bearers of the AP hold the keys to the ministering of angels. I once came across an older book that reviewed the AP through time. It was very insightful.

  16. JeffC I disagree with you …. D&C 13 gives the blessing John the Baptist pronounced on Joseph and Oliver and states clearly “the ministering of angels”, that is scripture my friend, scripture. The Priesthood of Aaron is The Aaronic Priesthood — that is what we are taught by the leaders of the Church, and what they teach goes, without question. So I really have no idea what you are referring to, but if you are looking for a debate on this, you are in the wrong place — I am not going to debate this.

  17. I think JeffC’s point is that it is the priesthood itself that holds the keys of the ministering of angels, not the individuals who are ordained to the priesthood. Kind of like the distinction between thanking the holders of the Aaronic priesthood for passing the sacrament, rather than thanking “the priesthood” for passing the sacrament.

    Semantics. Important, but subtle.

  18. Thanks Meg – yes, that is my point.

    I used the term Priesthood of Aaron, only because that is the terminology used in D&C 13, so my apologies if it came across that I thought that was somehow different to the Aaronic Priesthood. Section 13 doesn’t refer to the bearers of the Priesthood holding the keys; it refers to the Priesthood holding the keys.

    Women have as much right to, and do, receive angelic visitations and support in times of need as any Priesthood holder. No bearer of the Priesthood needs to act or be present in a given situation in order for an angel to attend a righteous woman. Why?

    I believe (and no I haven’t seen this written anyway, so it is only my belief based on my own study, pondering and prayer – but I believe it fits the facts too) it is because the keys are exercised in the exercising of Priesthood ordinances, which ordinances then give access to certain blessings if the associated covenants are kept.

    So one who holds the keys must authorise the ordinance, but when we receive the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood (baptism, and then renewed through the Sacrament), and honour the covenants associated with those ordinances, we also then have the right to the ministering of angels when in need.

    I believe there are also parallels to the Melchizedek Priesthood, particularly in relation to the Temple, but hopefully I’ve explained my thinking a bit better.

  19. If we’re going to nitpick, “Priesthood of Aaron” in D&C 13 at the time it was canonized would have simply meant the office of Priest. The offices of teacher and deacon as appendages to the office of Priest hold some but not all of the keys belonging to the office Priest. (For more background, I would recommend a 12 part series starting here for more detailed information.)

    Furthermore, we have been taught by Elder Oaks that the blessing of the ministering of angels is made possible to members who are worthy through baptism and the sacrament.

    Therefore in today’s language it is the office of Priest, in the Aaronic order of the priesthood, that holds the keys of the ministering of angels / the authority of the ministering of angels. And through those keys, specifically through authorized baptism and the sacrament, all members who are worthy can obtain or realize the blessing of the ministering of angels.

  20. I agree that the keys are retained with the Aaronic Priesthood, not solely the bearers of the priesthood. So, when a woman or child is baptized, they receive the gift of ministering of angels to assist them, and to ask the Lord to send angels to assist others, as well.

  21. Joyce,

    Thanks for this post!

    And JeffC, Elder Oaks has talked about what I think you are trying to get at.

    “What does it mean that the Aaronic Priesthood holds “the key of the ministering of angels” and of the “gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins”? The meaning is found in the ordinance of baptism and in the sacrament. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and the sacrament is a renewal of the covenants and blessings of baptism. Both should be preceded by repentance. When we keep the covenants made in these ordinances, we are promised that we will always have His Spirit to be with us. The ministering of angels is one of the manifestations of that Spirit…. [T]hrough the Aaronic Priesthood ordinances of baptism and the sacrament, we are cleansed of our sins and promised that if we keep our covenants we will always have His Spirit to be with us. I believe that promise not only refers to the Holy Ghost but also to the ministering of angels, for “angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ” (2 Ne. 32:3). So it is that those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood open the door for all Church members who worthily partake of the sacrament to enjoy the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord and the ministering of angels.

    (I wrote about this on May 15, fwiw. See more at: http://mormonwoman.org/2014/05/15/celebrating-the-restoration-of-the-aaronic-priesthood/#sthash.M5XYT9gT.dpuf)

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