Pondering Mormon Women and Priesthood
“Let [us] seek for wisdom instead of power and [we] will have all the power [we] have wisdom to exercise.” - Eliza R. Snow, in Daughters in My Kingdom, page 45
In her 2013 BYU Women’s Conference address, Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President (leader of Mormon women worldwide), declared:
“We rejoice that we are privileged to live in this season of the history of the Church when questions are being asked about the priesthood. There is great interest and desire to know and understand more about the authority, power, and blessings associated with the priesthood of God. It is our hope for this next sacred hour together that “the doctrine of the priesthood…[may] distil upon [our] soul[s] as the dews from heaven.”3
“We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood. I testify that the Lord is hastening His work, and it is imperative for us to understand how the Lord accomplishes His work so that we may receive the power that comes from be aligned with His plan and purposes.”
Sister Burton boldly invites us to stand as our foremothers who “expressed their support for living prophets and for the practices of the Church. They defended themselves and…proclaimed their faith and their covenants. Sister Eliza R. Snow said: ‘It was high time [to] rise up in the dignity of our calling and speak for ourselves…. The world does not know us, and truth and justice to our brethren and to ourselves demands us to speak….’”
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been pondering the doctrine of the priesthood in earnest during the past few months, and I wanted to share some of the flood of recent resources that have been part of my personal study.
[Update to original post]: Elder Oaks in the priesthood session of the April 2014 General Conference talked about priesthood power, authority, and keys and how they relate to both women and men. Understanding the purpose of keys is so important to understanding Mormon women and priesthood. Transcript of this talk is not yet available, but here is the audio link.
[Update to original]: Here is the transcript of the talk given by Elder M. Russell Ballard at the BYU Devotional that was part of BYU’s Education Week. You can watch the video here: Let Us Think Straight
- As has already been mentioned in past posts, the focus of the Worldwide Leadership Training was on priesthood. Note the desire the leaders have to help us understand how the purpose of the priesthood — God’s power — is to bless all of His children. The blessings of the priesthood that come from covenants and ordinances (as well as simply even being able to enjoy the wonders of God’s creations) are available to all. The video image above is only representing one of many video clips in this training. The videos build upon and connect with each other, and in my opinion, they all culminated in President Eyring’s talk, the last of the videos in the series. Our leaders have asked us to watch and ponder all of these videos.
There is much to learn about the power of the priesthood as well and how it relates to the role of women in God’s work. This has been discussed in the recent spring auxiliary training meetings for both Relief Society leaders and Young Women leaders. Even as I will highlight a few segments of those training meetings below, I highly encourage listening to both training meetings in their entirety.
- I’ve already mentioned the presentation given by Sandra Rogers (member of the Relief Society General Board) during the Relief Society auxiliary training about Mormon women and the power of the priesthood. In that talk, resources for pondering priesthood were mentioned. Sister Rogers pointed those in attendance to Daughters in My Kingdom (especially chapter 8) and also the Church Handbook of Instructions (e.g., chapter 2, Priesthood Principles) for more insight on these topics. – See more at: http://mormonwoman.org/2013/04/22/mormon-women-and-priesthood-power/#sthash.4uoXAlsm.dpuf
- In the Young Women training, the two counselors in the former Young Women General Presidency devoted their presentation to teaching and testifying about priesthood power, and then in her president’s message, Sister Dalton emphasized more about how priesthood power is key to what women do in their callings.
- And again, chapter 8 of Daughters in My Kingdom helps explain how unity under priesthood keys is so important in God’s work. Unity is another theme that came out in the Relief Society training.
- Recently, transcripts from some of the 2013 BYU Women’s Conference talks were made available and interestingly enough, the Relief Society presidency’s topic was priesthood. Sister Burton’s and Sister Stevens’ talks stood out to me in particular because they reinforced personal inspiration I had received while preparing to engage the young women in my ward at the beginning of June’s lessons on priesthood and priesthood keys.
- Sister Julie B. Beck gave a fantastic talk at a conference at Southern Virginia University. Some of what she talked about included the doctrine of the priesthood.
- You can hear other thoughts Sister Beck shared in a Mormon Channel conversation about spiritual gifts, addressing some of the questions women have about gender issues in the Church.
- And one more from Sister Beck: Why We Are Organized in Priesthood Quorums and the Relief Society
- I was struck that both Sister Beck (former Relief Society General President) and Sister Burton (current Relief Society General President) spoke of Doctrine and Covenants 84. Sister Burton invited Mormon women to memorize verses 33-40. “By doing so,” she says, “I promise you that the Holy Ghost will expand your priesthood understanding and inspire and uplift you in wonderful ways.”
- Sister Burton invites us to study Doctrine and Covenants sections 13, 20, 84, 107, and 121 as well as Alma 13. I also think scriptures such as Doctrine and Covenants 88 and studying the ancient temple (such as can be found in chapters in Exodus) can teach us much as well.
- Sister Burton also notes that the temple is one of the greatest places to ponder and learn about priesthood.
- If you are familiar with the book by Sheri Dew and Virginia Pearce (The Beginning of Better Days), that to me is a must-read for every Latter-day Saint woman. These sisters also point us to the minutes of the Relief Society.
- Speaking of Sheri Dew, hear some of her thoughts that she shared with a journalist about “what Mormon women get.”
- In my mind, key to understanding God’s leadership model is to understand the power of the council system. Mormon women leaders discuss that principle in this video.
- I have studied the Book of Mormon (twice through with just this focus) and other scriptures for patterns of how God’s love and power and ministering and delivering help reached to men, women, and children. In my personal study, I have found that priesthood and all that it entails is a powerfully inclusive doctrine when its purposes (to help bring us to Christ and connect us to God, and to connect heaven and earth) are carefully pondered. So often I hear women talk of reading the scriptures and thinking that women are somehow left out of them. I testify that they (we) are not. In the way that matters most — in receiving the blessings of the Atonement and the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power and reality of God’s love and deliverance and eternal blessings — we are not!
It is my personal belief that this is what our leaders are wanting us to understand. Priesthood is ultimatelyl not about who does what. It’s about what God wants to do for all of His children, if we will but receive the blessings He has to give.
- Critical to remember is what Sister Burton mentioned and what is often mentioned in conjunction with the doctrine of the priesthood. It is best understood through personal revelation.
Sister Burton reminds us, “Because the doctrine of the priesthood is best understood by revelation, it is essential to have the help of the Holy Ghost to reveal and distill the doctrine upon our souls. Elder Bednar reminded us that “this blessing is not restricted to the presiding authorities of the Church; rather, it belongs to and should be operative in the life of every man, woman, and child who reaches the age of accountability and enters into sacred covenants. Sincere desire and worthiness invite the spirit of revelation into our lives.”
- Talks and links that have been valuable for me in my personal study on this topic over the years:
Julie B. Beck, “An Outpouring of Blessings,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 11–13
Dallin H. Oaks, “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 24–27
Russell M. Nelson, “Keys of the Priesthood,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 36–39
Sheri Dew: It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone
Dallin H. Oaks: The Relief Society and the Church
Dallin H. Oaks: The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament (Why this talk that he frames as being directed to the young men and their leaders? Because I think Elder Oaks’s teachings about the keys of the Aaronic priesthood illustrates beautifully how the priesthood’s purpose is to provide blessings to all. So, for example, through receiving the gift of the ordinances of the Aaronic priesthood, we are able to access the blessings of the gospel of repentance, the opportunity to be baptized for the remission of sins, the blessing of the sacrament, and the blessing of the ministering of angels. The keys open the blessings to all who will partake.)
Patricia Holland: A Woman’s Perspective on the Priesthood
Diane Magnum: Young Women and the Blessings of the Priesthood
Visiting Teaching message from March 2011: Under the Priesthood and After the Pattern of the Priesthood (just saw this Mormon Channel episode on that topic as well)
Russell and Lolly Osguthorpe: A Partnership of Equals (this is a whole other layer of understanding priesthood — understanding how it works in the home, in marriage); an Ensign article also discusses decision-making in the home
(This is not an exhaustive list, and I may add to it as I think of or find more)
[Updates to original post]
Women and the Priesthood – a lesson for women
Our Sisters Since the Beginning – talk given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie at the dedication of the Nauvoo Monument to Women
Cecil O. and Sharon G. Samuelson “Blessings of the Priesthood for All” — address from the 2013 BYU Women’s Conference
We are Women of God by Sister Sheri Dew
“Even as I Am” by Elder Mark E. Peterson