Friday, May 25, 2007

Approaching Mormon Doctrine

Press release from

Much misunderstanding about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revolves around its doctrine. The news media is increasingly asking what distinguishes the Church from other faiths, and reporters like to contrast one set of beliefs with another.

[This is uncomfortable for us, because we have to admit that in some cases, erroneous ideas were taught as doctrine. We want to get the focus off the past, and bring it to the present]

The Church welcomes inquisitiveness, but the challenge of understanding Mormon doctrine is not merely a matter of accessing the abundant information available. Rather, it is a matter of how this information is approached and examined.

[Remember Boyd Packer's favorite saying: Some things that are true are not useful...]

The doctrinal tenets of any religion are best understood within a broad context, and thoughtful analysis is required to understand them.

[You can't accept at face value, what you hear. You must spend hours pondering it's meanings and making them fit within the context of your current beliefs]

News reporters pressed by daily deadlines often find that problematic.

[They are too quick to judge us, and present information in unfavorable light without devoting the time necessary to analyze what they learn]

Therefore, as the Church continues to grow throughout the world and receive increasing media attention, a few simple principles that facilitate a better understanding may be helpful:

[We will now teach you reporters how to do your jobs better, so that we look better to the public. This is how you should portray us from now on:]

  • Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. The quorum of twelve apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.
  • [Two earrings in a girl's ear, for example. Our members sometimes take the words of the prophet quite literally, but that's not our intention. He's just like a helpful grandfather, with words of advice. He's not literally speaking for God on all occasions.]

  • Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. The mistake that public commentators often make is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church’s purpose and placing it at the very center. This is especially common among reporters or researchers who rely on how other Christians interpret Latter-day Saint doctrine. [We don't want to have to defend Brigham Young's teachings on blood atonement, the curse of Cain upon the blacks, men inhabiting the moon , Adam is our father God and had literal sex with Mary to 'beget' Jesus, etc... so we would prefer it if you don't bring it up anymore when reporting or researching our beliefs.]
[If you would like to verify these teachings independently, the Journal of Discourses is available online at]

  • Based on the scriptures, Joseph Smith declared: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” [So, all the things that make us different than the other Christian churches need to be de-emphasized as much as possible, so we can be accepted in every community. There is no need for us to call ourselves the 'one true church' anymore.]

  • Latter-day Saints place heavy emphasis on the application of their faith in daily life. For example, the active participation of Latter-day Saints in their community and worldwide humanitarian programs reflects concern for other people. As Jesus Christ declared, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” [Even though the church has spent less than $3 million of its $60 billion annually on humanitarian programs throughout the entire world. But we will wear bright yellow shirts and make ourselves highly visible to the community while we work so you can report on our efforts. We don't want you to know that we routinely turn down requests for assistance from the poor simply because they aren't members of our church.]

  • Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together. [As long as you use trusted source materials published by Deseret books, and avoid talking with 'our enemies' or using the internet]

  • Those writing or commenting on Latter-day Saint doctrine also need to understand that certain words in the Mormon vocabulary have slightly different meanings and connotations than those same words have in other religions. For example, Latter-day Saints generally view being born again as a process of conversion, whereas many other Christian denominations often view it as a conversion that happens in one defining moment. Sometimes what some may consider an argument or dispute over doctrine is really a misunderstanding of simple differences in terminology. [ We will continue to privately teach that men can become like Gods and have their own "Earth" populated with their own "spirit children" , but that is something we would not teach our members until they are stronger in testimony and belief. We know that many Christian denominations would dispute that doctrine, but it isn't taught to everyone anyway, so there shouldn't be any reason to bring it up to the world at large.]

Journalists, academics and laymen alike are encouraged to pursue their inquiries into the Church by recognizing the broad and complex context within which its doctrines have been declared, in a spirit of reason and good will. [Anything you say or write that isn't 'faith promoting' will be deemed offensive and we will encourage our members to avoid your work. We can't have you guys going around pointing out our history when we have gone to great lengths to re-write it so that the 'spirit' can be felt.]

"Three Degrees of Glory" stolen from Swedenborg

original link and author is here

I've often wondered where Smith got his descriptions of the afterlife as first described in Section 76 of the D&C.

In D. Michael Quinn's excellent book "Early Mormonism and the Magic World View," he gives a very fascinating source of Smith's "revelations." Quinn offers an exhaustive examination of the sources for the 1832 D&C Section 76 "Vision" of the "three degrees of glory."

In fact, Smith's description of the "Celestial Kingdom" was not only a copy from earlier written works, but also VERY controversial to the Latter-Day Saints.

The diaries of Orson Pratt and John Murdock from the 1830's record their efforts to reassure members who questioned the 1832 vision of heaven. The two men described countless excommunications of Mormons, including branch presidents, who denounced "the degrees of glory" as a "satanic revelation." Even Brigham Young had a hard time with it at first and described it as "a trial to many."

Why were Mormons choking on this idea of three heavens?

Quinn explains that it's because members correctly recognized it as coming from the occult. The only other sources of separate degrees in heaven came from occult writers during and before Smith's time.

For example, in 1784 a man by the name of Emanuel Swedenborg wrote a book about his visions of the afterlife. Swedenborg insisted: "There are three heavens," described as "entirely distinct from each other." He called the highest heaven "the Celestial Kingdom," and stated that the inhabitants of the three heavens corresponded to the "sun, moon and stars."

By Joseph Smith's own statements, he was familiar with Swedenborg's writings. Smith told a convert by the name of Edward Hunter that "Emanuel Swedenborg had a view of the world to come, but for daily food he perished." In other words, Smith liked Swedenborg's concepts of the afterlife, but criticized him for not profiting from them.

I was so fascinated by the connection that Quinn documented, that I bought a copy of Swedenborg's book myself from It's called "Heaven and its Wonders and Hell from Things Heard and Seen", and was written way before Joseph Smith. Yet it describes the three Mormon degrees of glory to the tee, along with many other concepts including "the veil," "spirit prison," "celestial marriage," and more.

Not only does Quinn make a strong case that Smith knew all about Swedenborg's ideas, but he also shows that his book "Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell" was a book in Smith's hometown library since 1817. Quinn also writes that "Nine miles from Smith's farm, in 1826 the Canandaigua newspaper also advertised Swedenborg's book for sale. The bookstore offered Swedenborg's publications for as little as 37 cents."

If you ever want to know details about the Mormon afterlife, read Swedenborg's book. Smith liberally plagiarized from it to come up with his D&C "visions" of the celestial, telestial and terrestrial kingdoms. But Swedenborg's works are definitely the originals.

Read it online here:

****My Thoughts****

Just perusing the chapter headings should be convincing enough. Which came first, Swedenborg or Joseph Smith? Maybe a quick comparison between "A View of the Hebrews" and the Book of Mormon would shed some light as well.

No, I don't believe Joe was inspired at all. At best he was delusional---seeing visions and claiming God speaks to you would be enough to get you locked up these days. At worst, he was a purposeful con-artist, trying to elude his partner money-diggers, and build up his reputation as a skillful seer by "finding" an ancient scripture and claiming to have been 'chosen' to translate it.

I don't think he intended to create a church, but the people who followed him and believed in his powers gave him the momentum to organize a church, become their leader, and then claim "sole" divine authority to proclaim God's word, (after too many followers started looking into their own seer stones and receiving their own revelations). That's why the official first vision story that supposedly occurred in 1820 didn't get written or published until 1838. Nobody in the original church even knew anything about Moroni or the appearance of God and Jesus to Joseph until it was written 18 years later. It does not make since for Joe to claim that he was continually persecuted for saying he saw an angel, when he didn't even share that story with the public until many years AFTER the Book of Mormon was published.

An interesting side note: Joseph was named author and proprietor of the original 1830 manuscript. Wanna see?

If you're interested, it's for sale on Ebay for a paltry $59,000. (for eight more days)

If only I could sell a kidney, or had some sort of trust fund, then I could read for myself the many textural changes between the 1830 version and subsequent editions. Well, why should I have to have the actual book in front of me, when dozens of people have done the research already? It's just a matter of who you choose to listen too...

An LDS member already knows that they can't read material that isn't supplied to them by the church. They also know that they shouldn't be checking out anti-Mormon sites on the internet, since it may lead them to 'doubt' the faith. My question is: What is the church worried about? They have the truth on their side, and truth should be able to withstand scrutiny...

Mormonism's Odd Couple: The Motherhood-Priesthood Connection

by Sonja Farnsworth

The history of Latter-day Saint women is spiritually vital, but it also reveals that things are not what they used to be. As LDS historian Linda King Newell expressed it, “the pendulum has made its arc from Joseph Smith's prophetic vision of women as queens and priestesses . . . to Rodney Turner's metaphor of women as doormats.” It would be fair to say that presently the pendulum is frozen at a certain place along that arc—a place clearly labeled “motherhood.”

Today, “Women have motherhood and men have priesthood,” or so the saying goes. On the surface this popular maxim seems a simple description of how men and women function in the church, but most Mormons realize it is also an affirmation that because women have motherhood, priesthood is for men only. In spite of this, LDS women are taught that women “share” the priesthood with their husbands. The 1991 Relief Society Study Guide explains this “shared” factor by defining motherhood as “an eternal part of the priesthood.” In other words, priesthood can be shared with women, just as long as all the “priesthood” part of it is reserved for men.

Although it has been challenged on this point by LDS feminists, the church insists that even though it does not ordain women to the priesthood, Mormon women are the equals of Mormon men. Motherhood and priesthood, it argues, is a partnership of equals with separate roles. Increasingly during the past fifteen years some have identified the confusing mismatch in this arrangement, the fact that like apples and oranges, the two roles form an “odd couple,” whose union lacks the symmetry of partnerships like motherhood and fatherhood; motherhood and priesthood are different categories, how can they claim the clear partnership embodied in these naturally occurring couples? The church's answer is that motherhood is priesthood's equivalency because it is equally divine in purpose and function. In his 1989 talk, “A Tribute to Women,” Boyd K. Packer cited the “separate natures of man and woman,” describing the female role in exclusively maternal terms. “The limitation of priesthood to men,” he added, “is a tribute to the incomparable place of women in the plan of salvation. . . . Men and women have complementary, not competing responsibilities.” His use of the word “complementary,” however, is perplexing, for motherhood's natural complement is not priesthood but fatherhood. Moreover, if to be complementary means to mutually supply another's lack, then the natural complement to the word priest is priestess. LDS doctrine supports this construction because a man cannot achieve godhood without being sealed to a wife, and in the temple ceremony this “wife” is a priestess, not a mother. Where in fact does this priestess fit? Why has the more obvious partnership of priest and priestess been overshadowed in LDS rhetoric by a holy alliance of motherhood and priesthood? How did such an “odd couple” get together?

A survey of Mormon writings indicates that motherhood and priesthood were first officially linked in the 1954 revision of Apostle John A. Widtsoe's book Priesthood and Church Government. Speaking to the issue of male-female equality, the book stated that “the man who . . . feels he is better than his wife because he holds the Priesthood . . . has failed to comprehend the meaning . . . of priesthood . . . because woman has her gift of equal magnitude—motherhood. . . . motherhood is an eternal part of the priesthood.” This reference to motherhood as something equal in magnitude to priesthood seems to be the first written source of many LDS statements on motherhood and its exalted partnership with God. Contemporary LDS rhetoric on motherhood bears its imprint, arguing that motherhood is what women have instead of priesthood. As a result of this logic, the word mother has become a kind of sacred title, like elder or bishop. Ironically, even women who are not mothers, such as Eliza R. Snow and Ardeth Kapp, receive it as a matter of course. Through application of the title “mother,” Mormon women are named out of the priesthood.

LDS motherhood rhetoric generally appears whenever the church senses a challenge to separate sex-roles. An example is the previously cited talk, “A Tribute to Women,” in which Apostle Boyd K. Packer denounced the notion that LDS women have legitimate rights to priesthood ordination. It makes four standard arguments: first, that motherhood is woman's divine and exclusive role; second, that the safety of the world depends on the enforcement of separate sex-roles; third, that evil influences are blurring these separate spheres; and fourth, that women are superior to men.

For Latter-day Saints, Elder Packer's words are “scripture.” However, there is evidence that the ideas they express exactly match those of the secular world. Samples of secular motherhood discourse such as responses to women's suffrage, statements of pre-World War II German leaders, and contemporary neo-conservative writings all reveal this startling similarity. The following comparative analysis of secular and LDS statements on motherhood is intended to show that church leadership has been heavily influenced by secular notions of womanhood and that these have obscured the expanded vision of women as queens and priestesses revealed by Joseph Smith.

The Divine Mother

The first claim of LDS rhetoric is that motherhood is woman's divine appointment, inherited from Eve. Speaking as a religious leader, Ezra Taft Benson sounded perfectly natural as he opened his 1987 talk “To the Mothers in Zion”: “I hope that what I have to say . . . will bless you in your sacred calling as mothers.” Curiously, though, secular speakers have also defined motherhood as divinely ordained. For example, like many politicians who argued against female suffrage, in 1867 Senator Frelinghuysen of New Jersey referred to motherhood as woman's “higher and holier mission.” In pre-war German discourse Josef Goebbels referred to motherhood as woman's “highest calling.” Neo-conservative James Dobson, author of What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, also resorted to a divine reference. Genesis, he reminded his readers, mentioned “two sexes, not one” for God had designed each gender with a specific purpose. In the case of women, that purpose was of course motherhood.

Historically medical authorities also reinforced the idea of motherhood as women's exclusive, God-appointed role—so much so that a New Haven professor announced in 1870 that it seemed “the Almighty in creating the female sex, had taken the uterus, and built up a woman around it.”

Separate Sphere of Motherhood

The second claim of LDS rhetoric is that the safety of the entire world depends on the preservation of separate sex roles. LDS motherhood rhetoric has regularly appeared whenever the church has felt that the separation of gender-roles was being challenged. In the 1960s and 1970s, admonitions to eschew the Women's Liberation Movement and the Equal Rights Amendment produced such discourse. In the 1980s the focus on working women left LDS women deluged with warnings to avoid the marketplace and remain in the home as mothers. At present this rhetoric has connected itself to the issue of women and the priesthood. It is argued that women not only should not but must not have the priesthood, since the survival of the world depends upon the separation of duties for men and women. According to Boyd K. Packer:

The well-being of the mother, the child, the family, the Church . . . of all humanity rests upon protecting [motherhood] . . . . [Its] obligations are never-ending. The addition of such duties as would attend ordination to the priesthood would constitute an interruption to, perhaps an avoidance of, that crucial contribution which only a mother can provide.

Secular motherhood rhetoric also commonly turns to the theory of separate spheres as a rationale for excluding women from traditionally male domains. The social title of “mother” perennially has been used to put women at odds with an environment outside the home and to define them out of the public sphere. It was once reasoned that because women are mothers, they could not (indeed must not) vote. As Senator McCumber of North Dakota argued in a congressional debate, men must protect women from the rigors of suffrage because “Motherhood demands above all, tranquility [and] freedom, from contest, from excitement, [and] strife, [since] the welfare of the human race rests . . . upon that tranquility.” In pre-World War II Germany, it was asserted that because they were mothers, women could not (indeed, must not) be in politics. Josef Goebbels said: “When we eliminate women from public life, it is . . . not because we want to dispense with them, but because we want to give them back their essential honor. . . . The outstanding and highest calling of woman is that of wife and mother, and it would be unthinkable misfortune if we allowed ourselves to be turned from this point of view.” Neo-conservatives like Dobson seemed to assume that all women have access to an adequate provider. Women should not work outside the home because the [mother's] job “is of the utmost importance to the health and vitality of society.” To safeguard this “health and vitality” he suggested that seeking child care should be a punitive experience for these abandoning mothers.

Motherhood Saves

The third claim of LDS leaders is that evil influences are trying to blur the boundaries between the “separate spheres” into which God has placed men and women. Apostle Boyd K. Packer condemned “those who would press for a melding of the identities of men and women” and those “in the Church who have written doctrinal treatises trying to show that the scriptures provide for an exchange in the responsibilities of men and women.” These people are clearly “intellectuals” who have been led astray and are tempted by “the destroyer.”

Anti-suffragist and neo-conservative rhetoric similarly targeted feminists for “trying to minify the differences between the sexes.” German rhetoric labeled women's emancipation as “a message discovered solely by the Jewish intellect.” In other words the rhetoric follows similar patterns of identifying, demonizing, and condemning those who challenge the concept of sex-role separation.

Motherhood is Superior

The fourth claim of LDS motherhood rhetoric is that women are superior to men. This claim of female superiority inevitably arises whenever the exclusively male nature of the priestly role is challenged. This superior nature is connected to the role of motherhood as an equivalent “calling” and is often presented as a well-intended reassurance. A good example of this was a 1989 address by Apostle Russell Nelson entitled “Woman—Of Infinite Worth.”

Such reassurance may be welcomed by some Mormon mothers who complain of feeling undervalued. Nevertheless, a comparison to secular rhetoric shows it to be superficial, camouflaging the real issues with high-sounding praise. For instance, in an attempt to justify the denial of priesthood to women, Mormons commonly resort to the theory that women are “more spiritual” than men. Although this might seem like a unique LDS regard for womanhood, the evidence indicates otherwise. In fact glorification of womanhood is typical in rhetoric denying female participation in virtually all male-dominated spheres.

Chivalrous Pretense

Author Kate Millett has illustrated how a similar type of extravagant compliment, which she called “chivalrous pretense,” was a regular feature of anti-suffragist speech. Opponents of women's rights routinely portrayed women as beings so aggrandized that for them equality was superfluous. Victorian writer John Ruskin maximized this deception when speaking against female emancipation with the following flowery phrases: “Oh you queens, you queens! Among the hills and happy greenwood of this land of yours, shall the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; and in your cities shall the stones cry out against you, that they are the only pillows where the Son of Man can lay his head?” Using a rich concentration of royal, biblical, and sacrificial imagery he portrayed women as exalted creatures, partners (in some mystical way) with deity, and responsible for giving comfort and solace to the world. Women's request for emancipation is made to seem trivial, framed by the illusion that women are in collaboration with God himself. Nevertheless, Ruskin has said nothing of any significance about the actual concerns of women.

Although women give birth because they have the required physical equipment, Mormon rhetoric tends to express this ability as special talent which men can never master. The result, of course, is a meaningless, artificial compliment. For example, Boyd K. Packer reassured women that “in the woman's part, she is not just equal to man, she is his superior! She can do that which he can never do; not in all eternity can he do it.” Even more revealing about the dubious nature of this praise was the fact that although his talk “A Tribute to Women” took sincere pains to stress gender equality, Elder Packer still felt compelled to make the following statement: “I have seven sons and three daughters, and that, I have often been heard to say, is about equal value.”

In an attempt to make women feel special, James Dobson once noted that female animals die when they can no longer have offspring. One can imagine how exciting it is to know that God has let you live even though you have experienced menopause. Similarly Thomas S. Monson, of the LDS First Presidency, used the following anecdote to show that women are already so highly regarded, they have little need to concern themselves with the women's movement: “I recognize that there are times when mother's nerves are frayed . . . when she says, `My children don't appreciate a single thing I do.' I think they do appreciate you. One of the questions after a study of magnets at a junior high school was `What starts with “M” and picks things up?' The obvious answer was `magnet.' However, more than a third of the students answered `mother.'”Unfortunately, if “chivalrous pretense” is an attempt to insist that women have status when actually they have none, the rhetoric of the LDS community appears to follow secular patterns in attempting to do this.

If it is disappointing to see how the rhetoric of Mormonism matches secular rhetoric and shows no evidence of divine insight, it is far worse to observe that both in and out of the church the needs of mothers have long been patronized. Motherhood has been exalted, expanded, exaggerated, and misrepresented, not to improve its situation but to argue that women must remain under male control. Privileges which we now understand are beneficial to mothers such as political voice, equal employment opportunity, and higher education have in the past been denied to women under the guise of a concern for the motherly role. In harmony with this unfortunate pattern and despite the church's best intentions, LDS mothers have been offered a good deal of feigned love rather than “love unfeigned,” which is a characteristic of true followers of Jesus Christ.

Sacred or Secular?

A survey of philosophical ideas reveals the roots of the theory of separate spheres. Plato may have allowed for female participation in the public sphere, but Aristotle's view of women as mere incubators for male sperm took precedence. Even in recent history thinkers have interpreted women's role as one of monolithic maternity. For example, eighteenth-century theorist John Locke said that women's reproductive function made them unfit to govern. Jean-Jacques Rousseau imagined an ideal society in which the female was “mother” and the male was citizen.

Nineteenth-century England added much to the idea that women were primarily mothers. Victorians portrayed mothers as untouched by something so vulgar as sexual desire. Husbands were to be viewed, as if they were “children of larger growth.” This purified motherly element was to be “the salvation of the world.”

In the 1880s biologist Patrick Geddes contributed his combination of social theory and scientific discovery. Looking through a microscope he observed sperm flagellating wildly around a passive ovum. This, he claimed, verified the temperamental differences between the sexes, for nothing could alter something determined at the lowest form of life. He was successful in promoting a theory that since women are the moral superior of men, they must raise the children or society would never progress to a higher level.

Repeatedly nineteenth-century rhetoric assumed that women were extensions of their reproductive functions and thus belonged to a special category. Observe how the following legal decision strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel in order to make inequality appear to be perfectly just: “Citizenship,” it proclaims, “does not mean suffrage. . . . Women are citizens but a special category of citizens whose inability to vote does not infringe upon their rights as citizens or persons.”

Traditionally Genesis has been used to prescribe an exclusive maternal role for women. Eve's title as the “mother of all living” is translated into “denial by motherhood.” However, the Old Testament can also be used to question this approach. For example, in ancient Israel the daughters of Zelophehad approached Moses with what must have seemed a radical request. “We feel,” they petitioned, “that we should be given land along with our father's brothers.” According to the Book of Numbers, Moses did not bring up the issue of separate spheres but without further ado took their case before the Lord. And the Lord replied to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are correct. Give them the land. . . .” Here God's simple affirmative is in sharp contrast to motherhood discourse and its constant equivocations.

From Priesthood to Motherhood

Today few Latter-day Saints challenge the partnership of motherhood and priesthood, although the Standard Works say virtually nothing about it. On the other hand the temple ceremony refers to women not as mothers but as priestesses. In addition LDS scholars have found much evidence that Joseph Smith viewed women as priestesses and have shed considerable light on the relentless process that distanced women from their rights to this title and participation in the rituals of healing and other gifts of the spirit. But the question remains: how did motherhood come to fill the vacancy left by Zion's disappearing priestesshood? A closer look at the evolution of motherhood rhetoric occurring both in and out of the church might yield an answer.

In creating the female Relief Society, Joseph Smith organized it to be self-directing, saying it should “move according to the ancient priesthood” and adding that he would “make of this society a kingdom of priests.” Joseph's statements made no connection between this priesthood and motherhood. The effect of his words expanded women's views of their spiritual and ecclesiastical power. Their documented participation in the rituals of prophesying, healing, and blessing the sick emphasized their priestly duties in a very real way. However, after Joseph died his generous descriptions of what women had were replaced by frequent references to what they did not have. The result appears to have been a complete reversal of his intentions.

For example, in the 1850s Brigham Young said that “women can never hold the priesthood apart from their husbands.” Although phrased in negative form, this statement clearly expressed the belief that women held the priesthood, albeit “with their husbands.” In the 1880s John Taylor built upon the negative approach, saying “it is not the calling of these sisters to hold the priesthood, only in connection with their husbands.” This statement diminished the link by suggesting that male priesthood was a “calling” while female priesthood was not. Then in 1907 Joseph F. Smith severed the association completely. “A wife does not hold the priesthood with her husband,” he asserted,“ but she enjoys the benefits thereof with him.” Thus were women gradually detached from any genuine sense of priesthood.

Still LDS sisters valued their inclusion, however evanescent, and attempted to be forthright about it. The results were often depressing. Charles W. Penrose of the First Presidency publicly corrected and characterized as doctrinally naive those women who expressed confidence in a legitimate priesthood connection: “There [is] a revival among . . . the sisters of the idea that they hold the priesthood. Sisters . . . have said to me, `But I hold the priesthood with my husband.' `Well,' I say, `What office of the priesthood do you hold?'” When LDS women expressed faith in their own priesthood empowerment, their words backfired, resulting in numerous official statements chastising them and depicting them as buffoons. The discourse shows that women's sense of priestly privilege was an enduring one. Inevitably, however, the discouraging atmosphere took its toll on their confidence and vision. Eventually the definition of priesthood completely excluded them. By the 1940s women no longer participated in blessing the sick or administering to others, except rarely and in secret.

Surely this situation begged for some sort of reconciliation—a way of explaining women's divine role which would confirm the church's exclusion of women from the priesthood and still not deny the role of priestess revealed in the temple ceremony. The merger of motherhood and priesthood into a team of separate but equal partners satisfied both these needs. Despite its incongruous conjunction, the pair was greeted as perfectly logical. An explanation for this lies in the fact that the concept of religiously sanctioned mothering was already deeply entrenched in convention. Mothers were commonly viewed as the moral guardians of society. As one historian explained it:

Traditionally, women have been constrained by religiously sanctioned social roles . . . and have been regarded as the moral guardians of society. . . . The ideology of “true womanhood” that grew out of medieval Christianity and courtly love placed woman on a pedestal. . . . While subordinate to her husband and submissive to him, a woman was to be the high priestess of her home, protecting her husband and children from the secularizing influence of society.

In secular rhetoric motherhood was regarded as a sort of priesthood anyway—but one never connected with the exclusively male priesthood of traditional religion. As one turn-of-the-century writer described it, “Motherhood demands of woman her highest endeavor. . . . it demands of her that she become a physician, an artist, a teacher, a philosopher, a priest.” Certainly such words described a creature who transcended the world and whom “the world” indulged with meaningless professional titles; a creature who stood upon a pedestal of “chivalrous pretense”; a de facto priestess with ordination by lip service only. In the post-World War II era when the trend of “ultra-domesticity” refocused intensely upon the domestic scene, the reputation of this ideal woman was celebrated at a fever pitch, creating what author Sylvia Ann Hewlett called “the most powerful Cult of Motherhood ever seen.”

In the 1930s women were told to reserve affection so as not to spoil their children, but in the 1940s the advice was noticeably reversed. Now they were to immerse the child in an all-encompassing maternal passion. Descriptions of this new exaggerated mother bordered on the mythical and deific. So much was expected of her that a single false step in her mothering might cause such terrors as impotence or homosexuality later in life. Since the centuries-old concept of the domestic priestess had been a perfect launching place for post-war obsession with “ultra-domesticity,” the two ideals had merged easily, forming a fashionable, new super-matriarch. Though her pedigree was secular, she seemed ethereal enough, bathed in the glow of both trend and tradition. Certainly she was a flourishing influence in the early 1950s when LDS leaders settled on a definition of motherhood as a gift “equal in magnitude” to priesthood.

One can easily see how the church, needing something to replace the fast-fading vision of its emancipated spiritual female, mistook this conveniently submissive impostor for its own. Thus Mormonism found a way of excluding the priestess while seeming to include her, and women were neatly released from the embarrassing business of defining their own connection to priesthood. Ironically “mother” would now do that for them and then give birth to Mormonism's oppressively domestic and popularly conceived model of womanhood known as “Molly Mormon” and “Patti Perfect.”

An idea absolutely germane to the partnership of motherhood and priesthood is that of sex-role separation, a secular concept which has been mistaken for one that is divine. This is illustrated in an article entitled “Mom-at-Home,” which appeared in the October 1989 Ensign, official periodical of the LDS church. Quoting President Benson, this article uses a passage from Genesis to make its point: “The Lord's way to rear our children is different from the world's way. . . . in the beginning Adam—not Eve, was instructed to earn bread by the sweat of his brow. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother's place is in the home, not in the marketplace.”

The use of scripture to support the idea of separate spheres for male and female is powerful, presented as it is through the voice of both scripture and living prophet. But the casual reader might not notice two things. First, the idea of eliminating the woman from the work force does not contradict conventional wisdom but coincides with it. Second, a casual reader might not notice that President Benson's example describes Adam and Eve after the “fall.” It was this fall which caused separation and separate spheres. Why, one might ask, should a fallen and corrupt gender model be raised up as an ideal for the “redeemed” membership of the church? And if this verse is meant to command rigid social roles for men and women, what is said about Eve contradicts the church's stated belief that woman are equal to men. If taken literally the words of the passage—“in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. . . . thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee”—would obligate the church to forbid anesthesia during childbirth and exhort male members to dominate their wives. The church does neither. In fact the church's interpretation of the Garden of Eden story evokes Eve as a wise and empowered agent whose independent decision sets the plan of salvation in motion.

So what does the coupling of motherhood with priesthood really mean for the contemporary church? It means that the “plain and precious truth” of motherhood as a simple but authentic partnership with fathers has been buried in the perennial rhetoric about a partnership with God, which is revived whenever traditional views of women are challenged. While this rhetoric seems to protect female needs, in reality it has protected male authority and denied women what is properly theirs. This rhetoric points to church leaders seemingly unaware that they have been influenced by “the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.” The theory of “separate spheres” is secular not sacred.

It is sadly ironic that even as feminism has alerted us to women's equality with men, the expanded vision of womanhood revealed by Joseph Smith has been resisted and diminished by his own followers. Mormon women, despite their rich tradition of the priestess, have lost much through the teaching that motherhood and priesthood are a sacred marriage of complementary spiritual roles. There will be much to gain if Mormons realize that this union is really a “secular” marriage, a “marriage of convenience,” and that motherhood and priesthood are an “odd couple” nurturing a passel of illegitimate theological ideas.

****My Thoughts*****

You can hold whatever internal opinion you want to in the LDS church, that is your free agency. Just don't take your cause to the pulpit, or ask the men of the LDS church to take your views seriously. If you spread your 'feminist agenda' throughout the ward, or dare to point out in Relief Society that women have priesthood authority, you are setting yourself up to be cast out of the church.

If you are a male member of the church, with a wife who is unaware of the history and evolution of priesthood authority given to women, you can remain silent and let the status quo reign--thus ensuring your own place within it, or you can take this information and share it with your wife. She may reject it as blasphemy without much prodding. Or, she may embrace the idea and want to know more. Would you risk it? Are you one of those guys that believe too much truth can do more harm than good?

So many marriages in the church are dependent upon the validity of the 'restored gospel' that they couldn't stand alone apart from it. Too many times, people who make the decision to leave the church often find themselves loosing their marriage which was based upon families bound together for eternity. I know of several people who would have NEVER met their spouse if it hadn't been for the church. Women especially place a lot of quantifiers upon their marriage---they are looking for worthy priesthood holders, returned missionaries, someone who can take them to the temple and be their foundation for salvation. Without them, they have no assurance of being called forth from the grave, of obtaining celestial glory, of being united with their children in the afterlife. Without a man, women can't get there. Men, however, DO NOT have this pressure. They can be sealed to more than one woman. If the first won't work out, they can get another. They don't have to be dependent upon women to bless them, or lead them, or bring them through the veil. They have the priesthood authority, and women can only share in it if they are married. Men can hold it without being married, they carry it away with them after divorce. That's a lot of incentive to stick with a man.

What would happen if women in the church discovered they had been deceived into believing that the priesthood was only intended for man? What kind of problems would arise from the discovery that Joseph intended for women to function in their own organization independently of men, with their own High Priestess as their authority? Would women feel compelled to marry at the age of 18-19 in the TEMPLE OF THE LORD, if they knew that upon receiving their endowments they could bless, anoint, heal, and baptize? Is that the danger of revealing truth, women will find a voice and grow a backbone?

Yeah, better keep it quiet fellas. Wouldn't want the missus finding out....

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Thoughts on Women and Authority

When I was about to be endowed, I had to be interviewed by the stake president for a temple recommend. I was interviewed separately from my husband, asked all the regular questions about personal virtue, honesty, tithing, sustaining leadership, etc. Then my husband was brought in and we were interviewed together. This is when things got interesting. The SP promised he was going to reveal some information regarding the temple ordinances that I would not have the privelege or opportunity to learn any where else. After a few minutes of nervous chitchat, he turns to me, and tells me that this special information is directly pertaining to me as a woman. Then, with a giddy laugh and a twinkle in his eye, he gleefully tells me that women hold the priesthood authority in the temple, that is the only place on earth where women function as equals to men in blessing, anointing, and confirmation of divine priesthood ordinances, and that these women are especially chosen by the temple presidency to excercise these powers.

"Well, what do you think of that?" he asks. Well, as naive as it sounds, I was super impressed. Imagine! Women are equal to men inside the temple! Women can perform priesthood functions for other women within its sacred walls! What a joy and privelege to be chosen from all the female members to preside with priesthood authority and be able to act as representatives for Christ himself!

It was like being told that if I were worthy enough, valiant enough, and faithful enough, one day I could rise up to the level that these women were, and one day be able to work in the Washings and Anointings rooms, using holy priesthood authority in the one place that God permitted women to exercise that right.

Now, fast forward about 5 years. I'm out of the church for doctrinal and historical problems, anyway, but then I stumble across this essay written by D. Michael Quinn, a former LDS historian who had unlimited access to thousands of unseen documents, letters, diaries and previous editions of the Book of Mormon, Lectures on Faith, School of the Prophets, Joseph Smith's personal papers, and other fascinating but non-faith promoting, pieces of history hidden in the First Presidency vaults. Imagine my shock to learn that not only did women exercise priesthood authority with Joseph's knowledge and backing, but women also gain the same Melchesidek priesthood authority when they are endowed. They have always had it, equal to their husbands, even without having been married first. The only difference between then and now, is that they do not have permission to use it. That permission was taken away by proclamation of Brigham Young once the saints got settled in Utah. They have even gone through the trouble of suppressing the information throughout the years so that women aren't even aware that the Melchesidek priesthood authority is theirs in the first place.

They are consistently taught that they must be married to a worthy priesthood holder in order to share in the blessings associated with that authority. But, Joseph Smith and the early apostles of the church consistently taught that women hold that authority independent of their husbands through the process of being endowed. Women used to teach, bless, annoint, expound, exhort, and minister just as often, (if not more often) than the men of the home, because of the taboo of men's presence during childbirth or other "female situations" and because men were often away for long periods of time, leaving wives to manage the households for months or years at a time. Women could heal the sick, pray for health, bestow blessings upon children, teach and preach, and all of the other things that men are responsible today.

Why does the church maintain this position, even after allowing blacks to obtain the priesthood in 1978? They continue to let women believe that the priesthood was never given to them in the first place, when that is so obviously not the case. Why would they do this? The answer is often a very trite excuse: They have told women that their calling is to bring forth children, to nurture and rear them in the way that only a woman can do, and to balance out this special power given to women, men were provided with an 'equalizer', which is the priesthood authority. Now, through the work of Quinn, and other historians who dare to reveal 'all truth, even though it is not useful for promoting faith', we can now know that it is through suppression of facts that the LDS church has gotten away with keeping women dependent upon men for their salvation. This is domination of the female sex, plain and simple. And though it is not the reason I left, it is certainly one of the main reasons I will never go back.

To read Quinn's essay, Mormon Women have had the Priesthood since 1843, click here, or check out my 2 previous posts from yesterday.

Another fascinating read, " Women and Authority: Re-Emerging Mormon Feminism", can be read here.

On a side note: Quinn was excommunicated from the church for his essay writing, in which he revealed too much controversy and chose to tell the whole story instead of the faith-promoting parts, and he was the subject of Boyd Packer's speech titled, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect"

The editor of "Women and Authority", Maxine Hanks, was excommunicated for her failure to submit to authority within the church, and publishing the book against the direct commandment of her bishop. She was charged with apostacy for revealing history about women's previous exercise of priesthood authority.

In a 1997 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, this is what Gordon Hinckley had to say about women:

In a question-and-answer session after his speech, Hinckley was asked to respond to women's concerns that the church is ``sexist.''

``Women have their place,'' he said. ``When all is said and done, there's no substitute for having a woman in the home. . . . If you ask our women, you'll find them happy with what they have. They're not out yelling and chanting.''

Apparently, to help keep Mormon women in "their place," a new proclamation for Mormon women appeared in September of 1999, known as the "Relief Society Declaration." However, not all Mormon women have been kept in their defined place. What happens to those who step out of their "place"? Excommunication.

Read the story of Janice Allred here

Read the story of Maxine Hanks here

Read the story of
Lavina Fielding Anderson here

Read the story of Margaret Toscano here

Read the story of the 'September Six' here

I am unable to conform to the lifestyle required by the Mormon church. I will not submit to the authority of a man in charge of my household. I will not wait for a man to call me forth from the grave, pull me through the veil, and lead me into the celestial kingdom. I will not be called "First Wife". I will not be a goddess in the eternities, supplying spirits to inhabit mortal bodies on a world that my husband, a.k.a. 'God' will create for them. I will not content myself to abide silently while my husband takes on multiple wives for this purpose. I do not consider that to be heaven, or a just reward for 'knowing my place' while living my mortal existence on earth. I wouldn't lower myself to follow behind a man, or my sons, while they exercise priesthood authority that was given freely to both men AND women, and for no other reason than jealousy and fear, was taken away from women to keep them subjected to the whims of their husbands and dependent upon them for their very salvation.

If you Mormon women want that for yourselves and your daughters, you may as well pack your things and move to Iran. They've got the whole patriarchal authority lifestyle that you long for...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843 ---Part 2

As in Brigham Young's 1845 statement, church administrative power is the real context for all subsequent denials that women have priesthood. If women have priesthood, the often unexpressed fear goes, they might challenge the administrative powers of males who have been ordained deacons, teachers, priests, elders, seventies, high priests, and apostles. Conversely the argument is that since women have not been ordained to one of those offices, they do not have priesthood. First Presidency counselor Charles W. Penrose made this argument specific in 1921: “Sisters have said to me sometimes, `But I hold the Priesthood with my husband.' `Well,' I asked, `what office do you hold in the Priesthood.' Then they could not say much more. The sisters are not ordained to any office in the Priesthood. . . .”

However, such reasoning ignores Joseph Smith's earliest revelation defining the priesthood in Doctrine and Covenants 84. Ordained offices are not the priesthood but only “appendages” to the priesthood: “And again the offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood. And again, the offices of teacher and deacon are necessary appendages belonging to the lesser priesthood which priesthood was confirmed upon Aaron and his sons” (D&C 84:29-30). According to an 1835 revelation, even the apostleship is an appendage to the Melchizedek priesthood, for “all other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood” (107:5).

Priesthood exists independently of church offices, but church offices are appendages which cannot exist without the priesthood. As church president Joseph F. Smith told general conference, “If an Apostle has any authority at all, he derives it from the Melchisedek Priesthood.” He added that “all the offices in the Church are simply appendages to the Melchisedek Priesthood, and grow out of it.”

A woman does not need an appendage to have priesthood. According to Joseph Smith's teachings to the Relief Society and to the Anointed Quorum, a woman receives Melchizedek priesthood when she receives the endowment. The confusion of priesthood office with priesthood has characterized many contemporary discussions of women and priesthood.

However, just as counselors in the First Presidency were “ordained” by Joseph Smith, Emma Smith was “ordained to expound the Scriptures,” and her counselors were ordained to preside over the Nauvoo Relief Society. In the nineteenth century the word “ordain” was also used for appointing persons to proselyting missions and to heal. However, I find no evidence that Mormon men ever ordained a woman to a specific priesthood office of the church.

Nevertheless, every endowed Mormon woman has received the Melchizedek priesthood from 1843 to the present. In 1912, Apostle James E. Talmage affirmed: “It is a precept of the Church that women of the Church share the authority of the Priesthood with their husbands, actual or prospective; and therefore women, whether taking the endowment for themselves or for the dead, are not ordained to specific rank in the Priesthood. Nevertheless, there is no grade, rank, or phase of the temple endowment to which women are not eligible on an equality with men.”

For the above reasons, the relationship of women to priesthood should not be compared to the LDS church's pre-1978 denial of priesthood to anyone of black African ancestry. In that case Joseph Smith authorized the ordination of one African-American, Elijah Abel, to the offices of elder and seventy. Brigham Young reversed this and taught that it was contrary to God's will for anyone of black African ancestry to hold priesthood. This became doctrine and all persons of black African descent were denied priesthood and the temple endowment. A subsequent prophet had to obtain new revelation allowing ordination of blacks to priesthood.

In contrast the documents and leaders of early Mormonism affirm that women receive priesthood through the endowment. New revelation would only confirm this reality not create it. However, unaware of the female priesthood theology in Joseph Smith's Anointed Quorum, current LDS presidents and apostles regard new revelation as necessary to change a twentieth-century definition that is now regarded as doctrinal. For example, President Spencer W. Kimball announced in June 1978: “We pray to God to reveal his mind and we always will, but we don't expect any revelation regarding women and the priesthood.” This was just after his announcement of the revelation authorizing the priesthood to men of black African descent.

Without an appeal to new revelation about female priesthood office, Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. Young, and Sarah M. Kimball presumed to organize the Relief Societies of pioneer Utah wards with women as “deaconesses,” “teachers,” and “priestesses.” Existing records do not show precedent in Joseph Smith's teachings for ordaining women to church offices of deacon, elder, priest, bishop, or high priest, or for feminizing those titles. However, Eliza R. Snow held the honorary title of “Presidentess” as president of the Relief Society. Some women called Eliza, Zina D. Young, and Bathsheba W. Smith by the less appropriate title of “Presiding High Priestess.” This referred to their role as “president of the women's department” of female ordinance workers in the Salt Lake Endowment House and Salt Lake temple.

The endowment anoints Mormon women to become queens and priestesses. From 1843 to the 1920s, thousands of women also received confirmation as eternal queens and priestesses through the second anointing. Currently some women have received this “fullness of the priesthood” with their husbands. In the Salt Lake temple, the second anointing still occurs in the “Holy of Holies” room. [Writing at the request of the Church's First Presidency, Elder James E. Talmage states that "this room is reserved for the higher ordinances in the Priesthood relating to the exaltation of both living and dead" (The House of the Lord 192-194)]. The second anointing for both men and women is distinct from ordination to church priesthood offices.

Like Miriam of the Old Testament and Anna of the New Testament, any LDS woman may have the gift to be a prophetess. That personal relationship with God has nothing to do with church office. It was not uncommon in the nineteenth century for patriarchs to promise a Mormon woman that “thou shalt be a natural Prophetess in the house of Joseph . . .”

One church president even maintained that a Mormon woman could be a revelator for the entire church. Concerning the hymn “O My Father,” President Wilford Woodruff told the April 1894 general conference: “That hymn is a revelation, though it was given unto us by a woman—Sister Eliza R. Snow. There are a great many sisters who have the spirit of revelation. There is no reason why they should not be inspired as well as men.” This hymn-revelation from Eliza R. Snow to the church is one of the earliest statements in Mormon theology about a supreme goddess, the “Heavenly Mother.”

A church president continued to affirm the role of women as prophetesses into the twentieth century. “I believe that every mother has the right to be a prophetess and to have the gift of sight, foreseeing prescience, to foresee danger and evil and to know what to do in her family and in her sphere,” Joseph F. Smith affirmed in 1913. “They are prophetesses, they are seers, they are revelators to their households and to their families . . .” Without ordination to specific offices of priesthood, women have avoided aspirations and abuses common to church offices reserved for men (D&C 121:34-40).

For a hundred years after Joseph Smith said “I now turn the key to” LDS women, their most common and well-known priesthood activity was in performing the ordinances of healing. The focus on healing may have resulted from Brigham Young's distrust of nineteenth-century medical practice combined with the fact that Mormon women received gynecological and obstetrical care from midwives and female physicians. These two factors spared LDS women the questionable treatment which the male medical establishment inflicted on women throughout the rest of Victorian America.

It is essential to recognize that nineteenth-century Mormon women performed healing ordinances by virtue of the priesthood they held, not simply as an act of faith. For example, in the previously cited blessing to Caroline Cottam in March 1853, the presiding patriarch sealed on her “the blessings and Priesthood which Abraham sealed upon his daughters, with power to heal the sick in your house. . . .” In the patriarchal blessing to Elizabeth Bean two months later, John Smith also said that her priesthood gave “you the power to heal the sick and to understand all the principles of the priesthood, and mysteries that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world.” Eliza R. Snow and Zina D. Young wanted to limit the exercise of healing ordinances to women who had received the endowment because they believed that endowed women had received priesthood.

LDS church leaders continued to authorize women to perform healing ordinances even after the hierarchy stopped affirming that women received priesthood through the endowment. Two factors guaranteed the continuation of these healing ordinances by LDS women. First, consecrated oil was applied directly to the affected part of the body. Second, the Victorian era's attitudes (despite their repressiveness toward women) enhanced Mormon women's role as healers. It was unthinkable for LDS leaders to allow men to touch any private region of a woman's body to accomplish healing, especially in connection with pregnancy, childbirth, or a “female problem.”

In 1878, the Salt Lake stake president both undercut and reaffirmed the priesthood authority of women. “Women could only hold the priesthood in connection with their husbands; man held the priesthood independent of woman,” Angus M. Cannon began, then he concluded: “but women must be careful how they use the authority of the priesthood in administering to the sick.” Aside from being president of the central stake, Angus was also brother of first presidency counselor George Q. Cannon.

His counselor in the Salt Lake stake presidency acknowledged in 1884 what he saw as the only reason that women performed healing ordinances for women: “There are often cases when it would be indelicate for an Elder to anoint, especially certain parts of the body, and the sisters are called to do this and blessing follows, but in each instance let her act by request of the Priesthood.” The stake counselor next expressed his own discomfort with “sisters who claim they have been blessed and set apart by the authority of God to anoint the sick of their own sex.” He emphasized that each LDS woman “holds Priesthood in connection with her husband, but not separate from him.” He concluded with a tirade against the “vain ambition” and “grave mistakes some of our sisters have made in seeking to raise herself [sic] to an equality with man in all things.” This was a significant retreat from the confident affirmations of female priesthood by the men in Nauvoo's Anointed Quorum. These 1884 statements by the Salt Lake Stake counselor were symptoms of a growing misogyny in the guise of male priesthood superiority.
By the early 1880s death had taken all the general authorities who had specifically stated that the endowment conferred priesthood upon women. Joseph and Hyrum Smith died in 1844, and John Smith joined them a decade later. Heber C. Kimball died in 1868, and Brigham Young in 1877. Sidney Rigdon had been excommunicated in 1844 but continued to affirm Nauvoo's “female priesthood” until his death in 1876. In 1881, both Orson Pratt and Joseph Young died.

By 1888 Mormon misogyny was linked with denials of women's authority, and this resulted in a public comment by Apostle Franklin D. Richards. He said: “Every now and again we hear men speak tauntingly of the sisters and lightly of their public duties, instead of supporting and encouraging them.” Apostle Richards added: “There are also some who look with jealousy upon the moves of the sisters as though they might come to possess some of the gifts, and are afraid they [LDS women] will get away with some of the blessings of the gospel which only men ought to possess.” Because of this “envy and jealousy,” Apostle Richards said some Mormon men “don't like to accord to them [Mormon women] anything that will raise them up and make their talents to shine forth as the daughters of Eve and Sarah.” Franklin D. Richards is the only general authority to publicly acknowledge that jealousy and fear are the basis for the opposition of some Mormon men against the spiritual growth of all Mormon women.
As late as April 1896 Apostle Richards reaffirmed the independent source of women's authority to perform healing ordinances. This senior apostle and church historian instructed LDS women that they have “the right” to say these words in administering to the sick: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ & by virtue of the Holy Anointing which I have received.” Until 1900 the First Presidency also authorized women to use the word “seal” in this ordinance.

Although church president Joseph F. Smith endorsed the role of women in performing healing ordinances, he diminished the basis on which they did so. President Smith and his wives jointly performed healing administrations for church members. In 1903, for example, Alice Kimball Smith anointed a stake president's daughter and then President Smith sealed the ordinance.88 Beginning in 1908, however, Joseph F. Smith instructed that it was not necessary for a woman to be endowed to perform anointings and blessings for the sick. That statement removed for the first time the ordinance of healing from the priesthood conferred upon women by the endowment.

From the 1890 Manifesto ostensibly banning polygamy to the early 1900s, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve redefined many LDS doctrines. The relation of women to the priesthood endowment was only one of these redefinitions.

However, the First Presidency continued to authorize women to anoint women for healing—only because of the church practice of using consecrated oil directly on the affected parts of the body. In December 1935 the Presiding Bishopric and First Presidency discussed a report that Apostle John A. Widtsoe had instructed missionaries in Europe to “anoint the head only.” The presidency disagreed with this change and decided that “if the sick person desires to be anointed by the elders on the afflicted part, this may be done and the sick person [be] allowed to drink some of the consecrated oil.”

Consequently when men stopped anointing various parts of men's bodies with consecrated oil for healing, it became possible to exclude women from anointing and blessing the sick. That policy change did not become final for another decade. In 1946 Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith informed the Relief Society general presidency that it was no longer approved “for sisters to wash and anoint other sisters.” Instead, he said that women should “send for the Elders of the Church to come and administer to the sick and afflicted.” Thus a century of Mormon women's sacred ordinances no longer had the approval of the church's hierarchy. An era had officially ended.

However, some LDS women had been undermining their own priesthood ordinances by questioning whether their gift of healing had institutional approval. As early as 1913 Relief Society general president Emmeline B. Wells expressed hope that “the blessing will not be taken from us” by disapproving general authorities. And in 1935 a woman asked if it was “orthodox and sanctioned by the Church today” for women to perform such healing ordinances. Relief Society general president Louise Y. Robison replied that “it is our earnest hope that we may continue to have that privilege, and up to the present time the Presidents of the Church have always allowed it to us.” Female blessings and healings could not long survive such tentativeness expressed from top to bottom in the Mormon women's ranks.

The Book of Mormon warned that gifts of the spirit such as healing would die only through unbelief (Moro. 10:8, 11, 19, 26). LDS women have the same access to gifts of the spirit as men and can exercise their faith in healing. Anciently the apostles tried to circumscribe the exercise of spiritual gifts by condemning a person who healed the sick but who was not a follower of Jesus. Jesus answered their objection with the words, “Forbid him not; for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50). Mormon men need this biblical reminder updated, “Forbid her not, for she that is not against us is for us.” No woman needs a man's permission to lay her hands on her child's head and utter a blessing. Whether by priesthood endowment or spiritual gift, an LDS woman may give a blessing to anyone, in or out of her family, in or out of the church.
To some LDS men this is a frightening prospect. Several even reportedly threatened to kill a devoted Mormon who recently suggested that women should have the opportunity for ordination to every priesthood office. A death threat has no bearing on what God confers on women, but it is unfortunate evidence of misogyny in modern Mormonism.

Such death threats are also an extreme version of the attitude about women expressed in a well-publicized statement by a current general authority. If the female portion of humankind were to receive the priesthood, he wrote, then “the male would be so far below the female in power and influence that there would be little or no purpose for his existence [—] in fact [he] would probably be eaten by the female as is the case with the black widow Spider.” Perhaps if persons with that view learn that every endowed LDS woman already has the priesthood, they will not feel threatened by women who desire to exercise the gifts of God to them in faith, power and humility.

In any event the contemporary cliché “Women hold the priesthood only when they hold their husbands” is as demeaning as it is untrue. Neither should priesthood-endowed women be limited by the condescension of one church leader: “We can hold it [priesthood] and share it with our wives.” Nor constrained by his claim that every Mormon husband “needs to feel dominant... Young sisters, if you take that role from him, the one he needs, you reduce his manhood . . .” That is very close to the other general authority's view of independent women as man-eating spiders. In the contemporary LDS church, there are uncomfortable evidences for Apostle Franklin D. Richards' century-old observation that jealousy and fear motivate LDS men to limit LDS women.

In fact, LDS church president Spencer W. Kimball spoke against gender condescension. “Our sisters do not wish to be indulged or to be treated condescendingly; they desire to be respected and revered as our sisters and our equals,” he told general priesthood conference. “I mention these things, my brethren, . . . because in some situations our behavior is of doubtful quality.” President Kimball also wrote a forward to the Brigham Young University publication of Hugh W. Nibley's discourse on the ideal of marriage in God's Eden: “There is no patriarchy or matriarchy in the Garden; the two supervise each other . . . and [are] just as dependent on each other.”

In effect, nearly all authoritative statements by modern apostles have been inaccurate concerning the matter of women holding the priesthood. Church historian and apostle Joseph Fielding Smith juxtaposed such an inaccurate perception with its actual contradiction: “Women do not hold the priesthood, but if they are faithful and true, they will become priestesses and queens in the Kingdom of God, and that implies that they will be given authority.” As indicated by the earlier quotes from Elder Smith's own relatives in the Mormon hierarchy, it is through the temple ordinances that women receive priesthood on earth in training for their role as queens and priestesses in eternity.

In 1958 Elder Smith highlighted this contradiction between the official denial that women have priesthood and the actual authority they have through the temple endowment. He began with the unambiguous declaration that “the sisters have not been given the Priesthood.” However, he immediately undercut his argument by describing women's role in the temple: “And you sisters who labor in the House of the Lord can lay your hands upon your sisters, and with divine authority, because the Lord recognizes positions which you occupy . . . because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” He added that temple ordinances performed by women are “binding just as thoroughly as are the blessings that are given by the men who hold the Priesthood.” His only resolution for the paradox between modern denial and temple experience: “Authority and Priesthood are two different things.” That distinction works only because contemporary Mormon theology gives two meanings to the word “authority.”

“Authority” means both power and permission. In the first sense authority is the priesthood power of God. Through the endowment both men and women receive God's authority or power of the Melchizedek priesthood. Men also receive priesthood power through ordination to specific office. The second sense of authority is the permission of the church. Neither males nor females can exercise their priesthood without permission of the church. However, both males and females have received such permission from the church in various ways.

For LDS males conferral of power and the permission to exercise priesthood in the church come in stages. First, males are ordained to priesthood office which is defined in terms of administering to others. The priesthood that they receive in the endowment is the same priesthood power conferred on them in stages by ordination to office.103 The offices of “king and priest” come provisionally to men through the endowment and in fullness through the second anointing. As Brigham Young preached in 1843, “For any person to have the fullness of that priesthood, he must be a king and a priest. . . . A man may be anointed king and priest [in the endowment] long before he receives his kingdom [in the second anointing].” Second, males receive formal permission from the church to exercise their priesthood in behalf of others.

There are two ways in which the LDS church gives formal authority for males to exercise the priesthood they receive by ordination and the endowment. First, through the ordinance of being “set apart”—as a missionary, temple ordinance worker, or church presiding officer such as stake president or auxiliary president. Second, church leaders give verbal “authority” for males to use their priesthood for specific occasions or ordinances such as administering the sacrament, baptism, confirmation, and administering to the sick through anointing, sealing the anointing, and blessing. This applies to Mormon males from the age of twelve onward.

For LDS women Melchizedek priesthood does not come in stages of ordination but in the temple endowment. Historically LDS women also have received church authority to exercise their Melchizedek priesthood power in behalf of others. Like LDS boys and men, females receive the ordinance of being set apart as missionaries, temple ordinance workers, and presiding officers such as auxiliary presidents. And as already discussed LDS church leaders have given verbal and written authority for LDS women to perform priesthood ordinances including blessing and healing. Church policy revoked that permission in 1946 but could reinstate it at any time. In addition LDS church leaders could extend permission for endowed women to administer the sacrament, baptize, confirm, and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, since those ordinances are within the powers of anyone who has received the Melchizedek priesthood.

In today's church a woman who has received the temple endowment has more priesthood power than a boy who holds the office of priest. However, the priest has more permission to exercise his priesthood than does the endowed woman to exercise hers.

Mormon women already have God's priesthood of spiritual power. Without asking permission they may draw on the power of the Melchizedek priesthood that is theirs by birthright and by divine endowment. However, it is necessary for endowed women to receive permission of the church to use their priesthood in church settings to administer the sacrament, baptize, confirm, or administer temple ordinances. Without ordination to priesthood offices, each endowed LDS woman already has the opportunity to fulfill in her life the prophet's promise: “I now turn the key to you in the name of God.”

Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843

by D. Michael Quinn, LDS Historian and Author

For 150 years Mormon women have performed sacred ordinances in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every person who has received the LDS temple endowment knows that women perform for other women the “initiatory ordinances” of washing and anointing. Fewer know that LDS women also performed ordinances of healing from the 1840s until the 1940s. Yet every Mormon knows that men who perform temple ordinances and healing ordinances must have the Melchizedek priesthood. Women are no exception.

Two weeks after he organized the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith announced his intention to confer priesthood on women. He told them on 30 March 1842 that “the Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood” and that he was “going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch's day—as in Paul's day.” In printing the original minutes of the prophet's talk after his death, the official History of the Church omitted Joseph's first use of the word “Society” and changed the second “Society” to “Church.” Those two alterations changed the entire meaning of his statement. More recently an LDS general authority removed even these diminished statements from a display in the LDS Museum of Church History and Art which commemorated the sesquicentennial of the Relief Society.

On 28 April 1842 the prophet returned to this subject. He told the women that “the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them that they may be able to detect everything false, as well as to the Elders.” The keys “to detect everything false” referred to the signs and tokens used in the “true order of prayer,” still practiced in LDS temples. Then Joseph Smith said, “I now turn the key to you in the name of God, and this society shall rejoice, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time. . . .” For nineteenth-century LDS women, Joseph's words were prophecy and inspiration to advance spiritually, intellectually, socially, professionally, and politically.

Mormon women did not request priesthood—Joseph Smith would soon confer it on them as part of the restoration of the gospel. His private journal, called the Book of the Law of the Lord, specified the priesthood promise in his instructions to the women on 28 April 1842: “gave a lecture on the pries[t]hood shewing [sic] how the Sisters would come in possession of the privileges & blessings & gifts of the priesthood & that the signs should follow them. such as healing the sick casting out devils &c. & that they might attain unto these blessings. by a virtuous life & conversation & diligence in keeping all the commandments.” Joseph clearly intended that Mormon women in 1842 understand their healings were to be “gifts of the priesthood,” not simply ministrations of faith.

The conferral of priesthood on individual women occurred through what Joseph Smith and associates called the “Holy Order” or “Anointed Quorum” (men and women who had received the priesthood endowment). On 4 May 1842, six days after his remarks to the Relief Society, Joseph introduced nine men to the endowment. The following year, on 28 July 1843, Presiding Patriarch Hyrum Smith, an original member of the Holy Order, blessed Leonora Cannon Taylor: “You shall be blesst [sic] with your portion of the Priesthood which belongeth to you, that you may be set apart for your Anointing and your induement [endowment].”

Two months earlier Joseph Smith and his wife Emma were the first couple to be “sealed” in marriage for time and eternity on 28 May 1843. Then in September the Presiding Patriarch blessed Olive G. Frost, one of Joseph Smith's plural wives, that “you shall be blessed with a knowledge of the mysteries of God as well as the fullness of the Priesthood.”

The men who received the Holy Order endowment in 1842 did not constitute a fully organized “quorum” until a woman was initiated in 1843. At 7 p.m. on 28 September 1843, Joseph Smith was “by common consent and unanimous voice chosen president of the Quorum” by eleven other previously endowed men. Next, Emma Hale Smith became the first woman to receive priesthood and its fullness. Willard Richards had referred to the men as “the quorum” in their prayer meeting of 11 September 1843, but Joseph did not officially become the Anointed Quorum's president until the day he admitted the quorum's first woman.

As newly sustained president of the Anointed Quorum, Joseph administered the initiatory ordinances and priesthood endowment to his wife in an upper room of the Nauvoo Mansion. The record of “Meetings of the Anointed Quorum” shows that at this same meeting, Joseph and Emma also became the first couple to receive the “second anointing” or “fullness of the priesthood.” By this ceremony they were each “anointed & ordained to the highest & holiest order of the priesthood.” Later church historians in Utah deleted Emma's name from the 1843 description of the prophet's “second Anointing of the Highest & Holiest order.”

However, church historians were more direct about the second anointing for Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith. Apostle and Church Historian Wilford Woodruff specifically called the ordinance a “second anointing,” and the History of the Church describes the ordinance as: “My brother Hyrum and his wife were blessed, ordained and anointed.”

Even in the nineteenth century church publications usually called the second anointing by such euphemisms as “fulness of the priesthood,” “higher ordinances,” “higher blessings,” or “second blessings.” However, LDS publications in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries sometimes identified the ordinance by its actual name: second anointing.

Of the relationship between the endowment's initiatory anointing and the second anointing, Heber C. Kimball explained: “You have been anointed to be kings and priests [or queens and priestesses], but you have not been ordained to it yet, and you have got to get it by being faithful.” In the second anointing, the husband and wife are ordained “King and Queen, Priest and Priestess to the Most high God for Time and through out all Eternity.”

Thus Emma Smith began the fulfillment of the prophet's promise to make the Relief Society “a kingdom of priests.” She was anointed to become a “queen and priestess” in the initiatory ordinance of the endowment and was ordained to the fulness of those offices by the second anointing. First counselor Sidney Rigdon later commented on this event: “Emma was the one to whom the female priesthood was first given.”

A common misunderstanding claims that women receive priesthood only through temple marriage or through the second anointing—both of which a husband and wife must receive together. However, such was not the view expressed by many of the Anointed Quorum's original members, who learned about the endowment directly from Joseph Smith.

Brigham Young's 1843 diary associated the endowment of women with receiving priesthood. On 29 October 1843, for example, he noted that Thirza Cahoon, Lois Cutler, and Phebe Woodworth were “taken into the order of the priesthood.” That was the day those three women individually received their endowment. They did not join with their husbands to receive the second anointing until 12 and 15 November 1843, respectively. When his own wife received the endowment on 1 November 1843, Brigham Young wrote: “Mary A. Young admitted in to the hiest [highest] orderer [order of] Preasthood [sic].” She did not receive the second anointing with him until three weeks later.

On 3 February 1844, William Clayton's diary noted that he “was permitted to the ordinance of washing and anointing, and was received into the Quorum of Priesthood.” On that same occasion, Jane Bicknell Young was also endowed and received “into the Quorum of the Priesthood.” The prophet's secretary later noted: “All the first quorum with one or two exceptions were present both male and female.”

Joseph Smith's uncle John Smith subsequently pronounced a patriarchal blessing on Maria Turnbow which specified that it was through the endowment ceremony that a woman receives the priesthood: “Thou shalt have an Endowment in the Lord's house [and] be clothed with the Power of the Holy Priesthood [to] be able to redeem thy fathers house. . . .”

Bathsheba W. Bigler Smith shared this view. She entered Joseph Smith's Anointed Quorum in December 1843. “I have always been pleased that I had my endowments when the Prophet lived. He taught us the true order of prayer. I never like to hear a sermon without hearing something of the Prophet, for he gave us everything, every order of the priesthood,” Bathsheba remarked. “He said he had given the sisters instructions that they could administer to the sick and he wanted to make us, as the women were in Paul's day, `A kingdom of priestesses.'”

In February 1844 stake patriarch John Smith told an LDS woman that she had a right to priesthood from her birth. “Thou art of the blood of Abraham thru the Loins of Manasseh & lawful heir to the Priesthood,” he said to Louisa C. Jackson. She was not among the elite Mormon women who received the endowment before the opening of the Nauvoo temple in December 1845. Referring to her eventual sealing and second anointing, the patriarch added that this woman “shall possess it [priesthood] in common with thy companion.” Louisa's blessing showed that any Mormon woman had a birthright to priesthood which depended on no man.

John Smith's blessings to Maria Turnbow and Louisa Jackson clearly show that a Mormon woman receives the priesthood for herself through the endowment. A Mormon woman and a Mormon man receive the higher priesthood blessings only as a couple through the sealing of marriage and through the second anointing (or “fullness”). As Apostle James E. Talmage wrote: “True, there are certain of the higher ordinances to which an unmarried woman cannot be admitted, but the rule is equally in force as to a bachelor.”

Uncle John Smith's church standing and experience make it difficult to regard him as misinformed when he affirmed that there is a female birthright to priesthood. A special counselor in the First Presidency since 1837, John Smith became a member of the Anointed Quorum on 28 September 1843, the same day his nephew Joseph received the second anointing. From then until he blessed Louisa Jackson, John Smith received four months of private instruction from the prophet about the Holy Order of the Priesthood during the frequent meetings of the Anointed Quorum.

In fact after his ordination as patriarch to the church in 1849, John Smith also described the ancient dimension of this female birthright to priesthood. In his blessing to Caroline Cottam in March 1853, he referred to the “Priesthood which Abraham sealed upon his daughters.” He also blessed Elizabeth Bean in May 1853: “I seal upon you all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and all the priesthood that was sealed upon the daughters of Joseph in the land of Egypt. . . .” He made a similar statement in a blessing to another LDS woman in November 1853. According to the presiding patriarch, a female priesthood continued throughout the centuries until the sojourn of the twelve tribes in Egypt.

According to first counselor Heber C. Kimball in 1857, Jewish women continued to have priesthood in the early Christian era. “Was every woman qualified to raise that child [Jesus]?” Kimball asked. “No. You will find that Mary was of the Royal Priesthood, which is after the order of God. . . .” Like her ancestors among the Hebrew women of ancient Egypt, Mary of Nazareth also held the “Royal Priesthood” which is now called Melchizedek.

On 7 December 1845 Apostle Kimball had recorded the names of twenty-three men and nineteen women who “are members of the Holy Order of the Holy Preasthood [sic] having Recieved [sic] it in the Life time of Joseph and Hirum, the Prophets.” Of these nineteen women, three had not yet received the second anointing. In the temple a week later, Kimball's diary noted that Brigham Young “appointed W. W. Phelps and P. P. Pratt to instruct the brethren and sisters . . . more fully into the nature and importance of the blessings and powers of the Holy Priesthood which they had received . . .” Kimball's observations that women received the priesthood through the endowment are significant because he usually expressed misogynous views.

That same month Patriarch John Smith made it clear that a woman did not need a man to receive and use the priesthood. To a woman whose husband was a non-Mormon, the patriarch said on 16 December 1845: “thou hast a right to the Priesthood by inheritance from thy Fathers, and if thy companion refuses to take his place and receive the gospel and you abide faithful you shall not be deprived of the privilege of haveing [sic] it sealed upon you in fullness in due time.” Eleven days later, he told Mehitable Duty that she would use her priesthood to bless both her non-Mormon husband and children: “the Priesthood in its fullness shall be confer[r]ed upon thee in due time [—] thou shalt have pow[e]r ov[e]r thy relatives & friends & thy husband & children to lead them whethersoever [sic] thou wilt in as much [sic] as you seek faithfully & truly to preserve them in the bonds of the new & ev[e]rlasting covenant.” When he gave these blessings in December 1845, John Smith was serving as the church's presiding patriarch after Patriarch William Smith's excommunication two months earlier.

In a published 1845 sermon, Apostle Orson Pratt also spoke of women receiving priesthood, but he did not specify how it was conferred. “You too, my sisters, will take a part therein,” the Times and Seasons reported, “for you will hold a portion of the priesthood with your husbands, and you will thus do a work, as well as they, that will augment that glory which you will enjoy after your resurrection.”

Another member of Joseph Smith's Anointed Quorum, Joseph Young, also affirmed that LDS women received the Melchizedek priesthood when they were endowed—not through the sealing or second anointing with their husbands. He gave this blessing to Zina Young Card in 1878: “These blessings are yours, the blessings and power according to the holy Melchisedek Priesthood you received in your Endowments, and you shall have them.” Young had been senior president of the First Council of Seventy since 1837 and an ordained patriarch since 1873. Zina was his niece and Brigham Young's daughter. In 1877, Edward Tullidge's Women of Mormondom reflected the view expressed by general authorities for thirty-five years: “The Mormon women, as well as men, hold the priesthood.”

Several other early LDS general authorities held similar views about women and priesthood. However, they were more tentative than Joseph Smith and those who received the prophet's personal instruction about the endowment. “They have the Priesthood,” Presiding Bishop Edward Hunter preached in 1877, “a portion of priesthood rests upon the sisters.” With even greater reserve, in 1888 Apostle Franklin D. Richards asked of the men “present who have received their endowments” the following question: “Is it possible that we have the holy priesthood and our wives have none of it? Do you not see, by what I have read, that Joseph [Smith] desired to confer these keys of power upon them in connection with their husbands?” However, Joseph Smith's 1842 promise, Hyrum Smith's patriarchal blessings in 1843, Brigham Young's 1843 diary, William Clayton's 1844-45 diary, Heber C. Kimball's 1845 diary, and patriarchal blessings by John Smith from 1844 on and by Joseph Young in 1878 all show that LDS women receive the Melchizedek priesthood through the endowment alone.

Local patriarchs in pioneer Utah also referred to women's priesthood rights. For example, stake patriarch Charles W. Hyde blessed a woman in 1875 that she was “a daughter of Ephraim and [had] a right to the fullness of the Priesthood and thy children to the fourth generation.” Hyde was the last man admitted to Nauvoo's Anointed Quorum and had given similar blessings to women since his ordination as a patriarch in 1853. Patriarch Ola N. Liljenquist indicated that this female birthright to priesthood was by premortal foreordination. He told Mary Ann Dowdle that she “was chosen in the eternal worlds to receive the fulness of the holy Priesthood with crowns and principalities and powers. Thou art of the lineage of Ephraim and an heir to all the blessings by birthright and election.”

Patriarch Liljenquist made explicit what is implied in Mormon theology—that women were also forechosen to priesthood authority before birth. In 1844, Joseph Smith made that specific claim regarding LDS men: “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before the world was.” This reflected Old Testament and Book of Mormon statements about foreordination of men to priesthood office and to an “order” of the priesthood (such as Melchizedek). However, Mormon scripture's most detailed view of the premortal world did not differentiate between men and women in this forechoosing to authority: “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these [not just the male ones] there were many of the noble and great ones; and God . . . said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits [not just male spirits], and he saw that they were good . . .” (Abr. 3:22-23). This includes females among “all” God's intelligences and spirits who were noble, good, and forechosen (or foreordained) to be leaders and to receive authority.

Currently for males this foreordination to authority is fulfilled in LDS priesthood office. For females this foreordination is fulfilled in their receiving the priesthood endowment and opportunities for church service. This foreordination is the theological basis for Patriarch John Smith's blessings during Joseph Smith's lifetime that women have a “birthright” to priesthood.

For those who marshal other proof-texts that women do not hold priesthood separate from their husbands, the earliest example came from Brigham Young. LDS women “have no right to meddle in the affairs of the Kingdom of God,” he preached in March 1845. “Outside the pale of this they have a right to meddle because many of them are more sagacious & shrewd & more competent [than men] to attend to things of financial affairs.” Then he added, “They never can hold the keys of the Priesthood apart from their husbands.”

This earliest limitation on women's ecclesiastical authority did not deny that endowed women receive a conferral of Melchizedek priesthood. Instead Brigham Young first denied that women had any claim to administrative authority within the church, “to meddle in the affairs of the Kingdom of God.” Second, he denied that a woman “can hold the keys of the Priesthood” by herself, for the reason that this right of presidency comes to women only through the second anointing.

These were not denials that Mormon women receive priesthood through the endowment, as indicated by President Young later. In January 1846, he wrote of “the anxiety menifested [sic] by the Saints [not just men] to recieve [sic] the ordinances of the Endowment & no less on our part to have them get the Keys of the Priesthood . . .” In 1867 he preached that God was “bestowing upon His sons and daughters, who are worthy, this priesthood, and kingly power to increase subjects and obtain territory, to extend the greatness of their kingdom forever . . .” In an 1874 sermon he also said: “Now brethren, the man that honors his Priesthood, the woman that honors her Priesthood, will receive an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of God.”

As indicated in Brigham Young's 1843 diary and the Nauvoo blessings by Hyrum Smith and John Smith, women receive priesthood through the endowment. Women receive the keys of presidency with their husbands through the second anointing. This “fullness of priesthood” confers on women the right to rule and reign as eternal queens and priestesses.

The historical evidence that women hold priesthood is also consistent with the definition of priesthood “keys” in the LDS church's Encyclopedia of Mormonism. “The keys of the priesthood refer to the right to exercise power in the name of Jesus Christ,” explains the article and then adds, “or to preside over a priesthood function, quorum, or organizational division of the church.” In the previously cited, uncensored minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society, Joseph Smith promised “keys of the kingdom” to women in 1842. As indicated, Brigham Young and Franklin D. Richards reaffirmed the conferral of priesthood keys upon women through the temple ordinances.

****My Thoughts****

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