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I remember growing up and hearing priesthood lessons. I remember being told that even though I was a girl, the lesson on the priesthood was still relevant to me. It’s interesting because that statement is completely true, but it’s far more true than what I was learning at the time. The lessons on priesthood are relevant to me not because I’m blessed by the men in my life (though I am); the lessons on priesthood are relevant to me because I can wield priesthood power. Culturally, we were not often taught about the priesthood power of women growing up.
It wasn’t until I was older that I was taught about the priesthood power and authority I could utilize to bless the lives of those around me.
I will be mostly addressing women today, but the lessons lie for all.
Now. I will do my best to explain doctrine and give examples and parables that can help us better understand. However, if women and the priesthood is a topic you struggle with, no amount of my explaining will do the trick and help you come to terms with it. That will come from the Spirit potentially through my words, but more importantly through your own personal relationship with God. As you come to hold that Father/daughter relationship with a Supreme Being, you will naturally begin to feel more trust that He believes in you, gives you power and responsibility, and that you are truly His crowning creation.
The Melchizedek Priesthood Power
Here’s a scripture and a story.
Doctrine and Covenants 107:18-19
18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—
19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
According to this verse, it is through the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood that we receive any spiritual blessing from the church. Through the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we receive revelation, take part in the church, and eventually receive the presence of our Father in Heaven. The Prophet Joseph even taught that it is through the channel of the Melchizedek Priesthood that we have received any doctrine from God at all since the beginning of time.
To illustrate this, I share a story we are all fairly familiar with.
A fourteen year old boy named Joseph Smith found himself confused about which church to join. He went out into the woods and prayed to find an answer, and a glorious vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared before him. A new dispensation had just begun.
Now, if my goal was to speak about women and the priesthood, why am I sharing this story about Joseph Smith?
It is because I had something new brought into my mind. If this verse in Doctrine and Covenants is accurate (and I am led to believe that is), then revelation is given to us through the Melchizedek Priesthood. In other words, despite the fact that Joseph Smith had not yet been ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, he was given a vision of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Joseph Smith had the power to receive a vision despite his not being ordained. In my mind, that means Joseph was blessed with priesthood power despite his not being ordained.
You don’t have to be ordained to an office to receive priesthood power. Power comes from worthiness. In our church, only men are ordained to priesthood offices, but anyone can receive portions of priesthood power. Women do have priesthood power, and they do use priesthood power to bless others.
Ordination and Offices
So women and the priesthood. Joseph received power to begin a new gospel dispensation before he was ordained. We, as women and men, can receive immense power without being ordained.
Despite the fact that I think it’s infinitely important to remember that we can utilize and wield God’s priesthood power, I will not pretend to try and distract from the fact that women can not be ordained to a priesthood office. God has not yet given us an answer as to why He only ordains men. I personally do not know if this is a policy or a doctrine, and I don’t know that God has revealed that. Feel free to leave a comment if He has clarified that. I have heard people try to explain why God has chosen this, but I have also heard Elder Oaks tell us that we need to stop trying to explain God’s reasons when He has not chosen to do so Himself. Please don’t do that, and if you have previously, please stop doing that. I have heard many of these reasons parroted by people who are well-intentioned but they can often leave those who are struggling with misconceptions or more isolation. We have not been given a reason as to why women are not ordained.
So we’re not ordained. That means I will never be able to baptize my own kids (or at least not that I can see at this point). If God wanted me to be able to baptize my own kids, He could give me that authority, but He has chosen not to do so. This is painful for some, and as I mentioned previously, I have no all-powerful reason as to why He chose this way. But I can tell you a couple things that I do know.
Heavenly Father knows me
Heavenly Father knows me. He knows what I need in order to become my best self. I know He adores me, and I know that He gives me responsibilities because He can trust me with them. I try to take those responsibilities very seriously. I know that comparing myself has never helped me feel better. Whether I’m comparing my own righteousness to someone else’s or my own priesthood power to a man’s, I never walk away feeling better. I’ve got my own path and God is going to help me become something fantastic on my own path. I will be absolutely glorious. I will be just as glorious as any man (except for probably Christ), and I don’t need a priesthood office to become glorious. If I did, Heavenly Father would have given me a priesthood office.
I also know that Heavenly Father knows His sons. He knows what they need, and He gives them what they need so that they have every opportunity to become as glorious as I can become. Heavenly Father has never treated His children equally, and thank goodness for that because none of us need the same things.
Power versus responsibility
Women are given priesthood power. Elder Oaks gave a talk about it. We hold priesthood power in our homes and callings. We hold priesthood power as missionaries and leadership roles. We hold priesthood power as we interact with anyone in professional or social settings when we choose to bless the lives of others in any capacity. If you want more concrete proof of our priesthood power, we perform ordinances for other women in the temple. We have priesthood power even though we don’t have a priesthood office. Men can also hold priesthood power before they are ordained to an office.
Being ordained to an office in the priesthood is not equivalent with being given extra power; it is about being given responsibility. When a man is ordained to an office, he is given specific responsibilities to handle. It helps to organize things and make sure the work moves forward efficiently, but they receive no extra power other than the blessings that come with having made a covenant with God (which, by the way, we can all make covenants and receive all blessings). That’s why someone in a priesthood office can say goodbye to their own priesthood whenever they use less-than-Christlike manipulations to try and control His children. Their office holds no power when they’re unworthy. That’s why Joseph didn’t need a priesthood office to see God and Jesus Christ. Offices are not about power; they are about delegating responsibilities.
I have power to save
Now that may still not sit well with some, and I understand that. I imagine a woman sitting in an office dominated by men and being passed over. I imagine that woman feeling annoyed or frustrated. I imagine her justified feelings of not being given an opportunity to prove herself.
But it is so different in the kingdom of God.
Doctrine and Covenants 107:99-100
I would add women. Let every woman also learn her duty BECAUSE I PROMISE WITH EVERYTHING THAT IS IN ME THAT GOD NEEDS YOU TO USE THE POWER HE IS EXTENDING TOWARDS YOU. Everyone should learn their duty and do it. You have not been passed over. There is a responsibility sitting in front of you. You made promises before you came here and God expects to step up and figure out what they were and accomplish them. You have as much to give as any man, and He will give you as much power as you need to fulfill as much as you are capable of. A lack of office can never take away what you can give. There may be rude and utterly misguided men who feel that their priesthood office gives them power over you. They may gloat over their “responsibilities” they’ve been given and try to make you feel passed over, but know this. They have no priesthood power or authority until they repent and open their eyes. They know nothing of the priesthood and unfortunately, they can sully the name of the priesthood.
A sacred trust
Recently, there has been some upheaval in my family. My husband has had to make a lot of decisions based on limited information.
There was a point where we were discussing a potential move we could make. As we talked, the answer seemed quite obvious to me, but my husband informed me that I didn’t have all the information. There were certain points that he couldn’t tell me; he couldn’t even tell me why he couldn’t tell me. I assume it was because this information had to do with someone else, and my husband is really good at respecting people’s wishes for privacy.
I know there are some people who would feel extremely uncomfortable with this in a marriage. There have not been many times that Conner hasn’t been able to tell me something. I also know that if my marriage were any different, I would probably also be extremely uncomfortable with him keeping any secrets from me.
But. As I’ve been married to Conner, I have only ever found reasons to trust him. I trust him for two reasons. One, he is usually pretty capable at making wise decisions when it comes to taking care of the family. Two, there is nothing that matters more to him than our family. I truly do not feel scared or worried at all about Conner not telling me this piece of information because of my close relationship with him and my knowledge of his character.
I understand that it’s painful for some that Heavenly Father has made the decision to only ordain men to priesthood offices. I do not cast judgement on this at all because I have talked with some of these women, and they’re wise and caring women. They’re not faithless or throwing tantrums or ungrateful for what they’ve been given, etc., etc.
As I said previously, I don’t have any more answers than you do. But as I’ve come to have a closer relationship with God and as I’ve come to learn more about His character through that personal relationship, many of my fears and concerns have felt quieter. Sure, I don’t understand everything, but I know that God has all the wisdom, and I know that He loves me. I trust Him, and I trust that it will be okay.
Don’t take my word for it. Don’t think I’m trying to tell you that, “You just need to trust God more.” What I’m trying to tell you is this: Get to know Him. Learn about Him. Pray and talk to Him. See how you feel about Him, and see if you can trust Him.
I have personally come to feel that I can trust Him. Find out whether that is the right step for you.
I love my Heavenly Father. I know He is wise and intelligent and kind. I know He is doing what’s best for me. I am grateful for my relationship with Him.