Facebook was ablaze with comments about Elder Oaks General Conference talk on Saturday night.  Disappointed that the church website didn’t have a transcript, I created one so that we could better discuss what he actually said.  I decided to let that post stand on its own without any commentary.  But in this post, I will add my own commentary.

It does seem that the conversation regarding female ordination is changing a bit.  It seems that people are trying to legitimize the idea that women already have enough priesthood.  Now we have people like Fiona Givens telling us that men have the authority of the priesthood (and she defends male hegemony) but women have priesthood power.  She references a Conference talk of Elder Packer in 2010 in which he made a distinction between priesthood power versus priesthood authority.  She also believes that non-members can have priesthood power.  While that’s a great idea, it’s a far cry from D&C 13 where John the Baptist gives Joseph and Oliver the power to baptize, which the LDS Church claims is unique.  In the interview, she also admitted that even though women have had the power of the priesthood via the temple endowment for a long time, this isn’t common knowledge among all women.  (It also doesn’t explain how non-LDS get priesthood power.)

With Elder Oaks’ most recent conference address, he tries to go even further than Givens, saying that women actually hold authority AND power of the priesthood via they keys of the presiding authority.  On Saturday night, Oaks quoted President Joseph Fielding Smith:

President Smith explained, “the Lord has given to them this great organization where they have authority to serve under the direction of the bishops of the wards, looking after the interests of our people, both spiritually and temporally.” {emphasis added}

Oaks also said

When a woman, young or old, is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys, exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.

To me, Oaks is a stretching a long way to argue this point.  Once again, this is not the same power that was given to Joseph and Oliver in D&C 13.  Someone on Facebook noted,

Under his argument — i.e., that women already have “authority of the priesthood” when they teach and serve in the Church — a 4-year old giving his/her first talk in Primary also has “authority of the priesthood.” Just silly.

I’m sorry, but Oaks is not convincing.  Oaks continues the argument,

Thus, it is truly said that the Relief Society is not just a class for women, but something they belong to, a divinely established appendage to the priesthood.

I disagree, it often is just a class for women.  No woman that I know of has been ordained to the Relief Society by the laying on of hands as it states in the 5th Article of Faith, nor can they administer ordinances:

We believe that a man must be acalled of God, by bprophecy, and by the laying on of chands by those who are in dauthority, to epreach the Gospel and administer in the fordinances thereof.

There are no ordinances associated with the Relief Society.  You’re female and you’re 18, you’re in!  There is no ceremony, or sustaining vote as there are when men and boys obtain the priesthood.  Oaks argument here is without foundation.

Oaks also said two statements telling women to be quiet, yet speak up.

  1. “Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities.”  (Isn’t he nicely telling Ordain Women to “shut up” and do their visiting teaching, service, and making casseroles?)
  2. Some years before the family proclamation, President Spencer W. Kimball gave this inspired explanation. “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners, or limited partners in that eternal assignment. Please be a contributing and full partner.”  (Here Oaks is quoting Kimball and telling women that it’s ok to be voice your opinion–and men should listen–but apparently women’s opinions should be limited to their personal family.  Otherwise, they should follow the admonition of Paul:  1 Cor 14:34 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak;”)

Then he seemingly makes statements without backing them up.

 The First Presidency, and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting church policy and procedures. Matters such as the location of church buildings, and the ages for missionary service. But even though these presiding hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divine decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.

Ok, I get it, you can’t make a change without revelation.  This is very much in line with President McKay’s feelings.  Have you actually sought revelation on the subject?  You didn’t reference a revelation or a scripture.  Have you even tried to seek revelation as President Kimball did?  Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but could you at least tell us “yes I have prayed, and God said “no”, or “not yet” or something like that?  Could you reference a scripture?  You are a prophet, seer, and revelator, aren’t you?  I sustained you as such in both my temple recommend interview, as well as when I raised my hand in the sustaining of church officers.  Come on and throw me a bone here.

Another thing that bugged me a little about his talk was right at the beginning.

 I once presided at the release of a young stake president who had given fine service for nine years and was now rejoicing in his release and in the new calling he and his wife had just received. They were called to be the nursery leaders in their ward. Only in this church would that be seen as equally honorable.

You’re kidding right?  Nobody believes what you just said.  I know you’d like to believe that, but nobody believes it, and I think the stake president didn’t believe it either.  But I have no doubt that he was excited to have less responsibility.

Sadly Oaks did go the priesthood/motherhood route.

“The greatest power God has given to His sons cannot be exercised without the companionship of one of his daughters, because only to his daughters has God given the power to be a creator of bodies so that God’s design and the great plan might meet fruition.” Those are the words of J. Reuben Clark. He continued, “This is the place of our wives and of our mothers in the eternal plan. They are not bearers of the priesthood, they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the priesthood, nor are they laden with its responsibilities. They are builders and organizers under its power and partakers of its blessings, possessing the complement of the priesthood powers and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the priesthood itself.”

I’m sorry.  Any crack whore can get pregnant via a drunk sperm donor.  Neither have the priesthood power, or authority, yet both are a father and a mother.  They don’t even have to be married.  It’s nice when an LDS couple get married in the temple under the power and authority of the priesthood, but this whole “women are mothers, men are priesthood holders” is a silly argument, and I don’t care if J Reuben Clark said it first.  Biology makes us mothers and fathers.  The crack whore and the drunk scum-dad don’t even have to be good parents.  They can abuse and kill the children, and they do.  Worthiness and ordination makes us priesthood holders.  Stop repeating that dumb platitude.  It should have died with J Reuben Clark.

Finally, here is one last thing:

Since these subjects are of equal concern to men and to women, I’m pleased that these proceedings are broadcast and published for all members of the church.

This sounds like making lemonade out of lemons.  If it weren’t for Ordain Women, I suspect this broadcast would still be privately broadcast to men only, and your remarks probably would have dealt with another subject.  Ordain Women seems to have influenced some notable changes  in the past year, but I’m sure some will pu-pu them.

  1. The males-only Priesthood broadcast was broadcast to all people live for the first time last October in reaction to Ordain Women asking for tickets to attend last October.
  2. Last Month, the LDS Church decided to add photos of female church leaders in the Conference Center for the first time.
  3. Women were allowed to pray in General Conference for the first time last year, and continue to do so.

While other groups have advocated for these changes, it’s hard to argue that Ordain Women isn’t making an impact.  The LDS Church is making baby steps in equality for women.  I’m not a member of Ordain Women, but I think they’re moving the conversation in the right direction.

As we look back at what happened in 1969, I fear that President Monson is acting like President McKay, President Packer is like President Lee, and President Uchtdorf seems like President Brown.  It may take a few prophets down the road to get female ordination.  I just hope that the brethren have someone like Kimball among current Quorum of the Twelve.  I eagerly look forward to either Official Declaration 3, or Section 139.  But I don’t have hope that Elder Oaks is the next President Kimball.  I’d probably put him in the Mark E. Peterson category.

One last thought:  In a Radio West interview a few months ago, Russell Stevenson (who also blogs at Rational Faiths) blamed church members as much as church leaders for the black ban.  He reasoned that church members wanted the ban.  It wasn’t removed until enough church members wanted the ban removed.  Well, count me as one of the church members who want the female ban removed.  I hope we can help inspire our leaders to ask if the time is now right to seek revelation on the issue.