Priesthood Blessing
Women: Let’s use our priesthood powers to ask for more revelation about our priesthood powers.

The latest viral-nova mormon essay to hit the internets is about how a woman taught primary children how priesthood blesses our lives. I believe it is a valiant attempt to wrestle with the complicated and contradictory messages that we have always been given about women and the priesthood. It is a worthwhile endeavor, and I don’t want to discourage people [0] from the hard work it takes to be a part of the conversation. That’s really what I think is needed, a conversation. [1]

I do want to point out how fast the target is moving on our discourse on women and the priesthood.  In 2013 Sheri Dew published the book Women and the Priesthood. I summarized her chapter on “Understanding The Keys, Authority, and Power of the Priesthood” below to the best of my ability:

Only certain priesthood holders hold certain keys in the Church.  Keys authorize the ordinances and the authority required to perform the ordinances, those who receive ordinances have priesthood power available to them. Men with keys can give some women authority; sister missionaries and women in the temple have been given authority to perform works by those with keys. After going to the temple, women have direct access to priesthood power. Authority and priesthood are two different things, women have only been given divine authority.

fast forward a few months later and Elder Oaks steps up to the plate and throws us a curve ball of further light and understanding:

 “Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men… We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? [2]

and a few months later Elder Ballard addresses Education Week:

“When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which by definition is priesthood power.”

Within a span of less than 12 months we have the following teachings being given, which are markedly different from what I ever heard growing up:

Dew: women only have “access” to priesthood power and only “divine” authority
Oaks: women have priesthood authority
Ballard: women are endowed with priesthood power

Don't look directly at the sun, the priesthood power will fry your corneas.
Don’t look directly at the sun, the priesthood power will fry your corneas.

I think we should be forgiven of the fact that for the time being, confusion reigns when we talk about women and the priesthood. [3] Listen I’m no Jonathan Stapley, Linda K. Newell, Fiona Givens, or Maxine Hanks. I have no historical/academic cred in this area. But I do want to be a part of the conversation, so I’d like to respond to Heather from Women in the Scriptures [4] based on my own study, prayer, and life experiences.

From her blog she described being in the CTR7 class and presenting the following:

The priesthood is God’s power, and it is all around you.  It is the power that makes the sun shine, the power that makes flowers grow, rain to fall, gravity to work; it is the power that helps you learn and helps you know that things are true or not true, it is the power that answers prayers and makes miracles happen. It is the most powerful power in the entire world and God gives it to both boys and girls. “

I guess I can understand linking the marvelous acts of nature and laws of science to priesthood power. When I’m in nature I regularly marvel over the amazing creative powers of my Heavenly Father and Mother. I feel very close to them when I’m outside in nature. I believe the creative keys of priesthood power were used to organize matter in the universe to function according to already existing laws that even God can’t break. Nature should remind us of God’s love for us, but I’m drawing the line with acts of nature being priesthood power in action. If priesthood power becomes everything around us all of a sudden it becomes nothing at the same time.

She also went on to list other ways girls have priesthood power: going on missions (yay!), growing babies (nay!), and magnifying callings as Primary President (yay!). I could have predicted the growing babies=priesthood philosophy line would come up here. Listen, I am in awe of the miracle of birth and motherhood more than you know. My daughter was born from a frozen oocyte during an IVF cycle, at the time less than 100 babies in the history of the world had ever been created from a frozen oocyte. My little IVF baby is literally one in a billion. Every day of pregnancy was a marvel for me, but in no way was I exercising priesthood power; I was witnessing the natural miracle of birth.

Do horses use the priesthood power, too?

If snowstorms and fetuses are priesthood power then are the snow machine operators at Jackson Hole and horses birthing foals exercising priesthood power? I suppose even 15 year-old pregnant teenagers use priesthood power while my infertility leaves me hanging. If every wonder of nature is priesthood power than I feel like Oprah, “You have priesthood power and you have priesthood power! Everybody gets priesthood power!!!”

But isn’t the thing that makes our Church the “one true church”; the fact that we have the restored priesthood? Everyone can’t have something that was absent from the world for millennia. I truly believe God is our Father, Christ is our Savior, and Joseph reestablished the Gospel on the earth with the restoration of the priesthood. I believe, using the quotes from our leaders above as citations, that priesthood power is exercised through making and keeping covenants. If you want to teach children about priesthood power they use, teach them that the baptismal covenant they make enables them to repent and be made clean every week during the sacrament. Teach them when they enter the temples to make covenants they are endowed (receive the gift) with priesthood power. I even don’t mind if you teach them that pioneer women anointed, healed, and blessed by laying on of hands. Teach them that there is so much more to be revealed, that there is so much we don’t understand. But please don’t teach my children things as doctrine that have not been revealed. [5]

[0] Ergo, trying to keep my snark to a minimum.

[1] Well that, and further revelation – okay so what we really need is further revelation.

[2] You should have seen my end-zone celebration dance as I celebrated the death knell Oaks delivered on Sis. Dew’s assertion that women = divine authority and men = priesthood authority.

[3] Let’s be honest, confusion has always reigned re: women and priesthood, as evidenced by the Relief Society minutes of Nauvoo (search term: lay hands)

[4] I regularly receive links from this blog from well-meaning members hoping to “cure” me of my feminism.

[5] My newest favorite term I saw someone use was doctrinal fan fiction. By all means, take what has been revealed and explore it and personally draw some conclusions. But when personal opinion is taught as doctrine, I get a bit miffed. I’m looking at you, Two Trees.