Our last 2 segments with Michael Quinn touched on some really interesting topics! Michael has been a very prominent Mormon historian since at least the 1980s. I asked him if he had met Mark Hofmann, the bomber and forger. Michael indicates that he may have inadvertently given Mark some ideas for forgeries!
GT: So he probably got some ideas for his forgeries from you.
Michael: And he may have from things I published. Yeah, because typically I would talk about things that weren’t available that were central, like I published an article about the Council of Fifty minutes and the Council of Fifty’s history and I commented about what I thought was in those minutes that I had not seen of the Nauvoo Council of Fifty. And so, I would do this about other documents like I wrote about the blessings that Joseph Smith, III had received from his father and that obviously was something that Mark Hofmann paid attention to.
I also asked Michael if he was worried about being targeted by bombs.
Michael: I had a friend who worked with the state attorney, U.S. attorney was in his office and this long-time friend of mine called and said, “Don’t go back home, go and stay with us because no one would think of us,” him and his wife. And so, he provided more than a week I think a week or two weeks of residence for me during this period.
And then he told me, “When you go back, look under your car for wires,” and for years after this, following his advice, anytime I got a package I wasn’t expecting, I would take it to the post office and run it through their x-ray machine to see if there were any machines in it. And so yeah, I was paranoid.
We also had a great conversation about women and priesthood. In 1992, Dr. Michael Quinn published an essay stating that women have priesthood, and have held the priesthood since 1843. This article was one of the reasons church leaders cited in excommunicating him. Quinn’s opinion is a shartp contrast to our conversation with Dr. Jonathan Stapley, who did not endorse the idea that women held priesthood. Both Stapley agree that women don’t hold priesthood office, but Quinn is bolder in his claims than Stapley.
Michael: Women receive priesthood when it’s conferred on them in the endowment, and I think that men do too, but they’ve already received it. They’ve received it separately as young men as 12-year-olds to prepare them for the endowment. Women don’t need that kind of preparation. They are already spiritually endowed.
GT: At least that is the stereotypical thinking.
Michael: That’s the stereotypical view. And I’m willing to adopt that because it’s convenient to help people understand this issue that women have a preparation that is separate for the endowment than men do.
From my conversation with Stapley,
Jonathan: There’s no question that men and women have equal access to the power of God. So, women are recognized healers, for example. They participate in the healing liturgy. Women perform anointings, and they seal anointings and they heal the sick and bless for comfort from the earliest days. Joseph Smith says this is of course, entirely appropriate activity for the Relief Society sisters to participate in, any women. Every church president after that says it’s fine. So this is a manifestation of God’s power. I would say that women receive liturgical authority to perform those acts, but Joseph Smith never characterizes that as priesthood.
Who do you think is right?
I asked Quinn what he thought about the Ordain Women movement.
GT: Ok, so what do you think about Kate Kelly’s movement with Ordain Women?
Michael: I understand it. I don’t support it.
GT: You don’t support it?
Michael: No, I understand it and I don’t think it’s necessary for women to be ordained to an appendage.
GT: Why not?
Michael: Women don’t need an appendage to have the priesthood.
GT: They’ve already got the priesthood.
Michael: They’ve got the priesthood.
GT: But what about the idea, why couldn’t a woman become a bishop? Lead a congregation?
Michael: If those who preside over the appendages of these offices, which is what the president of the church does, he’s the president of the high priesthood. He could change that.
This was a fantastic conversation, and I hope you check it out! Do you agree with Quinn or Stapley? Do women receive priesthood through temple endowment?
Big question. I think a helpful starting point is Stapley’s distinction between the “ecclesiastical priesthood” (what we now think of as the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods in the Church) and the “cosmological priesthood” (all the various temple rituals initiated by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo and expanded by Brigham Young in Nauvoo and later in Utah). The cosmological priesthood included a lot more than what we now think of as priesthood in the 21st century Church. Polygamy played a central role in it, as did the patriarchal priesthood concept. So yes women had the priesthood in the cosmological sense. But in Joseph’s last years, everything was priesthood in the cosmological sense. Any new idea or doctrine or practice would be folded into the priesthood-temple-polygamy complex.
For more on this, go back and read my Q&A with Stapley here at W&T a couple of months ago, particularly Question 1 and Stapley’s response:
The funny thing is Dave, I made the same conclusion you did with regards to cosmological priesthood, and thought that is what Stapley was saying, but he definitely didn’t like me using the term “priesthood” (cosmological or otherwise) to refer to women. He even smirks when I try to make the comparison you just said. See