Following the collapse of Sidney Rigdon’s church, people looked to William Bickerton to lead the flock. Dr. Daniel Stone tells us more details about William Bickerton’s prophetic vision and call to become prophet of a new church with a Book of Mormon foundation.
Daniel: [Bickerton] says that he was carried away in the spirit and placed on the highest mountain on the earth, he said. In one of the accounts it says that there was just room enough for him to stand on this mountain, and he’s basically told and shown, “Here you are in this mountain. You’re doing everything right.”
You kind of get the sense that he feels like God’s telling him “You’re on the right track. Stay where you are. Keep going. Keep doing what you’re doing, but if you leave this path that I’ve put you on, you’re going to fall and tumble.” And William Bickerton sees this chasm below. And he says that the Lord told him if he didn’t keep doing what he was doing, that he would fall into the chasm. And he said that the sight was awful at one part. In another account, he says that he would fall and be torn into bits. So, he saw and he felt that he didn’t have any other choice other than to stay on this path because he didn’t want to fall down that way. So, he starts preaching by himself.
I don’t believe this vision is well-known. What is not well-known either is the fact that Bickerton’s church has been ordaining women since the 1860s! Daniel and I discussed the similarities and differences between Bickertonite and Brighamite priesthood. Bickerton was a big fan of Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy, and it led to some interesting theological innovations in his church.
Daniel: This is because of Joseph Smith Civil War prophecy, he’s really seeing it. This is the approaching of the end times. Jesus Christ is coming back. This is the beginning of the apocalypse and eventually according to Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy, it’s going to encompass the whole earth, right? So, he has to ordain a Quorum of Twelve to kind of institute that fervent missionary effort to kind of bring people in because of the approaching calamities. And in 1863, a year after, they ordain a deaconess.
And what’s interesting is because you kind of see as they’re ordaining deaconesses, they’re also saying, well we need to have midwives in the church too. That’s really important. So, you’re starting to see a real emphasis on women ministering to the church because they really believe the end times are coming. It’s going to get more and more serious and worse. So, midwives back then were much more trusted than doctors. So, they’re kind of thinking pragmatically, okay, well if we’re in destruction and there’s no help for anything, we want to have midwives to help care for the wounded or people that are sick or people who are giving birth. Obviously, they were very trusted. So, they’re trying to ordain deaconesses as a holy office, but calling or wanting to have midwives in the church to train them for the hopes of helping to minister to the church as well.
It turns out they ordain women because of a biblical precedent!
William Bickerton is very much a Christian primitivist or a Christian restorationist like Joseph Smith. He’s trying to look at the scriptures literally. So, they get the idea from deaconess because of Phoebe and some of the others that are mentioned, you know, where they use that Greek word Diakonia I believe it is, where basically means deaconess. So, they are a member of the ministry. So, they’re looking at the scriptures and they’re really scrutinizing, and they see prophetesses in the scriptures. You know, even in the New Testament there were prophetesses. So, he’s looking at this thing. Women can have this power of the Holy Ghost to move. And if they see that women were, you know, even though brief, brief mentions of it in the New Testament.
Now I admit that deaconess is not the same as apostle and prophet, although women do prophecy in their church on behalf of the church. I don’t think it’s full inclusion of females for priesthood, but it was interesting to learn that women are ordained via anointing with oil, and do perform priesthood functions. Clearly Bickerton’s church was more than a century of ahead of its time with regards to ordaining women, although it should be noted that both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young allowed women to bless by laying on of hands. What are your thoughts concerning Bickerton’s church and female priesthood? Is this a good option for the LDS Church to allow limited ordination of women? Does it still fall short of full inclusion for women, or is it a good first step?
Changes that occur incrementally have a batter chance st lasting. In religious settings, it allows time for (hopefully) studying it out in our minds.
Unfortunately, political/cultural patterns since the 60’s call for shoving the whole ball of wax down the populations throats, causing instant opposition.
Many choices exist for persons that want a woman priest.
What I want or think is almost irrelevant in God’s church; and if it isn’t God’s church then it doesn’t matter.
Women already perform priesthood functions in the temple.
Prophesying is not a priesthood function, but is a gift of the Holy Ghost.
It is not entirely clear to me what exactly is “priesthood”, it seems to be at least two very distinct things; but the straining-at-gnats part of it is the government of the church part. Power and dominion seekers WANT priesthood because of its power as they suppose.
D&C 121 34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
“Power and dominion seekers WANT priesthood because of its power as they suppose.”
No. Just no. Tell it to someone who has never had power in their life. Tell that to the disenfranchised, the poor, the abused. Having power does not equate to dominion (it can, but it doesn’t have to). In fact, my understanding is that women in power tend to take much less domineering approaches to leadership.
“Having power does not equate to dominion”
In the context of this conversation that is exactly what it means. (D&C 121:34 and context).
“my understanding is that women in power tend to take much less domineering approaches to leadership.”
My mileage varies. The blood on the walls of my childhood home weren’t put there by a man, but by my stepmother. At least in the USA you have many choices of church and liviing arrangements. What you are not entitled to is wealth, franchise and power. These you earn or you take. What a man gives you he can take away.
I was expecting to see some commentary on women forced to wear head scarves and only hands, feet and faces visible. But that’s all okay so long as they have priesthood.
“What I want or think is almost irrelevant in God’s church; and if it isn’t God’s church then it doesn’t matter”
What if God set up His church so that all things are done by common consent? In that case it seems very relevant what church members want or think.
Michael 2 wrote, “Prophesying is not a priesthood function, but is a gift of the Holy Ghost.
It is not entirely clear to me what exactly is “priesthood”, it seems to be at least two very distinct things; but the straining-at-gnats part of it is the government of the church part.”
This is an interesting point to me. What exactly is “priesthood” and how much does it really matter?
Can a person heal through a faithful prayer as well as a blessing? Or are priesthood blessings “more powerful?”
Is the priesthood leader of the ward more important than a single-mom in the home with regards to blessing the children of that home? I think not. So…what exactly is the priesthood getting us that we can’t do through faith?
Why does ordination have to be restricted at all? Is it just tradition? Because it doesn’t seem like God cares, as many scriptures support.
“It is not entirely clear to me what exactly is “priesthood…”
That is the crux of the issue. The Church teaches that priesthood is “the power to act in the name of God.” Jonathan Stapley said that is a common definition. However, Church leaders also conflate priesthood with priesthood office. IMO, those should be separate definitions. Because they are conflated causes people to wonder whether women have priesthood. Michael Quinn says LDS women have priesthood via temple endowment. However, Stapley rejects that definition because of the conflation with priesthood office.
We really need to disentangle priesthood from priesthood office. If priesthood is the power to act in the name of God, then both men and women have priesthood, but clearly women do not hold priesthood office.
I think Ordain Women would welcome additional responsibilities within church (like healing, blessing, baptizing), but I don’t think they will be satisfied until they get priesthood office. (At least that’s what a couple of women from Ordain Women said to me in an upcoming interview.)
I think if we can distinguish priesthood from priesthood office, it will be helpful with these conversations. I’m still impressed with Bickerton for allowing women at least a limited form or priesthood ministry within his church.
Dave C writes “What if God set up His church so that all things are done by common consent?
Then it would be called the Church of Getting Nothing Done, while waiting for the 15,999,999th member to consent to adding a new hymn.
Suppose it takes only one veto for any song to not be included in the hymnbook? How many hymns are likely to exist? That’s right, zero.
Contemplate George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” as a reminder of how Common Consent systems collapse.
Heber13 asks “Can a person heal through a faithful prayer as well as a blessing? Or are priesthood blessings more powerful?”
Faith and the name of Jesus Christ are the active ingredients of a blessing. Priesthood adds a demand element that *might* in some cases add some extra whammy to the blessing but seems more tuned to the needs of men for order and discipline.
An example that comes to my mind is the cholera outbreak that happened in Zion’s Camp; faith, by itself, was insufficient to heal but faith AND priesthood worked. In New Testament times the followers of Jesus tried to cast out devils and were surprised at their failure, Jesus explained that this kind of devil only goes out by fasting and prayer, except of course that Jesus was able to cast out the devil, presumably the very same power that is called priesthood power. But it isn’t really power; not measured in watts or joules. It is that the devils obey priesthood, they also obey invocations of the name Jesus Christ, but not always:
Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
“Is the priesthood leader of the ward more important than a single-mom in the home with regards to blessing the children of that home?”
Importance is a personal decision. Only you can say what is important to you. Hopefully the single mom, a priesthood holder and a medical doctor work cooperatively in the case of a seriously ill child.
“what exactly is the priesthood getting us that we can’t do through faith?”
Exaltation by obedience. It is the path specified for men. Faith, combined with humility, ought to lead you to obedience. Devils have faith; they lack obedience.
“Why does ordination have to be restricted at all? Is it just tradition?”
I do not know.
I can think of no rational reason for Moses to wrap snakes on a stick. It was what was appointed and there was no “common consent”. Moses obeyed (eventually), and those of his followers that obeyed were healed of snakebite, those that thought it was silly and refused, suffered snakebite and presumably died.
Of course all those stories could be fiction. So put your money down and place your bets!
…soooo….fasting and prayer is more powerful than the priesthood?
Heber13 asks “[is] fasting and prayer is more powerful than the priesthood?”
In the example cited above, it appears to be so. Fasting and prayer are actions where priesthood is just the name of an authority or permission to exercise certain powers of God. Presumably the disciples of Jesus had some sort of priesthood, but that was not suffricient. Conversely, someone with no knowledge of God and no appointment to use his powers will find that fasting results only in hunger. So it is for some LDS on Fast Sunday when they skip a meal or two but don’t have any particular purpose in mind nor combine it with prayer.
In the introduction to Declaration 2 on the priesthood being available to all men, is quoted, “All are alike unto God, black and white, bond and free, male and female.”
Women should be treated the same as men!
This scripture is listing all those who are being discriminated against at that time, and saying God is not the source of the discrimination. If it were written today it would also have gay and straight. When the church overcomes its conservatism, and gets into line with Gods will there will be no discrimination, against women or gays. Thats what Christlike love looks like.
” is the same” typo?
Yes it was. I just fixed it.