In celebration of Mother’s Day, I’ll post a sacrament meeting talk I gave 22 years ago for Mother’s Day. I got lots of complements from women in the ward, but not one word from any man. While this talk was very progressive 22 years ago, some parts have not aged well, and I would probably change quite a bit if giving this talk today.
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men , as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (D&C 121:39)
A lot of places in the scriptures use “men” to mean mankind, or men and women. But in this scripture the Lord was talking to the early leaders of the church, all men. Also take note that it says “almost all men”, not some, but almost all!
Sometimes it is easy for husbands and fathers to assume that just because they have XY chromosome, that they are in charge, the boss. But this is not the plan that our heavenly parents set up for us.
In our house, my wife and I share as equal partners in governing our home. There are some things that my wife is better at doing, and making decision on, so she is in charge of those things. And, believe it or not, there are even some things that I am better at, so I am in charge of those things. But the mere fact that I hold the Melchizedek Priesthood does not put me in charge. The Lord stated this in DC 121:41 “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by long suffering by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”
President Boyd K. Packer once advised a stake president to never ever “pull priesthood rank” on his wife. This is good advice for all men, not just Stake Presidents
Some may think that having a committee of two, the husband and the wife, of equal authority, might present a problem when it comes time to make decisions. However a committee of two is exactly what Christ intends marriage to be! Even among the first Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles, the rule for decision is unanimity, as explained in the 107th section of the D&C.
President Hunter postponed many decisions, sometimes several times, until the feelings of everyone in the first Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles were in harmony and the decision to act could be unanimous. Now if this is the law in the highest councils of the church, is it not the higher and better law for the council of the family, the most sacred of all church units?
According to President James E. Foust, A family is headed by a righteous patriarch and a righteous matriarch as equal partners. The carnal man might regard unanimity as an inefficient means of doing things, but unity and equality are never inefficient to the spiritual man.
So how do we apply this practically in our homes, so that we jointly preside righteously in the home? Like I mentioned before, in our home we have a division of labor, much like you would find at your workplace. For this division of labor to work, all must know who is in charge of what. One of my daughters might ask if she can get her ears pierced. Well, I know that the girls appearance falls mostly under the stewardship of my wife, so I tell them to ask their mother. Sometimes they come back with “but aren’t you in charge of this family?” This usually results in a little talk (or my girls would say a “big talk”) about what it means to preside in a home. We explain to them that we both are “in charge”, but that some things have been delegated to their mother, and some things have been delegated to their father. So that when one parent says to ask the other, my girls are learning that we are not just being lazy, but that we are sending them to the proper authority for that decision.
Now what happens when my wife and I disagree on some decision? We have decided to go with the choice which is most conservative, or least likely to cause problems or harm to our home, family, or children. This may mean that the girls will have an early curfew, or we don’t make some purchase, but we will always error on the side of safety.
Since my wife shares in presiding over our home, when I’m out of town on business, she can easily take charge in all matters. She feels comfortable making decisions in my behalf, and to my continued surprise, always makes the right choices for my family when I’m gone.
Several years ago, while addressing temple ordnance workers, The Los Angeles Temple President said that we often confuse two priesthood’s: the Melchizedek, whose charge it is to administer the Church and Kingdom of God, and the patriarchal, whose charge it is to administer the affairs of the family. He said the patriarchal priesthood is given only over the alters of the sealing rooms, and is given simultaneously and jointly to a sealed husband and wife.
It is only by expanding our vision to take in such an eternal perspective that we can begin to appreciate the loving concern of our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in providing the means for the fullest of celestial glory, enjoyment and happiness for their children through a plan which values equally both the masculine and feminine in their children.
To give you an historical view of this patriarchal priesthood, I ‘ve borrowed from a talk given in a Stake Priesthood meeting some years ago by Lisle G. Brown of the Huntington West Virginia Stake Presidency, who is also the Special Collections Librarian at Marshall University.
We are not accustomed to thinking of the things that we receive in the temple, the washings, anointings and the endowment in the terms of priesthood conferral, but the brethren Joseph Smith first endowed described their experience in such terms. One of those, Bishop George Miller, stated that the Prophet “conferred on [the brethren] the Patriarchal Priesthood, when he “washed and anointed [them] as Kings and Priests to God” (Mills, “De Tal Palo Tal Astilla,” p. 121.) Joseph Smith himself stated that “patriarchal authority” would be part of the restored temple ordinances and that the Saints should “finish that temple [in Nauvoo] and God [would] fill it with power” (WJS, p. 245).
During this period Joseph Smith also publicly testified to the Saints that he had administered the ordinances of “Abraham’s Patriarchal power which the greatest yet experienced in this church” (WJS, p. 245). The Prophet stated that this order of patriarchal priesthood is also called New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage (D&C 131:1-4), because celestial marriage is the crowning ordinance of that priesthood order.
Furthermore, persons who received their washings and anointings from the Prophet, understood that as a result of participating in the temple ceremonies they had entered into a special priesthood quorum. William Clayton, Joseph Smith’s private secretary, wrote in his journal, “[I] was permitted to [receive] the ordinance of washing and anointing, and was received into the Quorum of the Priesthood” (William Clayton Journal, Feb. 3, 1844, typescript). Even women who received these ordinances were considered members of this special priesthood quorum. Brigham Young noted that in October 1843 two sisters, who were endowed, were “taken into the order of the Priesthood,” and a few days later upon his own wife’s endowment she was also “admitted into the priest order or Priesthood ” (Brigham Young 1840-1844 Journal, Oct. 29, Nov. 1, 1843, CA).
Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo teachings make it clear that he did not view the Priesthood merely as a male status symbol, nor as a fraternity of brethren, nor as a managerial enterprise for governing and correlating the Church, but as having actual divine power and spiritual authority. In one of his letters, now contained in the Scriptures, he indicated that the Priesthood was a necessary prerequisite for handling and control the powers of heaven (D&C 121:36). Inevitably, women need that power the same as men, because ultimately the powers of heaven can only be used in hands of those blessed and anointed with a fullness of God’s powers. What are those powers?
The scriptures make it clear: Of those men and women, who inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, those who have been sealed eternally as husband and wives by the Holy Spirit of Promise, the revelation states that “they shall pass by the angels . . . to their exaltation and glory in all things, . . .which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore.. . . they shall be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject to them” (D&C 132:19-20). Note that both the husband and wife have “all power” in their exaltation, not just the husband alone.
There are differences, not in degree but in dominion, in the authority received by of the endowed, sealed and anointed Latter-day Saint woman in the temple and that held by her husband.
First, woman does not hold authority independent of her husband, who does act independently in his priesthood capacity from his wife. The woman may be a “lawful heir to the fullness of the priesthood with [her] companion,” but only with him will “she receive the priesthood, exaltation, power and eternal glory,” “for a woman can have but little power in the priesthood without a man.” Elder James E. Talmage explained this distinction in these words, “In the restored Church of Jesus Christ, the Holy Priesthood is conferred, as an individual bestowal, upon men only, and this in accordance with Divine requirement. It is not given to woman to exercise the authority of the priesthood independently; nevertheless, in the sacred endowments associated with the ordinances of the House of the Lord, woman shares with the man [all] the blessings of the Priesthood” (YWJ, Oct. 1914, p. 603). President Joseph Fielding Smith also affirmed that women do not hold the priesthood independently, “but if they are faithful and true, they will become priestesses and queens in the kingdom of God, and that implies that they will be given authority” (DOS 3:178).
Secondly, the scriptures state that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that “there is nothing in the teachings of the gospel which declares that men are superior to woman” (DOS, 3:178). Indeed, the highest exaltation requires the union of a man and a woman; neither one of them can attain that glorified state without the other.
Thirdly, the authority a woman receives in the temple is not a priesthood of ecclesiastical prerogatives like that of men, whose priestly ordination yields the authority and power to administer the temporal Kingdom of God. The endowed and anointed sister is a queen and a priestess. These are not offices in the priesthood, any more than a king and a priest are the man’s offices, but they are expressions of authority exercised by the glorified couple in the eternity’s. Thus, a woman’s priesthood does not have the trappings of the administrative Church offices of the ordained Latter-day Saint man. Hers is a priesthood of spiritual power alone. Moses’s sister Miriam was a priestess in her own right, and she exercised her spiritual gifts and powers as a prophetess. Her actions were approved by the Lord, until she overstepped her bounds and presumed to challenge the temporal authority of her brother’s priestly and prophetic office which he had received by special calling and ordination. Latter-day Saint men who understand this distinction will not feel threatened by Latter-day Saint women who exercise their spiritual gifts, nor will Latter-day Saint women seek to usurp the positions of men who exercise their authority in the Church’s quorums and councils.
If we, as priesthood holders, are to gain an appreciation for women, for our wives, we must adopt this expansive view. We must leave behind the traditions of our fathers — the myths, fallacies and errors of a fallen world. Our wives, especially those who have received the ordinances of the temple, are not possessions to be elevated on a pedestal and admired in some fashion in our minds. Neither are they to be reduced to possessions, which may subject them to whims of their husbands They are, instead, our equals in the sight of God, endowed with power and authority from heaven –queens and priestesses, prospective or real, in the eternities.
Such is the stature and dignity of women. We as Latter-day Saint men, should above all classes of beings on this earth, properly honor and esteem womanhood. By doing so, we men honor our priesthood. Indeed without honoring women, valuing the feminine as we value the masculine, we will fall short of the promises extended by loving Heavenly Parents to their children. We shall share equally in the blessings of exaltation with our wives, or not at all.
Perhaps only when we see our wives, exalted as glorified beings, crowned as queens, and robed at priestesses, will we really come to appreciate who they are. Our challenge as priesthood holders is to view womanhood, just as our Father and Mother in Heaven do. Can we really do less than this and expect to receive our Heavenly Parents approval? I think not. I leave these thoughts with you in the name of Jesus Christ.