Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chapter Twenty: Women and the Priesthood

Chapter Twenty

Women and the Priesthood

Once we properly understand the keys of the priesthood and the eternal family order of heaven, we will know: 1) Women prepared and endowed to be mothers have no use for the ecclesiastical keys of authority in the outward corporate Church, as their service is within the home; 2) women do need and have full right to the spiritual keys of power; and 3) if true and faithful, the day will come when women and men as couples will be anointed and ordained as priestesses and priests of God with power in their priesthood to rule and reign in their eternal home.

Consider these three points in more detail:

Women Have No Use for Presiding Keys

Women do not need the presiding keys of ecclesiastical authority, because ecclesiastical duties outside the home do not fall to them in their equal but different stewardships as daughters of Zion. To encumber both husband and wife with duties outside the home leaves the home vulnerable to the corrosion and intrusions of the world’s philosophies. The home must always be the first priority of the saints, those who would obtain exaltation, the power of the seeds forever, eternal parenthood, and Godhood. This highest of priorities cannot be given mere lip service, part-time attention, or half-hearted devotion by the couple.

We believe women fundamentally feel their roles, while men must rely upon reason and logic in theirs. The older we grow the more humbled we are by their heroic sacrifices. It is time to shift voices to an inspired piece of writing that states the case better than we ever could. Here is a mother who feels she and other women do not need priesthood authority to obtain the higher power the Savior modeled. Consider her words:

One fast Sunday, a woman in my ward stood to bear her testimony. She wanted to tell the story of helping her friend through the early stages of labor. She struggled to find words to describe the religious relevance of the shared breathing, the rocking and moaning, and finally dwindled into a vague apology. “I don’t know why I wanted to tell you this,” she said, and she quickly closed with an amen. She realized, as the words took shape, that she was telling the wrong story. As we have forgotten that God is creator, not just organizer, we have come to describe the process of spiritual growth as a hero journey, with royal sons seeking reunion with their fathers, encountering monsters of sin, temptation, discouragement. The journey is marked by an upward progression through lines of authority and ordination. Those who live for others do not have these heroic stories to tell. They clean and cook and build the fires around which the legends are spoken. They attend the births of heroes. And they are silenced by the mundane, never-finished nature of their tasks. There are no titles to be achieved.
What we have forgotten is the spiritual richness of living for others. The richness is apparent in the troubling paradoxes, the absence of completion, the eternal nature of the work of genuine self-sacrifice. . .
There are no hero mothers because we need a language that speaks of the living religion, of the word made flesh, to unify and equalize the disparate elements of human experience. . .
We need to follow Christ, who told us to radically rethink spiritual journeys, and who reminds us that the kingdom of God is within our hearts. We need to follow Christ, who deliberately undermined the hierarchy of power, and taught that the first shall be last. We need, more honestly, to tell our spiritual stories, and universalize and institutionalize the lesson of Gethsemane, which is that we are the most exalted when we have surrendered our authority. Women alone have known this far too well for far too long. (Marni Asplund-Campbell, “Pentecost, Gethsemane, Priesthood,” Sunstone, Aug.-Sep. 1995, 67-70).

Elder John A. Widstoe validates her perspective:

The possession of the Priesthood and its consequent family leadership should make men very considerate of woman. The man who arrogantly feels that he is better than his wife because he holds the Priesthood, has failed utterly to comprehend the meaning and purpose of Priesthood. He needs to remember that the Lord loves His daughters quite as well as His sons. It is but a small and puny-souled man who could wish to humiliate women as a class and keep them as an inferior sex; for men can never rise superior to the women who bear and nurture them. (Priesthood and Church Government [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 89).

A fully consecrated husband and father working outside the home is not laboring for his own selfish personal interests. He selflessly sacrifices for his family. If he is a true spiritual husband and father, his heart is set upon the welfare of those within his home and nowhere else. A righteous father will always be home, except when duty calls. He will always be home for two major reasons: 1) Home is where he should be; and 2) home is where he wants to be. All he does will be for the blessing and preservation of the occupants of his home, as he serves the multiple environments (ecclesiastical, economical, political and physical) in which the home dwells. All he does outside the home is ultimately for the welfare of the home.

How many times do we hear good and well-meaning husbands thank their wives publicly, acknowledging they could not do their important work out in the business world were it not for the fact their faithful wives were so effective in their supporting roles at home? Such heartfelt acknowledgments may be prompted by the best intentions, but they miss the mark. We repeat: In Babylon the mother works in the home, so the father can succeed in the world. In Zion, however, the father works in the world, so the mother can succeed in the home.

The family and the children matter more than anything else! The family matters more than professional success, more than profit margins, more than the economy, more than educational degrees, promotions, palatial offices and titles and honors of men. The children matter more than the size of the houses we build and live in, the make and model of the cars we drive, or the brand names and styles of the clothes we wear. By aping the world’s values too many of us have sought the petty things the people of the world desire and ignorantly lust after.

What really matters most are the riches of eternity. What really matters is the building up of the Kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion. What matters is the salvation and eternal happiness of the sons and daughters of God. The glory of a son of God maximizing profits and rising to stardom in the corporate world is nothing compared to creating a new kingdom within God’s Kingdom with his wife. Such a kingdom creation glorifies God, the faithful couple and their posterity forever, worlds without end. The husband’s work in the world is only important as the means to facilitate the work of the home, not vice versa.

After work he does not go to the bars with the boys. On a business trip he is not playing around with other women. His heart is always invested in the home. He loves home, serves the occupants of the home, sacrifices for the home, thinks of the home, prays for the home, lives and (if necessary) dies for home. His only career is fatherhood! Everything else in his life is calculated to serve the building of his family kingdom. He has no other master. He serves only one. He understands that ultimately fatherhood and godhood are the same thing. As a loving and full partner with his wife he is true and faithful to his partner, and honors and rejoices in their sacred partnership. Even when away, lonely or weighed down and discouraged in the often mundane tasks of his assigned role, he takes great joy in knowing if he cannot be home he is at least doing the things to make it possible for his beloved partner to be there with their children.

If women only knew how often the righteous husbands long to be home with their loved ones, perhaps some would stop complaining about their devalued roles in the home, and begin to appreciate the incredible privilege that is theirs. There are so many good women who have inherited single roles in life for a host of reasons, who would give all to be full-time mothers and homemakers. Their anguished tears and prayers ascend up to God daily that these privileges may someday be theirs. Surely these faithful sisters will have their righteous desires fulfilled in time or in eternity, for God judges according to the desires of the heart. (See D&C 137:9).

How ironic there would be women, wives and mothers who view this coveted privilege as a curse. Because of the inroads of the world’s misguided values, some women in the Church today view their homes as prisons, children as burdens and the roles of their male counterparts as worthy of envy and aspiration. Sometimes they think the role of a man who receives stimulation and accolades outside the home, while they prepare meals, do the wash, change diapers and wade through the drudgery of daily housework, is much more desirable. They believe, rightly, their talents could make a difference as priesthood or business leaders. We have all heard the joke about turning the work of the priesthood over to the Relief Society if we want it done right. It isn’t a question of capability, as much as it is a question of priority.

Elder James E. Talmage affirms the time will come when we will see things differently:

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, [it is clear how dramatically] woman shares with man the blessings of the priesthood.
When the frailties and imperfections of mortality are left behind, in the glorified state of the blessed hereafter, husband and wife will administer in their respective stations, seeing and understanding alike, and co-operating to the full in the government of their family kingdom. Then shall woman be recompensed in rich measure for all the injustice that womanhood has endured in mortality. Then shall woman reign by Divine right, a queen in the resplendent realm of her glorified state, even as exalted man shall stand, priest and king unto the Most High God. Mortal eye cannot see nor mind comprehend the beauty, glory, and majesty of a righteous woman made perfect in the celestial kingdom of God. (“The Eternity of Sex,” Young Woman’s Journal, October 1914, p. 602, as cited by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in To Rejoice as Women, 108).

Nevertheless, mortal father and mother roles are often trying and difficult. Both must submit to the urgent and immediate concerns and exigencies of mortality. Eternal perspective, however, shapes and molds our attitude, magnifies our aptitude and defines our certitude. Through God’s grace to sustain us we will come to see our eternal priorities in the light of truth and not be confused by the inverted values of a blind world. A mother’s scorned and mundane duties here will someday translate into her privileges as Queen and Priestess in eternity.

President Spencer W. Kimball holds out this vision for women:

Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create bodies for the immortal souls who anxiously wait.
When you have fully complemented your husband in home life and borne the children, growing up full of faith, integrity, responsibility, and goodness, then you have achieved, your accomplishments supreme, without peer, and you will be the envy through time and eternity of your sisters who have spent themselves in selfish pursuits. (TSWK, 327).

To be a righteous woman during the winding-up scenes on this earth, before the Second Coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling. The righteous woman’s strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times. She has been placed here to help to enrich, to protect, and to guard the home -- which is society’s basic and most noble institution. Other institutions in society may falter and even fail, but the righteous woman can help to save the home, which may be the last and only sanctuary some mortals know in the midst of storm and strife. (Ensign, May 1978, 4).

I wish to say without equivocation that a woman will find no greater satisfaction and joy and peace and make no greater contribution to mankind than in being a wise and worthy woman and raising good children. (“Sisters, Seek Everything That Is Good,” dedication of Monument to Women, Nauvoo (6/28/78); Ensign March 1979, 2).

Women Hold Spiritual Priesthood Keys of Power

Women already have the spiritual keys of power, as administered to them by the priesthood. They do not need ordination for these keys any more than men do. Women have just as much right to all the gifts of the spirit as men do, remembering always that the powers of heaven can only be controlled and handled upon the principles of personal righteousness. Our families need wives and mothers filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

For instance, President Brigham Young said:

It is the privilege of a mother to have faith and to administer to her child; this she can do herself, as well as sending for the elders to have the benefit of their faith. (JD, 13:155).

He also said:

I want a wife that can take care of my children when I am away, who can pray, lay on hands, anoint with oil, and baffle the enemy, and this is a spiritual wife. (HC, 6:322).

This notion of women exercising their faith with their husbands in administering to their children in time of need did no damage to the faith of President Joseph F. Smith, who said:

A wife does not hold the priesthood in connection with her husband, but she enjoys the benefits thereof with him; and if she is requested to lay hands on the sick with him, or with any other officer holding the Melchizedek priesthood, she may do so with perfect propriety. It is no uncommon thing for a man and wife unitedly to administer to their children. (Improvement Era, Feb. 1907, 308).

The saints need the powers of the priesthood, which are the powers of the spirit, active and alive in the home perhaps even more than they are needed in the wards and stakes. Our homes need wives and mothers filled with the gifts and powers of the spirit standing at the head of their homes beside their husbands, just as much as our wards and stakes need leaders filled with the spirit. Administering is what happens within the walls of the Church buildings, and is always directed by priesthood authority. Ministering, however, is what happens within the walls of homes where mother and father may exercise their spiritual gifts for the benefit of their posterity.

There are allusions among the statements of the leaders of the Church to priesthood keys being exercised within the walls of the home that bear a striking similarity to offices and callings in the Church.

Elder Franklin D. Richards properly described righteous fathers as “Prophets, Seers and Revelators” in their own homes:

Men that are the heads of families need now to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be Prophets, Seers and Revelators to their families, to their kindred and to those that are around them. You need to have your roots strike deep into the soil of Heaven and stronger into the soil of eternity, that you may derive that nourishment and that strength that shall bring to you greater, more abundant and more glorious blessings than ever you have yet realized. (JD, 26:166).

Fathers and mothers have inherent authority in their homes over their children by virtue of their fatherhood and motherhood, their parenthood. As ecclesiastical leaders in the wards and stakes, however, men have no inherent authority over each other. Without some extraneous mantle, placed upon him by invitation from his file leaders in the priesthood, no man has authority to lead another because of a temporary position he holds in the Church. Our wards and stakes would be in shambles, except for a wise God who has installed a marvelous rotating organization of authoritative priesthood positions to provide order outside the home in the Church.

In the home the mother has power and authority. Her children are commanded of God to honor and obey her. Children are naturally filled with reverence and love for their mothers, despite their routine complaints. Some mothers, however, just like some priesthood leaders, do not have the spirit of the Holy Ghost in their callings, 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 the one grand lesson of priesthood spiritual power -- the powers of heaven can only be controlled and handled upon the principles of righteousness. When unrighteous women and mothers undertake to cover their sins, gratify their pride or their vain ambitions, or exercise control, dominion or compulsion upon their children in any degree of unrighteousness, the heavens withdraw themselves and the spirit is grieved. (See D&C 121:34-37). They thereby mar that inherent adoration of those priceless children.

Conversely, what can a righteous mother do for her children?

Consider President Joseph F. Smith’s words of counsel:

Our mothers, and the mothers of our children, whose hearts are filled with solicitude for the welfare of their children, having had conferred upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit, by the laying on of hands, can go to their secret chambers and bow down before God and commune with Him as no other mothers on earth can do, if they will only observe the principles they have embraced and will live up to their privileges. By the influence that they will thus gain over the hearts of their children they will lead them in the path of righteousness and truth, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, in the love of truth, in obedience to His commands, in such a way as others cannot do who are destitute of these privileges, blessings and endowments, so freely conferred upon the mothers in Israel. (CR, Apr. 1912, 7).

All righteous mothers come to a state wherein they are immeasurably revered by the children they have so selflessly served with their husbands in love and devotion. Such a couple will joyfully rule and reign in their house in Israel forever as full partners, serving their posterity as loving, eternal, heavenly fathers and mothers. Their hearts will be right where they valued their treasured children.

Queens and Priestesses

If the sons of God grow in knowledge and righteousness, the day will someday arrive when we will be chosen and anointed as kings and ordained as priests to rule and reign in Israel forever. Similarly, righteous wives will be anointed queens and ordained priestesses to rule and reign as well.

President John Taylor taught:

Those women who go on to their exaltation, ruling and reigning with husbands who are kings and priests will themselves be queens and priestesses. They will hold positions of power, authority, and preferment. (Gospel Kingdom, 229, italics in original).

These sacred anointings and ordinations bestow upon men and women the fullness of power to govern their own eternal family kingdoms, worlds without end as our Eternal Father and Mother have done before us.

We have sought to give gospel illumination to the tumult of opinion and conflicting values abroad in the world today over the roles of men and women. Despite the shifting sands of social practice and dogma, the voices of living prophets have been a continuous and harmonious symphony of consistency on these important issues. Their counsel is anchored in the revealed scriptural imperatives we have cited.

Finally, let us willingly and joyfully accept the counsel of our prophet leaders consistent with this summary statement from President Kimball:

Supreme happiness in marriage is governed considerably by a primary factor -- that of the bearing and rearing of children. Too many young people set their minds, determining they will not marry or have children until they are more secure, until the military service period is over; until the college degree is secured; until the occupation is more well-defined; until the debts are paid; or until it is more convenient. They have forgotten that the first commandment is to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). And so brides continue their employment and husbands encourage it, and contraceptives are used to prevent conception. Relatives and friends and even mothers sometimes encourage birth control for their young newlyweds. But the excuses are many, mostly weak. The wife is not robust; the family budget will not feed extra mouths; or the expense of the doctor, hospital, and other incidentals is too great; it will disturb social life; it would prevent two salaries; and so abnormal living prevents the birth of children. The Church cannot approve nor condone the measures which so greatly limit the family . . .
How do you suppose that the Lord would look upon a man and a woman whose marriage seems to be largely for the purpose of living together and sex gratification without the responsibilities of marriage? How do you think that the Lord looks upon those who use the contraceptives because in their selfish life it is not the convenient moment to bear children? How do you feel the Lord looks upon those who would trade flesh-and-blood children for pianos or television or furniture or an automobile, and is this not actually the case when people will buy these luxuries and yet cannot afford to have their children? Are there not numerous people who first buy the luxury article and then find they cannot pay the doctor or a hospital bill incident to childbirth? How do you think the Lord feels about women who forego the pleasures and glories of motherhood that they might retain their figures, that their social life might not be affected, that they might avoid the deprivations, pains, and agonies of childbearing and birthing? How do you think the Lord feels as he views healthy parents who could have children but who deliberately close the doors by operation or by contraceptives, close the doors upon spirits eager to enter into mortal bodies? (TSWK, 328-9).

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