More thoughts on priesthood (YW lesson 12, 13, 14)

First of all, if you found this by searching for  YW lesson help, I recommend reading:


and my own thoughts – but don’t hold me to any of it! 🙂 –

I want to just continue from my last post and get out some more thoughts.

So I’ve been thinking about what jeans said,

  • D&C 121:34-46 is one of the most important pieces of doctrinal writing about the priesthood. Attempts to use it to control, dominate, or gratify pride grieve the Spirit. It cannot be exercised except in humble righteousness. Although we often use the phrase “priesthood power,” it isn’t about power, but about blessing others. In the process of forgetting self and blessing others, the one exercising his priesthood is thereby blessed and sanctified, not aggrandized or lifted up above others.
  • It is false doctrine to teach that women are “naturally” or “essentially” more righteous than men and don’t need to hold the priesthood for that reason. This is a common folk belief among Mormons and comes across many, many pulpits, but it has no backing in scripture or truth. In my opinion it is a holdover from the Victorian era “pedestalism” and it is just as odious as its gendered counterpart of male superiority. One gender is not the superior or the inferior of the other.

I really think jeans is right on. I believe that any talk of one gender being superior is just foolishness. It is usually an excuse of some kind.

What really surprises me is the talk of many women that “if we only complain long enough, they’ll get over their male patriarchy and give women the priesthood too.” Whenever I see that kind of attitude I have a bundle of concerns and questions.So here is my chance to work these out.

First, is the priesthood just a status symbol? What is it exactly that you want? Is is just that you can’t have as “high” of leadership positions as men can? Is that all it is – being in control?

If this is there at all, then I want to work though D&C 121 and see what they are thinking. If any man is using the priesthood as a status symbol or to get control, then they don’t understand the priesthood and are left without the real power God has to give:

35Because 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—

36That 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.

37That 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. (D&C 121)

So in some literal, actual, behind the scenes sense, those men are not acting with any priesthood power, just a show of authority.

Is that what some of these women want? They want to have the “right” to this outward mark of authority? If so, I am half tempted to say, “Sure! Here you go! But it’s a null effect anyway.” But of course it wouldn’t be completely null. While anyone seeking after the priesthood for control, ambition, or pride won’t have the powers from heaven and essential we can say “amen” to that authority, it still looks the same from the outside. It has been “conferred upon us” and has its effect in other ways.

So, those women are right (if I’m understanding any of this group at all correctly) that there are men who gain power and position based on their priesthood ordination. They are right that many use this to place themselves in a superior role to women. Yes, men will do that, often, unfortunately. (see D&C 121:39 “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.”) So yes, there is a problem here in the church and yes, it ought to be addressed. But what would it do to simply extend this priesthood to women?

Okay, so there would be some men who might be forced to tone down some sort of derogatory talk of women. But will their attitudes change? Likely not. In fact, it would seem they would either question why women got this new privilege or they would still consider themselves smarter at using the priesthood, or superior to most females on an individual level. So to extend the priesthood roles to women just to prove something to men doesn’t seem like it would have the desired effects.

Mostly, we would have lots of women also exercising unrighteous dominion just like the men, and the battle already begun would have more ammunition to fire. But nothing would be proven or solved.

If women simply and honestly want to want the priesthood for opportunities to serve, then that is something to look more closely at.

What is the priesthood?

Why was it given to Adam, Abraham, Moses, etc?

What do the scriptures say about these people?

I think about Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk “Lift Where You Stand.” The point is, we are all after a common goal, and rather than worrying or fighting about where to stand in that work, just start lifting. If our goal is to serve God in his work, then maybe our little corner of the vineyard is the perfect place to get started. But if we are going to wait until we have a certain role in his work, maybe we’ll be left out of it all together.

I know that there are many people who impose a superiority-inferiority relationship as priesthood leaders. I’ve seen it. I have close friends who have suffered a great deal from it. But that does not mean that the priesthood as established should be overthrown. Indeed, D&C 121 seems to suggest that God knew it would be this way but still established it like this anyway. The church “hierarchy” as it is often called, is also aware, despite the letters of complaint and insult I’m sure they receive often. They have even had to tell Bishops directly to not assume the male’s side in cases of divorce! The fact that that actually had to be stated in a General Conference setting is pathetic, but real. But in all of the bad decisions and unrighteous dominion that goes on, God has still chosen to let things proceed more or less as was set up in Joseph’s day.  Why?

Well that is a question. Why give such a grand, sacred thing to so many who won’t understand or appreciate it?

It certainly has happened before. Think of all those Israelites coming out of Egypt, complaining, worshiping a golden calf, etc. And yet, God kept them anyway. Interestingly, we can read that God was going to destroy them and start over with Moses, but Moses himself pled with God to keep them. And then Moses sought diligently to teach them (see D&C 84) but they never quite got it. But still they had the covenant. “Should” they have it? Did they deserve it? Well, this is God’s work and He sees ways of accomplishing His work and saving souls that we don’t see. So yes, in God’s work, they got the covenants, the promised land, the temple, etc. Did they then get things right? Well, we have lots of prophets telling them they aren’t keep the ordinances pure and don’t understand what things are really about. Like so many today, they took the covenant, the temple, and the priesthood as a reason to feel superior to others without putting in the real thought and devotion to enjoy working together with God in his work.

The promise to Abraham was that through his seed, all the families (I read this as peoples, nations, etc) would be blessed. So it is ironic to me that Israel, and we, would ever take this as a sign that we are more favored of God and then just sit on it. If we just do nothing and hold it up as some sort of prize or trophy, then we have missed the point and aren’t really acting under that covenant anyway! And yet God does not withdraw it. Very interesting.

How many temple marriages are anything more than a worldly marriage, really? How many husbands and wives treat each other and work together in the way an eternally united couple with the promises of Abraham should? Yet, it remains the norm that most LDS couples are invited and encouraged to receive this ordinance.

How many missionaries are doing the work with the Spirit and with an honest heart? How many are out there for the wrong reasons? how many work hard every day? How many are trusting the Spirit? How many are not seeing ambitiously for positions of leadership within the mission set up? And yet, we encourage every young man to serve a mission.

How many men are taking their role as a presider seriously? How many are counseling with their wives and children? How many are seeking after greater light and understanding in the way Abraham did? How many see their role as teaching the gospel to the world? How many are both taking up no superior stance and yet serving with the powers of heaven as they work in the church and in their families? Not many. And yet, we want every father and every male to have the priesthood.

And how many women are teaching their children the gospel? How many women sense their ability to change a generation? How many women realize their potential power to counsel with their husbands, giving them the crucial information that will alert them to problems and solutions otherwise overlooked? How many women realize their ability to expound scripture to their children, friends, husbands, and church members? And yet, every women has these opportunities. In or out of the church, women can bear children, and yet, how many women worldwide take up this opportunity with honesty, with determination, with vision, and with kindness? Few. And yet, it is a privilege given to women.

Lift where you stand! See what great things the Lord has already given you! (Ironically, the covenant of Abraham – the priesthood Abraham sought after – is regarding bearing seed and teaching!) If more is to be given, it will be to those who use and appreciate that which they already have.


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