So here are a few thoughts and questions that really ought to send me to the Relief Society minute book, other historical sources like Daughters in My Kingdom, etc., but for now will remain a list of thoughts and questions (since my kids are already waking up:)
1) What does “ordain” in D&C 25 end up meaning for Emma, who becomes the leader of the RS, which is considered patterned after the priesthood and has a “key” turned to it? Joseph Smith said that her becoming the leader of the RS was a fulfillment of her blessing (D&C 25).
2) I don’t think that D&C 25 is somehow the revelation to all women that it is sometimes made out to be, but, I wonder how Emma, as the first RS president, did the things it mentions? Expound scripture, much learning and writing, etc. While not a section for all women, did Emma set an example for RS Presidents?
3) The Ordain Women site mentions that Joseph wanted RS to be like a “kingdom of priests” but was never realized, they say. I have the feeling they’re not being thorough or thoughtful, or at least they’re not presenting their thoughts if they are. First, was this never realized? What did he mean by it? Did he mean patterned after the priesthood – which, as he explained, means receiving direct revelation? Second, did he mean becoming priestesses through the temple? Because a stated purpose of the RS was to prepare women for the temple. I think we could say that the RS is a gathering of priestesses and potential priestesses. Third, if the RS has lost any power it should have, then the women ought to study it and regain it. That was Sis. Beck’s major message her whole presidency! A whole book written to help us do it, too!
4) This does make me ask, though: Why do we call the RS an auxiliary? Is that a mistake? If the church was never organized fully until the RS, and if Joseph gave them a key to receive their own revelation, why do we call it auxiliary?
5) Locally, there might be less power in RS that there could be or should be, maybe. I’m sure it varies from ward to ward. But the same is true about elder’s quorums and high priest groups. At the top, I think Sis. Beck and now Sis. Burton are clearly women of God who are receiving revelation to guide their organization.
6) If the RS isn’t being treated with the respect of equality, then I have an idea from experience: treat the other person as an equal first, and watch what happens. When we walk away and seek someone higher to make them treat us as equals, then we’re really not treating that person as an equal ourselves. A la Ranciere, if we believe us all to be equals, then we’ll take the time to communicate our thoughts and sincerely ask questions. Walking away implies that we think the other person is too much work to talk to or too inferior to really get it. There’s some truth to that, anyway.
7) A kingdom of priests, but without the Melchizedek Priesthood? Perhaps. Sisters perform all sorts of usually-priesthood-tasks without it. It makes me wonder if there’s some sort of order to this. 1) Birth is a some sort of ordinance making children a part of the Abrahamic Covenant. 2) Sisters can serve missions without priesthood, even though D&C 42:11 says, “Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.” Men need to be ordained to be missionaries, but women don’t for some reason. 3) Women perform some ordinances in the temple but without receiving Melchizedek priesthood or any other ordination before performing them. 4) When there is not a father in a home, the women is the governing, presiding authority in the home (see Elder Oaks’s talks) and does all the things we usually say a man does as the one who “presides” (I guess that’s just a form of the word president, isn’t it…). In at least 4 ways, women perform what we normally call priesthood duties without ever receiving the priesthood. Why? What does this imply? I have lots of ideas but none I’m ready to write up in this kind of a post yet.
So, there a few thoughts and questions about the Relief Society this morning. We have so far to go in understanding the priesthood and the Relief Society. So far to go!