Alternative Feminist Approaches to Ordain Women–Part 1

by: Mormon Heretic

May 19, 2014

At long last, here is a transcription of John Dehlin’s podcast from episode 443 posted on October 16, 2013.  In a recent post, Fiona Givens took exception to my characterization of her comments from her Mormon Stories interview from October.  I promised to transcribe the whole interview (but let me tip my hat to Brent Beal at Doves and Serpents who assisted me with a partial transcript—thanks Brent!)  Here is Part 1; I will post part 2 shortly.  I will leave this post as is, without my own editorial conversation, and will post a separate post (or a few posts) with my comments.  But feel free to give me your reactions–I’d love to hear them, and I’d be happy to engage your thoughts.

John Dehlin

John, “Hello and welcome to another edition of Mormon Stories Podcast and the Mormon News Podcast!  I’m your host for today, John Dehlin.  You are listening to part 2 in a 3 part series on a new phenomenon that has emerged in 2013, or maybe it’s a very old phenomenon.  We’ll be discussing that today, called Ordain Women.  A couple of days ago, we interviewed four participants in the Ordain Women event on October 5, 2013 at Temple Square.  A group of women, Mormon women–most of them active and faithful, attempted to attend the LDS General Conference Priesthood Session, normally intended for men and boys, and they were turned away.

It’s a really fascinating interview, very heart-warming, and that’s how we began this series, talking to the women who were part of that event, and those women were Heather Olsen Beal, Anne Marie Whittaker, Tinesha Zandamela, and Lorie Winder Stromberg along with many other, maybe 200 women who participated in this event.

Now it turns out that there is another group of women—actually there are lots of groups of women, but in this case what I’m referring to is a group of women who maybe you wouldn’t call them traditional Mormon women in some sense or another, in that they might have what I would call possibly progressive views on women and Mormonism and even the priesthood.  Maybe some of them are even for ordination, we’ll find out, but they have been public in one way or another, saying that they maybe weren’t able to fully support the Ordain Women event that occurred last week.  And we have three—I’m sorry four of these women with us today who are going to respond to the part 1 of this podcast or to what they’ve read or heard about the event and the initiative.

The four women that we have, this is an all-star, rock star cast or panel on Mormon Stories just like we had last time.  We have Fiona Givens, she’s returning to Mormon Stories.  She is a very popular writer, speaker, and independent scholar, and she is the coauthor of The God who Weeps, which is published by Deseret Book, and Fiona Givens, welcome to Mormon Stories.  Thanks for joining us.

Fiona, “It’s lovely to be here, thank you John.”

John, “Margaret Blair Young is a writer specializing in black LDS history.  She’s also a filmmaker by the way, and she is an adjunct faculty in creative writing and Black History at Brigham Young University.  Margaret Blair Young, you are also returning to Mormon Stories.  You were one of our very first interviews, along with your dear friend Darius Gray, so welcome back to Mormon Stories.”

Margaret, “Thank you.  I actually saw Darius today, and I mentioned what I was going to be doing tonight and he’s totally in favor.”

John, “Oh Good!  Well that’s good.  We’ve got the Darius blessing which is always helpful.  Give him our best.”

We also have with us Neylan McBaine.  This is her first appearance on Mormon Stories.  She is founder and editor-in-chief of the Mormon Women Project.  She has been published in a number of prominent newspapers and journals and is a gifted and talented writer.  Neylan McBaine, you did appear on our sibling podcast, A Thoughtful Faith if I’m not mistaken.  Is that true?

Neylan, “I did, I believe I was one of the first podcasts published on that site, so I was honored to be there.”

John, “And it was super interesting.  I listened to it, so check out A Thoughtful Faith, and check out Mormon Women Project with Neylan McBaine.

And finally, last but certainly not least we have the wonderful and intriguing Maxine Hanks.  She is a theologian, a lecturer, an independent scholar who is focused on women’s studies and religion for oh, I don’t know, what 30 years?”

Maxine [chuckles], “Off and on, yeah, not continuously but off and on, but yeah.”

John, “She is the editor of a famous historical book within Mormonism called Women and Authority:  Re-emerging Mormon Feminism, and I’m just going to say it now.  I think we need that book back in print, so whoever is listening, set that book free.  I’m saying it right now, I’m throwing that down.  Maxine Hanks, welcome back—not welcome back.  Welcome to Mormon Stories, and I would have to say one last thing, Maxine, just to give you a hard time.  I’ve been trying to get Maxine to come on Mormon Stories since what, 2006?”

Maxine chuckles, “Probably!”

John, “Is it 2005?”

Maxine, “It was right before you started the series of discussions about women and status in Mormonism, because that came out of our—you and I—you trying to talk me into doing a Mormon Stories interview, and then you launched.  I remember we were discussing what I would talk about and what I would do, so it was right about that time.”

John, “She insists that she’s not delaying because she doesn’t like Mormon Stories, it’s because she cares so much about Mormon Stories she wants to be prepared.”

Maxine Hanks

Maxine chuckles, “Well Mormon Stories is just so momentous, and I’m severely introverted, so yeah.  But thank you John.  We will.  We will do that momentous interview that I have been dragging my feet on, but I wanted to mention Women and Authority, the great thing that Signature Books has done for that book is, along with other books, has put it online, so that Women and Authority, even though it’s 20 years old, it was kind of a ground-breaking book for dealing with women and priesthood, and really I can talk about that more in a minute I guess, but we worked really hard to delve into that and really figure it out and explore it, and it’s online!  So you can go to Signature Books Library, the whole text is online which is wonderful.”

John, “Alright.  Well thanks for joining us on Mormon Stories, Maxine.”

Maxine, “Thank you John.”

John “…and the Mormon News Podcast.  Let us begin, and I’m going to begin sort of like I began last time, and I’m going to ask one of my famous compound questions where you’re going to have to remember a couple things.  I would like to hear from each of you, we’ll start with Fiona sort of 2 things:  (1) what sort of brought you into wanting to have this conversation, and I would like you just sort of the beginning your view on women in the church and authority/priesthood, just as kind of a baseline, and then we’ll go in and dig more.  But just give us sort of how you are similar or different than how you would perceive the average Ordain Women sort of participant to be, if you’re able to do that.  So Fiona, why don’t you go first.”

Fiona Givens

Fiona, “Oh thank you John, absolutely.  Into the breach I tread .  Elder Packer gave a really intriguing talk in about 2011, I think it was about 2011 [it was actually 2010], in which he talked about, summarizing quickly, the church’s ability to disseminate priesthood authority and how they’ve been successful in that around the world, but have not been so successful in disseminating priesthood power.  I found that really intriguing that he would bifurcate priesthood authority and priesthood power.  To me that suggested that one could have priesthood authority without priesthood power, and that one can have priesthood power without priesthood authority.

I think section 121 is not at all ambiguous on this that you can have priesthood authority, but have absolutely no priesthood power.  For me, of the two, the most potent of course is priesthood power.  I felt, as a convert, the first time I went to the temple that I was being ordained with priesthood power, and I have felt that ever since.

As a European, as someone who was born and raised in Africa, I am particularly sensitive to the global church, and our call to build Zion.  I come from a history of very strong female leaders, from Queen Boudica who burned a bunch of Romans in their temple to this current monarch who simply will not die, but my historical past has been littered with very strong female figures.  I’m hearing a lot of political rhetoric in the OW conversations, which has concerned me just a little bit.  I’m not sure if this is not a throwback to the ERA, new wave feminism days.  I mean in the conversation you had, I think I heard the verb being used ‘marching to the Tabernacle’, and it was quickly changed to ‘walking’ but the first word came out was ‘marching’, so that concerns me just a little bit.

Most importantly, it’s this global perspective.  Many of the countries in which we hope to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ have a very fixed social and political male hegemony, and I’m not sure how successful our ability to aid women in those countries exercised priesthood power which I found in the temple, which is accessible to all.  If sister missionaries are coming into those countries, most of them are primarily Muslim, waving the banner of priesthood authority, and right now I understand there are a lot of African men joining the church because of this hierarchical power, and I think if we were to come in and destabilize that then we would prevent our sisters around the globe from accessing the ordinances and the power, the priesthood power that is only to be found in the temple.  I would hesitate now.  For me the most important thing is for our women around the world is to be able to access priesthood power, and that may be through the paradigm, ironically enough, of male hegemony.  If their husbands are joining the church, it is likely that they will also receive the ordinance of baptism and then be able to go further and receive the priesthood power in the temple.  So that’s where I am, this is where I am on the issue.”

John, “Ok, so you feel like you received priesthood power when you received your endowment in the temple?”

Fiona, “Oh, absolutely!  Jesus was talking about this in the New Testament.  I think it was in Luke when he asks his apostles to come, his followers to come and be endued actually was  the verb that he used, but endowed with priesthood power, well be endowed with power from on high.  I think it’s very clear, totally unambiguous in the temple that women and men are having access to priesthood power and are endowed with priesthood power, which is really, really important, most important than priesthood authority, much more important than priesthood authority to my mind.”

John, “Ok, I’ve got some questions, but I’m going to hold them because I want to make sure we get through each of the panelists.  I’m going to hold some questions, but that is wonderful as an introduction.  Margaret, why don’t you tell us what you would add, take away from, or alter from what Fiona said.”

Margaret Young

Margaret, “I think that Fiona’s words should not be added to or subtracted from, [John chuckles] so I will not, those are canonized, but I will say how I became involved in this.  The blog post that I did on my own blog at Patheos talked about the process of the restoration of priesthood to blacks.  Blacks had been ordained, meaning black men—it had not been extended to black women, had been ordained under Joseph Smith and then that stopped in about 1847, and I knew very well what the whole history was, and I knew about the establishment of the Genesis Group.  Because I’ve worked extensively with Darius Gray for the last 15 years and am very close friends with Eugene Orr who is also a counselor in the Genesis Group, that’s part of my knowledge base.  I talked about that and the process that they had met with church leaders.

Gene, he was the first to ask if they could meet with the brethren and there was no answer.  Darius who worked for KSL then asked and there was a response.  But it was—they weren’t asking for priesthood.  They were asking for time to talk about this huge problem that faced them which was that they were losing their families.  When the white kids would be ordained to the priesthood at age 12, and the black kids would not, the black kids were probably not going to stay, and basically all of the youth, all of the sons of these remarkable men had left, and that was the beginning of the conversation.  The Genesis Group was established in 1971.  The priesthood was restored to blacks in 1978, so there was a bit of a time lag between those.  I did talk—Darius and I had an important meeting today with someone else and then he and I chatted for a bit, and I talked to him a little bit about the conversation around Ordain Women and I mentioned the phrase of somebody saying that they felt so burdened with the patriarchy that it made it almost impossible to participate in the church, and Darius who was called the n-word on the first day as a baptized Mormon when he went to church, who was told to his face that he was cursed, that he had been less valiant in the pre-existence, found that an astonishing phrase.

He said that he looks on his fidelity to the church as beginning with his testimony which was unshakeable.  If you ever say, if you ever ask Darius, ‘how could you have possibly joined the church that restricted priesthood from blacks?’ and I have this happen over and over if we’re doing a radio show or a fireside, the question gets asked and I go ‘ok, here it goes.’

He bears his testimony.  He says, ‘I’ve prayed to God.  I received direct revelation telling me this is the restored gospel and you are to join.’  There was no mention of the priesthood restriction, whether it was of God or of man, simply this is the restored gospel and you are to join, and he said, as he looks at it, it hasn’t been a burden.  It’s been his responsibility to do everything that he can to improve what he has chosen to be a part of, because he feels called of God, and I want to talk a little bit more—well we can reserve this for later.  The other—one of the other worlds I inhabit, the one I inhabit probably the most academically is the world of black history, black national history, international history now, especially black Mormon history.

But the other world I inhabit is third world in Guatemala, where I have seen Quetchical Indians, Indian women become Relief Society Presidents, and these very poor women who you would think have little power, preside in their Relief Societies teaching, teach Sunday School.  It’s a remarkable thing to see them functioning in these—I would consider them priesthood roles with priesthood power, where they’re ministering to others and teaching the gospel, and to talk about the patriarchy as such a burden.  These women do not feel burdened by the gospel, they feel liberated by it.  They will hike over mountains to do their visiting teaching where it’s kind of—and I’m serious about that.  Several of my Indigena friends will hike over a mountain, have lunch, and then go the rest of the way down the mountain to do their visiting teaching, and then return.  It’s a six hour trip and it’s done on foot.  That’s the sort of global Mormonism and sisterhood that we have.

I see Ordain Women as being a very first world thing, and not really honoring what the priesthood is, maybe not understanding ordination, what that would mean, the root of it being “orden” or “ordenar,” so “orden” (order), “ordenar” (to ordain), but you can also put into “orden” (order) a room, you can put people into an “orden,” like an order of nuns, an order of monks, an order of women, in say, the Relief Society.  I think Maxine will have more to say on that.  That’s all I’ll say for now.”

John, “Wow, I’ve already got like ten questions but this is wonderful.  Thank you Margaret.  Actually I served among the K’iche’ in Guatemala so I know a little bit about what you speak, and the gospel does some beautiful things in Latin America.  I can testify.  Neylan McBaine, let’s hear from you!”


Neylan McBaine

Neylan McBaine, “Hello!  Well, I come to this conversation as somebody who is particularly invested and enthusiastic about the individual contributions of women in the world and in the gospel, and specifically the empowering element of the gospel in individual women’s lives.  For me, a major source of power in each one of our lives comes from the presence of the spirit in our lives and the gift of personal revelation in our lives that gives each one of us an inner authority to understand our own worth and our own purpose and I think that that inner authority is woefully underappreciated, underdeveloped, and not listened to enough in our women, and so I choose to approach the challenges of our women today not from a power crisis, but more from the point of view of a purpose crisis, that we are as a people we need to be seeking for that self-determined life that really relies on the spirit and on the power of personal revelation and on an individual relationship with the Lord to find that inner core and that sense of fulfillment that seems to be lacking among some of our women today.

And you know I mean in all that good thing kind of has to go back to my mom and I talk a lot about my upbringing when I talk about my involvement with women in the church because I was born and raised in New York City, of a single professional mom, I was an only child and I was born into the church, and my mom was born into the church, but I think I was rather isolated from church culture growing up in New York City in the 80s and so I had this opportunity to view women in my church congregation as incredibly self-determined and with a very well-developed senses of inner authority so that—to give an example, my mom actually shared this with me just the other day and I’d heard the story before but it was fun to be reminded of it.

In about mid 1960s after my mother had graduated from BYU but was starting her career as an opera singer she went to BYU and performed a concert there and this was before she was married, before she had children or even knew if she was going to be able to have children, which ultimately she had trouble, and thus I am an only child, but she knew at that time that she was gifted and she knew what she wanted to do with that gift, and after giving this recital, the most prominent professor at BYU at the time honestly came up to her and said, ‘Sister Bybee, what are you going to do with this talent of yours?’

She said, ‘Well I’m going to be an opera singer.  I want to be an opera singer.  And he in no uncertain terms and very aggressively as she remembers it told her ‘well you can’t do that.  You can’t do that.  You have to have a family.  There’s no way you can be an opera singer and have a family.’  And I said, ‘Well mom what did you do about that?’

And she said, “Well I ignored him of course!’  [John chuckles]  And that’s my mom for you, and I grew up with that, and it surprised me as I’ve gotten older how the words of the brethren that are meant to evoke feelings and priorities are taken so literally as the way lives should look and function.  I don’t think that the counsel from our brethren is always intended to be prescriptive and functional.  We have to go off and live our lives, and I think there is an element of taking their counsel and taking their good words and using them to direct priorities and feelings, but still trust that inner authority and that self-determining voice.

So in the work that I try to do with women, it’s a lot about saying ‘Hey, we’ve got all the power we need.  We’ve got all the power we need.  Listen to that inner voice and rather than asking men to give you power, just go off and live it.  Go off and use it.  Go off and have a big life.  Incorporate those best prioritizations, and these best feelings, and those best spiritual promptings from the words of the brethren and from a personal relationship with God and make that life your own.’”

John, “Beautiful!  Ok, well thank you Neylan.  That was great.  That’s three for three outstanding summaries, so now we have last but not least again Maxine Hanks.  Maxine Hanks, tell our listeners a little bit about—just briefly about how you go back in the history of these issues and then and then kind of a brief summary of your position right now.”

Maxine, “Ok, although I have to I would just love to keep listening to Fiona, Margaret, and Neylan.  Wow!  But for me, I came to this issue actually in my 20s, early 20s, going on an LDS mission, I was a full-time missionary.  What brought me to that was a life-long sense, from the time I was a little kid, that I had some kind of ministerial or priestly calling.  And I kept trying to figure out how that fit into my beloved church, the Mormon Church, which I was very devoted to.  I concluded, as a teenager, and I was a feminist as a teenager, in the 70s, they called us women’s libbers back then.

So I felt this keen sense of calling and I held all of the usual leadership positions in the church.  I tried to figure out how I could have a priestly or ministerial calling, and it was the missionary calling I realized that that was the closest thing, or the only thing that I would find in Mormonism that would really give me that.  So I determined that I would go on a mission—and this was the late 70s when they discouraged women from going, but I was determined to go and I was particularly pressured.  The big issue back then was you’re supposed to get married, and I was very pressured to get married instead of going on a mission and had, you know numerous proposals of marriage—I just did not want to go that route.  I wanted to go on a mission.

So what was fascinating for me was that I submitted my mission papers the very week that blacks got the priesthood in June  of [19]78 (the announcement.)  Yeah, I submitted my mission papers literally a day or so before the announcement.  I got my call in September.  October of [19]78, the first week of October, I entered the Missionary Training Center and attended LDS Conference that weekend as a new missionary, the very weekend that the revelation on priesthood was accepted and voted in, which there’s a strong connection between this weekend and that week 35 years ago for me because that experience of being set apart to be a missionary in 1978 and then entering the temple and going through the temple the day before I entered the Missionary Training Center in October of ’78, I had a spiritual experience.

I felt, and I didn’t know anything about the scholarship, I hadn’t researched it yet, but I had such a profound spiritual experience when the stake president laid his hand on my head and set me apart as a full-time missionary for the church, I felt the mantle of authority descend on me and I knew I had received some kind of priesthood, and I couldn’t explain it.  The same thing happened when I went through the temple a few days later.

As I went through the temple for the first time, I think it was October 5th, 1978, I experienced—again it was a different sense of priesthood than what I had received in the missionary calling or setting apart, but I experienced that I received some sort of mantle of priesthood when I went through the temple, and it was so profound that it stayed with me, and later, on my mission, I felt that I had the same mantel that the elders had.  I spent my entire missionary experience in Central Florida when it was the pivotal state in the ERA battle, I spent that whole mission feeling that I had the same authority as the elders, and the same spiritual mantel, and being told every day, “you don’t, you don’t have the same, you don’t have the authority we have, you have a lesser authority, you don’t have the priesthood,” and it became this tension within me that was so profound it led me to do my research when I got back from my mission and went to BYU.  That’s was led me into doing research on women and the priesthood.  And it eventually led me out of the church.  So fast forward to…”

John interrupts, “Just real quick.  There’s probably three people who are listening who actually don’t know that you were actually one of the September Six who were excommunicated in September 1993, so I’ll just throw that in there, sorry about that.  Go ahead.”

Maxine, “Right, right.  No fine.  So that’s what led me to research the topic.  When I was researching and reading about women and priesthood, it was this cognitive dissonance or tension between feeling that I had the authority or the mantel of some kind of priesthood that I had received, and yet being told in the church that I didn’t. I’m trying to understand that.  So that motivated me, and inhabited me the whole time I was researching the book Women and Authority, and looking for materials and working with contributors to develop articles, and I authored an article in that book called ‘Sister Missionaries and Authority’, which for me was my way of finally answering that question within myself because what I discovered when I researched the book and that article was that I analyzed the calling and the authority of the sister missionaries and the authority implicit in the call and in the temple ceremony and in the service of preaching gospel, very clear in the Doctrine and Covenants and very clear in the research that in order to preach my gospel, you have to have the priesthood.  There’s a kind of priesthood inherent in preaching the gospel, the call to preach is one avenue of priesthood.  So I was able to kind of put that altogether and to realize as I worked on that article and on the book that the spiritual sense I’d had in 1978 was right.  The scholarship re-affirmed what I had experienced spiritually.

Fast forward then to the present, and then I’ll wind up here.  What’s fascinating, and this kind of links back to Fiona’s statements that started us on this kind of circle of sharing our story.  In Mormonism, and through these experiences, I experienced the mantle or the authority of priesthood.  I don’t know that I experienced the power until I left the church.  I was excommunicated for my work on the book and for public speaking about women and priesthood as part of the September Six, and I went on this journey to explore priesthood, and to undergo ordination in other traditions and to learn about ministry and chaplaincy, and it was when I went on that path, that I discovered that even though I was being ordained to minor orders, and like Margaret said, the word ordain, ordination, comes from the root word is order, which means that you are set apart into a particular order, and there are all these different orders.  I was ordained to five minor orders of the priesthood before even entering the deaconate, which is to become a deacon, and then a priest.  And then I had gone through these five minor ordinations or orders, and it was in that process where I…”

John interrupts, “These are non-LDS, right?”

Maxine, “These are non-LDS.  This was after my excommunication in 1993 as one of the September Six, I went off into a couple of other traditions and explored other religious traditions, particular Gnostic tradition.

I was going through these ordination because I’d had this compelling desire and sense of call my whole life from the time I was young, so I really wanted to finally satisfy this, and finally feel like after all I’d been through, trying to find ordination or ministry within the church, and then discovering my answers that in the research and in the book Women and Authority that women were ordained in a variety of ways, they did have access to priesthood, and then being excommunicated for that and then going off on this other path, working with priests and bishops in other traditions, trying to find my ordination finally.  I’ve learned that ordination was inner, it was spiritual the power of priesthood, it wasn’t the authority.  Definitely you have to have permission within a particular religion to function in a ministerial capacity.  So permission of the group or the church or the congregation, that is the authority—it’s the permission to act.  But the power of priesthood is spiritual.

So it wasn’t until I was going through this process of entering minor orders and being ordained to these different orders or priesthood that I discovered that that wasn’t really ordination, that I didn’t need feel ordained until I received the spiritual power and it was an inner, spiritual process.  It wasn’t until that experience of really obtaining the power, the spiritual power of priesthood that I realized that that’s where it was.

So I guess what I’m trying to say, long story short is that I discovered the power that was so real in Mormonism, and that that’s really where it was that I came back.  I came back to the church, knowing that ordination is really inner, it’s spiritual, and definitely there are issues that we can discuss, we will be discussing in terms of the authority or the right to exercise that power, but fast forward to this weekend with the Ordain Women moment and what they were doing, that whole week when they were preparing to do their action, I was finalizing temple recommend interviews and buying temple garments preparing to return to the temple on my 35th anniversary of when I had first entered the Salt Lake Temple October 5th, 1978.

I wanted to go to the temple on October 5th, but it was Saturday.  I really wanted to be in the temple praying as my part of this whole larger discussion of women’s relationship to authority and Mormonism, and I couldn’t go that day because of Conference and the crowds, and it was really fascinating to me that they had their even on the 35th anniversary of my entering the temple, and on the 35th anniversary of the church voting in the revelation on priesthood in October of ’78.”

John, “A little bit of serendipity there.”

Maxine, “Uh huh.”

John, “OK.  Well Maxine, again thank you.  So good.  Now I have like a thousand questions, and I don’t quite know how to do this because you know, what I want to do is just throw a question out there and have whoever wants to first attack it do that, but I know that in audio sometimes that’s a disaster because either no one jumps in or everybody jumps in, so I’m going to do it anyway, and I’ll just ask you guys to kind of try and regulate as best you can because I don’t know who the best person it is to ask these questions, but here’s where I’m going to start.  I’m going to ask for simple yes or no for a couple questions.  So panel, starting with Fiona, then Margaret, then Neylan, then Maxine.

So it sounds like you believe that you already have the priesthood, meaning priesthood power.  Fiona,  Yes or no?”

Fiona: Yes

Margaret: Yes

Neylan: Yes

Maxine: Yes

John, “Ok, so all four women believe they already have the priesthood power.  Ok, that’s important.  Ok, Here’s a second question that I’ll ask of all of you.  Do you believe that most LDS women today think of themselves as having priesthood power?”

Fiona, “I’m not sure.”

Margaret, “Yeah, I’ve seen some who realize it and some who don’t.”

John, “Ok, but no percentage?”

Margaret, “No, I couldn’t possibly.”

Neylan,  “Uh, No.”

John,”You’re saying most women probably don’t.”

Neylan, “I would say most women probably don’t.”

Maxine, “Well I think my sample is skewed.  Do you know who I know?”

John, “yep, yep”

Maxine, “Half and half.  Half the women I know including conservative relatives who serve as Relief Society presidents fully believe they’ve got it, half and half.”

Neylan, “Can I just say something about that John?”

John, “Please, please.”

Neylan, “I think that there’s definitely rhetoric around what happens in the temple, and there’s always sort of this asterisk when we’re talking about women and the priesthood, but there’s sort of this infant version of something going on in the temple, but I don’t know that anybody’s quite sure what that is.  I’d love to get into at some point, because this is something that I’m personally really passionate and interested about.  You referred to us and the Ordain Women movement that you interviewed the other day as sort of more progressive as opposed to traditional, and I actually would describe probably what many of us on this call tonight believe in as quite regressive, and I think what I’m saying is that a beautiful vision I have that I’d love to work towards is actually the vision of the priesthood understanding and the practice that existed in Joseph’s Smith’s time, and I’d love to talk about that at some point because I think when women become familiar with our history and they become familiar with the healings that took place and the blessing meetings that took place in the early church and the way that the women governed themselves and healed each other and blessed each other and literally performed these ordinances through the power of faith and the power of Jesus Christ on each other, their whole perception of what women have today changes, and so I’d love to talk about the importance of understanding our history and working towards getting back to something that we lost rather than trying to ask for something new.”

John, “Ok”

Fiona, “If I could just jump in there.  I think we all bring our backgrounds into our faith tradition, and I was raised on convents for all of my life and we had a mother superior and the order was ordered, and it was an educational order, but it was also ministerial, and for me I think that the significance of the temple was such that I saw the Relief Society very much as a convent in complementing a monastery where they had a father abbot prior, and they were ordered, but they were equal, they were different, but they were equal in their priesthood power.  So for me it’s so easy for me to see in Mormonism, and I think that Neylan is absolutely right that we have forgotten what we had and for me I see Relief Society and priesthood as equal.  So for me I would like to see the Relief Society come out from its current auxiliary status, as Neylan said, back to where it was.  When Joseph turned the key, gave the key, you know, somebody asked me once, how do you know he meant priesthood keys, but it’s like, this is Joseph, what other keys are there?  These were priesthood keys that Emma now had to officiate within the female distaff of the church, to my mind.”

John, “Ok, ok.  Let’s just go there really quickly Neylan and Fiona. I’ll give a really brief summary and they you guys can correct me.  When Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society, he made a reference there that many people have hung on to as being particularly meaningful.   What was that reference?”

Neylan, “’I turn the key to you’, he said, which was actually later amended to be ‘I turn the key in your behalf.’”

Fiona, “Turning to you is like giving.  You can see it as giving; here it as this is the key.  Here are your rights.”

John, “And didn’t he say something about making a kingdom of priests?”

Fiona simultaneously, “priests”

Margaret, “a society of priests, yes.”

John, “to the women, right?”

Margaret, “Yeah.”

Fiona, “Absolutely.”

John, “ok, so that was his intent.”

Margaret and Fiona, “Yes.”

Maxine, “Absolutely.  In fact I think all of us are on the same page on this, and I see it the same way Fiona does.  I see the Relief Society as a female order, just as the nuns have orders in Catholicism.  It’s a female order.  But he tells them, ‘I now turn the key to you, and knowledge’, I should be quoting this exactly, knowledge and revelation or inspiration will now flow down, will flow forth, meaning he opened their key of revelation and their key, and he also says ‘I will make of this society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day and as in Paul’s day’ and he says that they will move according to ancient priesthood so he uses all those terms.”

John, “Right.  Ok.  Early in the Mormon Stories history we released a Sunstone presentation called A Gift Given: A Gift Taken Away.  Who is it that authored that?”

Maxine, “Linda Newell.”

John, “Linda Newell.

Maxine, “That was her very first piece, and then it had several other incarnations in Dialogue and then Sisters in Spirit and then in Women and Authority.”

John, “Ok, and basically as I read that, it talks about all the different ways that women used the laying on of hands, anointing, healing the sick, doing special washings and anointings in preparation for birth where literally body parts were anointed with oil and there’s even a quote from Brigham Young saying I want a wife who’s strong or robust enough to heal, anoint with oil and heal or something like that.  Am I getting it right?”

Neylan, “Well John, I actually have one of her articles in front of me and let me read a quote from Eliza R. Snow in 1884 that Linda Newell quotes.  In 1884 Eliza R. Snow said,

Any and all sisters who honor their holy endowment not only have the right, but should feel it a duty whenever called upon to administer to our sisters in these ordinances which God has graciously committed his daughters as well as to his sons.

And I think one of the things that Maxine is alluding to is that Linda in a number of publications, has gone through and really mapped out the disintegration of that understanding from about 1884 to its ultimate decline in about 1920 when President Joseph F. Smith officially renounced women’s ability to do healing blessings.  I’ll turn that back to Maxine and Fiona, they probably know more about that than I do, but that’s really striking to me.”

John, “Well I don’t want to yet go into why it was taken away, but do you just want to respond Maxine?”

Maxine, “Yeah.  I’m so glad that Neylan brought up that reference, because that same—I’m pretty sure it’s that that same interview or that same piece in the Exponent in 1884 where Eliza also articulates—she’s answering questions.  It’s a Q&A that the Women’s Exponent is doing with Eliza because they’re trying to hold on to authority and roles that have been slipping away and being diminished between about the 1880s and just after the turn of the century when Emmaline Wells is released.

During that period, there are mixed messages.  That’s the period of the mixed messages when some of the brethren are affirming that women do have access to priesthood powers, healings, blessings, and other aspects, personal revelation, and then other leaders are diminishing that and so it’s a mixed message kind of time.  And anyway, Eliza answers the question, are the women of the Relief Society to go to the men, to the bishops for counsel and as their leader, and she reiterates the Relief Society was designed to be a self-governing organization, to solve its own problems, to deal with its own programs and she reiterates that the women are to go to their Relief Society leaders and then if necessary go higher up to their stake leaders, then higher up to the general leaders, and only then does the General President then go to the President of the Church, so it’s a very important reiteration of the female line of authority in Mormonism and the authority of the Relief Society in that same interview.”

John, “Right.

Fiona, “And I think also John, that’s a beautiful quote Neylan, thank you.  What Eliza is reiterating is this priesthood power comes from the temple—it’s those who have been endowed.  So she’s regulating, at least to my mind who can perform the healing blessings and she understands to my mind anyway that that power, that priesthood power comes from the temple, because she specifically says that so it’s not sort of a willy nilly thing, but at least it, anyway to my mind she seems to be emphasizing this idea of priesthood power coming from the divine feminine, and the heavenly parents from the temple directly to women.”

Maxine, “She is and that’s a good point. She is alluding to the temple.  Other statements during that period, the mixed message period of time, at that point when the statements that do affirm women’s priesthood during that period are relying on the temple for authority of citation because women definitely have priestly authority, priestly robes, whatever you want to call them in the temple.  But prior to that mixed message period, earlier on there are allusions to both the Relief Society itself and as well as the temple, and there are historical reasons for that.  You know there was some confusion and unfinished business of the Relief Society after the death of the prophet and the succession crisis.  So earlier references do refer to both the Relief Society and the temple but later on, they’re kind of falling back on this is the only thing that we can really cite in a way that we feel certain about because by that point, a lot of the Relief Society’s authority, having been shut down with Joseph’s death and everything that was going on, and not reinstituted until really the 1860s, 1867, starting to with Indian Relief Society in 1852-53, but not reconstituting it until 1860s in Utah, the Relief Society suffered a terrible loss of identity and authority that was attempting to be reconstituted in Utah, but there are references to both Relief Society authority and temple authority.”

John, “Ok.  Really good.  Ok, I’m going to go to a place you probably aren’t expecting me to, but since what we’re doing, as Neylan said is we’re being a little bit regressive and we’re going back.  What we’re also doing is we’re sort of you know, blowing the mind of the average Mormon, especially the average Mormon female and saying ‘oh no, no.  You’ve had priesthood all along.’  I like that, I think it’s beautiful.  Here’s one question that I would love you guys to give brief answers to.

If priesthood is something different that a man laying his hands upon a man and ordaining him to a specific office, if priesthood power really is just the power of God given to both men and women, ok, are non-Mormons, non-LDS people able to access the same priesthood power of which you speak, or is this something that’s only given to Mormons?  Anyone can jump in and answer.”

[several chuckles]

Margaret, “They can certainly access powers of revelation and the powers of God.  The endowment and the initiatory rites before are not accessible by non-Mormons, but certainly there are powers of God that anyone can call upon.”

Maxine, “You know this is a profound question, and I sort of have to raise my hand and say, Guilty.  Because I have really thoroughly explored this in Mormon tradition before I left for my excommunication, and I really thoroughly explored it outside of Mormon tradition in going through other ordinations and working with three different really types of ministry, and I have to say, that’s where I discovered the power of priesthood was on that path.  When I was seeking the authority and the ordination is when I discovered the power.

So yeah, I would have to say I felt the power, I felt the spirit, I found the power of inner ordination when I was on that solitary path outside of the church.  But what I will have to say also is that discovering that there were other dimensions to it, and that the power of priesthood, and the power of the lay ministry, and the authority of that was so just astonishingly restored and organized within Mormonism, the power of the  lay church and the lay ministry, every member a minister became so much more obvious to me after working with more isolated and hierarchical systems, that I absolutely had to come back and immerse myself in the scope and the power of the lay church which I find to be unlike any other.”

John, “Right.  Ok, so if I can just restate.  For Maxine, non-Mormons can also have priesthood power, but there’s something special about the combination of priesthood power and the way our church is run and organized and maybe blessed by God.  Is that kind of what you’re saying?”

Maxine, “Absolutely. Yeah.”

John, “Ok, Ok.  Now Margaret I heard you saying that what non-members can have is something different than what Mormons can have in an important way, and what I guess what I’m asking is a Catholic mother in Guatemala, you know, prays for her sick child.  Is that gonna have less power than (a) an active Mormon male who anoints his child and says a priesthood blessing versus (b) a Mormon mother who believes she has priesthood power, but hasn’t had the laying on of hands for some deacon, teacher, priest kind of priesthood ordinance.  Are those all three equal assuming everything else is equal or are they different?”

Margaret, “The whole idea of God is no respecter of persons I think also applies to our ability to access divine power, and that applies to a poor women with a baby in Guatemala who hasn’t even been introduced to missionaries of any faith but who has a sense of connection to God.  She is not considered less because she doesn’t have to be a member of this church or the Catholic church or whatever.

But for me I should make this particular.  For me in the temple which is something that I really treasure, it’s been the foundation of my ability to mother my children with peace in my heart.  I find the power within the temple itself that renews me that the waiting upon the Lord and symbolically clothing myself in priesthood. Because of the visual component it stays with me.  I find I spend five hours there as an ordinance worker every Saturday, and I find when I leave I’m exhausted simply because of everything I’ve been doing.

But I’m also able to cope with the really difficult situations, whereas before I was collapsing in the midst of especially some choices that my children made.  The power that I felt that I would identify as priesthood power in the temple to soothe my soul that for me is uniquely there.  That doesn’t mean that others won’t have beautiful spiritual experiences.  I remember telling a missionary, the sacred grove can be your bedroom.  You know you can make a place sacred simply by what you do there, by identifying it as your sacred place where you will come for renewal, refreshment.  So in those ways, it is completely universal.”

John, “Right.”

Neylan, “John, if I could just draw a quick parallel that might help.  I hadn’t thought of this before and it’s not at all a fleshed-out idea but perhaps what you’re getting at is the parallel between the Light of Christ that we believe exists in every person, and then this particular Gift of the Holy Ghost that we’re given at our confirmations that sort of, what is the relationship with that?

We believe that everybody can be spoken to by the Holy Ghost, but there’s an added gift to always be with us when we actually are confirmed, and maybe there’s a parallel there that we can draw that maybe each person is able to act through the power of faith but perhaps the equivalent of being given the Gift of the Holy Ghost is that gift and power of priesthood above that.”

John, “I like that analogy for the purposes of those particular beliefs.  I’ll just say for me, and this interview isn’t about me, but I’m just going to jump in a tiny bit here and say that the way that I like to think about priesthood is God’s power on the earth, and however Mormons do priesthood is the way that Mormons do priesthood, but Catholics do priesthood and Episcopalians do priesthood and Muslims do it too, and I never want to be in the position of judging who is superior and who’s inferior and who’s got it all the time versus some of the time, especially because it’s so much tied to personal worthiness anyway.  So my bias is to want to hear some type of universalistic message where everybody’s got it and everyone just has it in a different quality or flavor.  But you know that’s just me.  I hate to speak down to anybody ever.”

Maxine, “Right, right.”

Neylan, “John, I think that also takes away one of the things that’s so unique about our restoration which is of course the restoration of authority and the ability to call yourself the prophet, whereas there are many men and women on the earth who are in communication with God.  There is one prophet.  For me that is a beautiful truth that I like to hang onto.  So although the universalist message does have a lot of beauty too, I think that we can’t ignore that element of it.”

Maxine, “Could I toss something else in?”

John, “Fiona first, and then Maxine.”

Fiona, “I was actually trying to find this quote by Joseph, because he has the same heart and mind as you John.  Joseph said that all the Methodists, Presbyterians, everybody could come to God, could come to Christ.  He was really, really universalist in his idea of the sacred gifts being showered upon all of humanity whether they are in or outside of the church.  And the fact to that you know, in the New Testament, Christ never heals using priesthood power.  He never starts his healing by saying ‘having the power of Melchizedek…’”

John interrupts, “Having been blessed by Jesus Christ…”

Fiona, “Right.  It’s all faith.  It’s all faith, and this is such a huge component that I think we forget and many people around the world exercise faith in God everywhere and are blessed and healed by that power, which is Christ’s power at the end of the day.  The Melchizedek Priesthood is the Preishood after the Order of the Son of God.  It is Christ’s power, and everybody can access it, so I think there is that universalism there.  My feeling is that Joseph understood that.  He didn’t feel that he was coming to restore truth.  Truth is out there, he kept saying gather it and bring it home.

For Joseph, his job was to restore priesthood keys, and when I say priesthood keys, he referred I think particular to the sealing keys, and there is no other church denomination that I know of in the world that has this emphasis on families being sealed together, that there is something tangibly potent about this sealing power that the adversary cannot break.  For me that was because of Joseph’s loss and his family, the death of his brother, that was hugely important, this idea of families being linked together and sealed to each other and then sealed all the way back to God and that those were bonds the adversary could not break, and hence this whole emphasis on Joseph to seal the human family together.  That I think is unique to Mormonism and unique to our doctrine, and that is our gift I think to the world, and it is a generous gift.  I think often times we’re just a little slightly embarrassed about genealogy work and ordinances for the dead but that really is the most generous thing if indeed every person must be baptized then surely this is the most generous way to do that to ensure that every single person who has ever lived on this earth will receive all of the ordinances to empower them, to be sealed to each other and to their God.  I just think that’s absolutely phenomenal. That’s priesthood power.”

John, “Yes it is.”

End of Part 1.  I will post Part 2 shortly.  What are your reactions?

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31 Responses to Alternative Feminist Approaches to Ordain Women–Part 1

  1. Kristine A on May 19, 2014 at 8:52 AM

    This is probably my favorite podcast, because I think it explores the complexity of the issue and we see more shades of gray than black and white as most public discourse plays out.

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  2. Orange on May 19, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    I need to listen to that podcast. They bring in so many things that I feel to be true. The universalization of God’s truth- that many other groups are doing God’s work here on the earth, even if they are not LDS. I also believe in the great power of faith. But then that leaves me wondering, why do we need priesthood authority if we all have access to priesthood power?

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  3. MH on May 19, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    Yes Orange, that is my biggest problem with the ideas presented here. I did a post a while back where Jonathan Stapley said that people have conflated blessings of healing with the priesthood. I think Stapley is exactly right.

    The idea that all righteous people have priesthood seems like a thoroughly protestant idea, and I think while it is appealing to the women mentioned here, it is greatly problematic in the context of Mormonism. We don’t recognize that any other religions have authority of the priesthood. This priesthood power that Fiona and Margaret discuss is faith healing, not priesthood. They are guilty of conflating just as Stapley says.

    In short, yes anyone gave have a faith healing, but this is not priesthood.

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  4. Jeff Spector on May 19, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    Wow, I do need to listen to this podcast! MH, This is really excellent and does show a very rational “other side of the story” to the one OW tells. I have to say, while I am impressed with all three sisters, you do have to hand it to Maxine Hanks, who got pretty much a “and don’t let the door hit you in ***” during that fateful September. To have explored other faiths and make it all the way back is both a testament to her and to the Gospel itself that many of us could learn from.

    You could take a “Priesthood of all believers” view out of what they were saying except for the fact that we are talking about members who have been baptized into the Church by proper authority and who have had the ordinances of the Temple, also by proper authority.

    To me, that is the distinction over the universal Priesthood of all believers….

    Thanks, excellent post (ala BCC)

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  5. Cheryl McGuire on May 19, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    The problem with being regressive and returning to the 19th century [priesthood?] power and autonomous authority of women, is that we really can’t go back. That was also a time of plural marriage, long absences of husbands, and life – for many – as single mothers. Do we get to pick and choose those things we want to go back to?

    We live in our time. The church has been through much and evolved much, not always prettily. For me, it is much better not to try and erase the damage that has been done to women (i.e., “A gift given, a gift taken,”) or even wish for that past time of blessings, healings, autonomous organizations, etc. It is better to look at all the past history – including the unfortunate success of the fallen human impulse toward hierarchy and patriarchy – and figure out a way to work ourselves out of the current mess. To my mind, it is surely not so difficult. Acknowledging women’s spiritual power, intellect and faith, being willing to share not only moral authority but priesthood authority, acknowledging the wrongness of any false system which asks women to be less than all they can be – what does it take? It is not rocket science.

    Regarding this moving reminder: “When the white kids would be ordained to the priesthood at age 12, and the black kids would not, the black kids were probably not going to stay, and basically all of the youth, all of the sons of these remarkable men had left . . .”, I can only say, what about our daughters? Doesn’t it count that they are leaving??? Why privilege any boys – black or not – above girls? Why privilege any person because of gender?

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  6. Gambel's Quail on May 19, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    Thanks for the transcript! That’s a ton of work to put in, MH and Brent. I haven’t had the chance to listen to the full podcast yet, so you gave me a good opportunity to skim through it and whet my appetite.

    Hawkgrrrl brought this up in the previous thread, but I just can’t get it out of my mind, so at the risk of beating a dead horse, I’ll mention it again. This discussion is centered on the temple as an empowering experience for women as regards priesthood authority. I would love to read the takes of these bright, inspiring women on the essay “The Mormon Priestess,” the analysis and conclusions of which I came to myself a few years ago, and which cut me to the bone. All of these appeals to the temple don’t offer me any firm ground to stand on because it is the temple out of everything in Mormon doctrine and culture that makes me feel the most worthless, and I think my feelings are shared by many Mormon women. I respect all four of the women in this interview a good deal–I’ve listened to our watched all of them at one time or another on podcasts or video recordings–and I would so love to see them thoughtfully and compassionately discuss the implications of temple theology for women in light of that analysis.

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  7. forgetting on May 19, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    MH, I think when we try to decouple priesthood and healing from each other we do it and us a disservice. I understand in what context it being used here, but I it might be that we shouldn’t dismiss what she is saying out of hand. I think she offers a very keen insight that has real value. I mostly agree with your thoughts and comments from your original post, and I think we might want to question some of her thoughts and reasonings, if only so we can understand ourselves better, but there might be something about priesthood and healing to think about.

    There was a real bait and switch during the last conference. I don’t really think that Elder’s Oaks talk was the only response to the question of female ordination. I could write pages about what I think was being said, seems a lot of us could, but I won’t. I think a better response to the question was given by President Uchtdorf, and I don’t think it was in reminding us that the restoration is on going and there is always further light and knowledge (there in lies my hope). I think the response is when he reminds of the Lord’s promise to “His true priesthood holders,” (that is an interesting phrase,more that just a community of believers) and then goes on to quote D&C 84, which in context is temple priesthood where both male and female participate, and holds the promise of sanctification and renewal (healing). One problem is we are still struggling to understand priesthood, temple, and the endowment. We are not mature in our temple and ritual understanding, and when something hurts or is not understood we want to throw it away or decouple it; we end up wanting to change the symbol, ritual, and ordinance.

    I know everyone hates it when the answer offered to the question of female ordination is to point the question back to the temple, but that is where the answer is going to have to be found, and yes healing is part of that. A sister (or brother) that has learned to be, and accepts the gift of being, Healed would then be able to go on and offer healing to others. That is Priesthood. When questioned about why He teaches in parables, part of the Lord’s answer was a goad to the ox, an promise made in the negative; He keeps them from understanding because if they did He would have to bless them with seeing, hearing, understanding, conversion, and finally Healing (Matt. 13). We should understand temple and priesthood in this context, we need to move past our interpretation (spell check wanted interpolation, maybe that’s right too) of the narrative, and look to the ritual and ordinance. I hope that female ordination is something the future holds, and yet what President Uchtdorf reminded us of should be adding to our focus when we talk about this. When the Lord call forth a Priestess, and she heals someone in that context, it is priesthood.

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  8. Mormon Heretic on May 19, 2014 at 9:32 PM

    Cheryl, I enjoyed your presentation in Kirtland last week! I think you knocked it out of the park regarding the new LDS essays. As for this topic, I think you bring up some good points regarding polygamy, but as an uncorrelated Mormon, I am happy to keep what I find inspiring and throw away what I don’t, so I have no problem with this “regressive” Mormonism that allows women to anoint the sick by the laying on of hands, but still reject polygamy. I don’t think that the two topics are related, so I am happy to decouple them.

    Gambel’s Quail, I think that FMH post is pretty great, and I think it brings up a lot of points about the inherent sexism within the temple endowment and sealing ordinances that Givens, Young, and Hanks are ignoring. The temple language is very sexist.

    Forgetting, I hope you read my post from Stapley. I want to quote him.

    Equating early Mormon female healing with evidence of female priesthood is folly. Kris’ and my paper on female ritual healing is finally coming out in January (JMH). We treat most of your questions and clean up the historiography a bit.

    In the interim here is our paper on the development of Mormon healing to 1847, including the role of women.

    Stapley commented further,

    Moreover, power, or the gifts of the spirit are incoherently conflated with priesthood. Now there is no question, as you note, that some have tried to say that priesthood is the power of God or the authority to act in God’s name; however, every day people pray in the name of Jesus that don’t hold the priesthood and no one seriously believes all spiritual gifts are constrained to priesthood office.

    Stapley really nails down conflating spiritual gifts with priesthood. They really are different topics. Even as Fiona Givens said, Jesus never healed by the Melchizedek Priesthood, Jesus healed by faith. As much as I want to agree with Quinn that women have held the priesthood since the 1840s, I think Stapley’s argument is much more sound. You really should read that link, because I think Stapley is right.

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  9. Angela C on May 19, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    I agree with Stapley about faith healing not connoting priesthood. Having said that, I agree that if we have a priesthood of all believers, we essentially don’t have a priesthood, AND YET, we are coming dang close by ordaining all male members (or all members with a male member).

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  10. forgetting on May 20, 2014 at 12:43 AM

    MH, I did read that. I not talking about the past. D&C 84, in a way, looks forward. I also am not talking specifically about Melchizedek Priesthood. I was also not talking about early female ritual healing, although it is unfortunate they are no longer allowed to practice. Those rituals and our current ones are an excellent school, that is why I personally don’t think we should separate the concepts of healing and priesthood completely as we teach. We do need to move past that understanding eventually though. When it starts clicking in a brother’s head that what he is doing in anointing and sealing is teaching that the healing is an expression of the Spirit and sanctification and this requires faith and not the force, then he has progressed. He also should be learning about prayer and how to revelation as he performs these rituals as well, and if he learns and progresses then he is closer to truly magnifying his calling. Maybe the Lord lets us be a little sloppy culturally when we say healed by the priesthood because it is a working hospital school staffed by men and women ordained to become priest and priestess. It also seemed to work for the sisters in the past. So when they place priesthood and healing together we should let them, we do for ourselves.

    I think what I am speaking of is what occurs when a sister or brother is placed in the situation outlined in that part of 84. Anything they do at the direction of The Lord after that would most definitely be priesthood, a lot like the later Nephi, and that would include the expressions of Spiritual gifts like healing. I would imagine that as you were acting on the Lord’s errand, the authority and power would move the act from faith alone to faith and truth together. They would also be acting as Priestess or Priests. That is what I intended by “it is priesthood.” I would also say that not every act or errand would require an expression of Spiritual Gifts, but as the list is huge and seems to be unfinished, it might just include some at that. This would only be possible as the conditions of the Temple Endowment were met. It is a whole new level of game, and a life of deep discipleship; it is what the ordinances, that section of scripture, and his talk are inviting us to.

    I feel like he was saying “as we talk about ordaining women don’t forget about this part here, it’s important and can /should be accomplished now;” and that aspect of priesthood is not for brothers alone. shrug. Maybe those sisters already have a sense of this and that is why they have alternative views and feel less inclined to ask for ordination.

    Whatever I am failing to explain, it is not the regressive Mormonism you aptly laid out. I also don’t think we will get there hanging on to the sexist and hurtful interpretation of the endowment narrative. There are other ways it is understood, and those ways are a lot more like the whole of President Uchtdorf’s talk, and those are also much closer to the Wisdom traditions. Why do we insist upon taking the first and most obvious meaning?

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  11. Hedgehog on May 20, 2014 at 1:42 AM

    It seems to me that the discussion in the OP appears to be backward looking in some respects. I don’t think we’re going to go back to RS autonomy, line of authority etc. I do think the only way forwards is to incorporate women into the existing line of authority, though I for one would prefer to see a much flatter structure, with fewer layers. Personally I see the incorporation of the ‘auxiliary’ organisations into the priesthood structure as it now exists as a job only half complete.
    Sometimes it seems that much of the rhetoric we hear about women having some form of the priesthood is simply designed to pacify women, but it means seemingly little in practice. It’s great these women feel confident about it I suppose, though I feel to some extent that can impede further progress, and I don’t feel the way they do myself. There’s certainly no formal education about it, just a lot of contradictory messages. So I’m more inclined to agree with some of the points April raises here:

    forgetting: I’d be more inclined to accept less obvious interpretations of the endowment ceremony if it weren’t for the very specific covenants incorporated therein, which are worded the way they are worded. We are given to believe we *are* in fact making *those* covenants.

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  12. forgetting on May 20, 2014 at 2:27 AM

    [edit button]

    *was not taking about
    *to receive revelation
    *what I was speaking off

    I am sure there are others. I should have just gone to bed.

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  13. forgetting on May 20, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    Hedgehog , I am not sure how on topic my responding will be so I will try to be short.

    Those very specific covenants incorporated into the endowment are specific. The only covenant that involves a spouse is the law of chastity. The spouse is only mentioned as a conditional of that covenant. There is a covenant which is made to Adam, but as it is worded the way it is worded, I would suggest that unless your husband’s name is Adam, it is not that covenant sisters are making that requires them to hearken to their husbands; and therefore the endowment (or that covenant) does not place them subject to their husbands, while their husbands are subject to God, as we like to say. There is no mention of a husband, not here. I agree that we are given to believe we are in fact making that covenant, we seem to teach each other that enough, but when we try to be literal even the literal can come apart. If you are not covenanting to your husband (as that is not the literal or specific wording of the covenant), and you are covenanting to Adam, then identify what Adam represents we can gain more insight into that covenant and the endowment as a whole.

    I am probably coming across as dismissive of concerns to approach it this way; that is not my intention, they are valid concerns. We are a childless couple – for almost eighteen years we have had to navigate a culture that makes an idol out of motherhood, more so in the last years as the church has responded societal pressure . Its hurts. I know it hurts my wife more than I. At least I have a perceived (in other’s minds) value outside of my womb (or value because of my lack of a womb). In that, I am regarded more kindly. For that long we have had to deal with being told we aren’t keeping out temple covenants. I guess we are damned for not multiplying and replenishing the earth, or as my BiL calls it, in all seriousness, keeping the “Law of Procreation.” That’s what literal gets us, something so far from truth it can make you queasy. Add to that ‘his’ understanding of ‘hearkening’ and include his 14 children, and it might make you ill. What I am attempting to point out is we are not bound by any one understanding of the endowment. In fact we are better served by Unknowing and exploration (as that is one thing the endowment actually does try to teach us). The covenants are not wholly separate from the narrative, they actually drive the narrative drama forward. Therefore, it has to be in this context that we understand these covenants. We can see we are causing harm, I don’t believe it is intentional or malicious though.

    If our understanding of the endowment cannot be expressed in (or as) compassion and charity, then that understanding must be left behind. If our understanding of the endowment causes true harm, then we must leave that understanding behind.

    (Hedgehog: I like that name, it’s what my wife put on my wedding ring)

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  14. hawkgrrrl on May 20, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    forgetting: Please give this a read. There is an uncut version requiring a password, but this version is more general without including the temple language. I appreciate your hopeful perspective, but as a woman attending the temple, there are more references to one’s husband than their are for a ,man.

    During the sealing. I had to give myself; he only had to receive me (presumably because men can receive many wives, not just one). Both the initiatory and the endowment include different, lesser promises for women who are not promised exaltation as their ultimate destiny as the men are.

    The language of the temple doesn’t match our rhetoric at church, and yet it hasn’t been corrected. It’s also not directly contradicted by E. Oaks’ recent statements which seem to conform to the model that women have authority but only borrow the power of those above them in the hierarchy. The temple places their husband above them as their ultimate source of power, when they become a priestess to their exalted husband.

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  15. Mormon Heretic on May 20, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Forgetting, could you be a little more specific as to what you are referring to in D&C 84? I’m not clear what you’re referring to.

    In the endowment (and initiatory) ceremonies, men are promised that one day in the future we can become kings and priests, women can be queens and priestesses *to their husbands*. Men are not kings and priests *to their wives.* Once again this is asymmetric promises, and it is the future anyway. Women are not priestesses yet. It is my understanding from Tom Phillips (the man who received his second anointing and then fell away) that part of the second endowment is where a couple is literally anointed in this life to be a king and priest, queen and priestess in this life. I doubt anyone here reading this has received their second anointing. According to Phillips, his wife actually laid hands on his head (but he didn’t upon her), and she blessed him as a priestess.

    So it it my understanding that the 1st endowment is just a promise of a future priestesshood that one receives (if ever) in the 2nd endowment. I don’t think the first endowment grants men or women any special priesthood power–that is part of the 2nd endowment. So I’m not clear that the 1st endowment actually does grant any special priesthood, and it doesn’t confer any special healing priesthood. As the women above have referenced, anyone has access to healing power through faith, whether LDS or not. So unless you have a more specific reference, I’m not seeing the first endowment as granting any special priesthood. I remind all that prior to the initiatory ordinance, men must be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, but women require no such ordination. So it seems quite clear to me that women don’t get any special priesthood in the first endowment, only a promise that they can become a priestess in the second endowment.

    Forgetting, just one other question. In your comment above, you referenced your “wife”, but also referenced “my womb”. Did you mean your wife’s womb?

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  16. forgetting on May 20, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    Hawk, I have read it, I read the uncut version the day it came out.  I shared it with close friends.  I agree wholeheartedly that it, and most of the responses, truthfully represent the situation as we find it. I think the conversation this has sparked, although painful, can lead to healing.  I am not being hopeful or optimistic. Either the ritual is going to have to change, or our understanding of it.  I have some ideas about which might have to bend first. I think this is what happens when all of the onus and value of a single symbol has been placed on one gender alone; it seems to me that weight should be shared.  I also agree that the rhetoric coming out of the church is not matching our rituals, but I wonder if that isn’t because of how we see things, imperfectly.  

    Our situation really forced us to reevaluate ourselves and our roles in mortality.  In turn that has led to a reevaluation of the endowment and sealing rituals, specifically how they effect our behaviors. Also, we have had to look long and hard at our covenants and work out the best way, with the Lord as guide, to fulfill them with the bounds life has set us. What Maxine says about ordination, and it being an inner process, is something I Hear and it resonates well with me. I would love to sit down and just talk story with her, she has some great insights; I would like to know the where, when, and how’s of what she learned.  Also, in my mind (and it is probably only me), she does a really good job at concisely telling us what the endowment offers us: inner spiritual power, the inner ordination, and I think that also resonates with the ritual.

    We have really expanded our understanding of the divine feminine lately, especially in the church.  There has been a lot of great scholarship, papers, articles, blogs, conferences, you name it.  It is being well received, and is enhancing our understanding of both the temple and the gospel. We loves us some Margaret Barker, and it’s good scholarship.  A lot of this understanding is drawn out of the wisdom texts and literature: new finds, old books.  It is not the only source we can look to for understanding of the temple ritual and teachings.

    There are other sources of Wisdom literature.  Meister Eckhart and the anonymous author of ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ to mention a couple.  For example, John of the Cross wrote a fascinating book, the Ascent of Mount Carmel, that has enough temple imagery present to make you want to read and understand it. And why not, we use other sources of scholarship. For example, he writes about putting on vestments or garments in layers of white, green, and ultimately purple. The advice and teachings he gives often sounds a lot more like what I would expect a deep study of the Relief Society, and it’s ability to skillfully teach a sister practices that can be used to set aside ego (spiritual sense), would sound like. Then again he had a close and intimate relationship with a house of Carmelite nuns. The vestments he equates to faith, hope, and charity by the way. He goes on to explain how, through discipleship , we obtain these garments and and how the obtaining of these garments effects a change in us. He describes how to obtain these garments and the process begins to sound a whole lot like our covenantal experience, and again, a whole lot more like the expectations of RS (which really should be our expectation as priesthood holders, our motto should be ‘charity never faileth,’ well…). We can use that to inform our experience.  It can open up other ways of understanding the temple.  When Eckhart or John of the Cross talk about our lower spirit or nature, what we call the natural man, and then it is connected to the symbol of woman (eve), there really might be something there. The endowment ritual has nothing to do with defining gender roles, but it does use gendered symbols to teach us. It does teach us about progress, setting aside self, and divine union; this is where that inner ordination and spiritual power comes from.  (And that was a sloppy explanation). This is just me, but I think the best temple prep book a person could read is A Case for God, its basic enough that most could easily and quickly comprehend some of the insights offered there.

    What would these kind of wisdom sages say about our sealing ritual?  Probably something along the lines of it being a liturgical reenactment of the marriage of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they would remind us of the endowment ritual.  They would remind us the nature of what we are agreeing to as we live by the terms of the liturgy.  Eve, our lower nature or spirit, represents the the senses and physical body (a more primitive part of the brain, an aspect of the ego, whatever the tradition names it), or as we call it, the natural man.  Eve, in giving herself to Adam shows she is willing to obey, submit, hearken (whatever language we choose to use) to the husband Adam, who represents our higher spirit or nature.  This would be the divine spirit, the preexistent Adam, or Michael, who we were before we were given this body.  Eve covenants to hearken (and that really is the best word, I am glad the church changed it, as you can’t truly master your physical body, only teach and train it to react differently) to Adam, and that process really is the process of letting go of the self or ego. Adam of course must hearken to Father, as we are taught to do: listen to the Spirit. They would probably say that each in that couple kneeling across the altar must see themselves as both Adam and Eve (even LDS authors have began to write about this), each must set aside their own wants, desires, reactions, and everything that is the self for the other.  This marriage is, after all, being perform over an altar, it is a sacrifice.  I don’t think they would see it at all as your giving yourself to your husband, as his Eve must also hearken to his Adam. They definitely wouldn’t say that he is the link between you and the false idol of god that this kind of thought produces. Thats not how these sages would have seen the ritual.  They did however use marriage language and symbolism to describe the process of inner ordination.  Marriage really can teach us about setting aside the self and being equal partners; both body and sprit, man and woman. I think that matches closer to what the church is saying, and that we really are equals, both struggling to veil our eve and talk with father – both trying to rise to our higher natures. The sealing really is a liturgical reenactment, and should be seen that way.

    When I think this way, the woman that I put on a pedestal, because that’s what good mormons do, represents the sum total of our mortal, physical, fallen experience.  She isn’t just mother or wife, or nurturer.  No, Eve is so much more, she represents the all, the whole purpose of this life, and the joy and the sorrow that it is. I am glad that, through the resurrection she will be my bride forever. I am also glad to have an eternal and equal companion that truly is the image of Eve. So selfless, and this companionship, through the sealing ritual is someone I join equally with forever. I am not trying to say these thoughts are correct or right.  I am not saying that this is THE way to understand it. I am just offering a legitimate example.  I am saying that maybe the ritual is not the boogyman we think it is.  We just need a more complete understanding, a little more experience with it, and some compassion towards it.

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  17. forgetting on May 20, 2014 at 8:01 PM

    MH, it was flippant typo, it might fit though.  Who knows, maybe we have two wombs, and that is the problem in the baby making. No one yet has offered advice on how to fix two wombs as the source of infertility so, I can’t say we have eliminated that.

    I don’t believe that ritual of the second anointing is conferring anything than maybe, faith, trust, confidence, and more knowledge (hopefully not pride).  I do not think a person receives their calling and election as a result of that ordinance, also I do not believe that a person receives access to a new priesthood.  I do not believe that it ensures a person’s exaltation. I do believe there are private aspects of that ritual that could provide opportunity to exercise faith and have the Lord appear, but I think that is for each couple given this opportunity to decide.  I also do not think you need to have this ritual in order to see the Lord. For me, I believe that it (second anointing) looks forward in anticipation of the same thing the first endowment looks forward too, the sanctification and renewal of the body and/or being brought into the presence of the Lord.  I believe that is what D&C 84 is speaking to.  And as part of this, the calling and election made sure.  I believe that anything after this process and event is between them and the Lord, their completing any task the Lords sets them would be priesthood. That is what I was trying to explain, and if that meant a sister was placed in a situation where the Spirit or the Lord directly asked her to offer healing, then that healing would be an exercise of priesthood from the sister’s view, even though it was the Spirit that did the actual healing.  It is the acting at the behest of the Lord that I am trying to speak of.

    I also believe that this is what the future priest and priestess titles speak to in relation to this life.  If a person is a member of the church of the Firstborn, whatever that means for reality, it symbolically recognizes a direct relationship with the Lord; and anything you do for Him would be as a priestess or priest, thus – priesthood.  I said a few times,  I see it being a forward looking thing, let me add it is a forward looking thing for us, because for those that have obtained, it would be a now.  In this way, I believe that yes, sisters can be ordained, by the Lord, and receive priesthood in this life.  Maybe knowing that helps to settle a sister’s heart (I doubt it) when she can’t be ordained into the structure of the Church.  Personally, I see it the same way for myself, whatever priesthood this lineage card says I have, or all of the flubbed sacramental prayers say I have… is only an invitation to what the Lord is offering.  In that way, all I can do is be really practiced in the principles of priesthood, reach for the endowment, and wait, just like sisters.  Makes me feel a bit better too in what the sisters have, or don’t have, we all seem to be waiting.  As 84 expresses, the receiving of those two priesthoods and the magnification is not complete until I think the kit and caboodle is.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address female ordination, we should.  And we should address the other issues when it comes to sexism and misogyny; but sexist is a behavior and a heart, not a ritual, and if a ritual appears sexist, then we have misunderstood it’s meaning and we have to start again.

    Perhaps the confusion is over this:  I was only suggesting that we are careful not to decouple the ritual of healing from the priesthood completely when we talk about ordaining women.  It still has value.

    Next time, I will just read only, I do that better.

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  18. hawkgrrrl on May 20, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    forgetting: that’s some interesting food for thought. In a way, you are suggesting that perhaps the Adam & Eve narrative is not to be likened to us individually, but collectively (each individual = Adam + Eve) or IOW, it’s a bit like the anima / animus Jung speaks about. Perhaps, although I question that it’s what any of our leaders have ever thought. It sounds far too esoteric for 99% of Mormons or more. But I do like esoteric explanations.

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  19. Mormon Heretic on May 20, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    Here is the definition of priesthood from

    The word priesthood has two meanings. First, priesthood is the power and authority of God. It has always existed and will continue to exist without end (see Alma 13:7–8; D&C 84:17–18). Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power, He exalts His obedient children, bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man” ( Moses 1:39; see also D&C 84:35–38).

    Priesthood is authority to administer ordinances. Females cannot administer the sacrament, baptize, serve as bishop, etc. They do not have priesthood authority.

    Power of priesthood mentioned here is to create heavens and earth, or resurrect others. I believe Elder Oaks recently said this has not been restored to man.

    I still think that faith healing is a gift of the spirit, not priesthood. Any attempts to call it priesthood are wishful thinking, and are simply attempts to muddy the waters to ignore the fact that women do not have any authority in church governance.

    But even if I were to agree with you (forgetting) and call faith healing as priesthood power such an admission still completely ignores the authority to administer ordinances, which are obviously the domain of males only. Fiona, Margaret, Neylan, and Maxine make a valiant effort to say priesthood power is more important, and minimize the lack of authority, but this lack of authority is what Ordain Women are asking for. And why shouldn’t they ask for it? Why are male general authorities so scared to share power?

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  20. Geoff - Aus on May 20, 2014 at 11:31 PM

    19 In the temple women put the robes of the holy priesthood “so they can officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood. So do they not have it or is it just not recognised/accepted by the present leadership?

    I read somewhere recently a response to those women who say they do not want the priesthood ” well you shouldn’t go to the temple and be endowed then”.

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  21. forgetting on May 21, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    Hawk, that’s all it is, food for thought. What we have is sacred and ritual drama, we are all actors and we should be seeing ourselves in all the roles. This gets lost with the videos sometimes, a live session shows this more.

    The example wasn’t to provide some magic answer, but to offer a different way of seeing things. I have learned this about the endowment: it takes slow and steady practice of both it and of Alma 32. Knowing a fact or idea isn’t enough, it needs applied action so it can bear fruit, and that fruit can then be judged. The thing is, knowing that little bit is sometimes enough to allow you to see other possibilities. Other possibilities can lead to less harmful understandings. I trust that if a sister or brother is sincere, the Lord will guide them to other truthful and correct answers that exist, they just might come from outside of what we believe about it now. One of the elements of the endowment is the concept that we can seek Him for answers when there is something we don’t know. Isn’t that the point, to talk with the Lord through the veil, and then enter His presence?

    I don’t know that seeing it this way is what the 99% need. Thinking this way, or something like it, might help those that are hurting and seeking, the rest seem content, why bother that and risk upsetting them. I also don’t worry if the leaders ever thought this way or not, there isn’t some secret book with all the answers (for truth, other than the Book of Mormon), so I trust that they started with exactly the same foundation we did, practically nothing and a lot of confusion. If that is the case we are all learning and seeking. If they had thoughts in this directions do you think they would share it so pointedly? No, we saints would latch into any one new idea or set of ideas and suck the life from it. We would set it up as new law and find a hedge for it. Just like we do currently. It would just be another crystallization of thought. A bit like damnation. I think they just have to trust that the the Lord guides each of us as we reach for truth.

    Oh, and I wouldn’t trust me, I am the crazy guy that thinks the preacher should be added back in.

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  22. Hedgehog on May 21, 2014 at 1:20 AM

    forgetting (13, 16..), interesting point of view, but if that’s the case why insist on particular genders filling particular roles.

    “What we have is sacred and ritual drama, we are all actors and we should be seeing ourselves in all the roles. This gets lost with the videos sometimes, a live session shows this more.”

    I’ve not seen a live session, but I can’t imagine how I would find it less confusing rather than more so. I don’t find the participation in the slightest bit helpful. all that getting up and down, putting things on and taking things off really interupts contemplation and thought for me, and I get too bogged down and flustered by what I’m meant to be doing with what when to anywhere near beyond the surface to really take in what has actually been said, let alone think beyond any surface meaning. Even though I’ve been through it so many times now. So I really appreciated Elisothel’s essay, as an opportunity to be able to do that.

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  23. Cheryl McGuire on May 21, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    MH, thanks for your kind comments regarding Sunstone Kirtland! I’ve been trying to find time to post more on the topic at hand but for now I just wanted to acknowledge that.

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  24. Mormon Heretic on May 21, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    Geoff, I think the temple wording is that all congregants are “prepared to officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood”, which once again implies future use, not present use.

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  25. forgetting on May 21, 2014 at 4:20 PM


    “I still think that faith healing is a gift of the spirit, not priesthood.”

    I agree, have not said otherwise, and if I spoke so it was an error (sloppy) communication.

    “Any attempts to call it priesthood are wishful thinking, and are simply attempts to muddy the waters to ignore the fact that women do not have any authority in church governance.”

    I also agree with that.

    “But even if I were to agree with you and call faith healing as priesthood power such an admission still completely ignores the authority to administer ordinances, which are obviously the domain of males only.”

    Yes, that is also true, and as I have not asked you to call a faith healing priesthood power, then we are in even more agreement.

    “Fiona, Margaret, Neylan, and Maxine make a valiant effort to say priesthood power is more important, and minimize the lack of authority,”

    I also agree. Caveat: Their point of view is just as valid as this:

    “but this lack of authority is what Ordain Women are asking for.”

    These are some of my experience I have had while I have been trying to understand what everyone is saying (power, authority, all of it), and it might help you understand where I am coming from. When I say I think I understand some of what they are saying and feeling, I know I can only grasp some of it. I fully recognize that my perspective as a male can only stretch so far before there are aspects of female experiences that will be foreign to me and something I can’t truly understand yet.

    When a brother is called upon to give a blessing, sometimes in the act of giving that blessing, he becomes aware that words he is offering up are not his. Sometimes this is from the very beginning, sometimes it begins to happen later in the blessing, and sometimes it might come and go. This is especially true with blessings of healing and comfort, I think because the need is so great. I cannot speak to father’s blessings, however, as I have talked to friends and family, and listen to their experiences, they say this is also true. This does not happen every time, but enough. It is really interesting what happens when you start prying into those experiences, and ask them to be aware and maybe share what is going on. Everyone does it differently, but there is a pattern. Outside of all of the extra preparation that goes into a blessing (if we have notice), there is something that happens just before, we do something, the Spirit does something, and it works. Not always, but it works enough. Perhaps you can relate? I took that apart though, because I started to become aware that what happens in that moment, and while this is occurring, is very similar to what is being express at the veil and the prayer circle. For me, what happens during those two aspects of our ritual can be overlaid and they line up in a beautiful way, and so I let that idea inform some of my behaviors. As I pondered the healing ritual, for me, it overlaid nicely with those parts of the endowment, and spoke to my experience, and I learned just a little something new. If that was true with a blessing, could it be true in personal prayer, family prayer? Was that attitude or feeling, that access, something I could cultivate through out the day? I was already practicing meditation, what about then? I am glad I tried.

    So, let me share some experiences that have flowed from this on going experiment, and some of the thoughts that I had at the time or later. The first is a healing blessing. There is the act of anointing, the prayer for the anointing, the sealing of the anointing, and the blessing. I had a little warning so I was able to spend some time in meditation and then prayer. I think it was the most focused I had been when functioning as a priest, and the need was great. He was a teenage boy who had been life-flighted from Montana to Seattle with severe heart problems. When it came time to give the blessing, the Spirit said teach them first, and so we talked about the oil, the Spirit, and healing. It was the first time I had done that, and I wish I would have considered it before. As I taught, the Lord said to me, “this is Priesthood.” When I anointed with oil, “This is priesthood.” The anointing prayer and the sealing of the anointing, again “This is priesthood.” As I opened up and tried to give the blessing the Lord would have given him, even that prayer, with words pouring out that we not mine and promises I would not have made because, well – I am not that bold, “this is Priesthood.” So, what was priesthood? The ritual aspects were priesthood, the prayers were, that was all priesthood. The healing though, that was a gift of the Spirit, and he had the faith for it. So was that power or authority, I don’t know, but He says it was priesthood.

    During my personal prayers, as I seek for answers to questions our family has, I try to let the Lord guide my prayers the same way I am willing to let him guide the blessings. He tells me “this is priesthood.”

    As I have tried to make this constant companionship of the Spirit, this embracing and being open to hear, a daily practice, I have found opportunities to serve. As I was just about to fall asleep one night, there it was and plain as day, “go outside,” I even knew where. I got up and started to pull on my jeans, when it was really clear, “put on your garments you will be acting as a priest” (I was sleeping comfy, and it felt urgent so I was rushing.) When I got downstairs there was a lost sister praying the rosary and asking over and over for God to not be lost. She had been missing for 2 days and her eighty two year old mother had just filed a missing persons that day. She was very lost, in the wrong city, and most would have just seen a homeless lady. I probably would have as well if I didn’t have forewarning. Here is the thing, in reminding me I would be acting as a priest I was placed in a mindset where I took what He was asking me to do serious, and saw it all the way to the end. I didn’t just call the police to come help her, that’s most likely what I would have thought to do, and patted myself on the back after. Nope, the Spirit had me feeding her from the gas station, and when she asked for smokes the Spirit sent me off to get her some. She used my phone let call and talk to her mom. We sat together and tried to talk. Her mental state made that hard, but it just felt good. When the police finally came and their presence alone upset her to the point that they couldn’t work with her, I stayed and helped, and THAT is not something I would usually do. I finally stopped trying my own way and thought to let the Lord suggest things to talk about with her, so she might be calmed and it worked. Just like giving a blessing. the words were there and not mine. Through all this you know what I heard from the Lord? “This is priesthood. This is priesthood. This is priesthood.” The Lord often lets our more simple and childlike brothers and sisters educate us. When all was said and done, and the cab that was taking her home had come, she turned to me and thanked me for being her guardian angel, and you know what the Lord said to that? “This is priesthood.”

    Interestingly, my wife has participated in this experiment. You see that thing that happens in blessing, when the Lord can guide our prayer, sisters do it to. I have met many sisters that have shared with me stories from their lives where they offered prayers that they were aware the words were not theirs, and they felt guided by the Lord. Deep sorrow can do that. When my wife has had these experiences with prayer, the Lord has also told her, “this is priesthood” As she has been guided to serve, “this is priesthood.” I am not saying that this is the same thing some of our sisters are experiencing, but that sense of empowerment, and peace, inner ordination, I feel that too; and I “have’ the priesthood right, but I had to move beyond some of my old ways of acting and thinking to feel it. From my experiences, I would have to say that, yes, the healing ritual that a sister hypothetically would perform would be priesthood. I think that is why the separation is hard for me. I see a healing ritual, that is priesthood; the fruit of faith and the Spirit, that is the Healing.

    There really is something there when our sisters talk about priesthood in this way they do. I am just saying I can relate and understand because it accords with my experiences and knowledge from the Lord.

    “And why shouldn’t they ask for it?” They should, but as we can see, the wheels are slow. Both ways of seeing or being are valid. While this plays out – What if the sisters that want ordination put efforts into both OW and reaching for what some of their sisters are trying to tell them is there (and I believe there are sisters doing this)? What if those that are finding and feeling priesthood power, or priesthood from the temple, would cultivate an attitude of exploration (and I think many have), and see that maybe the performing of the rituals could offer learning opportunities and spiritual growth? Maybe the priestly act of performing ritual is something they could come to value and seek. The ritual of holding a new born as she is presented to the Father and the Son is such a beautiful thing to see. Standing gathered in a circle, seeking for His words, so you can make her first touch of the Spirit foundational. That, I think is a beautiful compliment to the prayer circle, so I get why they are yearning to participate.

    “Why are male general authorities so scared to share power?” I think a lot of us are asking that, but compassion should be the watchword as we try to understand this.

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  26. Mormon Heretic on May 21, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Forgetting, that was a very interesting, moving comment.

    On the one hand you said you agreed with me, yet your experience seems to disagree. You said previously, “I think when we try to decouple priesthood and healing from each other we do it and us a disservice.” I guess I’m just having a hard time reconciling how your experience agrees with my point that “I still think that faith healing is a gift of the spirit, not priesthood.”

    A cynic would say that the act of anointing with oil and laying on of hands for someone with faith is simply the placebo effect. Certainly people of other faiths don’t anoint the way we do, yet experience faith healing. Of course early LDS women anointed with oil and healed without priesthood, but obviously had the power of God. So I’m having a hard time coupling priesthood with healing.

    I think gifts of the spirit are really cool. I wish I experienced them more often. I think people of all faiths experience gifts of the spirit, and many probably live closer to God than I do. It’s just hard for me to assign miracles to priesthood when so many non-priesthood holders have miracles in their lives.

    For me, the better definition of priesthood is God’s authority to perform ordinances, such as baptism, blessing/passing the sacrament, etc. and I’d love for women to be able to participate more. Certainly many women have greater gifts of the spirit than I do, and I think I (and others) could learn a lot from them.

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  27. forgetting on May 21, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Hedgehog: “interesting point of view, but if that’s the case why insist on particular genders filling particular roles.”

    If I had to guess I would say in theory you shouldn’t have to, but we are not a gender mature culture wouldn’t you say? An effective parable has to work on all levels culturally, and unfortunately it might be that in acting as a stumbling block, which is one aspect of endowment, it will use gender. I also don’t know that I have an unbiased view on that, I am the househusband/homemaker with a project (work) on the side, my wife has the role of functional provider, so our world is a bit upside down from how the rest might see life.

    Every time we change rooms and we have to sit in another seat, consider that an invitation to view the endowment from a new perspective. (Now try to get that out of your head next time you participate in a session).

    MH: I should amend what I said earlier: “Why are male general authorities so scared to share power?” My most truthful thought is I have a hope that either the Lord, or the leaders (I really do have to trust that they are aware of what they are doing), are letting this play out just like this in hopes that the saints, meaning the whole body or at least most, will start seeking revelation more diligently, and if we have to disagree with the institution to such a degree that we finally start seeking revelation, then so be it. But when I look at some of what we consider PR blunders and doublespeak, it might be aimed at just that. Even if we don’t know the Lord is directing this way. I can see Him letting us mess things up left and right if it was effective in the end.

    from me: “I think when we try to decouple priesthood and healing from each other we do it and us a disservice.”

    I still stand by this, if we loose sight of the power (see below**, and NO not the force jedi) of the ritual, and if it becomes only “a thing we do” without real efficacy then the potential for healing might be lost. To say that the healing ritual has nothing to do with the healing isn’t wise. The ritual itself (in this case our authorized priesthood one) being performed is priesthood. The act or action itself. It is you acting in a priestly function and delivering or administering this ritual or ordinance, that is priesthood.

    “On the one hand you said you agreed with me, yet your experience seems to disagree. … I’m just having a hard time reconciling how your experience agrees with my point that “I still think that faith healing is a gift of the spirit, not priesthood.”

    “the better definition of priesthood is God’s authority to perform ordinances.”

    Just ordinances? and that might be the rub.

    Like I said, I have a hard time pulling it apart when I express it. I guess I can just have two contradicting ideas and hold them both as truth. I think I have to do this, because I am more willing to trust the Lord in this matter, but I also agree that there are definitions we have to work with in regards to the structural church, and our leaders are setting these definitions. I haven’t said anything that disagrees with the definition either. It might be that we are bound in the ways we can talk, and express ideas, about priesthood with our current understanding.

    So much of what we do in the priesthood is ‘revealing.’ (121 really shows how this works) For our ordinances we perform ritual that reveals truth. We reveal needs as we act in service. When we bless someone, that prayer we offer often times turns into a revelation, and it reveals truth to them. The ritual and revelation may then move them from one place into another. Even if there was not occasion for revelation, the ritual itself is/can be the catalyst to move the person from one space to the next, even in healing. So when you say, ** “A cynic would say that the act of anointing with oil and laying on of hands for someone with faith is simply the placebo effect.” I would say, “Then that cynic would be a fool for at least two reasons”. The first being for not having a better appreciation for what placebo is and can do, and therefore calling it ‘simply the placebo effect.’ grin. The second would be for not realizing that the whole ritual, from the anointing to the sealing and blessing, as ritual, is designed to awaken placebo inside of the participants. Someone who didn’t think the cynic was a fool might suggest “The Spiritual Brain” by Mario Beauregard, PhD (there might be a second author) as a brief introduction into how it might interact with God, or Spirit. Our bodies are incredible things, and the veil often prevents us from using them to their fullest potential, thus we reveal. Other faiths can heal, everyone has an Adam, who was Michael, who participated in creation. I think we can do more than we know. I very much believe this, and they have their own rituals, ones we might be uncomfortable with. This is why well designed liturgy is effective, it has a deep effect on the brain and spirit, but it usually also requires a cultural understanding, thus our oil. Just to me, I think that says a lot about priesthood. It is in the ordinances that the power of godliness is made manifest (sloppy quote).

    One of the best ways to make the endowment an effective ritual is to just ‘be’ during it. Just be there and be present, let it do its thing. We don’t need to try to parse out its meanings and layers just then, we can do that later. If we feel like we need to contemplate, or pray, or meditate, then do that (as best you can with all the costume changes and participation); but if you can, just be present and participate. Sometimes I think even genealogy can be a stumbling block for us, we really feel like we need to rush, rush, rush and get those names done. If we can get so wrapped up into movies, theatre, television that we are lost in the moment and living the narrative being presented, the we are also allowed to do that in the temple, and that might be the best way to start letting it work on that deep level, similar to how a placebo works. During those times when we are tuned into the say a movie or a television drama, we might have flashes of insight and learning, and it was something we were not trying to force. It can happen during the endowment as well, and its usually better. The films are very effective in this regard, more so than maybe the live sessions for the new generations, that style of media is a large aspect of our culture. Adam and Eve were taught how to receive revelation and then that revelation would return, or guide, them to the presence of the Lord. Get wrapped up in that for a bit. At least for me, one big aspect is just that, the endowment is a school of prophets, we are learning to receive revelation.

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  28. rah on May 21, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    My general take away from this is that there seems to be a lot more fundamental agreement between these women and many OW members on the historical roots and views of priesthood than there are dissimilarities. I think it is important to remember how much they have in common, even as we explore where they disagree. I imagine part 2 contains more of the disagreements. This may include differences in an envisioned end state as well as differences about how to approach the men who will ultimately have to sign off and validate that changed end state.

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  29. Hedgehog on May 22, 2014 at 4:12 AM

    forgetting (25, 27), I really enjoyed your comments about the Priesthood. They sound like incredible experiences.
    I’m absolutely not a fan of traditional gender roles as we observe and even teach them. I don’t think the endowment helps overcome those traditions though, as it is generally understood, and so far as I can tell our male leaders see no advantage in changing that understanding sadly.

    “Every time we change rooms and we have to sit in another seat, consider that an invitation to view the endowment from a new perspective.”
    Well, you might get to change rooms. We don’t. We the same seat and room throughout. What happens is the light level increases – I don’t get any credit for noticing that, since it was pointed out to me by someone else. Maybe I should try something along the lines of when the light increases there’s more to see, or something?
    Also I really appreciate your insights. Thank you.

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  30. forgetting on May 22, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    MH and Hedgehog: thank you.

    Hedgehog: Ah, an ‘enlightenment temple.’ I can relate, and I maybe can understand more of your experience. I took my endowments out in Portland Oregon and it is the same. I was also too busy trying to memorize everything from the washing and anointing. I am sorry, I think it is the Uk, but what temple district are you in? I honestly felt for years a bit claustrophobic in Portland, the one rooms sessions can be tough and stuffy.

    “Maybe I should try something along the lines of when the light increases there’s more to see, or something?”

    It works, try it. That line of thinking helped me realize that the most important room or (lighted) aspect of the endowment is the Terrestrial Room or Lighting, after that there is no more learning (at least as far as the narrative lays out) and we go on to the next room and practice. Sometimes just changing the light can cause a change of perspective in art.

    Hawk: (if you are still around) ” it’s a bit like the anima / animus Jung speaks about.”

    That has sat uncomfortably with me since because it comes close, but …ehh… And I didn’t want to suggest I leaned that way. It is perhaps close. I was only suggesting other ways of seeing.

    This might be much closer to how I actually see it; and less a tossing out of ideas: It is more about the Embodiment experience, which I feel really reaches to the heart of some of our teachings. In a way it kinda started with me seeing the temple as our body, and the drama as what plays out on the inside. I see it more like Eve Brain — Adam Mind. Senses — Awareness. Physical organ (up to and including the whole body, heavy emphasis on senses and their role) — Consciousness, Intellect (including our ideas about intelligence and spirit from restoration scripture). Lucifer, the snake, could be said to represent the hypothalamus, our most primitive part, the part we are told we inherited from our reptilian ancestors – where our Ego and selfish desires flow from. Thus the ‘enmity placed’ could be one expression of the neocortex as a gift to Eve and her seed. It also allows me to, in a very honest way and with the Spirit’s agreement, set aside all of those hurtful understandings of some of our temple covenants and see them in a new and (for me) motivating light. In some ways I do think Jung is informative to our experience in this light, but the heart is embodiment more in a gospel sense, thus Eve’s wise observations about the purpose of it all. The book about the spiritual brain I mentioned earlier does a good job at introduction at parsing some, just some, of this out. That’s really simplified, as it is a bit off topic. It is just how I see it now, and all I am saying is we might have more freedom of interpretation than we realize.

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  31. hawkgrrrl on May 22, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    forgetting: some interesting thoughts. While I like your thinking on the subject, it reminds me of the story of an author hearing someone dissect the themes in his work and then revealing that none of that was intentional.

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