By Authority

by: Guy Templeton

July 10, 2014

In nearly all blessings and ordinances, priesthood members perform the blessing or ordinance under the “authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.”  I noticed recently at the temple that the ordinances are performed merely “by authority.”  As I understand it, women repeat words nearly identical to men when performing initiatory rites.  There has been some debate about whether women actually hold the priesthood when performing temple ordinances.  Elder Oaks recently said “With the exception of the sacred work that sisters do in the temple under the keys held by the temple president, which I will describe hereafter, only one who holds a priesthood office can officiate in a priesthood ordinance. All authorized priesthood ordinances are recorded on the records of the church.”

Is this why the words "Melchizedek Priesthood" are absent from temple ordinances?

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Do female temple workers hold priesthood authority, or is this simply proxy authority from the temple president (as if the president were performing the ordinance instead of the woman)?

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40 Responses to By Authority

  1. Geoff -Aus on July 10, 2014 at 5:59 AM

    In the endowment both men and women wear the robes of the priesthood on the t right sholder, “so they can officiate in the ordinances of the melchizedek.”

    So yes women do hold the priesthood in their own right.

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  2. IDIAT on July 10, 2014 at 7:15 AM

    Handbook 2. …..Priesthood keys are bestowed on presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents. …

    All ward and stake auxiliary organizations operate under the direction of the bishop or stake president, who holds the keys to preside. Auxiliary presidents and their counselors do not receive keys. They receive delegated authority to function in their callings.

    Temple presidents are given keys. They in turn set apart temple workers. I think, analogous to stake and ward auxiliary leaders, female temple workers receive delegated authority. So I guess I would say they serve as proxies. They don’t ‘hold’ the priesthood in the traditional sense by way of confirmation, but are given the authority of it so their acts may be binding and valid.

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  3. hoffbegone on July 10, 2014 at 7:50 AM

    One needs to look at the Gospel from an eternal perspective. Before Melchizedek what was the Priesthood called or referred by. In the pre-existance probably referred to simply as “authority” rather than it’s formal or “official” name. Many attending the Temple do not have or are incapable of enjoying the experience from an eternal perspective. There is so much to learn if we open our ears and eyes, especially with the new films. I believe those who attend the Temple now are being given a chance to learn much more and receive a greater understanding than anytime in the past. These are indeed exciting times to be a member of The Church. With regards to Women and the PH: they do receive it. I was there when the PH was conferred to my wife. I was surprised and asked the Temple President about it. Women in the Church do hold the PH while officiating in the Temple. Period.

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  4. Paul Burnham on July 10, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    Carrying IDIAT’s logic further, it sounds like anybody acting with authority delegated by somebody with keys is serving as a proxy. That would apply to male temple workers, Sunday School presidents, and arguably even home teachers. About the only time a person exercises priesthood authority without it being explicitly delegated from someone with keys is when giving blessings using consecrated oil. Everything else is “serving as a proxy.”

    But I think Elder Oaks rejected that when he stated the following: “We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?” All of my examples, as well as that of women serving as temple workers, involve people acting with priesthood authority. So I answered “a different type of Priesthood authority.”

    I’m on the fence about when men are acting with Melchizedek Priesthood authority and when they are acting under this “different type.” The OP makes a reasonable case that male temple workers are operating under the latter. Those exercising keys are clearly operating under the former. But Sunday School presidents? I’m leaning toward the latter, but not sure. High councilors? Even tougher.

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  5. Mormon Heretic on July 10, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    The baptismal prayer isn’t explicitly offered under either the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood, but rather by one “commissioned of Jesus Christ.”

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  6. IDIAT on July 10, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    I don’t carry the notion of “proxy” as far as Paul extends my logic. Men are ordained to the priesthood, and when they (for example) give a blessing to their child, they are to state their authority. They act independently of the person holding the keys locally (their Bishop). On the other hand, when performing saving ordinances, they are acting as “proxies” because they act upon the permission of the Bishop. In the case of the temple, where the saving ordinances of initiatory and endowment and sealings are performed, temple workers are acting as proxies on behalf of the temple president. At least that’s the way I think of it. Contrary to hoffbegone, I do not think women “receive” the priesthood in the temple. My wife hasn’t received the priesthood (or at least she doesn’t believe she has) and as far as I know, no “priesthood” is conferred upon female temple workers. Hoffbegone – can you tell us the circumstances surrounding the priesthood being “conferred” upon your wife? Were hands laid upon her head? Who did the conferring? Did he or she cite any authority? I do like the new films, but the words are pretty much the same in the new films as in the old films. Therefore, other than artistic interpretation (which I do enjoy), the endowment and the information and covenants made are the same.

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  7. hoffbegone on July 10, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    My wife and I were called as Temple Workers in the Los Angeles Temple a few years ago. I was with my wife, I was set apart. My wife was given the PH by one of the counselors in the Temple Presidency (my post said Temple President but it was one of his counselors – dont think that makes any difference) and she was set apart.. Hands were laid on her head. With regards to citing by what authority I do not recall exact wording, just that we had a discussion about what happened and the counselor explained women are given the PH because they are performing PH ordinances in the Temple. It could not have been made clearer to me. I have discussed this with my wife and other members (men and women) and they agree that women are given the PH to enable them to perform these sacred ordinances. With regard to other comments made above: Temple Workers do not work as proxies. Patrons are the proxies. A Sunday School teacher does not have authority to perform PH ordinances no matter how hard a Bishop may try to delegate his keys. Keys and authority are two different things. Many words in these posts need definitions otherwise a lot of misunderstanding will take place. PH is conferred, one is ordained to a PH office after the PH is conferred. My wife was not ordained to a PH office. There is only one PH, it is the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. I am not prepared to give a Sunday School lesson on this subject and dont wish to imply that I know it all. But there is good material on lds(dot)org. With regards to keys: who has the keys to the resurrection? With regards to the new films. Yes, the wording is the same but there are images no one has ever seen before in those films giving new emphasis and meaning and intent to those words….

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  8. hoffbegone on July 10, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    …. I have either been brain dead for 40 years while attending the Temple or ????. Actually, I started to figure it all out and the new films confirmed my new understandings and they added to them. Every word in the endowment is said for a reason and the new articulation is wonderful and mind expanding. As an example of what I mean: just lately the Church published an essay about the Book of Abraham. At the beginning of that essay it says one of the spirits was great as unto God. It has been taught that that spirit was Jesus Christ and a reference to the passage was given. I read the passage and the passage does not say JC was a spirit when God was among those intelligences and spirits. Yet, we have been taught that interpretation. Now one may want to read into that passage what they want, but if you parse it properly I submit Jesus Christ, as was God, was not just a spirit. Don’t mean to change the subject but if anyone wondered how great men in the Church learn something new each time they go to the Temple, I think I know what it is – and it is glorious.

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  9. Kristine A on July 10, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    I have no idea. That’s why I ask for further light and knowledge, it’s clear as mud to me.

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  10. IDIAT on July 10, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    hoffbegone #7 – thanks for the explanation. I was referring to whether female patrons receive the priesthood at some point during the initiatory/endowment. You clarified that the priesthood was given to your wife when she was set apart as a temple worker. I know several female temple workers but haven’t had occasion to ask them the specifics of their being set apart. I will follow up on the priesthood aspect. Interesting stuff.

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  11. Mormon Heretic on July 10, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    Hoffbegone, I would really love a post from you explaining this is more detail. My mission president was a former temple sealer, and said that (1) female temple workers have the priesthood in order to function, (2) women have priesthood via the endowment. I talked to a current temple president, and he disagreed on both counts. Who is right? I have no idea, but there does not seem to be an official consensus on the issue. I think at least (1) is true, but perhaps (2) is not (though Fiona Givens said the temple gives women priesthood power, but not priesthood authority). I’d love a post on this topic. Feel free to email me at mormon heretic at gmail dot com.

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  12. hoffbegone on July 10, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Female Patrons do not receive the PH. If that was the case, every living endowed woman in the Church would have the PH. For those that dont know: when a name is submitted to the Temple for proxy work, if the name, dates, and/or location are wrong the saving ordinances are still valid. If the gender is wrong the ordinances have to be done over again because there is a difference. Gender matters. One thing to keep in mind, saving ordinance are done for souls, not names. They are done for families, not names. They are done for mothers, fathers, and children, not names. We keep track of names, dates, and locations to help us not duplicate our efforts. Back to PH: how the PH operates with regards to gender in the afterlife is, to the best of my knowledge, not known. But with God, all things are possible. Always be prepared for further revelation. By definition, continuous revelation means change. God is not an unchanging god as Satan would have us believe.

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  13. Douglas on July 10, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Folks, this thrad amounts to straining at gnants and swallowing camels wherein women and the PH are concerned. If in the House of the Lord endowed females were given SOME manner of PH, e.g., the MP and some office therein, the ordination would be explicit. That’s how it rolls both in and out of the Temple for male PH holders.

    The Lord is sufficient to get HIS work done in whatsoever manner HE wishes. If He wants women to be ordained, the erstwhile Sister Kelly notwithstanding, He is perfectly capable of making His will known, and woe betide the chump that tries to impede Him! Right now, the answer is no, and no word has been given on IF and WHEN there will be a ‘yes’. I wouldn’t bet on that changing, either, but, as I’ve said in other posts, I speak only for myself, and I don’t have special revelation nor authority to speak in place of Tommy Monson et. al…

    The best thing to do is to never fail to convey to the sisters for the tremendous works that they do…funny, they don’t need special ordination, they just get their respective jobs done. I’d be utterly remiss to fail to acknowledge and give thanks. Likewise, I don’t exercise my PH for the accolades, I want none, just the satisfaction that I’ve made a positive difference.

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  14. Kristine A on July 10, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Many women I respect do 100% believe they receive the power of the priesthood conferred upon them in the endowment. I believe there are certain words we repeat that could perform that function. And what does it mean that genders officiate? Linguistics indicate a relationship to holding offices… Women aren’t ordained to the m.proesthood as happens for men in the temple, there is that difference.

    The more I go to the temple the more assured I am that NO human being alive understand the priesthood fully, especially it’s relation to men and women. So forgive me if I don’t put weight in y’all’s opinions.

    I sat in the temple and pondered on the theological morass I’m presented with, I’ve been assured by the Spirit that God knows, and in the next life it will be beautiful and joyful for everyone; and that no one “gets” it here on earth. Not even little ol me.

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  15. Mormon Heretic on July 10, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    hoffbegone, Fiona Givens makes a distinction between priesthood power and priesthood authority, and she feels Mormon women receive priesthood power via the endowment. (Click the link above.) Do you agree/disagree with her?

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  16. hoffbegone on July 10, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    The Temple is not about priesthood, it’s about covenants. To be fair, one could say it is about everything, including priesthood, just as we could say everything about the Gospel is about the Atonement. But without going so deep and to keep it simple, the Temple teaches about covenants and our first estate, transgression vs sin, The Atonement, and exaltation and instruction on how God’s Kingdom works.

    All of us, men and women, will be “saved” and/or exalted by Grace (ie power of the priesthood) so for women to believe they are blessed by or receive the power of the priesthood, as all are, is true. I would not call that conferring or ordaining, and then again, we may be getting hung up an semantics.

    I’d suggest everyone change their attitude that they will never get it in this life. While that may be absolutely true, I feel that attitude is a damning attitude. While we may not fully comprehend the atonement and how or why that works, while we may never fully understand the priesthood and all its ramifications, we need to keep our hearts and minds open to receive further light and knowledge. No doubt we will not become all knowing as our Father yet, but we can do better and learn more. Because we don’t understand and/or may never fully understand things in this life, this is where faith kicks in and gives us the hope that we will eventually get it. I still have loose ends I haven’t figured out, but the joy is in the journey and the discovery and the growth.

    BTW, what do you mean “genders officiate”?

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  17. hoffbegone on July 10, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Mormon Heretic, as I said before, there are many words that need to be defined else we get confused. I can see what she means by being endowed with PH power as it is a promise to those who live righteously and faithfully, but is not the same as having the PH conferred, nor PH authority, and not PH keys.So I agree with what Fiona Givens says unless I missed something.

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  18. Kristine A on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    First of all, remind me never to comment from my iphone – it’s nearly unintelligible. Both genders are made ready/prepared to officiate in the priesthood in the temple. It’s interesting to note which room this happens in.

    I’m a bit baffled that you take the leap from “Humans will not understand it fully in this life” to mean “welp, why even try to learn about it?” How can you logically make that leap?

    What I find damning is for the majority of orthodox members to think, with a certainty, that we know all the answers, we know how it will be, so stop asking questions dangit!!

    I find that spiritually damning moreso than an acknowledgement of the limited understanding of men.

    And the more you talk about your understanding of the “terms” the more it adds to the many, many different ways I’ve heard them interpreted. And position as a temple worker, sealer, or presidency member doesn’t give it more weight with me because I’ve heard multiple meanings from all of those sources. They conflict and disagree.

    So……I shall continue in asking for further light and knowledge on these subjects – for clarity to be granted as we move forward; learning by study and also by faith.

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  19. Jettboy on July 10, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    The irony is that the Temple that theoretically gives women priesthood is not Aaronic or Melchizedek, but Patriarchal. In fact, men must have Melchizedek to receive the Patriarchal, but in the eternities it will be above and perhaps absorb the Melchizedek. In the next life the highest offices won’t be High Priest or Prophet/President, but Man and Woman, Husband and Wife, Father and Mother.

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  20. Duke of Earl Grey on July 10, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    I say “Other” on the second question, with my guess being that while individual leaders may have their own ideas of just what the authority of these sisters consists of, there probably is no official consensus or doctrine on the matter, so they don’t know, and frankly they don’t care (not important for their salvation, blah, blah, blah.) They just know they can’t have men in the women’s locker room doing naked, touchy stuff, so better let women do it, by whatever authority it is.

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  21. Sarah on July 10, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    So, to be clear, we women wear the robes and garments of the priesthood, are conferred and thereby receive signs, tokens, and keywords of the Aaronic and Melchizedec priesthood, all in this life (after the garden and before the veil). It’s right there in front of us and still we refuse to accept it.

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  22. Jettboy on July 11, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    Ah, but Sarah, there is even with those “conferrals” a God, then man, and then woman hierarchical structure taught within the Temple. Assuming that isn’t the case (and I believe it is), the final outcome isn’t going to be the leadership structure of Teacher, Priest, or President we think of with the Aaronic and Melchizedek ordinations. Authority has nothing to do with it, but blessings of the eternities. The highest callings will be King or Queen of our own Kingdoms; and that only as a promised conditional in this life.

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  23. Mormon Heretic on July 11, 2014 at 11:13 AM


    I think you bring up a good point that the highest callings in the eternities will be different. I think it is an excellent point.

    On the other hand, “then man, and then woman hierarchical structure taught within the Temple” clearly disagrees with Nephi’s idea that “all are alike unto God, male and female….” If man is hierarchically above woman, then all are not alike, nor equal. This is why people complain the temple is sexist. I don’t know how anyone can argue that men and women are equal in the temple ceremony when clearly the temple ceremony shows a hierarchy that is unequal. Clearly the men are elevated in hierarchy above women.

    I understand that this point is off-topic of the post, but your comment clearly illustrates the inequality inherent in the temple endowment, and I think it should be clearly pointed out for those who say that the endowment is not sexist. I think your comment clearly illustrates the sexism within the temple, and I think you are right in your interpretation. I, on the other hand, wish the temple ceremony was changed to get rid of the sexism.

    When blacks were allowed into the temple, the temple ceremony didn’t need to be changed. Perhaps if women are allowed to hold priesthood office, the temple ceremony may need some dramatic alterations. Surely a revelation on priesthood for women would simultaneously require changes in the temple ceremony. With the new movies leaving the dialogue essentially unchanged, I’m not hopeful that either the temple ceremony or female priesthood will change under the current prophet.

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  24. […] is an interesting post over at Wheat and Tares by Guy Templeton.  He first asks about whether female temple workers hold priesthood, […]

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  25. Sarah on July 11, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    Jettboy, you’re right about the temporal aspect of our current priesthood hierarchy. The “hearken” thing is just incomplete right now. We are all alike unto God, as MH highlighted. No one is above another. Spouses should both seek God and learn from each other. The sooner the Church adds the parallel instruction about men hearkening to their wives as they hearken to the Lord, the better.

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  26. Winifred on July 11, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    Sarah the patriarchal order is from eternity to eternity. I don’t see the parallel happening ever.

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  27. Sarah on July 11, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    Maybe our understanding is not complete yet, Winifred. Do you think we’ve even received half of what God has in store for us? Or even a tenth? No, no, no. To lead a soul to salvation (including our own), our minds must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity, said Joseph Smith. Believe all things, Winifred, and hope for them, too.

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  28. hoggbegone on July 11, 2014 at 8:11 PM


    You said: “The sooner the Church adds the parallel instruction about men hearkening to their wives as they hearken to the Lord, the better.”

    Check out the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. It may or may not satisfy your demands and it could be said that PH holders need to study and understand this more seriously.

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  29. IDIAT on July 12, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    People may be taking this “all are alike unto God” a bit too literally. Didn’t Abraham note there were “great and noble” spirits? I have five children. I love them all. I don’t try to favor one over another. Still, because of differing life circumstances, together with the uniqueness of their personalities, I don’t necessarily treat them exactly “alike.” Obviously God has a perfect love for each of us. In that sense, we are all alike unto God. But we’re also unique, so that individually, and as families, as peoples and nations, I think he does treat us differently according to our circumstances. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be much sense in having the Twelve Tribes, in consistently referring to peoples and nations as God’s “chosen” people, etc. In the pursuit of equality and fairness we might be ignoring and destroying individuality.

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  30. Sarah on July 12, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    Hoggbegone, I’ve studied and taught the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood many times. What is it specifically that you think would be helpful for me to know?

    And speaking of careful reading, if you go back and read my comments you will see I did not *demand* anything.

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  31. hoggbegone on July 12, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    Sarah, Sorry, “demand” was the wrong word for me to use. You said: “The sooner the Church adds the parallel instruction about men hearkening to their wives as they hearken to the Lord, the better.” Perhaps you meant to say “The sooner the Lord adds the parallel …”.

    My personal opinion about equals is: that kind of relationship does not work and my opinion is not limited to a marriage relationship. It applies to business (even man to man) and probably many other kinds of relationships I can’t articulate at the moment. From personal experience a 50-50 ownership in a business does not work and I have spoken to others that have had similar experiences. Someone needs to have a majority interest and final say. Governing by committee results in mediocrity. I can see how that can apply to marriage as well. Sure, if two people agree then it appears to be 50-50 but I suspect in reality an agreed coarse of action or a decision is never 50-50; someone has to give. Having two people harken unto each other seems to be asking for something in another reality. Perhaps that is why the man is under the Oath and Covenant and the woman covenants to harken to the righteous man. Why would a woman not?

    I am sure the Lord will add the parallel when he is ready. As far as I can tell, He always does things according to his time.

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  32. Sarah on July 12, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    Hoggbegone, having formed several businesses myself, I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding complicated 50/50 business ownerships and that they are best avoided. Of course, there are many problems with extrapolating that to other relationships, like marriage. Still, in business, church governance, marriage, and elsewhere, determining the supremacy of one’s ideas by their anatomy is one of the least profitable ways to operate.

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  33. Mormon Heretic on July 12, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    Satan wanted a dictatorship. Sure it is efficient, but it’s not the best form of leadership.

    I think most of us are familiar with having one person with the final say, but that isn’t the only way to have a group function. I had a master’s degree class on teambuilding in which we were specifically told not to have a central leader for a group project. It took a bit of getting used to, isn’t as efficient as a dictator model, but it does work, and in our case it worked effectively.

    Of course men would like the women to hearken–it’s efficient, and it is nice to be the decider. But it isn’t necessarily God’s way. Good leaders hearken to their underlings, as well as their equals. There is no reason why a man couldn’t/shouldn’t hearken to his wife as she hearkens to the Lord, especially if she is LDS and he is not (as is the case in many households.)

    IDIAT, it is interesting how literally you take the temple recommend question of apostate, but then on this topic, you’re all the sudden not a fan of literalness. Seems like you’re being a bit inconsistent.

    Different would be letting one person get scrambled eggs, and another gets sunny-side over. They both get eggs, but cooked differently. That is different but equal. But when a man is hierarchically above a woman, that is different and unequal.

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  34. hoggbegone on July 12, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    Satan wanting the glory, extrapolated to “Satan wanted a dictatorship”, being equivalent to our sacred covenants is quite a stretch. For those that think this is a church of men would find this statement applicable:

    “Of course men would like the women to hearken–it’s efficient, and it is nice to be the decider. But it isn’t necessarily God’s way.”

    Some of us believe this Church is guided and directed by the Savior and it is run His way. For those that don’t believe that then we don’t have anything in common to discuss. I take things a little more literally than others. That is my agency. For those that think this is a church of men I understand your position and what you are trying to ask for.

    BTW, anybody see My Big Fat Greek Wedding. He may be the head of the house but she is the neck. Funny and true.

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  35. Winifred on July 12, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    Women do have a lot of power in marriage and the home

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  36. Mormon Heretic on July 12, 2014 at 6:28 PM

    I didn’t make them equivalent, you did.

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  37. hoggbegone on July 13, 2014 at 4:30 AM

    Douglas, #13, makes a good point: “The best thing to do is to never fail to convey to the sisters for the tremendous works that they do…funny, they don’t need special ordination, they just get their respective jobs done.”

    Does this imply that men without the ordination would do nothing? Maybe the PH is to compensate for a defect in men’s gender.

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  38. hoggbegone on July 13, 2014 at 4:43 AM

    With regards to one person having the final say: The Church operates in councils. This could be thought of as being equivalent to “group think”. It isn’t. Regardless what Ward Councils or Stake High Councils say or agree on, the Bishop or Stake President has the final say. I believe this is how it works between our 15 Prophets. The President of the Church has the final say. It ain’t 50-50. It’s efficient. It’s organized. It’s the Lord’s way.

    I suppose it could be said that the Apostles harken onto the President as the President harkens onto the Lord. Just like Peter harkens onto Jehovah as Jehovah harkens unto Elohim. There is order in the Kingdom. The pattern is established in the Temple. Our homes should be patterned after the Temple.

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  39. Moss on July 14, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    It should be noted that we are taught by the church, as recently as the April 2013 Ensign (and perhaps even more recently- that one just stands out), that no one is has the final say in a marriage- if no consensus is reached, no decision is made.

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  40. In the name of Jesus | Wheat and Tares on July 24, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    […] absent from the initiatory rite at the temple and the ordinances were merely performed “by authority.”  This past week, I noticed another absence:  “In the name of Jesus Christ.” […]

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