Priesthood Power in the Church

By: Bonnie
August 16, 2012

Two young men are camped out in my family room, staying with us during a week-long visit from my prairie homeland while they attend education week at BYU. Tonight one of them asked if he could ask me a question. I was delighted and encouraged him to do so.

“In my family, my father asks someone to give prayers, and if he is gone, my mother does. I couldn’t help noticing …”

“That my boys choose someone to give prayers?”

“Exactly.”

And so ensued a discussion about priesthood power. My sons choose people to give prayers in our home, morning and evening and at meals. If my 18-year-old is not home, the 17-year-old chooses, and if they are both gone, the 12-year-old does. I suppose you might guess that I, as a single mother, have meekly yielded the floor to my teenage boys because somehow they possess a power that I do not as a woman in the Church.

You would be wrong.

I looked at this sweet young man, and told him that our home is managed by priesthood power, even in the absence of a father. In very firm tones, I told him, “I preside in my home. I have delegated the stewardship over prayers to my sons because I want them to have an opportunity to experience a responsibility that is theirs and that impacts the whole  family. They are not only responsible to choose who prays, but to see to it that our prayers are given in the proper spirit, that people are present, that family prayers are administered in an environment that promotes unity. Very few opportunities to administer a stewardship are offered to young people, and I think the teenage years are an excellent time to begin.”

How is our home managed by priesthood power? Because I engage that power as the presiding authority in my home.

I have been blessed to make sacred covenants with God that endow me with blessings that are conditioned on my keeping my side of those covenants. By virtue of making and keeping those covenants, not administering them, I engage priesthood power. I would grow no more powerful if someone gave me the opportunity to administer those covenants to someone else, which is the essence of ordination in the Church today.

I’ve discussed before that the gifts of the spirit are unfortunately conflated with the ordination to priesthood in the minds of church members today, and I’ve talked about the consistent invitations Church leaders from Joseph Smith to our own day, male and female, are extending to disciples of both gender.

Priesthood power is not about men. It is very crucial for us to understand this before we proceed as disciples of Christ. We must know exactly what power it is that enlivens us and makes possible our service and work and success. Priesthood is the power by which Jesus Christ manages the creation that is presided over by His and our Father. It is the power of the atonement. It is the power of all covenants that spring from the atonement. It is everything. A careful reading of the teachings of Joseph Smith in Lectures on Faith clarifies that every power exercised by a human being on earth, even to moving mountains, is available to anyone who appropriately exercises the covenant priesthood power of faith. It has nothing to do with being an administrator.

The administration of Their church is by priesthood power as well. The keys for the administration of that church lie in the hands of men who have been ordained to exercise authority in blessing all the peoples of the earth with the opportunity to engage that priesthood power in covenants. That is the end of a male-only priesthood authority. To open doors. After those doors open and people have taken on covenants, they are on a personal journey of faith that opens to them the full opportunities of priesthood power. (See D&C 121 for clarification in how that power is developed or lost.)

While reading section 107 in the Doctrine and Covenants, searching for greater understanding of priesthood administration, I had an epiphany this past week. After extensively discussing the way He wanted the priesthood orders set up to administer the ordinances available in the Church, God makes statements about the equality of authority within the Church and how to maintain that balance.

36 The standing high councils, at the stakes of Zion, form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the quorum of the presidency, or to the traveling high council (emphasis mine).

The high councils in STAKES are equal in authority to the QUORUM OF THE TWELVE. Let that sink in.

In previous verses, He has clearly outlined that the stewardship of the apostles is to minister to the world …

23 The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling (emphasis mine).

The Seventy are called to assist in this ministry as the growth of the Church requires, and the First Presidency are called as the three Presiding High Priests, with each of these three groups forming quorums equal to one another.

The duties of these three administrative quorums are different from the duties of all other officers in the Church.

Effectively, the church exists primarily as a stake.

All of the business of salvation is done within the confines of a stake. Although other administrative units (missions, temple districts, etc) exist, the work of a continuing path of priesthood power (faith) occurs within a stake where there are enough members to organize one. Repeatedly, whenever Joseph Smith talked about Zion, he talked about stakes as the gathering places (and the message of the restoration was much more about Zion than it was about Joseph).

In modern corporate terms, we think of administrative structures with a hierarchical structure, headed by a CEO and an executive team. However God set up a structure that differs by function, with his presiding officers serving as hubs for stakes rather than executives.

In a 2010 interview, Elder Bednar confirms this view of the differing role of an apostle and the problem with conflating the apostleship with a secular corporation (he’s made this clear in the first two minutes):

If we break up the structure of the church to fit the D&C 107 model instead of a corporate model, then, we have the first presidency coordinating the stakes, the apostles ministering to the world, and the seventy assisting the apostles. The real structure of the church is in the stake.

Interestingly enough, in stakes, men and women serve almost equally in positions of influence and responsibility. As I shared recently with a prominent local reporter, the question of women and the priesthood is not about focusing on gender issues; it’s about understanding our cooperative opportunity to do the work that occurs in stakes. This makes the issue of women’s involvement in the three quorums that operate to balance stakes, moot, because it is not about leadership; it’s about coordination and differing function, and the stakes are equal in authority to those three quorums.

I think the chief gender issue for the church is the chief human issue for the church: how do we interpret the mind and will of God in our relationships with one another? Because we have a tendency to speak with a secular language to these human issues, we use words like “equality” and bandy them about as if we were in a secular setting. As Neylan McBaine has recently articulated in a thesis designed to inform the LDS conversation with the secular world, a secular vocabulary doesn’t necessarily fit with our religious paradigm. Since the religious paradigm supersedes the secular for us, there is no reason to react defensively and try to wrest the more important and eternal structure.

We have a lay church. We learn through practice. We do not have creeds; we have callings. We bump against each other, cycling through leadership and followership, knocking off our rough edges with one another by serving together. Everyone has been marginalized by someone at some point. Everyone has marginalized someone else. Thank heavens for repentance and forgiveness. Joseph Smith noted in section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants that it is human nature to have trouble with power. He also makes some crucial distinctions between institutional and personal power. Personal power is the only real power, and it only comes through principles of faith and action. You cannot bequeath power. It isn’t in ordination alone, and women aren’t shut out from any real power.

For this reason, I’m not concerned one way or another with priesthood ordination for women, although I would never pretend to speak for women worldwide, or for God, for that matter. The real power of any individual in the church is a personal power that evolves from keeping covenants. We are a covenant people. Both men and women derive power from the priesthood in those covenants. One’s influence derives from one’s credibility, not one’s position. Spiritual gifts, which have been a hallmark of this church from its very inception, are given equally to men and women. That’s the more crucial equality, the eternal equality that supersedes any secular definition of equality.

The Church has worked very hard to help our people understand their privileges. Leadership trainings for a decade have focused on councils and the importance of all members speaking up there as advocates for their neighbors, both men and women. The business of the church, the real business of saving souls, is done on a local level. At that local level men and women work together, ideally, in partnerships that engage the gifts of all the members. Administrative tasks are shared between men and women. Beyond the level of a stake, or group of local congregations, administrative oversight is focused on coordinating the work of stakes and wards (congregations) with one another. When there are problems between men and women, they usually occur locally where people are working through their own parochial short-sightedness and doctrinal misunderstandings. Church leadership consistently teach correct principles and let the people govern themselves.

Many people, misapplying a secular corporate concept to the ecclesiastical order of our church, look at the worldwide coordination of the First Presidency, Council of the Twelve, and Area Authorities as the pinnacle of some kind of religious career, and seeing no women there assume that women are not considered equals or capable of that level of leadership. Elder Bednar clarifies that the church is not a corporation; the work of apostles is not the work of executives. They are traveling ministers to the world. Administrative work largely occurs in local areas where decisions are made locally for the benefit of people whose church lives require differing administration to match local needs. In local leadership, women serve in almost as many leadership positions as do men, and have responsibility over all children to age 12, and all women above age 12 (much more than half of church membership). In a well-run stake, women who are stepping up to the plate are having every bit of influence in the personal lives of members of that stake as men are. That’s the kind of pastoral care a church is intended to provide for its people, and it’s happening, though there is room for us to get better at that.

Improving the status, respect, and visibility of women in the church is not the church’s problem. It is our opportunity as women, insofar as that is necessary for our greater service. I think Jesus made a profound statement about the kind of status, respect, and visibility he cared most that his apostles have when he washed their feet like a lowly servant just prior to his crucifixion (as opposed to pandering to their quarrels about who was the preeminent apostle). Secular status, respect, and visibility isn’t his concern and never has been. Serving his people is his concern, and nobody is standing in any woman’s way of that, a point he went to great lengths to explain to Mary and Martha. As LDS women step forward and embrace gifts of the spirit, acknowledge the value of what they are already doing, and ask more of themselves, the secular world will take notice of their articulateness, skills, and worth. It won’t be because a policy or a program changed to bestow that power on them.

Understanding the priesthood administrative structure and the balance of authority between stakes and the presiding quorums is one of the keys to understanding gender issues in the church today.

And by the way, I provide equal opportunities for my daughters to exercise stewardships as well, no different than the church does. There is so much more to a journey of priesthood power than choosing who says prayers.

Cross-posted at Bonnie Blythe.

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45 Responses to Priesthood Power in the Church

  1. SilverRain on August 16, 2012 at 5:06 AM

    Excellent post, Bonnie.

    I don’t know as that I agree with the conflation of priesthood and faith, but I think I can see why the comparison was made.

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  2. Joyce Anderson on August 16, 2012 at 7:23 AM

    Brilliant Bonnie, just brilliant. I had never connected the dots about salvation being taken care of at the stake level, but you are right. Stake and ward leaders and the ones that know us. Thanks for your wonderful insights. :)

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  3. Jessica on August 16, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    I like how you approached this topic. I think that men and women both hold the PH in their homes even if there is a father present.

    I think that we need to separate in church discourse the idea of hierarchy equaling righteousness and that it goes for GA “all the way down” to the family.

    I personally see the family as the highest position in the church and in the world. And there are plenty of LDS quotes to back that up. It is just not simply transferable as say the bunnies world is to the hierarchy of the church. An organization that exists to support the family does not really exist, but it should.

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  4. ji on August 16, 2012 at 8:19 AM

    With regard to your sons and the prayers, yes, in your home it is your business — your son picks someone to say the prayers because you have assigned him to, not because of his own priesthood and the absence of a higher.

    With regard to the emphasis on stakes, thank you! The stake is the church. We sometimes seem to put celebrity emphasis on the general authorities while ignoring the authority and power of our stake presidents. But really, if we think about it, everything regarding the local church (where all the action is) is under the direction of the stake president. A general authority comes around once every seven or nine years to call and sustain a new stake president, and give him the keys.

    And finally, thanks for noting that the church is not a corporation — when we think of priesthood matters with our corporate mindsets, we see things the wrong way and our expectations are wrong — rather, it would be better if we could view a ward council or other church meeting with a tent mindset instead of the corporate mindset. By this I mean they should imagine themselves sitting on the floor in Jethro’s tent in Midian waiting for the Lord’s high priest rather than sitting around the table in a corporate boardroom waiting for the CEO.

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  5. Cogs on August 16, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    I’m not sure that the Church has evolved in such a way that stake high councils are in practice equal to the Twelve, regardless of what the Doctrine and Covenants proscribes. I believe that was more the case when the church was smaller and stakes were fewer and more autonomous, but not today. Even then, despite widespread female participation in various levels of stake leadership, it’s a fact that they are ineligible to be on such high councils, so to me McBaine’s secular/religious paradigms don’t adequately explain the disparity . Furthermore, while I love the idea that influence derives from credibility and not position as an ideal, I’m just not sure it applies so universally –in my experience, members tend to make assumptions about people based on their church positions. Stake Presidents and Bishops are assumed to be fit leaders by virtue of their having been called, and we tend to be very deferent towards any priesthood leader. And while women in leadership may enjoy the same dynamic, there are simply not as many positions open to them. So I guess if we actually privileged influence over position I’d be more okay with this. Anyway, I don’t mean to dismiss the whole post or imply that your experience is any less valid, but there are parts that just didn’t click for me.

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  6. Stephanie on August 16, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    Interestingly enough, in stakes, men and women serve almost equally in positions of influence and responsibility.

    I wish this were true, but I just don’t think it is. My husband serves in stake leadership and women are really not represented all that much in meetings, decision-making, etc. To be honest, I am not sure how much the auxiliary leaders really influence what happens in our stake at all. I don’t necessarily blame the stake leadership. It’s basically a reflection of what happens at the general level as well (most leadership positions are filled by men). If men make up the stake presidency, the high council and the Bishops (the people who attend most stake meetings), and three female auxiliary presidents show up once a month, how can the women really have much influence on what happens? Besides, decision-making doesn’t happen in those meetings. Counseling does, feedback does, but not decision-making. That is reserved for the stake presidency.

    At the ward level there are more opportunities for women to serve (although I would argue that the majority are not “leadership” opportunities), but not so much on a stake level.

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  7. Howard on August 16, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    I liked this post but I also take exception to some very important issues:

    The real power of any individual in the church is a personal power that evolves from keeping covenants. One’s influence derives from one’s credibility, not one’s position. The real power of any individual comes from their oneness with God, not from ordination or covenants. This power is often manifested in the form of spiritual gifts and is available to everyone, not just white chastise heterosexual non-drinking males. The priesthood ordination formalizes an invitation to engage God’s power and authorizes one to perform certain ordinances under specified conditions within the LDS community. Priesthood ordination itself includes and provides NO new power. Consider Joseph who’s first vision took place without priesthood in 1820, received a manifestation of Maroni 5 times in 1823, received the gold plates and the Urim and Thummim in 1827 and began translating the book of Mormon all without “the Priesthood”, all prior to restoring the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods in 1829.

    That’s the more crucial equality, the eternal equality that supersedes any secular definition of equality. Let’s deconflate this idea. Yes spiritual gifts are more crucial because they are a *spiritual* manifestation of God’s *power*. The priesthood is a *temporal* manifestation of God’s *authority to act within the church*. So spiritually we all enjoy equality of opportunity, that is all may approach God to become one with him and receive his power via. spiritual gifts but temporally women and men who do not pass worthiness requirements are excluded from most ordinances and from church administration. In addition less orthodox but worthy members are excluded from greater leadership roles.

    At that local level men and women work together, ideally, in partnerships that engage the gifts of all the members. I’ve never seen the ideal of engaging the gifts of all the members, have you?

    Elder Bednar clarifies that the church is not a corporation; the work of apostles is not the work of executives. I truly loved this video of Elder Bednar! He is defining the role of an Apostle when he states “…it’s not a large corporation, Apostles are not the Board of Directors”. But as a matter of legal fact and form the church is literally a corporation and it owns many other corporations and some of our Apostles are on the Board of Directors of these corporations. In addition, the church itself acts like a 1950s corporation with it’s aloof and inaccessible top down monolog directed actions, although the brethren themselves are individually friendly and humble. Is this the personality of HF? It certainly wasn’t the personality of his son! Apostles also serve on the church correlation committee approving such corporate PR spin as portraying Joseph as a monogamist! So while I appreciate that much was humbly clarified by Elder Bednar, much was also conflated and obscured as well.

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  8. Bonnie on August 16, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    Cogs and Stephanie, thanks for your thoughts. I agree (how can I say that after writing what I have??) I meant very much to discuss principles in this post, and I consciously avoided implementation. I think there are a lot of hiccups in implementation. That, IMHO, is one growth opportunity for the church internally right now. I agree with Neylan about possibilities for future change that would speed implementation of a true paradigm of cooperation. But I think we have to agree on principles before we can agree on application of those principles. If this is a good beginning, we can build on it.

    I don’t think women are universally ready to step up to the plate and bear cooperative leadership quite yet (though many certainly are), and I don’t think men are universally ready to think cooperatively either (though many certainly are.) I don’t think we agitate for that kind of change, but I do think we talk about it and people begin to get the picture. I heard Pres. Beck say over and over, “you are doing better than you think you are, but you can do more than you have.” Her message in RS training was to seek revelation and to prepare to partner with priesthood leaders. But as I’ve written previously about RS leadership in stakes, I think we have a big disconnect in terms of understanding what it is we’re supposed to be doing there, and I think that’s a good place to begin.

    You’re right. There’s a lot of work to do. I think we can do it if we understand why and how.

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  9. Mormon Heretic on August 16, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    Bonnie,

    I want to correct a point you made in your OP. The stake high council is not equal in authority to the Twelve. In the early days of the Church, there was a stake-level high council (still in existence), and a general-authority level high council (no longer in existence), that was equal to the Q12 (and was made up of many members of the Q12.) John Hamer discusses this in a post I did on the succession crisis.

    John Hamer, “So we always hear about how where when Joseph Smith was in prison in Missouri, Brigham Young, that’s when he emerges, he leads the Saints out of Missouri and he moves them to Illinois, but he doesn’t take control as leader of the apostles, he actually takes control as acting president of the High Council. The High Council then proceeds then to fill vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. The High Council is the one that appoints people to take the place of Thomas Marsh, and the other apostles who have left or died. So it’s—

    John Dehlin, “So there’s no equivalent to the High Council today, right? I mean I don’t even know how to conceptualize this?”

    JH, “So this doesn’t exist really. So what’s happened in the LDS Church which is when the apostles end up taking over, all of the other possible things get lessened. It’s an all-apostle, all the time church now. But we have to understand that in the original church, for example even now, so right now you think of the First Presidency. Well, that’s just three of the apostles, right? Well not in the early church. Joseph Smith and his counselors, none of those guys had ever been in the Twelve. That had nothing to do with the apostles. It was a completely separate quorum. So in the same way there’s this High Council.

    The equivalent now in the LDS Church is just Stake High Councils. So every stake has a High Council, and the Stake Presidency is in charge of that. But what we have in the Church as a whole in Missouri, and then also in Nauvoo is what is effectively a Presiding High Council, a High Council of General Authorities of the Church where the different stakes, well actually if they have a problem at their stake High Council, you can appeal your case, and it will go—it doesn’t go to the apostles, it goes to the High Council of the Church in Nauvoo. So in other words, there’s a presiding High Council that is over all the other high councils. The head of that is William Marks, who is the presiding Stake President of the church in Nauvoo, so Marks is another possibility.

    So then the other possibility of course is Brigham Young, another leading church member, the head of the Traveling High Council, the Council of the Twelve Apostles, who are in charge specifically of missionary work. So they are in charge of anywhere in the church that isn’t a stake. If somebody is going to have a case in a branch, then they’ll appeal it to the Twelve. So those are essentially what you have. You have the First Presidency, you have the High Council, and you have the Traveling High Council. So what happens is Emma and some of the people who agree with her, think that the head of the High Council should be the new head of the church, William Marks. But William Marks believes legally that Sidney Rigdon has the best claim, so he sides with Rigdon in the First Presidency as being the successor, so that essentially nullifies Marks’ claim, because it puts it with Rigdon, so that’s why it comes down to essentially Rigdon versus Young.”

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  10. Bonnie on August 16, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    ji – thanks for your thoughts. We agree.

    SilverRain – I’d love to discuss your thoughts more on this at some point.

    Joyce – thanks for reading and commenting!

    Jessica – there is a part 2 to this post regarding the parallel structures of the church and the family that is perking in my mind. Stay tuned!

    Howard – we’ll just have to agree to disagree on your first point because we are at 180 degrees on it and neither of us is moving. Your second point is founded on our disagreement in the first, so we’ll not come to a meeting of the minds there either. No, I’ve never seen that ideal (your third point). But I’ve also never really seen the ideal of my own perfection, so I don’t see that it’s pertinent to a discussion of principles that we’re imperfect. Regarding your fourth point, I also loved Elder Bednar’s video! And I also agree that there are corporate responsibilities that come with being an apostle. I look at them as a necessary evil of the world’s corporate structure, because if we didn’t have to call them a board of directors for legal purposes, they would be sitting on a committee as structured in other church settings. I don’t see that as challenging Elder Bednar’s assertion that their primary responsibility is as a witness for Christ.

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  11. Bonnie on August 16, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    MH – thanks for bringing that up. Actually, I was aware of the historical implementation of the revelation in Missouri/Nauvoo. I’ve taken the position that the revelation serves as a principle that is implemented in differing ways according to the needs of the church. Section 107 is a conflation of legal balance of power/authority and eternal principles that I’ve been spending a significant amount of time teasing apart and putting back together. It’s been very enlightening.

    Whether or not modern members of the First Presidency quorum previously served as apostles, they do constitute a separate quorum with differing responsibilities. And in practice, the governance of the activities of salvation are in the hands of the stakes as questions from the members of the church are sent back to stake presidents and bishops to resolve, questions of membership are resolved there, etc. The three quorums still serve as a hub for the stakes and in practical applications, are equal in authority in matters of salvation.

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  12. A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman on August 16, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    Bonnie,

    This is a very good post, very relevant to the current conversation about gender equality, in the Church. Thank you for the careful study and thought that was put into this presentation. You’ve built your ideas on a firm foundation, set forth by the Lord.

    Here’s my favorite take-away,

    “Improving the status, respect, and visibility of women in the church is not the church’s problem. It is our opportunity as women, insofar as that is necessary for our greater service. I think Jesus made a profound statement about the kind of status, respect, and visibility he cared most that his apostles have when he washed their feet like a lowly servant just prior to his crucifixion…”

    tDMg

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  13. ajax on August 16, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    MH – so what is the difference between D&C 107:36 and D&C 107:37?

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  14. ajax on August 16, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    I also massively agree with this:

    “Improving the status, respect, and visibility of women in the church is not the church’s problem. It is our opportunity as women, insofar as that is necessary for our greater service. I think Jesus made a profound statement about the kind of status, respect, and visibility he cared most that his apostles have when he washed their feet like a lowly servant just prior to his crucifixion…”

    However, I do think women aren’t involved as they could be.

    For instance, I think PEC should be changed to WEC(ward executive committee) and all ward level exectutives should attend: Bishop(presiding HP and president of Aaronic Preisthood), EQP, RSP, Primary P, YWP, YMP, SSP, HPGL. This is a council of presidents, all equal in decision and imput authority.

    Eliminate Ward Council(it is redundant to WEC).

    Have the presidents of the adults(EQP, RSP) help with temple recommend interviews.

    Have the RSP involved in diciplinary councils, as these affect a much wider circle than just the person involved.

    Have the RS presidency help in conducting sacrament meetings. Why not?

    I think forward thinking Stake Presidents and Bishops could implement things like this rather easily.

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  15. Mormon Heretic on August 16, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    Ajax, I don’t want to sidetrack Bonnie’s post, so if you have questions, click on the link above and we can discuss it over there, but let me try to answer your question quickly. I don’t see a difference. Verses 36-37 refers to “high councils, at the stakes of Zion…equal..to the traveling high council.”. “high councils, at the stakes of Zion” is the Presiding High Council no longer in existence. The “travelling high council” is the Q12. Q12 responsibilities were in areas where no stakes were established (i.e. “the mission field”), and they were not to intervene in the Stakes.

    The problem was that some people, notably Brigham Young, were on both the Presiding High Council and Traveling High Council (Q12). Following Joseph’s death, Young essentially merged these 2 councils into the Q12. But when the revelation was given in 1835, they were separate quorums. It wasn’t until 1844-45 or so that they merged.

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  16. ajax on August 16, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    When setting apart the RS president in a ward, why not also set her apart as the presiding High Priestess in the ward? Why not?

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  17. ajax on August 16, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    MH – not sure if I follow.

    36 states, “The standing high councils, at the stakes of Zion”

    37 states, “The high council in Zion”

    37 to me is referring to the Presiding High Council that is no longer.
    36 seems to be referencing all stake high councils still in existence.

    I could be wrong, and I won’t belabor the point to take away from Bonnie’s OP. But YOU brought it up…haha ;-)

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  18. Howard on August 16, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Bonnie,
    Since we’re 180 degrees apart regarding my first point, help me understand your view by explaining what new spiritual powers (not temporal powers or authority) were added upon Joseph by virtue of his priesthood ordination and restoration in 1829.

    Also what spiritual powers (not temporal powers or authority) do your sons have by virtue of their priesthood ordination that your daughters do not have?

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  19. Linda on August 16, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    I didn’t realize that picking someone to give the prayer was a thing. Maybe because my family is very math-oriented, but we always make charts in advance of who will give the prayer, with provisions for what to do if a family member is not present, so that everyone ends up praying the same amount of times.

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  20. Bonnie on August 16, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    MH – I don’t see the discussion of the two high councils prior to BY that became the Q12 as a threadjack at all. Thank you for providing that information, because I think it’s crucial to understanding the evolving historical context. I didn’t include it initially because I felt it distracted from the point about balance between central and local leadership, but when the questions arise, they are crucial to answer. Thanks again.

    Howard – I fail to see how the discussion you’re framing contributes to the conversation we’re having. It’s just a fact that we disagree. Your basic position that the church has no authority in matters of salvation is an impenetrable barrier in our outlooks. And I’m not going to have that conversation today.

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  21. NewlyHousewife on August 16, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    Linda, I’m the same with you in wondering why asking someone to pray is a big deal. When my husband is here sometimes he’ll ask me to pray and I always say ‘no thanks, but maybe you should say it’. Not because I’m against praying, or that I feel it’s rude for him to ask me; but because I don’t feel sincere when I’m giving a public prayer. I think ideally people would volunteer to pray, and thus no one would need to be asked, just because we can never know the spiritual state of anyone else other than ourselves.

    If no one else wants to volunteer, than the person who suggested it is the one to give the prayer. Yes this may mean my husband gets to say all the dinner prayers, but usually sooner or later someone else wants to do it.

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  22. Howard on August 16, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Your basic position that the church has no authority in matters of salvation is an impenetrable barrier in our outlooks.. Very interesting diversion given this is a total misstatement of my position and anything I said! How did you come to this mistaken conclusion?

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  23. Bonnie on August 16, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    The real power of any individual comes from their oneness with God, not from ordination or covenants. This power is often manifested in the form of spiritual gifts and is available to everyone, not just white chastise heterosexual non-drinking males. The priesthood ordination formalizes an invitation to engage God’s power and authorizes one to perform certain ordinances under specified conditions within the LDS community. Priesthood ordination itself includes and provides NO new power. Like I said, Howard, this isn’t the conversation I’m interested in having today. I’m discussing the balance of authority between stakes and general leaders as a point of discussion in gender issues in the church today.

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  24. IDIAT on August 16, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    Ajax #14. You seem to be equating various leaders to “executives” which is exactly what Bonnie is saying they are not. A “WEC” would not be a council of presidents because the HPGL is not a “president.” He leads a group of HP’s in that particular ward. The SP is the President of the HP’s in a stake. The EQP and RSP are not exactly “presidents of the adults. EQP is president only of those in his quorom. The RSP is president of all sisters ages 18 and up, making her a president of all adult females. Disciplinary councils are expressly handled by PH leaders per the D&C. And it really isn’t a strain on a bishopric to conduct TR interviews, especially since they are good for 2 years. Bonnie is right with respect to how a family unit is run. In the absence of a father, she presides. But a church unit (ward or stake) is not a family unit, and HF has set it up to run a bit differently. He might change it all up tomorrow by revelation to the Prophet, but until then, the structure of the church exists to assist families and administer the outward ordinances.(CH 2, 1.1.5 and 2.2) Ward Councils govern the stake and ward units, and those WC’s involve all adult leaders. (CH 2, Ch. 4) Therefore, women do particpate in governing the affairs of the ward/stake. But ultimately, the SP and/or Bishop hold the keys necessary for directing the work of their respective church units.

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  25. ajax on August 16, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Boy IDIAT, sooo technical are we:

    “You seem to be equating various leaders to “executives” which is exactly what Bonnie is saying they are not.”
    I know, all I was saying is change PEC (which basically is a meeting for priesthood presidents) to WEC to include all presidents and eliminate WC. The elimination of unnecessay and redundant meetings should be cheered.

    “A “WEC” would not be a council of presidents because the HPGL is not a “president.” He leads a group of HP’s in that particular ward. The SP is the President of the HP’s in a stake.”
    I know, but he obviously belongs as the leader of the ward’s HPs.

    “The EQP and RSP are not exactly “presidents of the adults”
    Uh, yes they are. I should have added HPGL. There!

    “Disciplinary councils are expressly handled by PH leaders per the D&C.”
    I understand. The PH leaders(namely Bishop and SP) would still handle the discipline, but with the added voice and ear of a RSP.

    “it really isn’t a strain on a bishopric to conduct TR interviews, especially since they are good for 2 years”
    Which is why the set aside whole evenings just to conduct these interviews. Strain, no. Time consuming, yes.

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  26. Andrew S on August 16, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    re 22,

    Howard,

    I have not been paying much attention to this conversation, but when I read your comment at 7, I came to basically the same conclusion that Bonnie came to. So you’re either going to have to find a very different way of presenting your position, or you should sit this discussion out.

    I can tell you something: comments like 22 aren’t going to get you very far. Chill out for a moment.

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  27. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 16, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Been interesting.

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  28. Howard on August 16, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    Andrew,
    if you read the full exchange between us I don’t think Bonnie likes my 7 position or my clarifying questions in 18 so I think she is avoiding addressing them. But if you arrived at a similar conclusion and cannot find room in my comments for alternative conclusions perhaps you will be willing to explain how.

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  29. hawkgrrrl on August 16, 2012 at 7:56 PM

    Put me in the camp of those who didn’t realize having boys pick a prayer giver was a real thing. I thought that was just some Utah tradition. Seems a silly “responsibility” to me.

    “I provide equal opportunities for my daughters to exercise stewardships as well, no different than the church does.” I would love to hear more about this one. My daughter (age 9) has mentioned several times that she wishes she could one day pass the sacrament like her brothers because she just thinks it’s cool. She likes the organization and coordination of it. Within the church, I can’t think of any equal responsibility given to girls age 12. I wish I could. I’d love to give her something to hold on to instead.

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  30. Stephen Marsh on August 16, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    28 — Howard, you seem to be pushing your luck.

    “I can tell you something: comments like 22 aren’t going to get you very far. Chill out for a moment.”

    That is what I was thinking.

    the real power of any individual comes from their oneness with God, not from ordination or covenants. This power is often manifested in the form of spiritual gifts and is available to everyone, not just white chastise heterosexual non-drinking males. The priesthood ordination formalizes an invitation to engage God’s power and authorizes one to perform certain ordinances under specified conditions within the LDS community. Priesthood ordination itself includes and provides NO new power.

    That reference does not seem to be avoiding the question. Where are you going with that statement other than where Bonnie thought you were going?

    That explanation might very well get things back on track.

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  31. Bonnie on August 16, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    I agree Hawk: it isn’t a significant responsibility to choose who says a prayer. It is a significant responsibility, however (IMO), to be responsible for the spirit surrounding a prayer and to remind people of those for whom we’re praying, etc. My kids have a variety of spiritual and temporal responsibilities, of which this is only one. The girls are check-in people in our house, and if the 15-year-old is gone, the 12-year-old is the person people need to communicate with – where they’re going, when they’ll be back, and if they’ve accomplished their responsibilities before they leave. They have the authority to restrict someone from leaving if they don’t meet criteria. As I said, they have other responsibilities, but these are the only two that are gender-specific, and I might change that up next year.

    I agree that there are things we could do to make age 12 a more meaningful transition for some young women, but I can speak for one of mine who said that she didn’t want a boatload of stuff to do because she was plenty capable of keeping herself busy. So while I appreciate those who want more, I know that not everyone does. In our family, there’s nothing gender-specific about going to fix roofs or take meals or weed gardens and that’s the opportunity that comes around most often.

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  32. ajax on August 16, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    @hawkgrrrl:
    “Seems a silly “responsibility” to me.
    That’s a bit rude.

    As to your second point regarding equal responsibility to 12yr old girls, I completely agree. Seems the YW manuals are too eager to push marriage, even at that age.

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  33. Stephen Marsh on August 16, 2012 at 9:49 PM

    When my parents were in Africa on a mission, one ward they were visiting had the women pass the sacrament, because, after all, it was work, and work should always be passed on to women.

    It was mentioned that passing the sacrament was a priesthood responsibility.

    Next time they went back, the women were still passing the sacrament. The bishop explained that it was ok, he had personally ordained them all deacons so they could do the work.

    It is interesting how that played out, and the difference in attitudes they had. They saw straight through to it as work, and since it was work, it should be moved over for the women to do.

    I often think on that, from time to time, in contexts like this.

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  34. Stephen Marsh on August 16, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    Which, I suspect, is why when ordination came up with some women I knew, one of them gave me a look like I was an idiot, and then said “I have enough work to do, without more being passed off on me.”

    Obviously that is a microcosm, and misses 95% of the points made in the debates and discussions, but it struck me.

    So many, many things. Thanks Bonnie, for adding to them.

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  35. Howard on August 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    Stephen,
    I dropped this issue hours ago, but I will address your comment.  

    How is 28 pushing my luck?  Andrew and I have always been straight with each other, I’m sure he can do a great job of speaking for himself.

    Where am I going with that statement?  It is clearly stated in 7. I liked her post except for some important exceptions and that statement is part of one of the exceptions.  You can read the rest in 7.  It is actually an extension of her position that the gifts of the spirit are unfortunately conflated with the ordination to priesthood in the minds of church members today…and The keys for the administration of that church lie in the hands of men who have been ordained to exercise authority.  But Bonnie implies my statement means my position is; “the church has no authority in matters of salvation”.  That is not my position or my belief nor do I believe it is implied by my statement but she has used that argument to disengage.  If you agree with Bonnie’s conclusion please clearly explain the logic that supports it based on my comment.

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  36. Bonnie on August 16, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    Stephen, that is absolutely hilarious! Isn’t it amazing what a change in perspective can do for you.

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  37. Stephanie on August 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    Re 12 year old YW – In my ward, they are giving out “Advancement to Beehives” certificates. Is this church-wide or just a local thing? On the Sunday my son turned 12, he received his Faith in God certificate (which he earned), an advancement from Primary certificate, and it was announced that he would be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood. A YW turning 12 at the same time received the first two certificates and also a certificate for “advancing to Beehives”.

    To be honest, I think that is kind of a lame compensation prize. I think it is well-intentioned – someone recognizes that there is a disparity between the YM and YW experience. But a piece of paper for advancing to the next “rank” without any associated responsibilities? I think it just makes the disparity even worse.

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  38. hawkgrrrl on August 16, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    Yes, I think a certificate of advancement is a lame substitute for actual responsibility. What about the YW handing out the programs or helping to set up and take down chairs in the overflow or greeting people or helping people to find seating together as families? I am horrified at the idea above that girls at age 12 are being preached to about marriage! What is wrong with people?? This must be why I’ve never been called to YW. I would not be teaching girls at age 12 to spend any time thinking about marriage.

    I like what Bonnie said about the prayer-asker being responsible for setting the spirit as well (something I hadn’t considered), and the 12 year old being the check-in person – good ideas! We like to rotate who is in charge when we go out. Sometimes it’s the 9 year old, sometimes the 17 year old, sometimes the 14 year old.

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  39. ji on August 17, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    Hawkgrrrl (no. 29)–

    “I’d love to give her something to hold on to instead.”

    Give her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a testimony that his grace is sufficient for her and that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord. Give her hope in the scriptures and help her to sustain the priesthood and members of the Church with her prayers. Give her charity to help life up the hands that hang down, and to help strengthen the feeble knees.

    With these, your daughter (and my son) will have EVERYTHING. Without them (but even with everything else), they will have nothing. You can give these to your daughter, and I can give them to my son. How beautiful it is.

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  40. hawkgrrrl on August 17, 2012 at 1:42 AM

    ji – All those are important, I agree, but we also know that without real involvement in the church community people fall away. I was teaching Sunday School to my peers at 13 and leading the music in Sacrament Meeting at 15. I do fear that we’ve followed the American trend of giving our kids “participation awards” rather than real stewardship nowadays. Loads of people with faith, hope and charity go inactive because they feel they have nothing valuable to contribute.

    Where much is given, much is required. But in requiring much, we also give much to the person of whom it is required.

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  41. ajax on August 17, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    @hawkgrrrl (no.38)-

    What’s worse is when the “a girls primary purpose to to prepare for temple marriage” mantra is included in the most recent Friend magazine:

    http://www.lds.org/friend/2012/08/preparing-for-the-temple?lang=eng

    Right thinking adults don’t have a problem with this?

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  42. ji on August 17, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Hawkgrrrl (no. 40)–

    “I do fear that we’ve followed the American trend of giving our kids ‘participation awards’ rather than real stewardship nowadays.”

    I hope parents and ward council members will give some thought to this from time to time.

    “Loads of people with faith, hope and charity go inactive because they feel they have nothing valuable to contribute.”

    I hope this isn’t widely true, but no doubt many members can cite an example. But for me, faith, hope, and charity are the three things that most help keep me active in my local church.

    I like the video clip in the original posting. Elder Bednar’s understandings are not commonly understood in the American church, I suppose, but I am hopeful that over time those principles will be better understood among us. We love, we serve, we build faith.

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  43. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 18, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/08/18/a-historical-note-on-unorthodox-mormonism/ is worth reading in this context.

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  44. Hedgehog on August 20, 2012 at 10:56 PM

    Stephen (#33)
    Made me smile. What happened next?

    A few years ago we had a Stake anniversary. A couple of old ladies spoke about the branch they first met in, how they had to get to the hired building early and clean up, set things out, including preparing the sacrament.

    I do wonder how it is that some tasks are assigned to ‘the Priesthood’ and others are not. Very few seem to require actual performance of ordinances. I can see that in some cultures it might be a way of getting the men to do some of the work, if a particlar task is ‘a Priesthood responsibility’. But I do think it has finished up being damaging to girls/women in the presentation…

    Ajax (#41), I was looking through this months Friend only yesterday, and couldn’t believe my eyes when I came to that one. What!!!

    (#32) I think our YW mostly miss those kind of lessons, as they are all together in one class, and consequently the leaders get more choice about what they’re going to teach…

    To address the OP, I do think the YW will recognise window dressing for what it is. Include them in VT, and in RS service projects. Sadly, many RS activities these days seem to be no better than those for YW…
    There’s no scouting at church over here though, so YW and YM activities are more equitable.

    What bugs me most is the horrible sugary language used by men, to tell women they have particular, inate qualities… (which is why the old RS manuals so frquently hit the wall),
    It just isn’t true, and can do a lot of damage… I don’t mind the distribution of work as such, but it needs to be recognised that that is what it is, and not pretend that men and women are so vastly different in their skills…

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  45. [...] this point, I will shamelessly tell you all that you should read my Wheat & Tares co-blogger Bonnie’s post on priesthood power in the church…although this also has critics, I have also been impressed by its ability to reach a wider [...]

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