Beliefs Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

What Do We Teach Teenage Girls about the Mormon Priesthood?

(Screen shot of this month's YW curriculum from
(Screen shot of this month's YW curriculum from

(Screen shot of this month’s YW curriculum from

Today over at Doves & Serpents there’s an excellent blog post on the challenge of teaching the Young Women this month from the new curriculum. Every week in June, in both their Sunday School lessons and their YW lessons, the girls are supposed to learn about the priesthood.

I am generally a fan of the new curriculum, which is a great improvement over what the youth had before. And on the one hand, I feel that it is important for lessons like “Duties of Priesthood Holders” to teach YW what their YM counterparts are actually doing, and to give them a deeper understanding of how leadership functions. I also think that the suggested outline on “How can I participate effectively in councils in the Church?” is a step in the right direction, teaching girls alongside boys that their opinions matter and they should speak up.

But on the other hand, this month’s exclusive focus on priesthood brings into sharp relief some of the gender issues in the Church, problems that a blogger at Zelophehad’s daughters memorably called “chicken patriarchy” in 2007. “Chicken patriarchy” is what happens when unequal power structures that preclude female authority remain in place even as an institution espouses rhetoric in which women are referred to as equal partners in leadership. Chicken patriarchy changes its rhetoric to suit the climate, which can be confusing when church leaders now refer to women as equals but uphold a system that does not give them the same opportunities for leadership and growth as men. The post summarized this conundrum well:

In the past, the waters were less muddied: husbands were granted divine authority over their wives, who were required to submit to their righteous leadership–-an objectionable stance, perhaps, but not an inconsistent one. In the present, the Church has adopted a new stance but without giving up its old one: now wives not only submit, but they are also equal partners.

In chicken patriarchy fashion, this month’s lesson on “How does the priesthood bless me?” encourages the YW to reflect on how they have been blessed by the priesthood, but this is always as recipients, not as full participants. A Mormon woman’s lifelong relationship to priesthood might be described as follows:

A priesthood holder blessed me when I was an infant, baptized and confirmed me when I turned eight, endowed me in the temple, served as my mission president, performed my temple marriage, assessed my worthiness, authorized my temple recommends, decided upon and set me apart for all my callings in the church, presided over every sacrament meeting I ever attended, gave 95% of all General Conference talks, blessed me with healing oil whenever I was sick, conducted my funeral, and consecrated my grave.

In other words, the duties of a priesthood holder are to live out resumé-quality active verbs. The Young Women’s manuals this month highlight the passivity of the women’s expected relationship to this activity.

Many defenders of this system have been anxious to reassure women and girls that even though they don’t hold the priesthood they can still enjoy the full blessings of the priesthood. Such is the argument in this passage from Sheri Dew, which the YW are asked to discuss:

Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood, you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, the fulness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together.

I appreciate the desire to make women feel included here, but such a statement is predicated upon a consumerist mentality that assumes it is better to receive than to give. As much as I respect Sister Dew and all that she has accomplished, I disagree with her approach here. Priesthood is not merely about being on the receiving end of divine power, or about obtaining blessings; it is a school for learning how to be like God. The exercise of priesthood is itself the greatest blessing of priesthood.

One final word on this month’s YW manuals. Priesthood and motherhood are equal, or so we are often told. We can test whether that rhetoric is really true by devoting the entire month of June to teaching the YM about motherhood while the YW are learning about priesthood. Motherhood, for five straight Sundays:

  • What is motherhood?
  • What are the duties of mothers?
  • What are the keys of motherhood?
  • How does motherhood bless me?
  • How do I honor and uphold motherhood?


I would pay good money to see that.


About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.


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  • We need to get rid of the motherhood=priesthood comparison stat.

    No one can give you the priesthood against your will, like a girl or woman can be impregnanted without her consent. Plenty of “unworthy” women become mothers, while plenty of “worthy” ones don’t (I am not speaking of matters of choice here, I’m talking about biological and medical constraints), while any worthy boy in our church can receive the priesthood at 12. By that logic we should require girls to become mothers at 12 (horrifying thought!) or avoid allowing men to participate fully in the church until their wives bear children (good luck with missionary work, or if your wife – or you! – is infertile, there goes your ability to serve in the kingdom).

    On so many levels, the comparison just doesn’t hold up for me. It sounds too much like the church has made motherhood the best (and frankly) only way for women to contribute to the kingdom. And instead, when confronted by the biological realities of so many womens’ lives, or their lack of opportunity to marry and have families, the church tries to change the definition of biology by declaring that we are “all mothers” instead of finding ways for us to participate as women or individuals rather than as mothers.

    Rant over. Just a pet peeve topic! Thanks for giving this subject a good treatment in your column.

  • And I would add to the Young Men’s motherhood curriculum:

    *How can we come to know our Heavenly Mother better?
    *How can we be Her disciples?
    *How does She inspire us to nurture others in our lives?
    *In what way was Jesus the perfect representative of His Mother?
    *How do His actions and stories reveal Her love to us?
    *Who are the mothers or prophetesses of the church in this dispensation?

    (And, as always, I must plug the Finding Heavenly Mother Project facebook group. Come join us!)

  • You have some great points. I’ll disagree with your statement that the greatest blessing of the priesthood is being able to exercise the priesthood- you’re not even close. Greater blessings of the priesthood to me would be the resurrection of my dead body and eternal sealing to my wife and family members. I think the reason the prophet and apostles want us to study/teach the priesthood for an entire month is because generally speaking, we don’t understand the priesthood! We try so hard to understand spiritual things through temporal eyes and then we end up missing the mark. If we follow the logic of those who want women to hold the priesthood wouldn’t we also then have to allow or even expect married men to become somehow surgically impregnated and bear half the children he and his wife decide to have?

  • “Neither is man without the woman, neither is woman without the man” to roughly paraphrase scripture. Doesn’t this say it all…each has their own blessings and responsibilities in life. Neither is dominent or subservient, but equal partners. When married to a Priesthood holder a woman shares in that Priesthood!

  • I really have to disagree here. We’re talking about division of labor w/ the priesthood and motherhood. I don’t have time for both. I can’t stand the chauvinism and difficult personalities of some males leaders in the church, but as far as the divine learning that comes w/ the priesthood…My husband has never learned the things I’ve learned being a mother. I’m talking about some very sacred moments when the veil was down, so to speak. I’m bothered by particular MEN, not by the priesthood only being held by men. Sometimes I DO feel bad that my husband hasn’t learned or had the opportunity to experience the things I’ve learned as a mother. But I can’t say that I feel like I’m missing particularly wonderful moments that my husband experiences while he is using the priesthood. I can’t think of any spiritual gifts he experiences using the priesthood that I don’t experience in another setting, but i know I’ve experienced things as a mother that he hasn’t as a father . And having been a YW president, I really do not envy being in charge of organizations. I hated the workload.

  • Suz, if women don’t have time for motherhood and the priesthood, then why do men have time for both fatherhood and the priesthood? As a father, I want to be involved in the lives of my children rather than bearing the workload of leading organizations. Priesthood service often leads to poor, absentee fathering.

    For example, one of my mission presidents had to leave because his family was falling apart due to neglect. Parenting, not just mothering, is a full time job.

    Also what about women who are not mothers or whose children are now independent adults? Since motherhood is not a burden on their time, would it be OK for them to serve in the priesthood?

  • Decades of fluffy rhetoric and some mixed messages have left things slowly heading in the right direction but still unsatisfactory. My take on the situation is we are massively underselling what is already there in how the Church involves women in ministry and priesthood theologically and practically, and the full implications of what Joseph Smith restored about those things. We are sitting on a feminist pot of gold that we could make a lot more of internally and in our message to the world.

    There are parallels between motherhood and the priesthood ordinances that men can perform – a mother devotes her whole body and mind in an intense and utterly self-sacrificial way to unconditionally serving and nurturing another person’s existence, which has deep connection to Christ’s atonement. It doesn’t quite match that, as has been pointed out, but as a priesthood holder I get a chance to mirror that experience by nurturing and starting a new spiritual life through teaching, baptism, giving the gift of the Holy Ghost and then an ongoing lifetime of selfless service to support that new spiritual life in the gospel with service and blessings. As explained above, not all women experience motherhood, so that doesn’t work as the right word or metaphor for God’s complete plan for women in his Church on earth. We could instead just talk about ministry, men’s ministry and women’s ministry which in reality in wards and families in a very close-knit collaboration. They both share teaching, preaching, leading, planning, running, inspiring, praying for miracles and blessings, healing, organising, teamwork. The differences are actually very few and specific. Men have their ordinance performing roles to give them a taste of the spiritual lessons of the motherhood experiences, and Doctrine and Covenants 121 makes crystal clear that exclusively male decision-making and presiding roles are a very high-stakes and gruelling test that few will pass to see if they can face down the inherent weaknesses of male nature – craving to rule and control – and utterly abandon every shred of them in how they minister. To entirely conquer their inner ‘natural man’ who is an ‘enemy of God’. That is a very feminist view of priesthood and it is unique to Mormonism. Men are not bishops and so on because they are better at or better representatives of the male-only model of deity in traditional Christianity, but because they are naturally much more likely to be terrible at it and end up leading like Satan with control and pride, so they are given their potential kryptonite of control on a platter to see if they can exercise enough will-power to purge those bad aspects of male nature and become worthy to match the women. The endgame in the temple endowment has women in every symbolic and real sense performing priesthood ordinances alongside men and looking forward to being priests and priestesses of God together, so of course faithful women have exactly as much eternal priesthood as the men – all the other stuff we label ‘priesthood’ for the men is temporary gender-specific training. But mostly we minister, together, a lot. Unlike most other denominations we have a pretty impressive balance of acknowledging male and female psychology and ministering structures that work with both to get men and women to a point of powerful equality and shared priesthood. We share ministry now and will be able to share priesthood completely when the men have caught up with where the wiser initiator of progression towards exaltation and knowledge Eve was from the start in the Garden of Eden. These are the messages I get about priesthood from a lifetime in Mormonism.

  • It sounds like you feel that you could lead the church better than the men the Lord has asked to do so.

  • I am a male member that teaches YM and works closely with the YW. In my admittedly limited experience, I have not seen or heard from YW or their leaders any issues with the June curriculum topic of the Priesthood. Furthermore, I never heard any complaints when prior YW manuals devoted several lessons a year to the priesthood. It’s entirely possible that they are reluctant to share their true feelings on the topic, at least with me, or that I’m too dense to recognize what they are saying and/or alluding to, but I take from my experience that most women do not have a problem with the curriculum. From that, I deduce that most women do not have a problem with established practice/doctrine that men are to hold the priesthood, which is what I believe the ultimate source of this post to be. Maybe that will change as more people like Sister Reiss express their thoughts.

    Personally, I would have no problem with women holding the priesthood. I honestly believe that the church would likely be run better, and programs and duties would be fulfilled at a higher rate (I mean, can you imagine what would happen if sisters took over the Home Teaching program). But is a well-run church the ultimate goal? Honestly, I think in God’s eyes, that is a secondary consideration. My understanding of the Church’s purpose is to help individuals and families in their personal quests for exaltation. If women holding the priesthood would accomplish that goal, I think it would happen. But I honestly think that many men would limit or stop participating if women could do everything in church and family governance. I realize that, like the women at, many have more faith in men than that. Having tried to get Elders to complete their home teaching regularly, my faith is not quite as strong on that front.

    I’m most intrigued by the suggestion to have a month full of lessons on motherhood, and would welcome those lessons. Just curious what would others think would be taught in the lesson on the “Duties of Motherhood.” And would male leaders qualify to teach such lessons?

  • Speaking from my personal if indirect experience (my parents, since I’m unmarried), my mother was the driving force in my family’s religious life and I have to wonder how much – how little, rather – my father would have been involved if the responsibilities of his priesthood and official place as head of the family hadn’t kept him involved.

    And yeah, I’d love to see a month of “women’s studies” for the boys, too.

  • No where are we commanded to get to know our Heavenly Mother. We aren’t even disciples of Heavenly Father, but of Christ. On could argue though that as disciples of Christ we are disciples of both Heavenly Father & Mother. She doesn’t inspire us, as we get guidance from the Holy Ghost, who according to Brigham Young, is Adam, our first parent, NOT Heavenly Mother. Just as Adam represents us as fallen beings seeking guidance, Christ represents the Father to us (and represents us as repentant beings to the Father). So, Heavenly Mother is NOT represented in the Godhead/Trinity. The last question is the only one with doctrinal significance. Remember, while it is true that in Nephi’s time, YHWH’s wife had a place in the temple (literally, she had a statue there for worship) the scriptures are clear it should not have been. Her representation was a tree, so you could state that the tree in Lehi/Nephi’s vision was representative of her, but that’s about it.

  • It seems like a lot of us are assuming that women having priesthood responsibilities would negate men’s priesthood responsibilities. I don’t think this has to be the case.

  • I don’t think it would officially negate men’s priesthood responsibilities. Nor do I think it “has to be the case.” But practically, I think that would be the outcome. Now, I think the driving force behind most things that are done in the church – at least on a local level – is the constant encouragement from wives and mothers. On the whole, who makes sure that kids are baptized, receive priesthood ordinations, go on missions, go to the temple, get a blessing, etc.? Noting what I believe are few exceptions, most of the time it is wives and mothers pushing their husbands and sons to exercise their priesthood and serve. I just don’t think it would be long before women holding the priesthood would not wait anymore and just go ahead get things done. I don’t believe it has to be this way, but my experience (and myself) tells me it would end up this way. But I would be happy to be wrong on this point.

  • Motherhood is not equal to holding the priesthood. It is the most important responsibility of all! And it has been entrusted to women, not men. The priesthood plays a supportive role, to protect the divine calling of creating physical bodies and assisting souls back to God. Mankind is created through women. How can you belittle such a thing? Giving birth and mothering has been degraded, cheapened, and trivialized by a society who does not know who they are! Don’t buy into it.

  • I agree this is a difficult topic to understand, but the truth is that it IS possible for men and women to be equal partners (even with different roles), have equal leadership opportunities, and yet for women not to have the priesthood. It takes time and experience to learn this, I suppose, but one help is the book, “Eve and the Choice Made in Eden.” Insightful.

  • Margaret, I absolutely agree. His priesthood is her priesthood. Women may never be able to hold some of the callings that men hold, but so what? Women create bodies to house souls! Men will NEVER experience that. And the priesthood, the power of God and not of men, supports, protects, and assists in that more premier role of motherhood. Motherhood, being able to co-create with God, is at the top of the hierarchy of importance, and the priesthood plays the supportive role. The trivialization of motherhood is a product of a confused society who do not realize who they are.

  • Motherhood has been cheapened and trivialized by society. God has gravely warned against this. Yes, most any woman can get pregnant, but we have been commanded to treat this power of creation with reverence and respect for a reason, yet society has failed to do so. Don’t buy into it. Motherhood is the most important role of all, and the priesthood is here to SUPPORT it so that souls can return to God. And we know that this life is not all there is. Opportunity for marriage and childbirth extends beyond mortality. The lack of those opportunities in this life is sad, but means nothing eternally.

  • So you believe that the only thing keeping men actively engaged is their priesthood?

    If this is true (and it might be – men seem to be less religious generally), then I wonder about the value of a system that requires for its survival an inequity of power between the sexes. Such a system would be fundamentally flawed for folks who value equity between the sexes. Maybe the religion should find a way to be of value to men without putting them ahead of women.

    However, I’m not sure that it’s true that women would take over. It may also be true that the people with the most talent, interest and resources – regardless of their sexes – would be the ones who get the most done.

  • B, what about women who can’t be mothers? Since they can’t fulfill “the most important responsibility of all” as you put it, and they can’t serve in the priesthood, are they third-class citizens in the kingdom who fulfill lesser roles, biding their time until they die?

    Raising motherhood to a preeminent place only serves to belittle fathers and the childless. Maybe you’re trying to justify women not having the priesthood by saying the priesthood is a lesser gift, but it only makes things worse.

  • E B, time and experience teaches different people different things. My experience has shown me that men and women have the most equal leadership responsibilities when priesthood is involved and exercised the least. For example, my wife and I became equal partners only after I stopped seeing husband and father as priesthood callings.

    This could change if women could claim their revealed right to the priestesshood.

  • Let’s all repeat together: “Mother is analogous to Fatherhood–not priesthood”. If we can be “equal partners” in parenthood, I see no reason we can’t also be equal partners in a priesthood that isn’t restricted based on sex. Don’t fall for the myth that if women move forward in the Church the men must (or naturally will) move backward. The truth is that we can all move forward together.

  • I agree that motherhood is more important than priesthood, but only with the understanding that we are ALL called to be mothers and to nurture others.

    Our finest example of motherhood is Jesus, who compared Himself to a hen gathering her chicks. Julian of Norwich movingly recorded, “The mother can give her child to suck of her milk, but our precious Mother Jesus can feed us with himself, and does, more courteously and most tenderly, with the blessed sacrament, which is the precious food of true life.”

    If we truly value motherhood, we will all strive to become nurturing mothers to each other. And we will open ourselves up to relationship with our Heavenly Mother, whose love calls out to us daily and who is closer to us than we know.

  • It’s very interesting to me that men, but not women, have to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood before they can go through the temple. Why is that? Just wondering.
    There are also two kinds of priesthood (1) the one that administers the Church and performs ordinances (some of which women perform as temple workers) and (2) the one talked about in D&C 121:36-37, “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. They [the rights of the priesthood] may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man [or woman].
    Reason will show us that this verse is not talking about the authority to perform ordinances because a baptism is still valid even if the missionary was not worthy at the time.
    These verses are talking about the “rights” of the priesthood [the rights to be perfected through the enabling power of the atonement] which is a celestial venture of both men and women. It applies to males and females while single as well as to couples as marriage partners and it is the precursor to the promise of joint exaltation made in verse 46, “The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of brighteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”
    THIS is the priesthood I am most interested in, because without it, all the rest is mute.

  • Is this life our only chance? Remember Abraham’s wife Sarah, who thought it was too late. Motherhood is eternal. No worthy son or daughter of God will be denied ANY blessings. Some may just have to wait longer.

  • So essentially, yes, women who cannot be mothers in life must wait patiently to die, doing less important things while other women do the most important work. Good women must stand on the sidelines watching.

    Also, fathers can only have a supporting role in parenting because mothers are more important.

    Do you see how unfair and cruel this is? I can’t believe a loving God who valued his daughters and sons equally would set things up this way.

  • Here’s the thing, though. The powers and responsibilities The Lord has given mothers and fathers in parenting are simply not equal. Mothers are given gestation, birthing, and lactation, which give us a closeness to our children that fathers are not given in the same way. Fathers most definitely can be equal partners in parenting, but it does not look the same as the mother who grew them for 9 months, gave birth to them, and fed them from her body. Most families have to work to figure out how the father can be more involved because The Lord gave women more work (and all work in parenting is divine service that helps us become more Christlike) in His design of the biology. If we look at Church organization the same way, perhaps The Lord gives men more of the work of running the church with Priesthood callings and ordination, but expects us to make women equal partners in the same way fathers can be equal partners to mothers, despite not being given the exact same tools with which to serve?

  • As my wife so aptly puts it: There must be an opposition in all things. This does not always mean good or bad, but sometimes means give and receive. Men in the priesthood give blessings, and women receive blessings. A perfect harmony. Men hold the priesthood, women hold motherhood; another perfect harmony. Men have manhood, women have womanhood. Again, perfect harmony. I am grateful for a wife who understands and accepts that me holding the priesthood in no way diminishes her. And her womanhood only strengthens my admiration for her.

  • Heaven forefend! My first edict would be to ban white shirts in sacrament meeting, so my reign would probably be too much of a shock to the system.  My point is that we don’t need to change anything doctrinally or in the LDS concept of priesthood in order for the most frustrated feminist to feel fully included and respected – it’s already radically feminist, particularly for the 1800’s when the key ideas were restored or revealed. Joseph Smith established Mormonism with a female ministry to complement and imitate the structure of priesthood, “under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood”, with a mission to do Christian service to everyone as well as to specifically meet the needs of women, with considerable autonomy. He undid 1500 years of rampant Christian patriarchal sexism during which it became standard to see women as weak and corrupted and corrupting versions of men, starting with their remaking of Eve as a trouble-maker rather than a genius able to wrangle practical, aesthetic and intellectual intelligences with foresight and vision as described in Genesis 3:6. He removed the concept of original sin caused by Eve’s choice. He restored the idea of a divine potential for women that they could actually aspire to become like in Heavenly Mother, rather than Mary the mother who is a lifelong virgin, which no normal woman could actually become (…before IVF I suppose!). He redefined priesthood as not simply permission to be a minister presiding over a congregation as most Christians see it, but a power that men and women can access in many different ways and settings, and a gender-specific format for training men spiritually – they have to make and fulfil the oath and covenant of the Melchezedek priesthood to be exalted, women don’t. The problem we are dealing with is that while all these concepts are staring us in the face in the seminary scriptures and temple ordinances every member is encouraged to pay close attention to, few people really ‘get it’. The ways that gender roles are talked about and described in the curriculum often bear no relation to the range and scope of these key Mormon scriptures and principles. It’s like watching a mighty lion trussed up in a straight jacket and muffled. Instead of panicking about feminists trying to force the Church to change and ordain them to suit the political mores of the 21st century and trying clumsily to keep them in some 1950’s straight jacket as powerless maids, we just need to take off the smothering and completely unnecessary straight jacket and allow women to function in the Church and family as was envisioned all along. Not a single doctrine has to change, only the rhetoric and some of the silly policies, which are already being reformed by the General Authorities as they realise how incongruous they are with what we believe about women’s divine nature.

  • EdwardJ,
    I applaud your sincere efforts and so I left a lengthy response on your blog post.

  • When you compare the actual responsibilities and service of LDS women with those of women in many other churches, it is clear that they do many things that in other denominations are done by people who are explicitly designated as ministers, whether or not they have been ordained in the priestly tradition of that church. Look at young missionaries. The substantive, life changing work of finding and teaching and loving people so they want to join the LDS Church is done just as well by young women as it is by young men. Even though they are not “ordained”, they are, like the male missionaries, “set apart” for their work as missionaries, and are just as entitled to God’s help and revelation in carrying out their calling. In many other churches, they would see a distinction without a difference between “ordination” and “setting apart” when the result is two years of full time service as a minister of the gospel. In some churches, women preaching or praying is not allowed, because it is a priestly prerogative.

    And the temple ordinances make clear that the power of god is promised to rest down on women as well as men, and they will become “priestesses” in a more perfect world than this one. Even so, in this world, while a formal priesthood holder is needed for certain actions, there is nothing preventing a woman from being a real channel of revelation and godly inspiration to men and women around her, and making her family a place where the most profound preaching and teaching takes place.

  • Fascinating to see how strongly people feel about both sides of this topic. Few of the posts leave any “grey” room for nuance, possibility, or discussion. Isn’t that strange? For some reason, it is nearly impossible for us to discuss women’s issues with that healthy rhetorical volleying of ideas. Instead, we communicate about women’s issues with declarative statements and attempt to shut down conversation. So odd.

  • You mention Adam as our first parent and neglect to recognize Eve. We definitely would not be here without the choice she made to leave the garden and have children.

  • I am not a man but I still may never experience pregnancy. this priesthood/motherhood distinction is flawed. I, however, have exercised the priesthood in administering temple initiatory and endowment ordinances. The temple president holds the keys to delegate power to administer particular ordinances.

  • I totally agree. However, countries and organizations prove more successful when women and men make decisions together. This I believe happens but goes unacknowledged at church.

  • If the temple teachings are accurate, the church needs to change the way we correlate priesthood to gender. Women are specifically anointed to become priestesses. They are clothed in the garments of the priesthood, etc.

  • Continued…

    It would be a shame to teach yet another practice which we already know will someday be rescinded as if it were an unchanging doctrine.

  • Thank you for discussing this topic and how we prepare our youth for their future in the gospel. There are meaty pearls missing from the bullets and I wish I had time to click through the resources on In my perfect world, this month’s lessons would just be to have the young women and young men go through the worldwide leadership training videos and discuss them. Leaders/teachers need to see these as well. There they would see men and women leading the church and truly ministering as the Savior – both fully participating in the work of the priesthood. If the church everywhere was administered according to the principles set forth in those trainings, the prompted answers would be less about being the recipient of blessings and rather participants, tools in God’s hands. A much richer, defining experience that will keep everyone moving forward. Thanks again, I love reading your stuff!

  • Fatherhood is cheapened when we fail to recognize it as the partner to motherhood. Yes, motherhood is equal to FATHERHOOD. Priesthood is a structure completely separate from any parenting roll.

  • So, the imperfectly translated Bible repeatedly excludes the feminine divine despite its existence. Well, let’s not perpetuate that error. I am accountable for my own sins and for Eve’s transgression. The prophetesses and female leaders of antiquity are important. Our Father in Heaven cannot exist without our equally exalted Mother in Heaven. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, was born of no man – but only was woman considered pure enough to bare His soul. Only woman was worthy to first view His resurrected body. Woman sat at His feet as rabbinical student (contrary to the faulty culture of the time). The Holy Ghost is male for some who receive it and female for others who receive it. As the Holy Ghost has no physical body it has no DNA nor genitalia to determine an absolute sex.

  • That should read ” I am accountable for my own sins and NOT for Eve’s transgression.” – Just as men are not responsible for Adam’s transgression.

  • No, we would begin to recognize that fatherhood is as sacred and important as motherhood. The “women getting the priesthood means men should get pregnant” argument is fallacious and silly, because it belies the corollary to motherhood which is fatherhood in both biology and in as sacred responsibility.

  • Men share the power to create life. Both man and woman are partners with God in this. Fatherhood=Motherhood. Priesthood is a separate structure. A man may be both a father and a priesthood holder whilst a woman may be a mother. The arguments I am seeing are both belittling of fatherhood and perpetuating a false idea that women shouldn’t have the priesthood because they have uteruses.

  • This is a perfect example of how Mormon culture belittles fatherhood. Of course, a man can experience all of the sacredness of parenthood that a mother may experience. We have our Heavenly Father as a type and example of the sacred relationship between father and child. It is pathetically sad that so many LDS believe as Suz does. This perpetuation of false tradition cheapens fatherhood and convinces both mothers and fathers that fathers can never be as close to their children as their mother.

  • The “men get priesthood leadership because they are terrible at it” argument makes no sense. Do men get fatherhood because they are terrible at it? Do women get motherhood because they are terrible at it?

    The reasoning above is yet another – though more wordy – way of ignoring that motherhood=fatherhood and ignoring this reality by putting forth the false idea that priesthood=motherhood cheapens fatherhood and robs both men and women.

  • And, why couldn’t a woman be chosen by God to lead the church? The only thing standing in the way would be members and leaders clinging to the idea that only people with penises can lead the church.

  • I have more faith in men than that.

    Perhaps what we need is a month of lessons on the importance of fatherhood – not on men having the priesthood. Perhaps if we stopped making men feel like inferior parents we could dispense with the “we need the priesthood to catch up to the women” ridiculousness.

  • My father had the priesthood yet was completely uninvolved in our family spiritually. “The priesthood is our crutch” mentality doesn’t work. Tons of men with the priesthood make lousy priesthood holders. Tons of women without the priesthood would make superb priesthood holders. Having the priesthood in no way predisposes a man to make good or righteous choices.

  • To make B’s argument work we would need to not give any man – young or old – the priesthood until he was married and his wife gave birth. Then we might be able to just begin to equate priesthood with motherhood – but this would still belittle fatherhood.

  • So, nine months of painful gestation is the equivalent of a lifetime of priesthood power and authority? Sounds like a pretty crappy deal for any woman!

  • Men have the priesthood power and authority. Women may make donuts whilst the pristhoid holders are at important meetings. Women hold motherhood while men forget about fatherhood because they have the priesthood. Fixed that for you.

  • When I look at my friends in other churches I see… Women who are ministers, leaders over men and women alike, and righteous authority figures with no distinction based upon sex. I first noticed this when a lovely new neighbor moved in years ago who was a minister for a local congregation – and a woman. She was more respected and treated with more equality than any woman I had seen in the LDS church. It is a falsehood relying upon ignorance to state that women in the LDS church have more opportunities to serve than in other churches. On the contrary, LDS women are much more restricted than many other denominations’ female members.

  • Yes, so odd that integrity causes so many to not bend when they see blatant bigotry, while bigotry causes so many to hold on to their justification if inequality. Makes you wonder what the fuss was about with women voting or having any equality at all!

  • I note that many posting here are referring to the temple endowment as proof that things are being done wrong in only men holding the priesthood. I wonder if they are also as zealous about wives obeying their husbands and the law of consecration.

  • Thanda,

    I am not zealous about the wording to which you are referring and I believe it is likely tradition of men as it is clearly contradicted by the actions and specific priesthood covenants which are gender inclusive. Aside from only males being ordained to the MP as part of the initiatory ordinances and two slight but significant variations in the endowment, we are washed, anointed, and clothed in the garments of the holy priesthood, as was Aaron, irrespective of gender.

    The reason I believe the error lies with the current wording rather than the symbolic practice is because of the wording of the sealing, which is not gender neutral and seems to allow for polygamy. The recent change, incremental progress though is it, to allow women to be sealed to more than one husband gives me hope, that we are moving toward a better understanding of how Elohim views both Their daughters and Their sons.

    As for the law of consecration, I am absolutely zealous about that and I must be missing the reference to gender there unless you are indicating something about polygamy. I view polygamy as an aberration (see Jacob 2) and not an indication of any post-mortal relationship pattern. I fully expect the relationships I cultivate here to persist in their present pattern (see D&C 130:2) and I don’t buy into the idea that exalted women give birth to spirit children. The scriptures indicate time and again that seed is created in another manner entirely (see Mosiah 15:10-11, D&C 121:45-46) That’s probably more information than you wanted but since I’m guessing at the meaning behind your reference to consecration, I thought I’d put it out there. ;

    I’m certainly interested in how you view these issues also so please share!

  • Hi Catherine,

    I admit that the celestial kingdom may very well look quite different from the earthly kingdom since the Lord is still preparing us. I admit that there could quite possibly be no hierarchy between the Father and the Mother. I am therefore not discussing here what will or won’t be in the life to come. I am discussing what the Lord expects of us in Mortality.

    Let me give an example of what I’m saying: To Adam God gave the law of sacrifice. It is clear however that many of those who practiced the Law understood that it was only a type, a training mechanism. They also knew that animal sacrifice would not last forever. They knew that after Christ came it would be done away. But none of this understanding that they had excused them from living the commandment. They could not be saved without obeying the law even though they knew there would be a time when such would be done away.

    From the above we learn that the commandments of God must be obeyed whether they are temporal (temporary/only for this life) or eternal. In fact in D&C the Lord tells us that all his commandments are spiritual and that at no time has he ever given a commandment which was temporal to any man, not even Adam – now that’s just another way of Him saying that all His commandments have a spiritual and eternal impact on us even if we will only be required to live some of them in this life only or for a short period only.

    Which gets me back to the wording of that part of the endowment that speak of wives obeying their husbands. The endowment did not exist before Joseph Smith became a prophet. Therefore Joseph Smith received this ordinance by revelation. So I will contend that the Lord is quite responsible for the wording in the endowment – especially since it is clear that our salvation is inextricably tied to obeying with exactness every commandment we receive there. And also remember that this section of the endowment that speaks of this is repeated twice – in the video and by each sister: so it’s not just an incidental part of the endowment.
    And again it is a moot point whether or not we will be required to live this Law next year or in the Millennium or in the life to come: the fact is that it is a commandment today. And the question is: are you as zealous about keeping it as you are about the implications of women officiating in the priesthood there?

    I’m enjoying this conversation Catherine, thanks for indulging me 🙂

  • Remember that the covenant is conditional based upon my husband’s following of the Lord. When he does such, I support and sustain him unfailingly. When he does not, (to borrow from D&C 82) ‘he has no promise’.

    There are occasions, however, when the words of priesthood authority are superseded by the direct counsel of God or a member of the godhead. (See Eldad and Medad as examples) Likewise, there have been occasions when I have walked a path upon which the Lord has placed my feet, contrary to wise and worthy priesthood leader, zealous, not unlike Joshua, in their positions. As with all things, God alone is the judge.

    So, when you ask whether I am zealous in living my covenants, the call to submission specifically, I can reply affirmatively without hesitation.

    My question to you is: Why do you assume that one being zealous about women officiating has anything to do with an unwillingness to submit? One can be the latter while still believing in the principle of the former.

  • To answer your question,

    I assume so because many of those who citing women officiating in the temple, do so to imply that what is happening outside the temple in the church (ie women not officiating in priesthood ordinances and not holding positions of authority over men) is incorrect and that it needs to be brought in line with what happens in the temple. So I was wondering about the likelihood that those same people are also as concerned about making sure that wives are submitting to their husbands’ righteous counsel. And somehow I doubt they do.
    Interestingly, women not officiating in the priesthood ordinances will evidently not count against at the Judgement day while them not obeying their husbands’ righteous counsel will. Which then do you suppose is the more important topic to be discussing and debating in this lifetime?

    PS. If I appear to be replying at odd hours of the day please be advised that I’m from South Africa, almost exactly halfway across the world!

  • Just to add something else. It appears to me that many who find the curriculum for the YW questionable apparently feel threatened (somehow) by the priesthood. I wonder why this is so? This would be like me having a problem with lessons about Joseph Smith because he is white (I’m black). The priesthood is an instrument by which God intends to save mankind. The most important thing we must seek is the gift of eternal life. To do so we must live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Anyone who does that is bound to have eternal life. So if God commands that only a section of the population should have the priesthood, then it should be okay with everyone so long we are assured that if we keep his commandments we will be saved. You will remember that there was a time when only those of the Tribe of Levi could hold the priesthood. Yet it was understood that every member of the House of Israel who kept the commandments faithfully would saved in the same kingdom with those priests who served faithfully.

    Let me jump a bit and comment that the counsel for women to obey their husbands is independent of their husbands priesthood status. All women are expected to obey their husbands whether they are general authorities, regular members, non-members, ex-members. I mention this because it is important to understand that true power in the gospel is not something one receives by the laying on of hands. It is received through a righteous character that is developed by keeping the commandments and applying the atonement. Those who do this will be Gods in the life to come – they will be Eternal Mothers and Eternal Fathers; they will have power to organize worlds. It will be irrelevant whether they ever held the priesthood after the order of Aaron or Melchezedek in Mortality as they will have obtained the Patriarchal order of the priesthood and will thus have obtained a glory, power and authority that supersedes all those priesthoods.

    I, like many of you, have not seen a vision of the celestial kingdom and I therefore do not know what lies ahead there. I do not know how similar or how different it is to the world we now live in and the church to which we belong. I am certain however that the gospel is calculated to save every one of us in that kingdom. And I am confident that every one who makes it there will have a fullness of joy at the lot they are given. So lets stop sweating the small stuff and rather seek to keep the commandments more earnestly and know that the time will come when we will be able see as we are seen and know as we are known.


  • I thought that Sis. Burton’s talk on priesthood during the 2013 Women’s Conference quite nailed the topic well, and answered the questions presented here. It’s unfortunate that she’s not given _any_ recognition here for her articulate, meaningful, realistic spiritual counsel and insights. Is there a particular reason for that?

  • And just in case my comments are reaching anyone’s eyes (and hopefully hearts). Fatherhood DOES NOT equal Motherhood .My husband is a wonderful father. He is caring, and gentle, and gives our children time and love and guidance, but a lifetime of his giving may come almost close to the 9 months of carrying my first child. I have figuratively laid every part of myself on the alter and promised God that I will submit to his will in my efforts to lead my children to Him.
    Priesthood DOES NOT equal Motherhood. We aren’t desirable only for our breeding abilities!
    Righteous Priesthood DOES EQUAL Righteous Womanhood. When a man righteously exercises his priesthood authority he becomes an equal to (but not the same as) a righteous woman.
    I know. I am a total feminist. : ) Forgive me for thinking that women rock…and the men are trying their best to catch up.

  • My first comment didn’t post. In the book, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, Beverly Campbell gives the definition for the two hebrew words that ‘helpmeet’ is translated from. Ezer, meaning ‘to save or to rescue’ and also ‘ to be strong’. And, k’enegdo meaning ‘equal’. Therefore, the long-winded translation of God’s description of women is “a companion of strength and power, who has a saving power and is equal with man.” (page 24-25). Matthew Cowley said, “Men have to have something given to them in mortality to make them saviors of men…but not women. They are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls…and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.” We should seek to complete each other…not compete with each other. I am equal not because I simply support and receive, but because when I live up to the divine woman within me, my power and influence is profound. I love being a woman.

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