Disclaimer: The ideas expressed here are my own opinions. I do not speak for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for my husband, or for anyone else, for that matter.
My online friend Rebecca revealed that she’s a Mormon feminist. And I’m okay with that. And she’s okay that I’m not.
Her insightful blog post started a personal and heartfelt off-line discussion between the two of us, which sparked conversations at home and with other women friends within the sisterhood of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But in reality, these discussions started online years ago and most recently about six months ago by a woman named Kate Kelly and others who advocate for women being ordained to the priesthood in the Church at OrdainWomen.org . As one of the tactics of this movement, some women are planning to assemble in the standby line to seek admittance to the priesthood session of General Conference. I must note that all feminists do not advocate for ordination nor are all those who seek ordination classified feminists.
Contention aside, I love that women and men of the church are talking in earnest about the priesthood and its power in our lives. What a profound gift it is. But I do not advocate for women being ordained to the priesthood.
Now, this is the point in my post where I am supposed to address my own credibility to validate my position, as if only being a highly educated woman who works outside the home and identifies herself as a feminist really has enough experience and knowledge to make and advocate an informed position.
No, my womanhood and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ as a member of His Church are the only credentials I bring.
Elder M. Russell Ballard’s recent talk is an integral part of this discussion. It is a landmark talk from an apostle of Jesus Christ answering the concerns of women on this very topic. It is given in a spirit of love, encouragement and, yes, empowerment. His invitation to women throughout the church is my impetus for speaking out about what I believe. He said:
“Only you can show the world what women of God who have made covenants look like and believe . . . seek the guidance of heaven in knowing what you can do to let your voice of faith and testimony be heard.””
I’m grateful that others like this post in the Millennial Star have called attention to his message as well. At a minimum, you can find definitions of priesthood and the power of the priesthood within his talk and the equally educational Women’s Conference talk by Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society President.
What I’ve Learned About the Priesthood or
Why I’m Not Seeking to Be Ordained to the Priesthood
1. I do believe that! I also believe that the priesthood is not a possession of man or woman, but it is His with whom I am seeking to develop a personal, covenant relationship. Through the priesthood ordinances I’ve received I’m striving to come unto Jesus Christ. With that in mind, I put my trust in Him and seek His words. The plethora of voices in my world cause me to learn to evaluate and understand everything that comes at me. I’m learning to do that through the lens of personal revelation. Through that process, I’ve come to trust the framework of His Church and how he governs it with the priesthood so that I receive redemption, answers and growth.
“The Lord is hastening His work, and it is imperative for us to understand how the Lord accomplishes His work so that we may receive the power that comes from being aligned with His plan and purposes.” Sister Linda K. Burton
2. I love participating in the work of salvation. I feel valued and trusted by the Lord when I act on a prompting in my family or in my church responsibilities or simply just to show forth compassion and love to others. That’s the work of salvation, bringing others to Christ, to feel His love for them and connect them with the principles and ordinances of His gospel. My role before the Savior in His work is not diminished because I don’t hold the priesthood. I have had the chance to be an integral part of His work within councils of the church, within my family, and within the community, sometimes as a leader and sometimes as a follower.
“Understanding that the priesthood cannot be used in any degree for selfish means helps us more clearly see that Jesus Christ is the perfect example of how the priesthood is to be used to bless, lift, comfort, and strengthen others.” Sister Linda K. Burton
2. I’ve observed many priesthood leaders. Most seek to model their leadership after the Savior in the way that Sister Burton says, but others have not. What this tells me is that position does not equal power. Power in the priesthood to act righteously in our callings, whether man or woman, comes from the Lord Jesus Christ and is conveyed by the Holy Ghost. The principles that invite this spiritual power, as well as those that diminish it are outlined in Doctrine and Covenants section 121, which Sister Burton has encouraged the women of the Church to study. Striving to become—and we’re all striving— that kind of leader and a disciple of Christ is a humbling process, not one that raises us above others.
“Those who have entered the waters of baptism and subsequently received their endowment in the house of the Lord are eligible for rich and wonderful blessings. The endowment is literally a gift of power. . . .Our Father in Heaven is generous with His power. All men and all women have access to this power for help in our own lives.” Elder M. Russell Ballard
4. Power in the priesthood may be intangible or quiet, it may be visible or loud, but is miraculous and it is real. Even through my hardest challenges, I cling to my covenants, because I’ve learned I can trust God. I have seen His power in many ways in my life. Let me share just one simple example. Like many, I need external validation. I want to know I’m doing a good job. But sometimes, that need can and did lead to me depending on the praise of others. I had to go through some hard challenges to change this. But I’m learning.
I gave a lesson on Sunday. I prepared spiritually with prayer, study and a trip to the temple. I taught the lesson with Come Follow Me methods to invite the spirit to work with both teacher and learner. Afterward, several women told me how they learned from it and that it was a good lesson. I thanked them for that, appreciative that they got something out of it. But then, I went home and prayed, thanking Heavenly Father for His help. As I rested and tried to nap that afternoon, I couldn’t sleep. I received my own spiritual confirmation that he accepted my offering and was pleased. Each of us can have that. Three very capable female disciples of Christ who lead 5.5 million women worldwide taught us how to receive that in the General Relief Society meeting.
“If we want to really know the doctrine of the priesthood, we have a reliable and God-given living resource—prophets, seers, and revelators.” Sister Linda K. Burton
5. My husband gathered us for family home evening and led our family in a short and powerful activity to prepare us for General Conference. He played this video. Then he asked, “What two conditions ensure that we can receive a message from conference just for us?”
“If we teach by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle just to you,” Elder Holland says.
Then Paul invited us, with a timer set, to write down several questions we would like answered in conference this weekend. This pattern seems so simple, but I know it brings both simple and profound answers. Really it is a pattern of faith that leads us back to my first point.
Do we trust the Lord, trust that he has organized His church, and trust the servants He calls to lead? Do we trust that He wants to bless us—women, children and men—using the framework He designed?
For that reason, I will not be standing in line at the priesthood session. But more importantly, every day I will try to do those things that invite rather than crowd out His voice and the voice of His servants so that I can hear Him.