The Blessings of the Priesthood: An LDS Woman’s Perspective
By Stephanie Jones
May 28, 2017
I teach the 14-16 year-old Sunday School class and a little while back I taught a lesson about the atonement and how we can use comparisons to teach others about the atonement. We wrote on the board,
The atonement is like ______.
and then filled in the blank with some different comparisons. The idea is to make a complex doctrinal principle easier to teach and therefore easier to understand. So today, in honor of my class I’ve come up with a comparison for the topic of the Priesthood, but as I give my talk I challenge you to come up with your own comparisons.
Priesthood is like the laces of a shoe. It holds families and the Church together just like laces hold the shoes on your feet.
So there you go. Hopefully, through the course of my talk you can come up with your own comparisons that will help you better understand the priesthood.
I’m kind of a Who, What, When, Where, Why, kind of thinker. As I prepared this talk on the priesthood I realized the first question I needed to understand was the WHAT.
In the April 2014 general conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk titled The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood. He quoted President Joseph F. Smith, who described the priesthood as, “the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family.” He then quoted Elder Boyd K. Packer as describing the priesthood as “the consummate power on this earth. It is the power by which the earth was created.” Elder Oaks further concluded, “Thus, [the priesthood] is the power by which we will be resurrected and proceed to eternal life”. We can draw conclusions from such statements that the priesthood is a power that is sacred, immense, all encompassing, and so on. What then, do we really understand about such a thing as this power? I found myself asking this question a lot while tackling the preparation for this talk. In addition, I wondered, HOW does the priesthood apply to me? HOW does it affect my life? My life as a mother, as a wife, or as a woman in the LDS faith?
I’ll come back to that in a bit. Let’s take a look for a second, at priesthood keys. In the Church Handbook, as quoted by Elder Oaks, we read “Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth.” Elder M. Russell Ballard further explained “Those who have priesthood keys … literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power” (M. Russell Ballard, “Men and Women in the Work of the Lord,” New Era, Apr. 2014). Going back to my earlier question, as a woman in the church, HOW does this priesthood authority apply to me? Elder Oaks answered this question for me in his talk 3 years ago in the April General Conference session. I still remember the feeling I had when I heard him give this talk, and especially this specific thing he said, which was, “We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.” How much different would my experience in a calling be if I viewed it from this perspective? Understanding better that I am performing duties with priesthood authority gives me pause to look at my responsibilities differently. Perhaps with a bit more reverence and care.
Recently, I found out about an old acquaintance of mine who decided to leave the church after wrestling with questions and doubts for several years. Hearing this friend tell about her experiences has caused me to reexamine my beliefs and check my foundation, so to speak. One of the things I found myself examining more closely, after hearing some of her struggles, was my faith in the priesthood and its role in my life, specifically as a woman. My thoughts kept turning to a scripture I found as a youth that resonated with me then and still helps me feel the same truth in my heart now. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 we read about diversities. Diversities of spiritual gifts, of operations, and of administrations. In verse 12 we read,
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being
many, are one body: so also is Christ.
And it goes on with the body as an analogy, saying things like, does the ear say, because I’m not the eye am I not important? Does the foot say to the hand, are you more important? (I’m paraphrasing, obviously.) Ultimately, Paul tells us “Now ye are the body of Christ, members in particular.” And he continues . . .
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
Elder M. Russell Ballard, in an April 2013 General Conference talk said,
“Men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman”
And in an April 1992 General Conference talk Elder Oaks said “While we sometimes refer to priesthood holders as ‘the priesthood,’ we must never forget that the priesthood is not owned by or embodied in those who hold it. It is held in a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of men, women, and children alike.”
As a woman, I have truly felt the benefits of this sacred priesthood power throughout my life. At a recent trip to the temple I found myself pondering over some of these ideas and was made aware, through the power of the Spirit, many ways I have been blessed. Throughout the session, I was repeatedly cognizant of the Lord’s immense love and encouragement for me to seek answers and try to better understand the role of the priesthood in my life. I noticed, it was while I was in a place set apart from the vices and negative voices of the world that I was able to find simple clarity in the truths of the gospel, especially pertaining to the priesthood. I came away with a powerful knowledge of the Lord’s love for me individually and His desire that I seek His love in all He does for me.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said,
“Our Father in Heaven knows all, foresees all, and understands all. His comprehension, His wisdom, and His love for us are perfect. Surely we must agree that our Heavenly Father and His Son know which opportunities the sons and daughters of God need to best prepare the human family for eternal life. Each of us has the privilege of choosing whether we will believe that God is our Father, that Jesus is the Christ, and that They have a plan designed to help us return home to Them. This, of course, requires faith. Our testimonies, our peace of mind, and our well-being begin with the willingness to believe that our Father in Heaven does indeed know best.” ( Men & Women & Priesthood Power).
If I truly have faith that Heavenly Father loves me and wants what is best for me in this life . . . if I truly believe that He wants me to have access to all He has as I strive for eternal salvation, I can believe that His plan, if I strive to follow it, will return me home to Him.
On lds.org under the Gospel Topics section I read an account that further spoke to this idea of a Heavenly Father who wants the best for us.
Wanting to provide charitable support to men working to build the temple, a group of Mormon women planned to form a benevolent society, mirroring a popular practice of the time. When they presented their plan to Joseph Smith, he felt inspired to move beyond such precedents. As Sarah Granger Kimball, a founding member of the Relief Society, later recalled, “the Prophet told them he had ‘something better’ for them and said he would organize the women ‘in the Order of the Priesthood after the pattern of the Church.’”
I feel that, through the actions of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we can feel our Heavenly Father’s love for us as the Relief Society was established with the utmost care toward the women of the church. The Prophet, a man called of God, in whom I have an established, hard fought testimony, was said to have told the women he wanted to give them “something better.” As a mouthpiece for the Lord, a Lord who loves all his children, Joseph created not just a benevolent society, but a companion organization to the priesthood quorums and organized the women after the Order of the Priesthood. I think the early women of the church may have better understood the powerful impact that was, to have such an organization for women. I wonder if they also felt more strongly that connection to the priesthood than we sometimes allow ourselves to feel in this day.
Elder Boyd K. Packer said,
“The Brethren know they belong to a quorum of the priesthood. Too many sisters, however, think that Relief Society is merely a class to attend. The same sense of belonging to the Relief Society rather than just attending a class must be fostered in the heart of every woman” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Relief Society,” Ensign, May 1998 ).
“Priesthood quorums organize men in a brotherhood to give service, to learn and carry out their duties, and to study the doctrines of the gospel. Relief Society accomplishes these same purposes for the women of the Church. All women in the Church belong to Relief Society, even if they have other responsibilities that make it difficult for them to attend all Relief Society meetings. They continue to be watched over and taught through the sisterhood of Relief Society” (“Blessings of the Priesthood for All: An Inseparable Connection with the Priesthood,” Chapter 8, Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society).
This is the belonging I always want to feel – and have felt at various times of my life – as a woman in the church. I hope we, as men and women both, come to understand the Lord’s purpose for us made available through priesthood power. I have challenged myself, and I challenge you, to continue to seek greater understanding about the more complex doctrines of the church, as the priesthood sometimes seems to me. I know Heavenly Father is no respecter of persons and wants all of His children to equally enjoy the benefits and blessings of His sacred priesthood power. Let me leave you with the words of Sister Sheri Dew, a former member of the General Relief Society Presidency:
“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” (Sheri L. Dew, “It is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone,” Ensign, November 2001).
It is truly my heart’s desire and prayer that the Spirit has spoken to your hearts today and that you have felt even some small portion of the Lord’s love for you. It is my testimony that He wants us, to paraphrase a sister from our previous testimony meeting, to “hold onto the hard-fought battles we’ve already won”. As we do so, continuing to search for His love in all things, we will discover HIS true intentions along with OUR purpose in the great plan of happiness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.