This is the second part of a two-part article that discusses Mormon women and the priesthood. Click here to read Part 1.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks says: The greatest power God has given to His sons cannot be exercised without the companionship of one of His daughters, because only to His daughters has God given the power “to be a creator of bodies … so that God’s design and the Great Plan might meet fruition.”
…This is the place of our wives and of our mothers in the Eternal Plan. They are not bearers of the Priesthood; they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the Priesthood; nor are they laden with its responsibilities; they are builders and organizers under its power, and partakers of its blessings, possessing the complement of the Priesthood powers and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself. … As stated in the family proclamation, the father presides in the family and he and the mother have separate responsibilities, but they are “obligated to help one another as equal partners.” In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, women and men are equal, with different responsibilities.
For those of us who like sports analogies, each person on a team has a different job and different place to be on the field. Defending the net or our other players is just as important as scoring goals. Our whole team succeeds when we each perform well in our given responsibilities; our whole team loses when we fight over which one of us gets to score the goals. In our family relationships as well as our interactions with those who work within the organization of the church, a feeling of teamwork rather than competition is what strengthens families and furthers the work of the Lord. President Spencer W. Kimball gave this inspired explanation:
“When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner (General Conference (Oct. 1978), President Spencer W. Kimball, Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters).
As we strive for unity with our spouse and with the Lord, the differences in our contributions to the family become less pronounced. We aren’t focusing on our differences because we are all striving to catch a glimpse of the end product of the Maker. Like different color threads, each family member ads to the beautiful tapestry that is our family legacy. Confusion on the keys, power, and authority is not new to this generation. It’s not even new to this decade. With so many different terms (keys, authority, power, ordination, offices…) it is understandable that we confuse them, especially in regards to the church versus the family organizations. In 2005, Elder Dallin H. Oaks again touched on this very subject in October’s General Conference. He began by telling us a story from his own life:
My father died when I was seven. I was the oldest of three small children our widowed mother struggled to raise. When I was ordained a deacon, she said how pleased she was to have a priesthood holder in the home. But Mother continued to direct the family, including calling on which one of us would pray when we knelt together each morning. I was puzzled. I had been taught that the priesthood presided in the family. There must be something I didn’t know about how that principle worked (General Conference (Oct. 2005), Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Priesthood Authority in the Family and in the Church).
This specific issue of priesthood authority in the home is one that has been mentioned several times lately. Time and time again I read heartbreaking stories of faithful, single mothers pushed aside as soon as their sons are ordained to the priesthood. They, of their own volition, give up the authority God has given to them as sole head of their families and allow their sons to act as an authority in the home. This kind of thing is, as Elder Oaks said, directly a result of a misunderstanding of the order of priesthood authority in the home:
… The authority of the priesthood functions in the family and in the Church, according to the principles the Lord has established. When my father died, my mother presided over our family. She had no priesthood office, but as the surviving parent in her marriage she had become the governing officer in her family (General Conference (Oct. 2005), Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Priesthood Authority in the Family and in the Church).
We as women and mothers (single or not) have the right to revelation not just for ourselves but also for anyone under our stewardship including our children. Revelation for ourselves and for our family is nothing less than priesthood authority that we have been given by our Heavenly Father himself. That authority does not change when our sons come of age. Why do we have different uses and order of authority of the priesthood within the Church and the home? I believe it is because, as Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 says:
Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
A family organization is so much less complex than the organization of a worldwide church. The organic nature of the family lay out the perfect order. Mother and Father together lead the children and each of the family members work together as a team to fulfill the needs of each other and the needs of the family as a whole. A family unified in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a beautiful thing indeed and our natural love and need for each other can create a “well-oiled machine”. The organization of the Church is different, and as such, must be organized differently. It is a different size, has different goals, and different responsibilities. In 2005 Elder Oaks goes on to specify again the difference in Priesthood authority within the Church and priesthood authority within the family.
One important difference between its function in the Church and in the family is the fact that all priesthood authority in the Church functions under the direction of the one who holds the appropriate priesthood keys. In contrast, the authority that presides in the family—whether father or single-parent mother—functions in family matters without the need to get authorization from anyone holding priesthood keys. This family authority includes directing the activities of the family, family meetings like family home evenings, family prayer, teaching the gospel, and counseling and disciplining family members. It also includes ordained fathers giving priesthood blessings…. This is because the organization the Lord has made responsible for the performance and recording of priesthood ordinances is the Church, not the family (General Conference (Oct. 2005), Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Priesthood Authority in the Family and in the Church).
Greater Knowledge to Come
I would like to conclude by touching on something that Elder Oaks said in his talk from this last Conference. He said, “There are other priesthood keys that have NOT been given to man on the earth.” President Brigham Young said: “It is supposed by this people that we have all the ordinances in our possession for life and salvation, and exaltation, and that we are administering in those ordinances. This is not the case.” (Journal of Discourses, 15:137.) Can you realize even slightly how relatively little we know? The apostle Paul said, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Our mortal minds can only just barely glimpse into the eternities. The priesthood is so much bigger than we think it is. In our limited understanding far too many of us choose to view an earthly, organizational method as a weapon or justification to divide us from other faithful Latter-day Saints. I am guilty of this myself, but the humbling truth is that just because I don’t struggle with this particular issue doesn’t mean I am any more faithful or obedient than those who do.
I’m content with the fact that the Lord’s house is a house of order and this is how he has chosen to organize it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own personal struggles within the gospel. Nor does a questioning heart make us bad or unworthy.
The Golden plates were shown to Joseph Smith because he asked for guidance. The ordinances of baptism and eternal marriage, the ordination of the priesthood, and the construction of the temples were all revealed to Joseph Smith because he had a question in his heart and took it to the Lord. In the lifetime of many of the people reading this, ordination to priesthood offices had routinely been denied to many faithful men within the Church. Going to the Lord with an honest question and a pure heart is not a problem, and we should never allow our easy acceptance of a gospel principle to divide us from those who have more difficulty. I, for one, can willingly admit that I would really struggle if I were asked to do many of the things that the early Saints had to endure. For example, sending our husbands and fathers off for years at a time to preach the gospel, walking thousands of miles to carve out a life from the wilderness, or leaving behind the temple that they had spent years building with their own hands to an unknown fate. These are all things that I would struggle with, yet thousands of our ancestors did those things over and over again and have testified of the blessings that they took part in. In her most recent book Women and the Priesthood Sheri Dew said, “Life isn’t really about this life. It’s about what comes next.” In our struggles in this life we should support each other and lift each other up, and prepare ourselves for what is coming next. We cannot allow our limited, mortal understanding to drive us apart, nor can we allow our pride to drive us to un-Christ-like behavior and thoughts. The Lord’s house is a house of order and, as Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against it-self cannot stand.” As different as we all are, we still need each other; and more than ever Relief Society still needs to be a “safe place where women care for each other, where they nurture each other and come to understand each other’s hearts as we hear one another testify of Christ,” (Bonnie D. Parkin March 2004 Ensign, “Oh, How We Need Each Other“). Let’s not allow the distractions of the world confuse our mission to bring others unto Christ.
Hi, I’m Courtney. I’m a “dangerously self-confident” Air Force wife, a mother of 5 (6th on the way), teacher, patriot, a runner, an aspiring scholar, and daughter of God. I love being a traditional mom, homeschooling my children, refinishing and building furniture, trying new things, writing, reading and politics. I didn’t always love my job as a mother, but with a lot of help from the Lord I have been able to discover how I can fulfill all of childhood dreams and more within the walls of my own home and with my little family. I want nothing more than to raise my children in righteousness and help other women and mothers find joy in their femininity and motherhood as I have. Visit Courtney at her personal blog: Ordinary, Happily Ever After