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I read recently in the Deseret News about a Latter-day Saint woman named Kate Kelly (lifelong member of the Church, BYU graduate, and returned missionary), who, along with her followers, are pressing for entrance into the priesthood session of the LDS Church’s General Conference. She said, “This is an important step toward a future where Mormon women will participate side by side with our brothers in all areas of church leadership and life.”1
Sister Kelly, who is an international human rights attorney and co-founder of an effort called “Ordain Women,” explains: “This is about the ordination of women to the priesthood.” She says that she represents “Mormon women seeking equality and ordination to the priesthood.”
“We consider ourselves to be prospective priesthood holders, and we . . . are ready for both the benefits and responsibilities of the priesthood.”
“To me,” she continued, “agitating on the issue is a question of self-respect. I respect and value the church and myself too much to be silent on this question. I truly believe that God wants us all to equally share the burdens and blessings of the priesthood. The ordination of women would put us all on equal spiritual footing with our brethren, and nothing less will suffice.”2
While pondering about the statements and efforts of this sister, and other like-minded persons, some impressions came pouring into my head and my heart, and I feel a need to respond. First an important caveat: I do not speak for the Church, or anyone else, of course, but I do have some feelings about the matter and we members of the Church have been encouraged by our leaders to get involved in the media with issues we personally sense need clarifying. In addition, I recognize that we are dealing with a complex set of issues, and logically, I cannot attempt to address them all here.
I have been teaching about the life and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ for more than forty years, and I am convinced of a number of essential truths about Him:
1.I believe Jesus was the greatest champion of women who has ever lived. (For example: Jesus broke social norms when His first recorded open declaration that He was the Messiah was to a woman, and a Samaritan woman even. He repeatedly showed in His ministry that all women are valued daughters of our Heavenly Father. And His first appearances after His resurrection were to women.)
2.I also believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church, and that He is in charge of how it is organized and how the doctrines of His gospel are revealed and taught in the Church.
3.I believe He now has, just as when He organized His Church two thousand years ago, specially ordained servants on the earth—called prophets and apostles—who speak for Him, and that the Lord asks for our loyalty to Him and to His appointed leaders.
4.I believe Him when He says, regarding His revealed instructions, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).
5.I believe that each presiding prophet, who holds all priesthood keys, may speak for God on any subject, and, as for each member of the Church, the Lord says: “thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments . . . for his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:4-5). In other words, we are expected to live by the Lord’s rules—which He calls commandments—and not seek to stir up contention over those rules (“Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine” – D&C 10:63).
The Lord’s prophets and apostles in recent years have issued “A Proclamation to the World” that teaches some pointed truths about men and women. Some of those truths, in the language of the Proclamation, are:
“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters . . . accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.
“By divine design [and maybe that suggests that the arrangement comes through eons of experience], fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” (There’s so much more in the Proclamation, but these lines will do for now.)
One of God’s chosen representatives, Elder M. Russell Ballard, expounded on some of those teachings in the Brigham Young University Devotional on August 20, 2013, during Education Week. The following three paragraphs report some of Elder Ballard’s counsel in the words of Church News writer, Marianne Holman,3 along with some exact quotations of Elder Ballard’s words in quote marks:
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. In the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by a husband and wife. . . . “Why are men ordained to the priesthood offices and not women? . . . When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has.” Women are integral to the governance and work of the Church. “Let us not forget that approximately one-half of all of the teaching that takes place in the Church is done by sisters. . . . Much of the leadership provided is from our sisters.”
Men and women are equal in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the Church, but equal does not mean that they are the same. Although responsibilities and divine gifts of men and women differ in their nature, they do not differ in their importance or influence. “It takes a man and a woman to create a family, and it takes men and women to carry out the work of the Lord in the Church.”
When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is by definition priesthood power. “All who enter the house of the Lord officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood. This applies to men and women alike.