As many people will know this session from the start has quite a spotlight on it. There is a growing movement of women in the LDS church challenging the long held notion that holding the priesthood is for men alone. The Ordain Women crowd and supporters turned up to the last priesthood session in October 2013 seeking to have a number of them gain entry to the Priesthood Session but were turned away. This session had the same thing happen.
Ordain Women in the standby line wrapped around the tabernacle April 5, 2014.
So far the LDS church is holding strong to the idea that this authority is for men alone, and likewise women were not allowed entry to the Priesthood Session. On one level I actually applaud the LDS church for making this stand. In theological terms I am what many would refer to as a “Complementarian”. I believe the Bible teaches that headship in the family and church Eldership is a role that God has reserved for males. I see this consistently taught throughout scripture. However from listening to this session my support for the LDS church in this only goes so far.
This first talk is very clearly a response to the Ordain Women movement and in many ways seeking to appease them. It starts with talking of the significance of the Priesthood. This from a Biblical perspective is mind blowing stuff. Words like “God” and Christ” are mere afterthoughts here in comparison to the Priesthood. Here is a quote from early on in the talk.
“Priesthood power blesses all of us, Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, priesthood key’s and priesthood authority pertain to women as a well as men.”
President Joseph F smith 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. Other leaders have taught us that the priesthood is the consummate power on this earth, it is the power by which the earth was created.
The scriptures teach that the same priesthood which was in the beginning shall be in the end of the world also. Thus the priesthood is the power by which we will be resurrected, and proceed to eternal life.”
Even at this early stage in the talk the divide between Mormonism and Biblical Christianity is overwhelming. Lets go to the moment of creation right at the beginning of Genesis.
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
God spoke and it was. We see in Hebrews 1:3 that Christ upholds the universe “by the word of His power”. LDS readers I know you are with me on this so far but here is my point. We are simply told here that it is His power by which He does things. We see elsewhere why He does these things.
Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
He created us for His glory, finally we see this in 1 Peter 2:9
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
This verse echoes my thought that actually all that are in Christ are the priesthood, however more to the point the purpose of our call to Christ and ultimately our existence is to proclaim the praises of Christ, the one through whom and for whom all things are made (Colossians 1:16) and the one who upholds the universe by the word of His power.
So what’s my point here? My point is that Mormonism has robbed this glory from God and given it all to the priesthood. In the Bible God is by nature God, glorious, eternal, all powerful and endless. In Mormonism God was given this eternal priesthood power and authority as a response to His faithfulness as a man working towards His exaltation, rather than that power just being His He had to inherit it by faith and faithfulness.
Joseph Smith founder of Mormonism said:
“If a man gets a fulness of the priesthood of God, he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keep-ing all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:424).
Christ only has this in its fulness because He earned it.
12th Mormon President Spencer W Kimball said:
“Men require priesthood for exaltation. No man will ever reach godhood who does not hold the priesthood. You have to be a member of the higher priesthood – an elder, seventy, or high priest – and today is the day to get it and magnify it” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 51).
This is much more blunt than it would ever be put today but is consistent with what Elder Oaks is saying. While many Mormons today may deny it, Mormonism traditionally teaches that God the Father was a man that was exalted to His position of being a God. Last years LDS teaching Manual: Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow says:
Through a continual course of progression our Heavenly Father has received exaltation and glory and he points us out the same path and, inasmuch as he is clothed with power, authority and glory, he says, “walk ye up and come in possession of the same glory and happiness that I possess.”9
Gods power to create and authority to do all that He does was delegated to Him by His heavenly Father and if we are to believe early Mormon leaders this cycle is eternal. An endless conveyor belt of gods, rather than an eternal God that creates and sustains all simply by the word of His power. In Mormonism Priesthood should be sought with more zeal than God Himself ever should be, and I think this is what we are seeing.
So with all of this in mind we are not simply talking about church leadership or even headship in the home. It is the entire authority of God to do pretty much anything of eternal significance. So it is no wonder the women want this so much. Elder Oaks later in his talk addresses this head on. If you haven’t already it is worth listening to this talk, however I will quote what really stands out to me.
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 fulltime missionary she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function.
This to me seems to be a redefining of what Priesthood authority is. Saying to women stop asking for something you already have in a sense.
“Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and focus on their responsibilities.” (11m)
He goes on to say:
Latter day saints surely recognise that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities. The Lord has directed that only men will be ordained to to offices in the priesthood. But as various church leaders have emphasised men are not the priesthood, men hold the priesthood with the sacred duty to use it for the blessing for all of the children of God. The greatest power that 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 Gods design and the great plan might meet fruition.
Those are the words of President J Reuben Clark. He continued, quote. 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 ladened with its responsibility’s. They are builders and organizers under its power and partakers of its blessings. Possessing the compliment of the priesthood powers, and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place, as the priesthood itself.”
So basically Oaks is saying: “Women you don’t want the responsibility that we have to hold, as you are going to be having children in heaven throughout eternity.” I somehow doubt that this is going to solve the problem. I have heard a number of ex-Mormon women in podcasts say that they always dreaded the idea of this, I wonder if many faithful LDS women that are reading this feel that way too?
As a side note the LDS Church may be saying now that this priesthood policy will not change, however history says that’s far from the end of the issue.
This is sadly all an example of a religion that totally misses the true God focused, God glorifying gospel, and has turned it into a carnal man focused religion, simply turning what we have in this life into an eternal occupation. We see in Philippians 1:21 the yearning of the Apostle Paul to die and be with Christ, not to be eternally having children in his own eternal family unit. This is the hope of Christianity that all that follow Him, male or female will know and enjoy Him forever.
God has so much more on offer than just more of the same. I hope that people reading this will seek Christ for the eternal glorious all powerful God that He is.
Well, my intention was to review more sessions than this one but that really took some time, I may well do some more later but as ever your comments are welcome.