For me the question of whether women will one day be ordained the priesthood is a question all members of the LDS Church should be asking. The question of whether it is “okay” to ask this question is not debatable as far as I am concerned. The Lord has counselled us to “ask” and “seek”, to “search” and “find.” In 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 the Lord, through Paul, gives us all great counsel: “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which good.” It is not an evil thing or a betrayal to the prophets to “prove all things” through prayer, studying the scriptures, and petitioning the Spirit to guide us. It is actually a commandment to do so.
In my opinion the question of whether women will one day be ordained the priesthood begins with a study of Church doctrine. But what constitutes doctrine? This is very important. Despite what many of us were traditionally taught—I certainly was and in a conversation with my mother about this topic I discovered she was too—the talks given at General Conference by the Prophet, his councillors, and the Quorum of the Twelve (QT) are not scripture and cannot be appealed to when establishing doctrine. In fact, these fifteen men as well as their predecessors in the past have made this point crystal clear. I will keep my examples to a minimum and will attempt to cite only the most current studies as we are a “living” Church that is constantly changing and progressing, under the direction of Christ.
During the April 2012 General Conference, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the QT, gave a talk he titled, “The Doctrine of Christ.” In this address we learn the pattern involved in the revelatory process:
The President of the Church may announce or interpret doctrines based on revelation to him (see, for example, D&C 138). Doctrinal exposition may also come through the combined counsel of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see, for example, Official Declaration 2). Counsel deliberations will often include a weighing of canonized scriptures, the teaching of Church leaders, and past practice. But in the end, just as in the New Testament Church, the objective is not simply consensus among council members but revelation from God. It is a process involving both reason and faith for obtaining the mind and will of the Lord.
That last sentence I find extremely revealing, “It is a process involving both reason and faith for obtaining the mind and will of the Lord.” According to one of the Christ’s “special witnesses”—a title meant to make believers think that these individuals have met and are in frequent face-to-face communication with the resurrected Jesus Christ—establishing doctrine is a “process” where both “reason and faith” are utilized in establishing “the mind and will of the Lord.” This troubles me greatly. Is Christ not the Head of the LDS Church and is he not in personal contact with the Prophet and prophets at least during every regularly scheduled correlation meeting, if not daily? That is what I was taught. However, that is not what the apostles are teaching here. Take for example the official LDS stance found on their public relations website Mormonnewsroom.org. Here we read in plain English:
What we learn here is that official LDS doctrines are contained only in the Four Standard Works as well as “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and “The Living Christ.” That is it. Conference talks are not doctrine—don’t get me started on why we spend an inordinate amount of time during our three-hour block discussing them.
Perhaps one last example should solidify this. Turn in your Doctrine and Covenants, one of the Four Standard Works, to section 138. The heading reads:
Here we learn that not even the Prophet has the right to establish doctrine. He must first submit his revelation to the First Presidency, QT, and Patriarch where they pore over it using “reason and faith” and then take a vote.
Since the death of Joseph Smith the LDS Church has only received 7 new examples of “living scripture”: D&C 135; D&C 136; D&C 138; Official Declaration 1; Official Declaration 2; The Family: A Proclamation to the World; and The Living Christ. Only John Taylor (Section 135 and it is just his testimony of what occurred in Carthage that fateful day the Prophet and his brother were shot); Brigham Young (Section 136); Joseph F. Smith (Section 138); Wilford Woodruff (OD 1); Spencer W. Kimball (OD 2); and Gordon B. Hinckley (Family and Living Christ) have received new, modern revelation that elaborate on or teach us the doctrines of Christ. All the conference talks, all the policy changes to missionary ages, and all the delightful stories about good deeds are just talks, perhaps inspired, perhaps not (there are many examples of changes being made to the press released versions of the talks compared with the originals). They are helpful in that they assist us as weak individuals overcome our shortcomings but they are not examples of “modern revelation” or “living scripture”. As shown above, these are not my teachings, but those of the current leadership group of the LDS Church.
With this new light and knowledge now gained is it even necessary to discuss Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ May 5, 2014 talk? He did not state that his thoughts were inspired. He did not state that they were established by a consensus among the QT and First Presidency. In fact, if one looks at the references he uses throughout the talk he cites only four passages of doctrinal scripture. 1) Moses 6:7 “Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also”; D&C 110:16 which states the Elijah gave Joseph and Oliver the “keys of this dispensation”; D&C 107:5 which reads “All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood [Melchizedek]”; and finally he quotes from “The Family: A proclamation to the World” stating that the father is the head of the household and that he and the mother may have different responsibilities but they are still “obligated to help one another as equal partners.”
By taking what Oaks stated from actual doctrinal sources we learn that the Priesthood given to Adam and Eve is eternal, that Joseph Smith, as a dispensation Prophet, received this Priesthood but with the added responsibility of performing Elijian tasks (i.e. rites for the dead), that the Melchizedek Priesthood is the main priesthood, and lastly that fathers and mothers are to have equal say in the house although the father gets to use his head while the mother only her body.
Currently, this is the position of the LDS Church in regards to the priesthood. Men have it; women do not need it. You need the priesthood to be a leader, including the callings dealing with money handling, except for the callings in Relief Society, Young Women’s, and Primary; however, all of these callings have a bishopric member assigned to oversee them. While this is the position of the LDS Church, it is clearly policy not doctrine.
Honoring our past.
Envisioning our future.
Krystal, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Social Media Committee.