In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, worthy men (and young men starting at age 12) receive what we call the Priesthood. Along with the priesthood comes additional responsibilities in the church and in serving others. We believe the priesthood to be the power of God given to mankind as a blessing.
Women do not receive the priesthood.
This has caused a lot of people a lot of angst.
Including me. As a child, I accepted it as part of the way the world is. As a teenager, I didn’t understand why men received the priesthood but women didn’t. I thought it meant that women were somehow being told that they are less than men. It took a lot of pondering, study, and prayer for me to understand.
Anyway, awhile ago, I read this post: “The Mormon Feminist Protest and Why I Won’t Be There” on the blog All Our Lemmony Things, about the inherent differences between men and women. We are meant to be different, and part of that difference is that men receive the priesthood. Here’s a comment someone left on that post:
“I don’t understand why it is a big deal to let women have the priesthood. Its just the same as letting women have the right to vote. IT’S THEIR RIGHT. Women should have every right a man does. Just cause some women want to have it doesn’t mean you have to have it, why not let those women have it? I don’t think it says anywhere in the scriptures that women should never have the priesthood. I don’t understand why you all are so upset about this?”
First of all, the priesthood is not a right. You don’t get it just because you want it or think you deserve it. The priesthood is a privilege that must be earned through personal worthiness. It’s also a responsibility.
Men and women are different. I have certain biological traits that men don’t, and vice versa. There is no arguing that. Men and women are also different psychologically. Anyone who denies that is either lying to themselves or is a hermit. Whenever I spend time around a group of men I realize anew just how different men are from women. As a teacher, I see how different the boys are from the girls.
And you know what? That’s okay.
It’s okay to be different.
Isn’t that what the diversity advocates keep telling us?
Giving men the priesthood doesn’t deny any of its blessings to women. After all, a priesthood holder cannot bless himself. He can only bless others.
That was the epiphany I had when I was a teenager. Here’s how I got it:
Men don’t receive the priesthood for their own benefit. The priesthood is a responsibility to bless the lives of others.
This verse, from the Mormon book of scripture the Doctrine and Covenants, was when it really hit me:
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true;
but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition,
or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men,
in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves;
the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn,
Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
The priesthood is not a tool for men seeking power. In fact, if that is what they try to do, they actually lose their God-given power, for the priesthood can only be used in righteousness.
Here are a couple more verses from the same section that are also enlightening:
only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by
By kindness, and pure knowlege,
which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy,
D&C 121: 41-42
So, more of the same, but also the addition of how priesthood holders are to lead others: with love. That’s the same way Christ taught His disciples. Christ was long-suffering and gentle. He taught us to not judge sinners, but to love them and guide them to live the right way.
My husband is the head of our household. That doesn’t mean he is oppressive or controls me or anything like that. We are a partnership and make important decisions together. He has never tried to justify demands by saying, “Well, I have the priesthood,” because that’s not what it’s about. He has, however, used his priesthood to give me blessings when I’ve been worried or sick, and counseled with me when I’ve had difficult decisions to make.
Being a priesthood leader is about service. “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” -Matthew 20:27