Let me start out with a story. When I was in the 8th grade I got into an argument with one of my male friends because he had indicated that a girl could never make the football team, even if they were allowed to try out. Although his statement in my case was obviously true, I proceeded to send around a petition so that I would be able to try out for the team and had all my classmates sign it. I didn’t even want to play football. It just bothered me that he would tell me I’m not capable of doing something because of my gender. I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a feminist.
In light of my little petition, a few of my girlfriends and I were talking and it just so happened that I was the only “Mormon” in the bunch. Seemingly out of nowhere one of my best friends said to me, “I just don’t understand it. How can YOU belong to a church that oppresses women?”
I sputtered. Honestly, I was blown away. Never in my 14 years of life had it crossed my mind that I was oppressed. “What?” I stammered out. “What do you mean?”
“You can’t hold the priesthood.” Another friend said.
Clearly, they had all talked about this beforehand. I was completely shocked by the question and while I don’t remember what I said exactly, I know it wasn’t a full or coherent answer to their sincere inquiry.
In light of the recent movement of some women in the church petitioning to hold the priesthood, my friends’ questions resurfaced in my mind. Now, as an adult woman, I asked myself some hard questions and I’ve come up with the same answer I had back then, and I’d like to take the chance to answer it a little more fully than I did that day in the 8th grade.
There is no gender inequality in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, either doctrinally or in practice. Never have I been made to feel inadequate or secondary in purpose or potential to my male counterparts. On the contrary, I have always been empowered, inspired, and motivated by leaders of the church, both male and female, to reach a little higher, seek an education, and achieve my full potential.
The church is home to the largest and most successful women’s organization in the world, The Relief Society, and women and Mothers in the church are needed, honored, involved and respected.
But women still can’t hold the priesthood.
So why doesn’t that bother me even a little bit? Let me see if I can explain it. In the words of Elder Neil L. Andersen, one of the twelve apostles, “We sometimes overly associate the power of the priesthood with men in the Church. The priesthood is the power and authority of God given for the salvation and blessing of all—men, women, and children. A man may open the drapes so the warm sunlight comes into the room, but the man does not own the sun or the light or the warmth it brings. The blessings of the priesthood are infinitely greater than the one who is asked to administer the gift.”
I don’t need to hold the Priesthood to reach my full potential; neither do I need to hold the Priesthood in order to be blessed by it every day and every minute of my life. I may be the one to carry our children into this world, but Bryce is still their father and is blessed by them and charged with the responsibility to help raise and protect them. Similarly, Bryce may be the one who brings the Priesthood into our home, but I have an equal opportunity to be blessed by that power as well as an equal responsibility to live up to the covenants and promises I have made.
Furthermore, women do not need to be married or have a “Priesthood holder” in the home in order to be blessed by the power of the Priesthood. “In the worldwide leadership training Strengthening the Family and the Church through the Priesthood, we were taught that sisters who don’t have priesthood holders in their homes need never feel alone. They are blessed and strengthened through the ordinances they have received and the covenants they keep.” –Carole M Stephens, 1st counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency.
Sister Sheri L. Dew, who served as a counselor in the general Relief Society presidency, put it this way, “Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood, you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, the fullness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together.”
I echo Sister Dew’s sentiments. I have personally been blessed beyond measure by the Priesthood power throughout my life. I am a witness of its power to heal, its ability to inspire, and its sure protection. I cannot imagine my life without the Priesthood, and there is no need for me to hold it in order to receive any of its blessings.
In writing my thoughts down, it is not my intention to criticize or convert anyone. But I am a women in the LDS church, and I wanted my voice to be heard.