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I teach a class at our local Mormon church called Gospel Principles. It is a course designed for people who are not familiar with the Mormon faith who are wanting to learn more, or for those who need a “refresher” course. This week’s lesson is on the Priesthood.
According to the lesson manual, the definition of priesthood is: the eternal power and authority of God. The lesson continues by sharing that God has a certain order and delegates this power and authority for people to act in his name. It also goes on to share the in God’s church only those who have been ordained to the priesthood by the laying on of hands can lead God’s church.
As I read through the lesson, I became distracted by a certain phrase that kept popping up in various ways. I’ll highlight some of them:
Our Heavenly Father delegates His priesthood power to worthy male members of the Church.
If a man does not have the priesthood, even though he may be sincere, the Lord will not recognize ordinances he performs
Men need the priesthood to preside in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
A worthy male member of the Church receives the priesthood “by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority..”
Men cannot buy and sell the power and authority of the priesthood.
When a man uses the priesthood “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41), he can do many wonderful things for his family and others.
Men use priesthood authority to preside in the Church in such callings as branch president, bishop, quorum president, stake president, and mission president.
…every man who uses the priesthood in righteousness that he “will find his life sweetened, his discernment sharpened to decide quickly between right and wrong, his feelings tender and compassionate…”
As you can probably see, the word “man” or “men” was mentioned with almost every paragraph. There was one mention of women in the whole lesson, which is:
Men and women who hold positions in the Church as officers and teachers work under the direction of priesthood leaders and under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
Women Still hold the Priesthood
Mormon Heretic points out that the original intention of Priesthood (the power to act in God’s name) was that men and women have a share in the priesthood. Priesthood has evolved into meaning hierarchical positions in the church, but that wasn’t it’s original intention. As pointed out in the article, women received the priesthood when they received their endowment in the temple.
Today, women still receive endowments in the temple and they perform priesthood ordinances, so they have the priesthood but only use it in the temples (to my knowledge).
Is that enough?
Although technically, Mormon women have the priesthood, they do not use it to give blessings, perform ordinances, and function in leadership positions such as pastor for a congregation.
As a Mormon male, I can not speak in behalf of Mormon women. I just know that if I were a Mormon woman, I’d have a lot of questions about why men run everything and how it evolved from leaders talking about both men and women sharing the priesthood to where it is now discussed that only men have the priesthood (although that is technically not true). It appears that many women from the Mormon Woman Project feel that way as pointed out in a recent Salt Lake News Tribune article, in that they want to see greater equality in the church.
If you are a Mormon woman, please share your thoughts about the priesthood. If you are fine with how things are, please explain why. If you would like some changes, why and what would you change?
This article is inspired by an experience I had at my new Ward (congregation) at church a few weeks ago.
In preparing for General Conference, the Bishop (Pastor) of the ward was giving a lesson to the adults in the congregation. He was asking certain questions and getting feedback from the members. I can’t remember the exact question he asked, but it was something along the lines of “What is a prophet?” Some one answered and he replied that the answer was wrong and emphasized that ONLY men are called to be prophets and women do not get that calling.
The way he said it made me cringe as I thought about all the ladies in the room and as my thoughts turned to the public perception that I’ve heard many times that the Mormon Church is male shovanistic.
I came very close to raising my hand and correcting him, but I decided it wasn’t the right time and place to do that. So, I’m doing it here.
In this article, I will first define what a prophet is, according to LDS, or Mormon, scripture. I will then identify women prophets in the scriptures and share modern day examples as well.
Definition of a Prophet
In LDS scripture, the Bible Dictionary defines a prophet as follows:
The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. The message was usually prefaced with the words “Thus saith Jehovah.” He taught men about God’s character, showing the full meaning of his dealings with Israel in the past. It was therefore part of the prophetic office to preserve and edit the records of the nation’s history; and such historical books as Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings were known by the Jews as the former Prophets. It was also the prophet’s duty to denounce sin and foretell its punishment, and to redress, so far as he could, both public and private wrongs. He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller. In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost, as in Num. 11:25–29; Rev. 19:10.
As you can see from the definition, Mormon scripture does not define a prophet as being gender specific and a few key elements on what a prophet is stand out to me:
- A prophet is God’s messenger
- A prophet denounces sin and fortells of consequences to sin
- A prophet can predict future events
- A prophet is a preacher of righteousness
- Having a testimony of Jesus by the Holy Ghost qualifies as being a prophet
Women Prophets in Scripture
Having defined what a prophet is, the next step is to identify women in scripture who were prophets. From what I’ve read, the following women were prophets of varying degrees and are found in Christian Bibles: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah, Isaiah’s wife, Anna, and the daughters of Phillip. In addition to these specifically named ladies, there are other women discussed in scripture as being leaders in the early Christian church.
People who claim that men have a monopoly on being a prophet are not basing their views on scriptural facts. Clearly, there were women prophets.
Modern Day Women Prophets
I had a hard time coming up with examples of modern-day women prophets. Perhaps some of you can help me here. The closest thing I came across (which is another topic) was that in the early Mormon Church, women could give priesthood blessings.
Personally, I have had one example of a woman in a leadership position that prophesied to me. She was my mission president’s wife. I wrote about it a few years ago, but the short story is that she prophesied to me that if I worked as hard as I could each day of my mission, that my then rebellious brother would turn things around and go on a mission. He ended up turning things around and going on a mission.
In conclusion, I’d like to remphasize the scriptural foundation that women can be prophets. I would like to hear your personal reasons why (or why not) you believe this to be true and if you have any examples to share, even better!