Over the Christmas break, I started reading the book The Priesthood Power of Women by Barbara Morgan Gardner. I haven’t finished it yet, but I highly recommend it. I bought it for several of my friends for Christmas.
I feel like it has changed over time, but when I started dealing with my spouse’s faith crisis in approximately 1994, I was young and mistakenly thought that my eternal salvation was at stake and that priesthood power was robbed from me because of his choices.
I learned over time, much to my peace and joy, that I was incorrect. I feel like these truths are clarified more openly in General Conference now. Still, I feel like there is a quiet undercurrent for each sister who goes through this process that maybe her eternal salvation is a little bit jeopardized, and perhaps there really isn’t “as much” priesthood in her home as there should be.
Several points stood out to me so far in my reading of The Priesthood Power of Women, only one of which I will discuss in this post, and that is this; “Women who have been endowed with priesthood power in the temple…The priesthood resides in their homes, regardless of their marital status or their husband’s activity level” (24). Isn’t that great? Right there in black and white. Your priesthood power does NOT depend on your husband’s choices, faith, or activity level in the church.
In her book, Sister Gardner distinguishes between the hierarchal nature of the priesthood in church government and the familial (or patriarchal) nature of the priesthood in the temple and families. She suggests that as we become clearer about how the priesthood relates to the family that we will recognize that, “Women who have been endowed with priesthood power in the temple have priesthood in their own lives and in the lives of their family members” (24).
Elder James E. Talmage (and this was back in 1912!) went so far as to state, “Women of the Church share the authority of the Priesthood with their husbands, actual or prospective” (Talmage, House of the Lord, 153). The word prospective intrigued me. Even if a woman doesn’t have a husband at the time, or her husband isn’t currently living up to his privileges in the priesthood, she still has priesthood authority because God sees the whole picture! “God, who is not limited by time, gives the blessings to worthy, covenant-keeping women regardless of their current marital status” (72). Isn’t that awesome! God, who is NOT limited by our mortal concept of linear time, gives all the blessings he possibly can.
President Nelson, likewise, has been diligent in teaching the women of the church our importance and privileges in God’s kingdom. He declared, “all the purposes of the world and all that was in the world would be brought to naught without woman – a keystone in the priesthood arch of creation” (Lessons from Eve, Ensign, November 1987). More recently, in his first address as President of the Church in the Women’s Session of General Conference in October 2018, President Nelson implored, “Tonight I urge you, with all the hope of my heart, to pray to understand your spiritual gifts —to cultivate, use, and expand them, even more than you ever have.“ I would submit that access to priesthood power – God’s power and authority – is one of our spiritual gifts. And, in his prophetic fashion, President Nelson made a promise that, “You will change the world as you do so.”
I find it fascinating that many of the references used here and in Sister Gardner’s book are old references i.e., 1912 and 1987. Truth has always been the truth, but as a church, and hopefully, as individuals, we are embracing these truths about women more fully. The church is making changes that specifically involve women. Our prophet, who helped raise nine daughters, and has had two successful marriages, is a champion of women and is helping us see the rights, privileges, and glory that can be ours as women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “As members of the church, especially women, better understand the doctrine of the priesthood, our attitudes, and behavior will change” (xiv). As President Nelson pled with us to do, we will be able to “step forward! Take [our] rightful and needful place in [our] home, and in [our] community, and in the kingdom of God – more than we ever have before” (A Plea to My Sisters, Ensign, November 2015). Let us take our prophet’s challenge, learn more about the priesthood, and expand our spiritual gifts – remembering that as covenant-keeping women of God, the priesthood resides in our homes regardless of our marital status or husband’s activity level.