Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Women and the priesthood

This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan

We need to get away from the thinking that holding the priesthood is the be-all and end-all of membership in the Mormon church. That somehow it is advantageous now and in the hereafter to be a priesthood holder.

It is not.

While the priesthood is important in administering the ordinances of the gospel, it cannot serve itself. It can only benefit and bless the recipients of the ordinances it authorises. It has no bearing on ability to receive spiritual convictions concerning the doctrine of Christ. Every man, woman or child in the church may receive personal revelation for themselves or their families. Such spiritual messages are not dependent on bearing the priesthood.

As a man, it is a duty that I didn't choose, but one that was willingly thrust upon me. I honour the priesthood I hold as it enables me to serve the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to my family each Sunday in the wilderness of Kuantan. It blesses me and my three girls in equal measure. We are all able to partake of the same emblems and associated covenants because of it.

The priesthood also serves a man and a woman in a temple by pronouncing the exact same covenants and eternal blessings on both of them at the marriage altar, representing the highest gospel ordinance available to Mormons, received equally by both sexes.

The woman is in no way disadvantaged by the use of the priesthood or the blessings it prescribes.

The "Ordain Women" movement could be looked upon as a landmark turning point in gender equality, or an ill-advised and misunderstood concept of church organisation. The day came when black males were informed they too could receive the priesthood. We may live to see the day where females are informed they can receive the priesthood. As with most policy changes in the church, it has to be at the right time and according to shifting circumstances, which we are certainly seeing now with the Ordain Women movement.

However, there is an order to how the church is arranged as it currently stands, and that order is connected to the allocation of priesthood responsibility to the males, and predominantly family responsibility to the females. The church has been taking steps to involve women more in previously all-male general church councils, which is definitely an exploratory step in the direction of ordination for women.

It's hard to imagine what would happen should these gender-defined responsibilities suddenly cease to be segregated by sex. Perhaps the order in the church would turn to chaos. Women would be seeking men's roles and vice versa. Roles which each may not be best-suited to as compared to the opposite gender. For example, a man may receive a calling in primary being alone in a room full of small children. A woman may not enjoy leading a sometimes rowdy bunch of teenage boys, neither might it be appropriate for a man to take charge of a group of adolescent young women. Suddenly, a baptism in the family would turn into an agonising decision as to whether the husband or the wife performs the baptism. Would revelation for the entire church flow as smoothly and reach unanimous decisions if the general leadership was a mixed bag of both women and men? 

I asked my wife about these issues to get a female perspective on women and the priesthood. And believe me, I pressed her on it! Among other things, I asked her if she felt marginalised in the church as every major decision is made by men. Was she satisfied with the perceived lack of equality between the genders? I was a little surprised to hear her rebuke me and inform me that she has so many other things going on in her life with family duties that she would have no time or effort left to hold the priesthood, attend meetings, fulfill callings that would then become possible as a priesthood holder. She left me in no uncertain terms that she is perfectly happy with how the church is ordered now, that she feels fine with letting the men get on with the church business. She ended by saying she wouldn't even want to receive the priesthood!

Time will tell what direction the church takes, how it responds to the changing circumstances, and whether by divine decree, women are instated to the priesthood here on earth.


  1. One way forward would be for the church to remove the link between priesthood and leadership. So then women could be bishops (they are just as in tune to personal revelation through the holy ghost as a high priest is) but women still without the priesthood would not be able to perform any priesthood ordinances.

    1. That's a very interesting point, Jolyon. That would definitely improve gender equality in the church as an organisation.


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