What Ordain Women (And Men) Don't Understand About The Priesthood
Tanner Gilliland, February 9, 2015
Think about a neighborhood. It’s an association of neighbors. You can’t hold the neighborhood, but you can hold a position in it; you can have responsibilities in it. Such responsibilities, like being a neighborhood watchman, do not make one more a member of the neighborhood than anyone else in the area. Neighborhoods are defined by proximity.
In the same way, a priestHOOD is an association of priests and is defined by our proximity to persons in the group. Within the priestHOOD, people hold certain positions and are given various responsibilities. But it is not the position or the responsibility that matters. What matters is the association.
While only men are currently conferred the priesthood in the LDS church, ALL members are part of the priesthood association, and as such, can receive a fulness of the blessings pertaining to the respective priesthoods, independent of ordination.
In the church, we claim two levels of priesthood. Both these priesthoods denote a circle of association.
The first priesthood is Aaronic. This priesthood is an association between men and angels (D&C 13:1) and is available for all.
And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned (Alma 32:23).
The next circle of priesthood, Melchizedek, is the order after the Son of God and is an association with Jesus Christ Himself. In this priesthood, we choose how closely we will associate ourselves with Him.
Again, this association is not limited. “He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).
Thus we see that ANY person, man, woman, and child can enjoy FULL Aaronic and Melchizedek association. Their priesthood is not limited by ordination.
We often naively consider an ordination to be some magic token that grants us power to work miracles and receive special manifestations on behalf of God. Yet it isn’t the ordination that allows these things to function; it is faith.
Faith is the real power in the priesthood, and it requires no ordination.
Behold it was by faith that they of old were called after the holy order of God… Yea, and even all they who wrought miracles wrought them by faith, even those who were before Christ and also those who were after… And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad. (Ether 12:10,16,19)
In the Bible, we read of women prophesying and of children hearing the voice of the Lord. These things didn’t come through an ordination, but through a close association (priesthood) with the Lord.
The closer you are to Christ, the more faith you have and the more power you possess to do His will, ordained or otherwise. It’s that simple.
If people seek ordination for the hopes of greater power or a closer relationship with God, they have completely missed the point. Ordination will give you neither of those things.
Sure, ordination allows you to perform various outward ordinances. But the outward ordinances are mere invitations for the surpassingly significant spiritual events that are available to all.
For example, an ordained person may baptize, but the Lord Himself will baptize the truly faithful with fire and the Holy Ghost. The first is worthless without the second. The first comes through one who is ordained, the second comes through a personal association (priesthood) with the Lord.
In my view, when one realizes their spiritual potential is not limited by ordination, the ability to perform outward ordinances becomes almost pedestrian.
Why fret about who can baptize, when what will save you is the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? Why worry about who can lay hands to give a blessing when blessings are a result of faith, not laying on of hands? Why debate the function of priesthood in the temple, when you yourself are the temple of God and the real ascension into God’s presence will be done independently of any other person?
When we make priesthood ordination our focus, we are missing the point. We are seeking from man what he is unable to give. We worship the symbols rather than He who they symbolize.
Some desire ordination because they want more influence in the institution. What they fail to realize is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a temporal organization pertaining to this finite realm only. It is not the kingdom of God, for as Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). A rank in the church says nothing about your standing in the kingdom.
The ironic thing about institutional authority is that those who most desire are those who are least qualified for it.
In D&C 121 we read Joseph Smith’s explanation that “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
“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.”
You see, the very act of seeking priesthood to gain control automatically disqualifies one from receiving the power that priesthood was meant to include.
Notice also how priesthood authority is inherently tied to the presence of the Spirit of the Lord. Where there is no Spirit, or where there is no association with the Lord (priesthood), there is no authority. This is why I roll my eyes when they tell new deacons they have more authority than any king or pope on earth. They only have authority when they live according to the principles of righteousness.
Later in that same section we read: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood…”
Think on that for a minute. No power or influence can be maintained by virtue of the priesthood. The priesthood isn’t a blank check or a free pass. It doesn’t make a point more valid or a decision more correct.
If a disagreement arises in church, the ONLY way to sort it out is “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile…”
If someone says, “Well I hold the priesthood,” or “Well I’m the Elders Quorum President,” then amen to the priesthood of that man.
“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.”
The priesthood NEVER gives someone the ability to lord over another, and seeking it for that purpose disqualifies one for it.
An ordained person must use methods of loving persuasion like anyone else in the church. There is no advantage given because of priesthood. Any “priesthood-holder” in any capacity who thinks it below his office to consider the understanding and feelings of those around him is a fool indeed.
Yes, Ordain Women is missing the mark, but perhaps only because ordained men missed it first. If men would only abide by the principles taught in Section 121, no woman in the church would need feel marginalized nor cry “misogyny!” All would have equal voice. All would perform their respective responsibilities in harmony with each other and God.
If we understood the nature of true priesthood, there would be no clamoring for ordination, for all the blessings would already be present. If we wanted actual power, we would develop faith. If we really wanted influence, we would learn to meekly persuade. If we really wanted Christ, we would turn to Him.
There is nobody who can prevent us from associating with Christ.