Today the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles issued an official statement with relation to the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly (though not mentioned by name), priesthood, and apostasy. The first sentence begins is this:
In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women.
In the past I have written about Virginia, the 14-year-old girl who asked President Hinckley if women could go to the celestial kingdom. His answer:
Of course they may. They are as eligible to enter the celestial kingdom as are men, worthiness being the determining factor for both.
But the “of course” at the beginning isn’t as obvious to many as he seems to have thought. We don’t have much clarification about when “mankind” includes women and when it doesn’t. And when women are sometimes excluded — without any known decree or specific reasoning — it’s reasonable to be unsure where women stand.
Numerous times since that 1991 talk — just as today — I have heard reference to women having “access” to the “blessings of the priesthood.” So, to me, this new statement didn’t seem new at all. But the implication was that the repetition of this idea somehow addressed the question at hand. I don’t think it does.
Given all the emphasis on “access to the blessings of the priesthood” over the past two decades, there seems to be equivocation in the discussion that relates specifically to the word “blessings.”
In references to “access to the blessings of the priesthood,” the general authorities seem to be using the term “blessings” to mean something akin to “the ordinances all need to return to God.” It is good to reiterate that women do already have that access in the gospel structure.
It’s clear, however, that Ordain Women isn’t asking to have “access to the the ordinances all need to return to God” — something both women and men clearly already have. Rather, they are asking to be ordained to the priesthood and to be allowed to administer those ordinances as men do.
In the words of our official teachings, being ordained with and administering the ordinances of the priesthood provide some other “blessings of the priesthood” that are not available otherwise. And those are the “blessings of the priesthood” women do not have access to.
This may be by divine design, but I think we should clearly acknowledge that women do not have “access” to the particular set of “blessings of the priesthood” that come from being ordained with and administering it.
In the cases where women might/do have access to the same blessing, why the distinction? It seems that in a desire to motivate men to perform their priesthood duties, often artificial distinctions are made that could give false impressions.
Below are examples from official church sources citing blessings given to priesthood holders for worthily magnifying their priesthood offices.
The Lord has promised great blessings to righteous priesthood holders who use the priesthood to bless others:
“Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever (D&C 121:45–46).
President David O. McKay promised 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, yet his spirit strong and valiant in defense of right; he will find the priesthood a never failing source of happiness—a well of living water springing up unto eternal life.”
The Lord promises that if we keep our part of the [priesthood] covenant, we will be “sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of [our] bodies” (D&C 84:33). We can expect to be strengthened in body and spirit as we fulfill our callings.
We may also “become the sons of Moses and of Aaron” (D&C 84:34). The sons of Moses and Aaron administered the ordinances of salvation to the children of Israel. We have the same privilege of administering these sacred ordinances through the priesthood today.
The Lord promises that we will become “the seed of Abraham” (D&C 84:34). In other words, we may receive the blessings promised to Abraham and his seed.
The Lord also promises that faithful priesthood holders will “become … the elect of God” (D&C 84:34). This means that we priesthood bearers who magnify our callings and enter into all of the sacred saving ordinances of the priesthood will be given the fulness of the Father’s kingdom.
Then the Lord says, “All that my Father hath shall be given unto [them]” (D&C 84:38).
President Spencer W. Kimball explained: “Have you ever stopped to [count] the blessings, the powers that the Lord has? All power, all influence, all strength will be yours, and this is according to the oath and covenant of the holy priesthood which you bear.”
Spencer W. Kimball
I remember when I was a deacon.…I thought it was a great honor to be a deacon…It was a very great honor to do this service for my Heavenly Father; and…it is still a great honor to perform this service.
I am a deacon. I am always proud that I am a deacon. When I see the apostles march up to the stand in a solemn assembly to bless the sacrament, and others of the General Authorities step up to the sacrament tables to get the bread and the water and humbly pass it to all the people in the assembly and then return their emptied receptacles, I am proud that I am a deacon, and a teacher, and a priest.
Bruce R. McConkie
I shall speak of these blessings—the ten priesthood blessings—which are available to all of us who hold the holy Melchizedek Priesthood.
Blessing one: We are members of the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth, and we have received the fulness of the everlasting gospel.
Blessing two: We have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, and we are entitled to receive the gifts of the Spirit—those wondrous spiritual endowments which set us apart from the world and raise us above carnal things.
Blessing three: We can be sanctified by the Spirit, have dross and evil burned out of us as though by fire, become clean and spotless, and be fit to dwell with gods and angels.
Blessing four: We can stand in the place and stead of the Lord Jesus Christ in administering salvation to the children of men.
Blessing five: We have power to become the sons of God, to be adopted into the family of the Lord Jesus Christ, to have him as our Father, to be one with him as he is one with his Father.
Blessing six: We can enter into the patriarchal order, the order of eternal marriage, the order which enables the family unit to continue everlastingly in celestial glory.
Blessing seven: We have power to govern all things, both temporal and spiritual kingdoms of the world, and the elements and storms and powers of the earth.
Blessing eight: We have power, through the priesthood, to gain eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.
Blessing nine: We have power to make our calling and election sure, so that while we yet dwell in mortality, having overcome the world and been true and faithful in all things, we shall be sealed up unto eternal life and have the unconditional promise of eternal life in the presence of Him whose we are.
Blessing ten: We have the power—and it is our privilege—so to live, that becoming pure in heart, we shall see the face of God while we yet dwell as mortals in a world of sin and sorrow.
The priesthood is God’s eternal power and authority. God accomplishes His work by the priesthood.
God and Jesus Christ have given worthy male members of the Church the power of the priesthood so that they can help “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
The priesthood is the authority of God given to men to act in all things for the salvation of mankind.
Those who hold the priesthood have the authority to act in God’s name.
As our family members see us use the priesthood, they will know that we are servants of the Lord and will come to us when they need help.
A home is transformed because a man holds and honors the priesthood
We should all realize that there is nothing in the world more powerful than the priesthood of God
Elder Oaks stated that only men have the priesthood because of a “divinely decreed pattern” and President Hinckley said it is “…because the Lord has put it that way,” but I’m unaware of where this doctrine is written.