Question: Why do women not hold priesthood offices in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

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Question: Why do women not hold priesthood offices in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

During the early years of the LDS Church, no provision was made in the revelations describing the priesthood along with its offices for the ordination of women

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints positions in the leadership hierarchy are generally connected directly to offices in the priesthood. During the early years of the LDS Church, no provision was made in the revelations describing the priesthood along with its offices for the ordination of women.[1] Consequently, when the Church received revelation describing the authority structure of the Church in terms of priesthood offices and roles, women were not included. This situation changed to some extent between 1842 and 1844. During the last two years of his life, Joseph Smith both organized the Relief Society and began introducing the temple ordinances (in particular the endowment) to the larger membership of the Church. Both of these developments had consequences for the view of women’s roles in the Church and in discussions over the relationship between women and the priesthood. Joseph addressed the Relief Society six times—the only sermons which he delivered exclusively to women in the Church—and these sermons (found in the Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book) continue to frame the discussion of the role of women in the Church and their relationship to the priesthood.[2]

A Theory as to Why Women don't Hold Priesthood Office

Besides these revelations stipulating that only men hold the priesthood, we can develop at least one theory as to why women do not hold the priesthood. This is not necessarily the official position of the Church.

We learn that God, in the beginning, created Adam and Eve and pronounced that they should become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). They remained in the Garden of Eden. The Israelites used the Garden of Eden to represent the presence of God.[3]

After Adam and Eve partake of the fruit, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden and Adam is told that he will "rule over" Eve (Genesis 3:16). This represents the tragic disintegration of the one flesh equality that man and woman had while in the Garden. While in mortality, it has been men who have been given official priesthood offices (Doctrine and Covenants 107:40). This is consistent throughout scripture. Today, men are called to preside over and receive revelation for their families (per documents like The Family: A Proclamation to the World). The authority that men have is contingent upon how righteously they exercise it (Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-37). This hierarchy of authority is incredibly important because it organizes who can and cannot receive genuine revelation for specific stewardships. For example, an Elder's Quorum President can receive revelation on behalf of the Elder's Quorum, a Bishop can receive revelation on behalf of an Elder's Quorum, but an Elder's Quorum President cannot receive revelation on behalf of the entire ward like a Bishop can. This is explained more depth in this article.

In the temple, Latter-day Saint men and women who receive their endowment are told that men represent Adam and women, Eve. We learn from Joseph Smith's revelations that men and women who are sealed become gods and goddesses in the next life as they enter into the Celestial Kingdom where God resides (Doctrine and Covenants 76:62; 132:19-20). This is something no other faith teaches: men cannot be exalted without women. Thus, just as Eve led Adam out of the Garden (the presence of the Lord), by the ordinance of sealing and other ordinances, she will lead us back into it.

Thus, granting women priesthood office might upset Church governmental structure in harmful ways that lead to confusion and might ruin the beautiful narrative that is written out by Joseph Smith's and other prophets' revelations.[4]

Notes

  1. The most significant revelations relating to the structure and function of the priesthood are found in D&C Sections 20:, 84:, and 107:. The language is almost entirely gendered. For example, 20:60 reads “Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him.”
  2. It is difficult to overemphasize the value of this record. A copy has been placed on-line at the Joseph Smith Papers website of the Church here.
  3. Matthew B. Brown, The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 1999), 26–29.
  4. The essential framework for this theory is inspired in part by Margaret Toscano. See Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblick, and Hannah Wheelwright, eds., Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 133–44.