I've been thinking things over since reading Lynette's blog on the priesthood ordination for women yesterday. It gave me some more things to chew on which in turn validated even more how I feel about things.
The only Relief Society general meeting I've attended in person was 5 years ago when Sister Beck have her talk about fulfilling the purposes of the Relief Society. I felt SO inspired in that meeting. I took a ton of notes and really caught the vision and big picture of what the Relief Society could become IF we, the sisters of the general membership took up the banner and carried it.
I was surprised when later on I learned that other sisters felt offended by Sister Beck's talk because they thought she was being overly critical of women in the Church. I didn't quite get that tone from her or her talk. Instead I felt that she was trying to help us raise our sights bigger than we had set for ourselves. Like a good coach or mentor, she was pushing us to do more, to BE more than we believed we could be. She was calling us out of our mediocrity.
Her talk propelled me further along in my life mission of building Zion within my heart, my family, my extended family, my ward, my stake, and my community so that we as a people can usher in the Savior's Second Coming (I'm tired of waiting, aren't you?)
One idea that Lynette brought up in her post that I hadn't considered before was that the pattern of revelation does come from asking the Lord. The brethren asked the Lord for a long time about ordaining African/African descent men to the priesthood before the Lord finally said it was time. Like 10-20 years of asking (go here for more info on the LDS Genesis Group history - they are an official auxiliary of the Church). However, the black men (even the leaders of Genesis) never publicly campaigned for the priesthood. They kept the covenants they had already made as they waited until the day they would once again be able to have the priesthood. (There are many early Church history accounts of freed black men holding the priesthood during Joseph Smith's day such as Elijah Abel and his son. Did you also know there was even a black bishop in Boston during the early days of the Church?)
In the spring of 2001 I received a very clear personal revelation that I was too serve a mission after I turned 21 the following year. I spent the summer in a single adult branch up in the Seattle area and met some other sisters in my branch who were not engaged to be married and we're not planning on serving a mission, yet they were 19 and endowed. I got so excited at the possibility of being endowed for an entire year before serving a mission. I just knew that my bishop back at Ricks College would support me, because I was going to serve a mission.
Once I returned to Rexburg, Idaho, I set up an appointment to meet with my bishop. After meeting with me he had me go talk to our stake president about my desire to receive my endowment a full year before I would be leaving to serve a mission. I was so sure I would be getting my temple recommend because I had felt the Holy Ghost so strongly when I thought and prayed about it.
I was stunned when my stake president told me the brethren had recently changed the policy back to only sisters who were either getting married, going on a mission, or graduating from college could receive their endowments (or any sister older than 26 years old). I felt like I did as a teenager thinking about these dumb boys getting the priesthood when I was more mature then them... and now these dumb boys were still making covenants with Heavenly Father at the same age I was (20 by this point) while I had to wait.
I quickly humbled myself and realized that perhaps before I made additional covenants with Heavenly Father, I should instead seek to understand the covenants I had already made with Him. This led to a VERY memorable sacrament meeting in which Elder Bednar (then president of Ricks and a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy) followed inspiration and came to teach my ward about the Sacrament. My bishop had turned the time over to our stake president who said that Elder Bednar had come to him THAT morning and asked him, “President Wright, which ward should we visit today?” and my stake president said, “Bishop Andersen’s”. It had been a few weeks since I had met with my stake president and I had been studying as much as I could and praying to understand them better. In fact, I had prayed JUST that morning before leaving for church that I would understand more about my baptismal covenants. When Elder Bednar got up he recounted that whenever he is home on Sundays and not out visiting other stakes and wards per his area authority duties, he likes to visit the student wards. He felt inspired to go to President Wright that morning and then asked President Wright which ward they should visit. He then told us that he didn’t have anything prepared beforehand to teach us, but he knew that what he was going to teach us was for someone in the ward. That is when my ears perked up, especially when he started out with, “Please turn with me to the sacrament prayers” (I can’t remember now if he gave the reference for Moroni chapters 4 and 5 or if it was the Doctrine & Covenants section 20 reference). I took notes in my scriptures like crazy trying to keep up with all the principles he was teaching as well as my own insights that came to me. Especially when he pulled in Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life. The insights I learned that day deserve their own separate post.
Since I was living with my grandma during my 3-½ years at Ricks College and my parents lived in Idaho Falls, they came up to visit almost every week like we had my entire life growing up. That night when my parents got to my grandma’s I had my mom come into my room while I shared with her EVERYTHING I had learned in Sacrament meeting that day. Sharing these concepts with her actually brought more insights to BOTH of us that we hadn’t considered before and we definitely felt edified and uplifted. In both instances that day, the Holy Ghost was teaching me.
As I have since realized, I was not receiving a wrong impression from the Holy Ghost that I would receive my endowment before serving my mission. He was just validating my desire to make additional covenants AND confirming that I would indeed receive my endowment before serving a mission. I am grateful that the Lord allowed me to feel such enthusiasm to receive my endowment a full year early even though I would not receive my endowment until a year later. It was that assurance I felt about my decision that despite being told I would need to wait another year to receive my endowment that spurred me into making the decision to seek to understand my baptismal covenant better through prayer and study. I would not trade the experience I had of having my prayer answered SO clearly by a servant of the Lord’s visit to my student ward for anything!!! On top of all that, the additional outpouring of the Spirit I received that night with my mom as I recounted all I had learned that day is something I still remember clearly to this day despite having no photographs of either event.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve thought about this priesthood ordination things quite a bit. One idea that kept coming to me is that the priesthood ordination is just one more covenant men make with Heavenly Father than women do. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all persons who are baptized have entered into their first covenant with Heavenly Father. The second covenant that women in the Church make is when they receive their temple endowment. If a woman is married or sealed to her husband in the temple, then she makes a third covenant with Heavenly Father, but this time it also includes her husband. The second covenant a man makes with the Father is receiving the priesthood, first the Aaronic Priesthood and then the Melchizedek Priesthood. After receiving the priesthood, a man may then go to the temple to receive his endowment and make his third covenant with Father. When he is married or sealed to his wife in the temple, he enters into a fourth covenant with Heavenly Father.
Now here is the interesting thing about the temple and the priesthood. In the history of God’s covenant people, the priesthood was always needed before the temple covenants could be given. During the time of Israelites’ Exodus out of Egypt and their entrance into Canaan, they built the Tabernacle, the portable temple they could take with them until they were settled in the Promised Land and could build a permanent temple. When the Tabernacle was finished, Moses anointed Aaron and his sons to the priesthood so that they could officiate in the tabernacle with. You can read more about that in Leviticus chapters 8 & 9. From the time of the Tabernacle to Solomon’s Temple and down until the time of Christ in Herod’s Temple, only the High Priest, a man who was a member of the tribe of Levi, could enter the Holy of Holies. Even then he only entered once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur is the modern celebration of the Day of Atonement), to sprinkle the blood of the sin offering for all of Israel on the mercy seat.
In our current dispensation, the Nauvoo Temple was the first temple in which the endowment and sealing covenants were given. The Priesthood had been restored just prior to the organization of the Church in the spring of 1830 as a direct answer to a question Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey had asked the Lord. The Nauvoo Temple wasn’t completed until February 1846, nearly 16 years after the priesthood had been restored. Of the 6,000 saints who received their endowment in the Nauvoo Temple like my own ancestor between December 1845 and February 1846 like my ancestor Susannah Young, not a single sister had to be ordained to the priesthood before entering the temple and making additional covenants with her Heavenly Father there, yet every man had to already be ordained to the Melchezidek Priesthood before entering into his endowment covenant in the temple. Without revealing what specifically goes on inside of the temple, I CAN say that they are priesthood ordinances and it is very equal in terms of the actual work being done by both men and women patrons.
Why is that, do you suppose? Is it because women don’t “need” the priesthood? (You’ll never hear me say that.) Is it because women don’t “want” the priesthood? (Another phrase you will also never hear me say.) Or is it simply because women already have the priesthood? If priesthood ordination is necessary for men to progress through the ordinances in the temple, then who is to say that women weren’t ordained BEFORE they came to mortality? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t remember much about our pre-earth life. But I do know a few things about women in the LDS Church. Women join the Church in greater numbers than men do. Women also remain active in the Church in greater numbers than men do. Visiting teaching is NOT a requirement of women, but home teaching IS a responsibility contained within the Oath and Covenant of the priesthood for the men - which is why at 14 years old, young men will begin to accompany their fathers, or another Melchezidek priesthood holder, on monthly home teaching assignments to other families in their ward (congregation). Women of the Church do not “have to do” visiting teaching, and it isn’t a requirement or part of any covenant we have made with Heavenly Father in mortality, yet those monthly reports usually are higher from the women than the men (meaning more women completed their visiting teaching assignments than men completed their home teaching assignments). These all seem to be fruits of faithful living.
In fact, if we go to the actual oath and covenant of the priesthood as found in Doctrine and Covenants section 84 it says:
35 And also all they who receive this priesthood areceive me, saith the Lord;
36 For he that receiveth my servants areceiveth me;
37 And he that areceiveth me receiveth my Father;
39 And this is according to the aoath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.
There is nothing in these verses that is exclusive to men. Daughters of God who seek to honor their temple covenants are not exempt from this council. As partakers of temple ordinances, we belong to the priesthood and it would behoove us to take this covenant to heart. I find it timely that this last weekend’s Relief Society General Broadcast was all about covenants. I know that these talks were written many weeks ago so that they could be submitted to the translators at least 2 weeks before the broadcast. Talk about inspired leaders we have! I am so grateful for the inspired servants the Lord has chosen to guide us and lead us.
In the October 1985 General Conference, Elder Carlos E. Asay, then in the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy, gave an address titled, “The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood”. That is a great springboard for further study and application of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. The promises that God gives in this covenant are similar to the promises sisters receive in the temple.
In the temple, we are frequently reminded of things that are yet to be in our future as partakers of the “new and everlasting covenant”. Over the past couple of years, I have learned by inspiration that the Lord does not expect us to wait until some future day to lay hold upon those promises he gives each of us in the temple - rather it is that he expects us to be agents unto ourselves and begin living our lives TODAY so that we are doing all we can to fulfill our part of the covenants we made in the temple so that He may immediately bless us with those blessings promised us in the temple. “I, the Lord, am abound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no bpromise.” (D&C 82: 10) If in your heart of hearts you truly believe that as a woman you will be ordained to the priesthood someday (which I do believe will happen if we were not ordained in the pre-earth life), then live your life right now as if you were already ordained to the priesthood! View your visiting teaching assignments as home teaching assignments (which are part of a priesthood holder’s duties and actually comes BEFORE the man’s calling - even if he is bishop he should be fulfilling his home teaching assignment before fulfilling his calling as a bishop). Then fulfill AND magnify the callings you have received in your local congregation.
We as temple covenant women in the Church either already have the priesthood through receiving it before we came to earth, OR we will someday receive it. In either case, it IS a righteous endeavor to want to study the priesthood to understand how we may better fulfill our roles in honoring the priesthood of the Lord we were given before coming to mortality, OR as a means to prepare for our future full-ordination as priestesses. As I learned 12 years ago in my Ricks College student ward, the best way to prepare to make additional covenants with the Lord is to first seek to understand the covenants I have already made with the Lord and live them fully. Sister Beck’s talk is so relevant to this issue! As she taught, the purpose of Relief Society is:
1.Increase in faith and personal righteousness.
2.Strengthen families and homes.
3.Serve the Lord and His children.
Seeking to understand and live the covenants we have already made with the Lord will take care of numbers 1 and 2. And if you have taken to heart the idea of seeing visiting teaching as your first church priority over your other callings, then you will be taking care of numbers 2 and 3. Truly the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood and the Purpose of Relief Society are one and the same.
If you have mastered all of these, go and help the other sisters in your ward raise their sights higher. Instill in them that they are capable of so much more than they give themselves credit for. Encourage them to magnify their callings as daughters of the Most High God in serving and building up his kingdom.
Then maybe, just maybe, once we collectively have progressed past needing these same lessons over and over again, we will be taught something “new” during General Conference. Until then, the direction and counsel given will continue to be given until we have mastered it as the covenant people of the Lord.
Yvonne Russell1 October 2013 @ http://MrsTips.com