Of women, the church, and the priesthood: a reading list.

"Don't confuse the power of the priesthood with the keys and offices of the priesthood. The power is limitless and is shared with those who make and keep covenants. Too much is said and misunderstood about what brothers have and sisters don't. This is Satan's way of confusing men and women so that neither understands what they really have."—Julie Beck 

I have wanted to write a post about women and the priesthood for a year or so. But, every time I sat down to write something—there was nothing. I’m grateful for this phenomenon because as I’ve read and discussed and read and listened and discussed and read, I’ve realized the two most important things I can offer anyone in my sphere of influence concerning this issue is awareness and understanding. Plus, I’ve realized there really are a lot of things even the apostles say we just don’t know.

I have had an extremely positive experience in my family and in my religion in terms of being empowered and equal. I can’t explain my feeling of equality academically because no, I cannot baptize anyone or seal a couple in marriage—but it does not mean my experience of equality is not valid.

My experience also does not invalidate the pain of my good friends who feel the opposite.

One reason I disagree with Ordain Women’s demonstration is because there are a hundred questions between “Why would I want to change anything?” and “Should women be ordained to the priesthood?” A hundred questions! I’m not being hyperbolic. And, they are exciting questions! Ones I don’t think should be skimmed or skipped over. However, Ordain Women is creating awareness for an issue we should all care more about.

Although these women are only a few thousand out of millions, they are symbolic of real pain experienced by many women in the church. You know these women. They may be your sister, your mom, your daughter, your wife, the girl in your Beehive class. They are asking hard questions and feeling like they can’t talk to anyone. Or, they are internalizing unfairness they don’t know how to solve. It’s not fair to dismiss their questions under the rug of “they need to have more faith”. 

It’s important to understand why women are asking questions because the entire church will benefit from the resulting empathy and solutions. 

And, I do think that if the women and men of the church are doing all they can to understand and work towards solutions in their own wards, families and communities—and to care about the issue and its questions—with gratitude for knowledge and spiritual gifts already given—we will receive more revelation from God about things of incomplete understanding. And, we can better articulate what we already understand.

So, I present a reading list. It represents a variety of different perspectives—all useful in understanding the context of the argument and in developing empathy and love for others (even if you disagree with them). 

If you only have time to read one article, read this one:
Neylan McBaine “To do the Business of the Church” 
Conference Talks—
Sister Julie Beck May 2013 "...Lessons from the history of Relief Society"
Elder Anderson Oct 2013 "Power in the Priesthood"
Elder Ballard April 2013 "This is my work and my Glory"
Elder Christofferson Oct 2013 "The Moral Force of Women
Transcript "Top Mormon Women Leaders Provide Their Insights into Church Leadership"

Other essays and blog posts on the spectrum:
Valerie Hudson “I am a Mormon because I am a Feminist"
Neylan McMaine "A Moderate Mormon Manifesto"
Tara Boyce "Why I, a Feminist who Wants the Priesthood, Won’t be at the Ordain Women Demonstration"
Kelli "Making me Emotional Today (and a Lot of the Time) 
What has been helpful to you? What scriptures or talks have been helpful as you've explained your positive experience to others or worked through questions and/or negative experiences?


  1. I really like that quote by Sister Beck. I think we often confuse priesthood holders with the priesthood. What can result from this, among many things, is the idea that somehow unmarried women or women who are married to men who are not members of the church, are not as close to the priesthood, or that upholding the priesthood primarily or exclusively consists of how well we listen to/ treat/ support priesthood leaders. I really think that's misguided (and doctrinally false). When we look at what Sister Beck and others have said, we can see that upholding the priesthood is the equal responsibility of men and women and we do so by keeping our covenants, by following the example of Christ, and by trying to live our lives in harmony with gospel principles. So, when somebody asks in a lesson what we can do to uphold the priesthood, we shouldn't be only referring to the ways we can support the men in our lives (ask for blessings, support them in their callings, etc). Totally acceptable and true answers would be to read our scriptures, to attend the temple, to be kind others, to seek personal revelation and to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

    I was so fortunate in having a father who taught me this both in conversations and by example. It seems to me that the idea that women should hold priesthood (understandably) misunderstands and (unintentionally) diminishes the extent of its power and the role that women already hold in conjunction with it.

  2. i have an article that i read that summarizes a lot of my thoughts really well and i saved the link in a document at home, but i am out of town this weekend. i'll check back in monday with the link. it's such a wide, expansive, complicated topic, with a lot of tender feelings that i'm nervous to even delve into some of the things that are posted out there. thanks for a few new links that i haven't seen yet!


    that is the link. i can't find a fancy way not to have it be long like that.

    i don't agree with every single thing that she says, but it captures a lot of how i feel about it. about how we treat people that do question in the church, especially women. i wish that there weren't such extreme, unyielding positions taken, on both sides. i wish there weren't such contention. i hate contention. i wish there weren't flippant dismissal. i feel like we're missing the whole point. i feel like if women said, "i am having a hard time feeling heavenly father's love for me," no one would respond the way that they do when it is tied to the specific issue of priesthood.

    i do still feel slightly betrayed about how some of the women of the church are going about making changes and questioning, but the movement has caused me to ponder more about the priesthood and my role as a woman and a mother. it has caused me to study and pray and learn more about my relationship with my heavenly father, and i'm grateful for the opportunity to stretch myself spiritually.


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