Fair warning: you might not like this post. If you can’t stand reading about Abrahamic or patriarchal religions, (or all religions,) in general, this post probably isn’t for you. If you consider your religious beliefs extremely traditional or conservative, this post probably isn’t for you, as I’ll be covering a bit of doctrine that may, traditionally, fit better in wiccan or pagan philosophies. For the record, I consider myself religiously syncretist and politically centrist: even if you hate my ideas, I probably don’t (entirely) hate yours. 🙂
(End of disclaimer.)
I’m writing partly in reply to several good posts by my friend, Erin Wooldridge on her blog about the movement that some women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“Mormon Church“) are participating in: a push to have women ordained to the Priesthood. Some of these women have taken to calling themselves, “Ordain Women.” I won’t be commenting much (if at all) on the specifics of the movement or the temporal social dynamics involved. Instead, I’m going to comment on doctrine, current societal shifts, personal gnosis (A.K.A. personal revelation), and why things are the way they are. This is a “down the rabbit hole” kind of post.
Some (Light) “Required Reading”
Please follow the links, below, to see what the LDS Church has to say about the Priesthood. After each link are the most relevant quotes to the topic at-hand.
“The word priesthood has two meanings. First, priesthood is the power and authority of God. It has always existed and will continue to exist without end (see Alma 13:7–8; D&C 84:17–18). Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power, He exalts His obedient children, bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39; see also D&C 84:35–38).
Second, in mortality, priesthood is the power and authority that God gives to man to act in all things necessary for the salvation of God’s children. The blessings of the priesthood are available to all who receive the gospel. (“Priesthood Authority” Handbook 2, Administering the Church)
In the spring of 1835, Joseph Smith received a revelation explaining the name of the priesthood: “There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood. Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood. All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood. … The second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, because it was conferred upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations. Why it is called the lesser priesthood is because it is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances” (D&C 107:1-5, 13-14).”
Aaronic (lesser) Priesthood
“Although the Aaronic Priesthood is conferred in the Church today without restriction to the lineage of Aaron, the keys of this priesthood rightly belong to the firstborn of the seed of Aaron, and in the restoration of all things the office of bishop (president of the priests) will once again be conferred on one of that lineage, as it is designated by revelation to the president of the Church (D&C 84:14–21; 107:13–17).”
Melchizidek (greater) Priesthood
“The higher or greater priesthood, as compared with the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood. The reason for the name is given in D&C 107:1–3. The Melchizedek Priesthood is mentioned in Ps. 110:4; Heb. 2:17–18; 3:1; 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 15, 17, 21; but the Bible does not give many particulars concerning the functions of that priesthood, except that Christ was a high priest after that order. From latter-day revelation we learn that within the Melchizedek Priesthood are the offices of elder, Seventy, high priest, patriarch, and Apostle (D&C 107), and that this priesthood must be present and functional whenever the kingdom of God is upon the earth in its fulness.”
Women and the Priesthood
“Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained the companionship role of the priesthood and women: “In the true Patriarchal Order man holds the priesthood and is the head of the household, … but he cannot attain a fulness of joy here or of eternal reward hereafter alone. Woman stands at his side a joint-inheritor with him in the fulness of all things. Exaltation and eternal increase is her lot as well as his. (D. & C. 131:1–4.) Godhood is not for men only; it is for men and women together. (D. & C. 132:19–20)” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 844).”
Race and the Priesthood
“In 1850, the U.S. Congress created Utah Territory, and the U.S. president appointed Brigham Young to the position of territorial governor. Southerners who had converted to the Church and migrated to Utah with their slaves raised the question of slavery’s legal status in the territory. In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. At the same time, President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members.8″
(Please read the rest of that article for context.)
“Genesis 3: 16 states that Adam is to “rule over” Eve, but this doesn’t make Adam a dictator. . . over in “rule over” uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling with, not ruling over. The concept of interdependent, equal partners is well-grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel. Eve was Adam’s “help meet” (Genesis 2:18). The original Hebrew for meet means that Eve was adequate for, or equal to, Adam. She wasn’t his servant or his subordinate.
–Elder Bruce C. Hafen”
Becoming Like God
“Eliza R. Snow, a Church leader and poet, rejoiced over the doctrine that we are, in a full and absolute sense, children of God. “I had learned to call thee Father, / Thru thy Spirit from on high,” she wrote, “But, until the key of knowledge / Was restored, I knew not why.” Latter-day Saints have also been moved by the knowledge that their divine parentage includes a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father. Expressing that truth, Eliza R. Snow asked, “In the heav’ns are parents single?” and answered with a resounding no: “Truth eternal / Tells me I’ve a mother there.”45 That knowledge plays an important role in Latter-day Saint belief. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote, “Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.””
Elohim (which may mean, “God the Father,” “The Gods,” or “The Father and The Mother.”)
“In the very beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation. It is a great subject I am dwelling on. The word Eloheim ought to be in the plural all the way through—Gods. The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us; and when you take [that] view of the subject, it sets one free to see all the beauty, holiness and perfection of the Gods.” –Joseph Smith Jr.
Now, let’s address the nature of the priesthood. In short, the highest priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. Who is God, in the original sense? “Elohim.” Who is Elohim? The greatest, as elected by the council of the gods. Is this person single? No, it’s a husband and wife. Therefore, what is the Priesthood, really? It’s the authority to act on behalf of the Divine Male and/or the Divine Female.
Now, onto the current state of the Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There are two versions of the priesthood, therein: the Aaronic (limited/lesser) and Melchizidek (full/greater). By what type of authority do they exist? Patriarchal authority.
In fact, the entire power structure of the Church is based upon patriarchal authority. Yes, women have many important roles in the Church, and act as leaders in many capacities; but every officer of the Priesthood–from prophet/president to deacon’s quorum leader–can only be held by men. Every “calling” (“job” within the Church–the vast majority of which are volunteer positions and not paid ones) must be ordained by the presiding priesthood holder. It doesn’t matter if you’re being called to organize a movie night or head up the Relief Society for the entire Church; to begin the calling, you must receive a blessing and “setting apart” via an authorized Priesthood holder laying hands upon your head. This a good thing, and a great help and comfort to the members of the LDS faith. Still, it’s an unavoidable fact that the power structure of the religion is, presently, patriarchal.
Nevertheless, there is such a thing as a female priesthood.
In the LDS Church, there are few clues about this. The principle one stated is that women are given certain powers of the priesthood for use in temple ordinances–specifically, the Initiatory ceremony, in which parishioners are anointed with oil and given blessings of spiritual gifts after the fashion of certain Old Testament ordinances. Herein, those administering the ordinances anoint various parts of the body, like the kidneys, legs, forehead, etc. with oil, while pronouncing blessings. For various reasons, it makes sense for women to administer to women in this capacity, and as a result, women are ordained (by male Melchizidek Priesthood holders) to a specific branch of the Priesthood–in much the same way as the ancient Levites were given access to only a specific branch of the same Priesthood. True, this could well be seen as a “borrowing” of patriarchal priesthood; but it shows that, technically, women can hold at least some version of the Priesthood.
Still, this doesn’t quite imply that women have their own priesthood.
The temple endowment ceremony sheds some more light on the matter, but doesn’t yet clarify it, entirely.
(Note to my LDS readers: the contents of the endowment ceremony are not required to be kept secret, except for the signs, tokens, and names given therein. Please see the explanation in the linked site for details.)
“Brethren, you have been washed and pronounced clean, or that through your faithfulness you may become clean, from the blood and sins of this generation. You have been anointed to become hereafter kings and priests unto the most high God, to rule and reign in the house of Israel forever.
Sisters, you have been washed and anointed to become queens and priestesses to your husbands.
Brethren and sisters, if you are true and faithful, the day will come when you will be chosen, called up, and anointed kings and queens, priests and priestesses, whereas you are now anointed only to become such. The realization of these blessings depends upon your faithfulness.
You have had a garment placed upon you, which you were informed represents the garment given to Adam when he was found naked in the garden of Eden, and which is called the garment of the holy priesthood. This you were instructed to wear throughout your life. You were informed that it will be a shield and a protection to you if you are true and faithful to your covenants.”
Again, we see evidence that women are intended to be priestesses to the patriarchal order; but this still doesn’t offer clues as to what happened to the divine priesthood of our Heavenly Mother. Here, we come to my thesis about the nature of an innately female priesthood.
The female Priesthood was lost, and is now being restored from outside the Church.
There’s a single, irreconcilable, fundamental flaw with the Ordain Women movement in the LDS Church: they’re asking for the wrong Priesthood. Just as the Prophets have revealed that gender is an eternal trait, so, too, is the nature of whatever Priesthood associates with that gender. No female spirit can fully interact with a male Priesthood, as if it were her own.
The Gospel According to dane:
The above is a huge simplification, designed to help the people living at the time this revelation was given to understand the basics of the matter. The complexity of this becomes more apparent once we detail the non-linear nature of time, and the consequent possibility of multiple and even concurrent lives. Gender is eternal…but each avatar of a given spirit creates a “splinter” of that spirit that can ultimately remain independent or re-integrate with its “parent spirit.” There seems to be no requirement for a given spirit to have only one preferred “shape,” but frequently, this is the case. Nevertheless, it’s apparent that all spirits enjoy variety. Every avatar (i.e. physical creature) of a given spirit has its own gender identity. This may be described in greater detail in another post, and will certainly be described in great detail in my (eventual) upcoming book.
Here is what LDS Relief Society President, Julie B. Beck said on the matter of spiritual gender identity:
“As spirit daughters of God, women ‘received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth’ (D&C 138:56) on the earth. They were among the ‘noble and great ones’ (D&C 138:55) who ‘shouted for joy’ (Job 38:7) at the creation of the earth because they would be given a physical body with the opportunity to be proven in a mortal sphere (see Abraham 3:25). They wished to work side by side with righteous men to accomplish eternal goals that neither can attain independently. Female roles did not begin on earth, and they do not end here. A woman who treasures motherhood on earth will treasure motherhood in the world to come” (“A ‘Mother Heart,’” Liahona and Ensign, May 2004, 76).”
(The Relief Society is the overarching womens’ organization in the Church. Every adult female is automatically a member.)
So, let me ask you this: from whom did the women gain their lessons about womanhood in the pre-mortal existence? From their Father? Doubtful. They had a Mother, and they learned it from her! Who was she? God. If ever She has an interest in having mortals act in Her name, does she have the power to bestow that authority? Of course! What do we call the authority given to act in the name of God? Priesthood.
Therefore, the authority to act in the name of Heavenly Mother (A.K.A. “The Divine Feminine”) is the female priesthood. But where did it go?
The LDS Topical Guide contains an almost-comprehensive reference to scriptural passages by topic. Here is what it says about what I’ve come to believe is the female priesthood:
I apologize if this is galling to my wiccan or pagan friends. Please bear with me, and I’ll explain why it was so.
Two things should be quite clear from the above-quoted scriptures:
1) Judaism, Middle-Eastern Christianity, and Ancient American Christianity (per the Book of Mormon) all expressly forbid witchcraft and sorcery. (Please see the context of the last citation for clarification, if needed.)
2) Witchcraft, as understood by these peoples, reliably involved men and women using power to abuse others for personal gain, and subvert the patriarchal priesthood.
So, really, it comes down to power–but probably not in the sinister way that naturally comes to mind when I say this.
While I’m not prepared to go into the finer details of how this started, I will provide a summary thereof, based on the revelations I’ve received upon inquiring about the matter. As with anything I say, I request that you not believe it unless you, too, have asked the Divine and received a confirmation that it’s correct.
Methuselah and Morrigna
In the time of Adam and Eve, men and women were equally powerful, both physically and spiritually. Together, they co-created the world we know. This balance was maintained until shortly after Enoch, a prophet, high priest, and king, and his people were translated, ascending into the eternal worlds without tasting death. Enoch’s son was named, “Methuselah;” and his wife was called, “Morrigna.” (Note: transliteration from revelation is hard! People back then didn’t speak English, Hebrew, or any other language with which we’re familiar. Such names are only correct if thought of as very rough approximations to the originals.)
After the city’s ascent, Methuselah and Morrigna were among the few people remaining on Earth. There was a crisis, and our species was in danger of extinction as a result of being unable to compete with the wild beasts and preternatural creatures of the day. So, the two hatched a plan, and the remainder of the people agreed to it. They would change the balance of power between the genders, so that men would become stronger, both in the ability to change the world through spiritual means, deductive reasoning, inventiveness (i.e. machines and tools), militaristic conquest, and physical prowess. In exchange, they would become protectors of settlements, while the women, children, and elderly would, theoretically, live a basically peaceful and safe existence. To accomplish this, they used both the male and female Priesthoods in a great ritual.
Sadly, as it turns out, the power to protect is also the power to dominate. The men went mad with power, and took to conquering the women, making them subservient to themselves. Also, they then turned their power to dominate towards each other, seeking to conquer each others’ tribes, villages, cities, and nations. Among the men, Methuselah was the most powerful. Among the women, Morrigna was the most powerful.
Morrigna pleaded with Methuselah to come to his senses and help restore the balance of power, but he refused. At length, she left him, and lived across a stretch of ocean, in a colony comprised primarily of women, with men who would accept women as their equals or betters.
There was a great war between the two factions. From this, after millennia of corruption, we derive the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology; the tale of the Japanese witch-queen, Himiko; and several stories of Hindu and other affiliations.
The ultimate outcome of this was that men did everything they could to squash the female source of divine authority–the female Priesthood–and created a world with relatively little gender-contest (since women have been rendered unable to put up a serious fight, in most cases), but substantial oppression of nearly all kinds. Ever since, the use of “witchcraft,” “sorcery” (by some definitions), and the female Priesthood (by any other name) has, by unfortunate default, been employed largely to undermine patriarchal Priesthood authority in hopes of re-claiming for women what the war of our genders has taken away. This, however, as history has shown, has been the wrong way of achieving that goal.
The female Priesthood still exists, but has been forced into hiding. Its scriptures have been destroyed or corrupted; its authority has been almost entirely taken from the earth. Currently, the most powerful manifestations of the female Priesthood I’ve seen–by women with wonderful hearts, enlightened minds, and astonishingly-powerful and pure spirits–have been no greater than the Aaronic or Melchizidek Priesthoods, as they were circa 2,000BC–during the time when most male Priesthood authority was gone from the earth. Some hold the keys to the ministering of angels. Some hold the authority to give burnt offerings to female or male deities and receive some minor or moderate blessings in exchange. Some can give blessings to cure the sick and afflicted (as only very few priesthood holders in the Old Testament could do). Today, sadly, most holders of the female Priesthood can do almost nothing with it, because they lack the understanding of how to get revelation, the training of mothers and grandmothers who could have otherwise raised them to be powerful priestesses (as men in the LDS Church are taught to do for their sons), and the wisdom found in pure, properly-translated and revelation-purified and -inspired scriptures intended for the edification of female priests.
Nevertheless, there is hope. All over the world, women are awakening to their divine potential and hungering for the authority to exercise it to its fullest. Some have been called by Morrigna–A.K.A. “The Morrigan”–to begin to right the mistakes of her era, including bringing to light an understanding of who these aspects of the feminine divine are and were, and what we can learn from them. Some have begun to openly offer inspiration according to the gifts within them, as women who are acutely touched by divinity. Some have begun to demand ordination to the priesthood in the LDS Church.
So, I’m going to finally offer the solution to all this: at great length and long finality, an end to the gender war. So long as the two genders compete, we can’t be whole–and moreover, according to the quotes I posted near the beginning of this “verbal perambulation,” without one another, as equals, we can never become fully-exalted beings. Until we learn to fully cooperate with one another, we simply cannot become the gods and goddesses we were born become, and our existence in mortality will be eternally frustrated.
Women of the LDS faith: don’t demand the current LDS Priesthood. Demand the one to which you were already–and always–entitled.