The One Where We Talk About Priesthood (Doctrine & Covenants 12-13)

Monday, February 8, 2021


Channing: [00:00:00] Hi, I'm Channing

Elise: and I'm Elise.

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminist podcast

Elise: [00:00:08] But this is not just any Come Follow Me podcast. We do things a little differently here. We offer approachable feminist interpretations of the Come Follow Me manual for those who want to study and understand the scriptures in a framework of equality, social justice, and sisterhood. We are here to show you all the really good ways faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience.

Channing: [00:00:32] We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs, so join us today for a conversation about Doctrine and Covenants sections 12 and 13 and Joseph Smith history versus 66 through 75 for the dates, February 8th through the 14th. We're so glad you're here.

Elise: [00:00:53] Welcome back. We've got a short set of chapters in verses today, but there really is so much to uncover here because it's all about Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey receiving the Aaronic priesthood. And so the topic of priesthood is finally here.

Channing and I were just talking about how all last year for the Book of Mormon, we never had an episode about anything concerning the priesthood because. I don't know. Yeah. It never presented itself in the text, but here it is on week four or week five or something in 2021. And this isn't even the only time that the topic of the priesthood will come up.

Channing: [00:01:34] Yeah, we'll be hearing about it pretty frequently for the rest of the year. So buckle up. And if we don't cover everything about the priesthood today, don't worry. There's plenty of opportunity later.

Elise: [00:01:47] Yeah, we definitely won't be able to cover everything. And there were always be new questions and new ideas unfolding, but we're excited about what we have prepared for today. I know one of the first things we were struck with as we read through these sections and these verses was the appearance of ritual. It wasn't enough just that an angel came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey and said like, huzzah! you have the power and the authority, like there were actions and rituals that followed that. And I know that Channing and you had some thoughts.

Channing: [00:02:17] I did. Yeah. Most of my ideas are inspired from the verses in Joseph Smith history versus 66 through 75. That's the entire section that we were assigned for this week. Um, and essentially what happens in this small section of text is Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith meetup. Um, they are continuing the work of translating the book of Mormon. And then it says in verse 68, “we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord, respecting baptism for the remission of sins that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates while we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light.” And at this point it is John the Baptist and he confers upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the priested the Aaronic priesthood. And then tells them that they need to baptize and confirm one another. And so what really stuck out to me in these verses is this very physical practice or this ritual of kind of integrating this conferring of the priested on Oliver Cowdrey and Joseph Smith.

Feminist theology celebrates the body as the site of integration and the translation of the spiritual into the physical. It is the meeting place of potential and actualization, the body, which was created with love by a God of love is a Holy place because in it resides every beautiful work of art ever painted every poem ever written or to be written. Every dance, every dream and declaration of love has come in and through a body of human flesh and blood. And every body has come through the womb of both heaven and earth. The importance of a ritual and spirituality is the unification of the physical and spiritual ritual signifies to the body that a change has occurred within. Ritual is a two-step experience of body and soul. And to experience this fullness, both aspects must be present. Take the sacrament as an example, the spiritual act is in the prayer and the blessing of the bread and the water. It is the homage to the body of Christ and the continual process of repentance.

Now picture partaking in the sacrament without actually eating the bread or drinking the water, it would become a completely intellectualized experience. And we would even more than we do now, experience religion through detachment from our body, instead of with it. Now on the other side, pictured the taking the sacrament with no prayer at all. And at that point, it wouldn't really be a sacrament. It'd be a meal, a small one, but a meal nonetheless. We see from this example that it is the combination of the spiritual and physical that defines ritual. Ritual is the unifying act of body and soul.

Another way to think of it is in different learning styles. Some people are auditory learners, which means that they learn best by listening. I would guess that most of these people are the ones who are listening to the podcast right now. Some are visual learners who learn best by watching, looking, and reading. And finally, there are kinesthetic learners and these friends learn best by doing and working and moving with their bodies. Ritual is a successful form of teaching because it reaches all forms of learning styles in their preferred element. Not only that, but research shows that physical movement is one of the most effective ways to process emotion, change events, and information, which feel larger than the self. This would mean that every learning style and every person benefits from ritual, because it integrates fully the parts of the self the spiritual, the intellectual and the physical.

This is why it is powerful and an irreplaceable part of our religious practice. And so, like you were saying earlier, Elise I agree with you that I don't think it was enough for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey to simply be told that the ironic priesthood had been conferred upon them. I think it's really beautiful that we see demonstrated here in the text that they, not just that they had the opportunity to, but that the angel kind of commanded them, like, okay, like you have the Aaronic priesthood now go baptize each other, go like confirm each other to the Aaronic priesthood. Like take your bodies through this practice and this symbolic act of change. I think that that really demonstrates the need for that bodily, that physical integration of the spiritual and the physical. So I was really excited about that. 

Elise: [00:07:21] Yeah. I think you brought up so many great things here and the word that keeps coming to mind is transformation. Like we can't have a whole psychic, whole lived experience of transformation without incorporating our body and our spirit. And I think that is exactly what ritual is for. Um, when we were talking about this a little bit earlier this week, you had said the phrase like rituals signal to our body that a change has, is taking place, that we are kind of transitioning. Or transforming in a new direction and we can like emerge anew. And I really think that's what happens here, especially when, after they baptize and lay their hands on one another, they emerge from the water and they have like, they're just filled with so much spirit like filled with so much holiness that they start preaching and like prophesizing. And I don't think that those things could have happened, had it not been through this ritual that combined both the physical and the spiritual.

Channing: [00:08:19] Yeah I agree completely.

Elise: [00:08:21] I think when we also think about this process of transformation, it's important that Joseph and Oliver were not alone during this experience. They really experienced it together. And. I know that I'm going to use a more imaginative lens here, but I feel there is a really lovely tenderness and friendship that I can feel between Joseph and Oliver in the Joseph Smith history section that I haven't seen yet. In section 12, verse 8, I think there are some characteristics that set the stage for a loving, tender friendship. Verse 8 says, “and no one can assist in this work, except he shall be humble and full of love. Having faith hope and charity being temperate in all things.”

Now I know that section 12 was really outlined here for Joseph Knight Sr., who was also a friend and support of Joseph Smith. But I do think that these characteristics ae also applicable to Oliver Cowdrey because he's also assisting Joseph Smith in the work of translation. But when Joseph and Oliver have this experience in the woods, they had only been working like living and working together for one month. Oliver arrived to Joseph's house in April, and they had this experience in May of 1829. And so together, they go into the woods to pray and ask the Lord about baptism and the remission of sins.

They work together. They ask questions together. They pray together. They experienced the heavenly messenger together. Then they baptize one another and lay their hands upon their heads to ordain one another to the Aaronic priesthood. And after they come out of the water, like I had said earlier, they experienced these great blessings and then the spirit of prophecy comes over them and they start prophesying so many things in verse 73, it says “we were filled with the Holy Ghost and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.”

All of this to say if they weren't friends before I can only imagine that they would like they would have been friends now. Right? You don't go through an experience like this that is so fundamentally life changing, that is so spiritually transformative without emerging from it kind of seared together in a friendship, or at least that's what I think would happen. That's definitely my own imagination at play here.

Channing: [00:10:34] Well, I don't think it's like too far off because also going back to our discussion on ritual, like it's very rare that we do ritual in a religious space alone. Like if you think about the sacrament, like we're not just like in a room by ourselves, like taking the sacrament off the table, ourselves, someone is serving it to us. We're taking it in a community, in a congregation. Um, like same thing. We're like baptized in front of witnesses. We are confirmed in front of witnesses when we go through the temple ordinances, like it's with people. And I think that that is maybe another function of ritual is that it happens within a community and each time, like, sure, the person participating in the ordinance is like, it's primarily for them, but I also think that it serves as like a community building function as well.

Elise: [00:11:35] Yeah, absolutely. Like we don't have to include this, but the first time I had like went through the temple, I was, first of all, no one had primed me. I didn't do very much study. And I would say that the LDS church is not incredibly ritualistic, but the temple is. And so that, that right there already felt like a shock to me. And so when I finished like getting my endowments or whatever, like I was so overwhelmed, super freaked out and was just crying and crying and crying. And I was so grateful, like, for the people that had gone through with me, like my, my family and some of my aunts and uncles and stuff, because I just like, couldn't stop crying and I needed them to like hug me and comfort me afterwards. And if I had to do that alone, I would just feel like so lost and incredibly freaked out.

Channing: [00:12:23] Yeah. Oh my gosh. I think so many people, especially so many women could relate to that experience. Cause that's how I felt too.

Elise: [00:12:32] One of the questions that has come to mind for me thinking about the friendship between Joseph and Oliver is how does their friendship align with or diverge from our modern day understandings of, um, friendship between guys or friendship between men or even masculine friendships. Because I feel like everyone wants and is so blessed by strong friendships. So why wouldn't that be the case for guys? There's a book title Gendered Lives by Julia Woods, and she kind of explores the friendships that develop. On a gendered spectrum. And she says, look even at very young ages, most boys are as emotional and as socially responsive as girls are. Even when they like rough house, they're still talking about their emotions at a young age, but as they grow older, boys are often socialized to separate themselves from those emotions because of the older children that they play with the adults or the media models that like showcase how they should be participating in masculinity.

And so she writes that as a result, many boys learn to ground their friendship and shared activities, particularly in sports and a phrase that was coined by Scott Swain about masculine friendships is “closeness in the doing” that men build friendships or that many masculine men build friendships and build close relationships with others through doing activities. In masculine friendships too there's also a focus on instrumentality like men, like doing things for other people that they care about. So there's this idea of reciprocity and exchange, which “allows each man to hold his own while helping the other.” And I can see both of these elements of masculine friendships at play with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey. I imagine that their friendship grew out of the doing out of the work of translation out of the act of asking questions together, out of all of the treks to the woods to pray, they're building this friendship by doing things, by working on projects or doing activities.

And I also think that the really beautiful moments of reciprocity we see in the Aaronic priested scene paint a loving and tender picture of friendship as reciprocal care giving and receiving. They baptize one another, they bless one another. They prophesied to one another. And so there's this really beautiful sharing and reciprocity that I can see in their friendship. All that to say, I do still think though, that patriarchy places some really tight restrictions on masculine friendships in ways that stem from homophobia and of course, patriarchy. I remember growing up that a lot of my straight guy, friends, when they were friends with their other guy, friends, they would say, “I love you, but no homo bro,” like, and include “no homo” after disclosing or discussing their emotions or like having a moment of vulnerability and intimacy. Do you also remember having this phrase thrown around amongst like guy, friend groups?

Channing: [00:15:31] Yeah. Well, and I even see it still today. Like my husband has been growing his hair out and, cause I wanted him to have a man bun, um, but his work asked him to cut it. So he cut it. And, um, I remember him telling his friend about it, like, and they're pretty close and I remember his friend just saying like, Oh man, like no homo, but I really liked your hair. I thought it looks nice. And I was like, Oh, it's such a bummer that he had to like temper the statement of like, you know, kindness and friendship and like compliments by saying like, “no homo,” like I promise I'm not gay, but I like, oh, it just, in that moment in many, it kind of made my heart break because I was just like, it's okay to love people.

Elise: [00:16:21] Yeah. Well, and there's two things at play there. There's this like constant conditioning that a specific brand of masculinity says is the only option or at least the safest and most expected option of expressing your gender as a man or as a masculine person. And that's the idea of independence, mental strength, fierce heterosexuality, and being overtly like sexually driven. And that seems to be what society that's the box that society says, like men must exist in. There's a specific brand of masculinity, masculinity that you have to adhere to. And the other thing at play is this continual rejection and disgust toward gay people because gay is seen as weak, feminine, less than, and not quote “normal” or “natural.”

And so you have this really strictness that surrounds masculine friendships, aside from the “no homo,” which is incredibly homophobic, there's also this kind of indirect talk about serious feelings that men do in friendships because they feel uncomfortable sharing their feelings explicitly to one another and so they will just kind of joke about it. Like make a joke out of saying something vulnerable or make a joke out of telling their friend how much they love them. And I think this is just a few of the harmful ways that patriarchy and heteronormativity show up in masculine friendships. And it puts really strict confines on the friendship. It limits, I think the depth or the sincerity or the authenticity that men could have when showing up in these friendships, because they feel so restricted. Like they have to perform their masculine friendship in a particular way.

And I don't, I don't personally see this at play here, like going back to the Joseph and Oliver friendship. And every part of me wants to imagine that Joseph and Oliver's friendship actually resisted these more strict rules about how to be a friend and all of this to say, I know I'm placing like a 21st century masculine friendship model onto a 19th century friendship, but I do think that there is something fruitful that comes from seeing that deep and transformative experience between these two men in the scriptures.

Channing: [00:18:37] Well, and I don't think that it's entirely inappropriate to imagine those things, because we see these male friendships, not just here in Joseph Smith history, but like throughout scripture. Like if we go back to the book of Mormon, we see this friendship between Alma and Amulek. We see a similar kind of friendship, like between the apostles of Jesus Christ. Like it's not, this is not just like one isolated incident in scripture. Like there are like, I mean, even think of like, um, King David and Jonathan, like there are some very deep and loving masculine friendships and male friendships. We see these really beautiful friendships between men scattered throughout scripture, so I don't think, like you said here, this is kind of imaginative, like sure it is, but it's also contextually based in the scriptures that we see from like the very beginning.

So yeah, I actually like this and I think it's a really loving way to look at their friendship and I'm excited for them cause that's like you and I talk about our friendship a lot. It's a huge blessing. Not everyone gets to experience friendship in this way in their lifetime. And so if you come across someone like that in your life, like they deserve all of the love and like deep intimacy that that kind of friendship asks. It's such a beautiful thing. Absolutely.

Elise: [00:20:09] It's also not lost on me that this scene of friendship or perhaps brotherhood appears in the midst of receiving the Aaronic priesthood, which is a different type of brotherhood we might say. I like the idea of brotherhood because I also liked the idea of sisterhood and like sibling hood. And I like when it looks like community and comradery and partnership. And if we move from a framework of friendship to brotherhood, I think this is kind of where we start dipping our toes into priesthood holders because the word brotherhood can so easily become when we're talking about the priesthood, like a male-only priested or a boys club.

But one thing that I find really astonishing is that the Aaronic priesthood title covers things that are meant to include and benefit and serve every one. Right. Um, the sacrament, the like administering to temporal things like caring for the sick and the needy and caring for the church grounds, the charge to watch over the church and be with the people and strengthen them, see that there is no hardness with one another at church, see that they, that the people meet together often, baptize, and preach. And so my question is like, are the 11 to 17 year old boys, the only ones who can or should, or are doing these things? To me, these sound like things that everyone should be included in and charged with doing if we're not already doing them.

Channing: [00:21:40] Right. Well, and my other thought is, are we sure that 11 to 17 year old boys are really the best people to be in charge of this? And not to say like that it's not important to like participate in something from a young age, because it absolutely is. And it's not like they're just out there on their own doing all of this. They obviously like have leadership from older men who kind of direct and like, I hate this word, but preside over that process. But I agree like these sound like things everyone should be doing and like in some ways, especially if we look at the baptismal covenant that we're already charged with doing anyway. And so, yeah, I think you asked an excellent question here, for sure

 So we wanted to do something a little bit new and different on the podcast today, especially as we're kind of dancing with this topic of priesthood. Usually when we come to the podcast, Elise and I have our points well-written out on an outline and we come pretty prepared with like scriptures and quotes and so much research to back this all up. And today we wanted to try something a little bit different. Today we're going to be asking each other a lot of questions and exploring our different thoughts and ideas and just be having a conversation about the priesthood. And one of the reasons we wanted to do this is to kind of show our listeners how to have dialogue and conversation about the priesthood between women in a safe space and like what can arise out of that kind of conversation.

So this is unscripted, it's free flowing. We're going to try and bring research and quotes in as we're able and as it's applicable. Um, and it feels kind of vulnerable for us to do this because it's different, but we also think it's really important and when Elise and I do this together off the podcast, not recording, it's been one of the, like most beautiful and transformative experiences because this is when we stumble upon new ideas. So we're hoping that even though the red button is blinking at us right now that we are still going to be able to find some really insightful discussion today. So the first question that I wanted to ask about the priesthood in context of today's lesson is how did women participate in or benefit from priesthood ordinances in the early church? And additionally, how were they excluded if they were?

Elise: [00:24:25] Yeah, I think like in the early church, women used to like wash and anoint people with oil and lay the hands on the sick until 1946. So they were actively involved in accessing God's power. And there's a, there's a essay titled, “A Gift Given, A Gift Taken” by Linda King Newell. And I thought that this passage is really relevant, too. Like the early women participation in priesthood. It says someone apparently reported to Joseph, “that the women were laying their hands on the sick and blessing them. His reply to the question of the propriety of such acts was simple. He told the woman in the next meeting, there could be no evil in it, if God gave his sanction by healing, there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water. He also indicated that there were sisters who were ordained to heal the sick and it was their privilege to do so. If the sisters should have faith to heal, he said, let all hold their tongues.”

I love this passage because I think it paints a Joseph as someone who is saying like, no, everyone has access to God's power and also priesthood authority. And I think that's one of the other distinctions that you and I have talked about. Like the word priesthood today has come to mean God's power and authority under the umbrella of priesthood, but one of the things we've talked about is how we kind of think those things are more separate. That God's power like everyone has access to God's power without the priesthood. Um, that's kind of like an internal, that's about your relationship with your God. You have access to God and God's power.

You have access to divinity because it's within you. And then you have the idea of priesthood authority, which to me is about the official organizational authority given by those who hold the office of priest like generically speaking, in order to facilitate the like logistical, operational and procedural runnings of the church as an organization. But those are, what do you think though, about women in the early church or about this distinction between God's power and priesthood authority?

Channing: [00:26:47] Well, I think it, I think that it one, I appreciate having an, a historical account of women participating in priesthood ordinances or priesthood healing, because it kind of pushes back on this rhetoric of like, oh, women have never held the priesthood. Well, that's really not entirely true, is it? And obviously, and so I appreciate it for that fact. And I also think that you're right. It does demonstrate this kind of nuanced distinction between priesthood power and priesthood authority. And yeah, just like, we've just, like you just said, priesthood power is something that resides within all of us.

And I think that that's part of the current church rhetoric around priesthood for women is, you know, they basically kind of already say like, what are you talking about, ladies? You already have priesthood power don't you know? But then when we think about, well, how are women able to exercise that priesthood power? Well, we have no authority. And so there is a difference and there is a distinction and um, they go hand in hand and one without the other does not equal quality.

Elise: [00:28:03] Right. Well I think that's the trickiness of it all. Um, I think in the past it may be more of the line of rhetoric was like, well women, you have access to the priesthood through your priesthood-holding husband. And now I feel like the rhetoric is shifting to like, what do you mean silly women? You've already, you've always had the priesthood to start with. Like, you always have this internal access to God, so you don't need to, like, you don't need to be ordained. You don't need to have official authority because you already have it within you. And I was just going to say, I feel like that's on the outside, it's meant to make us feel better about the situation. But the reality is just like you said, we are, we would still be excluded from active participation in leadership roles, in rituals, in ordination, in extra responsibility and extra trust. So while I do believe that everyone has access to God's power, like priesthood or priestesshood, Power it's clear that this is still an all-male priesthood authority organization.

Channing: [00:29:16] Right. Well, and I think too, one of the issues that, um, maybe is going unspoken about the current rhetoric of like, oh, women, don't you already know that you have the priesthood, especially when you've been through the temple, like, that's one that I hear a lot like, Oh, don't, you know, women have priesthood in the temple. Well, I would venture to guess that not every single woman in the church has been through the temple.

And especially when we're looking at like our young women, our adolescent women, and especially when you have like younger adult or even older adult women who aren't married, who maybe haven't been granted access to receive their endowment from the temple, they are still excluded from the priesthood even by temple ordination, because they haven't been ordained or they haven't been endowed. And yet our young women and like anyone who, any woman who hasn't been married is still quote “outranked” by the male peers, by their male peers, because they are ordained to the priesthood.

And so it's like this early access that all boys get as soon as they turn 11 and girls have to wait until they go on a mission until they get married or until they finally get their Bishop's approval to go to the temple, even to get that like, uh, I don't even want, I don't want to sound like bitter about it, but even to get like the pretend priesthood ordination from the temple, you know what I mean? It is a name only. It's not in practice. It's a name only.

Elise: [00:30:57] I think my question from there is, well, what role does priesthood authority or priesthood keys play today? Has it changed from its original use and intent and like what currently qualify someone to priesthood, ordination or authority? Is it equal opportunity?

Channing: [00:31:16] Yeah. And I think the answer to that is like, no.

Elise: [00:31:20] It is not equal opportunity. Yeah. Not equal access.

Channing: [00:31:24] Yeah. But I think, um, I, I know this isn't to say that I don't think that priesthood authority is like kind of a void or useless distinction, because I do think it serves a purpose. Right. I think that priesthood authority is at least in the way that it functions in the organizational, structural, institutional way that it does in the church it serves a purpose in kind of like identifying and centralizing leadership so everyone's on the same page.

And, um, I think that that's important, especially when you come to like a more formal religious institution, because having that like commonality between like different wards and congregations, I think is really important to achieve a unified church. And that's something that I, that the church is really proud of I would say for sure like that you can go from a church in Syracuse, Utah, and I can like go visit you next week. Right. I'm not going to, I wish I was, but I could come visit you next week and go to your ward and I would get like the same lesson I would get like similar viewpoints and like learn the same things. Um, because we're like a centralized unified church. And so, and that's not a bad thing. Like, I don't want to say that it is, I hope that's not coming across that way. So I do think that priesthood authority serves a purpose, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on that.

Elise: [00:32:55] No, I agree. I do think that there is absolutely value in that everyone being on the, on the same page. I also think it's important if we think about priesthood authority, like you do need to have some type of authority to like act on behalf of other people. Like you don't just get to show up and like show up to someone's house and say like, I'm giving you a blessing. Like I do think that there is an important piece of authority that comes when we're acting on behalf of others or trying to like in the temple, like stand in the place for others or something like that, logistically and kind of practically functions, like those are important functions of priesthood authority, for sure.

Channing: [00:33:39] So I think now that we've kind of parsed that out and have talked about the importance and role the authority does play in the priesthood realm I think that the next question that we need to ask ourselves is what qualifies someone to priesthood ordination, or to hold priesthood authority. And does that standard that we have right now makes sense? And I think to answer my own question um, no. The only qualification that you need to be ordained to the Aaronic priested is you have to be 11 years old and you have to be uh, baptized and you have to be following all the commandments that you've been given as your 11 year old self. And you have to be a man. That is the minimum qualification to be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood.

And then when it comes to being ordained to the Melchizedek or priesthood, you have to have met all the qualifications for being ordained to the Aaronic priesthood and then you have to turn 16. And you have to be a man, like that's the bare minimum, right? That's the qualification. There's no, like, like, I, I think that this is the thing that gets to me, like, sure there's not a lot of study. There's not a lot of preparation, but it's also, it's not, it would be something that you feel called to do, right? It's something that every 16 year old male who's been ordained to the Aaronic priesthood, like not only has the opportunity to be ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood, but is also expected to be right. And so it's like kind of these two, like ordinations happen as kind of a rite of passage. And so like all men get to have the opportunity to experience this. No women do.

Elise: [00:35:36] Right and if we think that these young boys like are worthy and have good contributions to make and have a responsibility to like look out for the church and care for its members, like why wouldn't women be included in that space as well? It would be, to me, it's important that authority wise and organizationally and logistically like women's voices are heard, women's experiences and their influences is spread throughout the entire hierarchy of the church. Because I think that we have unique experiences. And I earlier we were talking about how a lot of the charges of the priesthood women already do, but it's more like invisible work, like caring for the sick, um, looking out for one another partaking in the sacrament even. So there are ways that we participate, but it doesn't come with the authority or the like, I don't know. I don't know if I want to say decision-making power, but like active organizational influence maybe.

Channing: [00:36:35] Right. Well, and I think too, like, this is demonstrated really well in it's like the functions that women do serve in the church. Like I think about, um, anyone in the relief society presidency or on the compassionate service committee yeah, I think you're right it just comes back to that like invisible expected and kind of like undervalued and not as respected as the service given by men. Like if we, if we try to equate the relief society president with the Bishop one, it doesn't work because we all know even as much as people try to make it not, we all know that they are equal equally positioned and they don't have equal responsibilities and they aren’t an equal opportunity thing.

And so like someone asked us a little while ago, I don't remember who it was ,if one of the ways that we could achieve the quality in the church is to make sure that the relief society has a president has an office just like the Bishop does. And I'm like, nope, that wouldn't work because the elders quorum president doesn't have an office and technically the relief society president and the elders quorum are each other's counterparts. It's not the relief society president and the Bishop because there is no female counterpart for the Bishop. And I don't even necessarily believe that there needs to be. I just think that women should be able to be bishops too.

Elise: [00:37:58] Yeah. Well, and then I think the topic of keys comes into play too, because I, I have often heard, like when you get, when women get a set apart for their calling callings, they're like given certain keys, are there like given certain organizational/priesthood authority to like oversee the calling. And so I think that would be one of the like pushbacks for our, for our argument of like, well, it seems like it's definitely undervalued and oftentimes invisible workings of the priesthood that women participate in. Because I think that people would, might come back and say like, well, you are given specific keys, but again, like who gives me those keys?

Channing: [00:38:39] And are they really yours? Like, that's my whole thing. Especially as I've been reading a lot from Elizabeth Schuessler Firoenza. And so she talks about how, like, in the body of Christ, we carry all of our identities. So even though you and I are like, one of our identities is Mormon. Simply because we are part of the Mormon church. I think people try to erase the fact that we are also women and we deserve to participate in the community as Mormon women, not just as Mormons. And so I think that there's something particular to be said about holding priesthood keys and holding priesthood authority that's been given to us by a woman because only women know like what our particular social location is in the church.

Only women know what women need to achieve like spiritual oneness with the divine. Only women know what women face, like what challenges women face in the church. And so there's something like particular and meaningful about gathering and practicing and leading as a Mormon woman. And this is the thing that gets me so frustrated about the church is like they go up and down and all around about how important gender is um, when they're trying to exclude anyone who doesn't fit into heteronormative definitions of what gender is like, all of a sudden gender is the most important thing in the entire world, right? Like you are either born male or female, and you can only ever be a man or a woman. And you have to, if you are one of those things, perform your love and sexual attraction in one prescribed way, otherwise you're not doing it right, but the minute that the gender binary and the orientation binary doesn't fit whatever goal they're trying to achieve, all of a sudden your gender doesn't matter, right?

Like, Oh, women, it doesn't matter that you're women because you still get to participate in the priesthood. It's like, no, it's either one or the other and either gender matters so much or it doesn't matter at all. And I think it can be both, but it's a lot more nuanced and like gender matters to each person, right? Like it's important. Like, my womanhood is important to me. Just like somebody else, like their identity as non-binary is important to them and somebody else it's their identity as a man is important to them and like all across the entire spectrum, gender is important. It's part of our identity. And so we either accept people in their wholeness and allow them to participate in their wholeness. Or we get to consider ourselves to be a sexist, homophobic, racist church. Sorry. That is like really critical, but that's how I feel.

Elise: [00:41:52] Those are fantastic points. And it also makes me think about, okay then what function does priesthood as authority serve for men? And then what about for women? And is it different?

Channing: [00:42:05] Right? Um, I think priesthood as authority for men, like kind of what you alluded to it earlier and seeing it as kind of like an exclusive boys only club. And like, I think kind of in a particular way that the priests, the brotherhood of the priesthood serves like a very particular and a very needed function like between men in the church. Like it's this kind of unifying force that kind of gives men a place to belong and purpose within the church structure.

And that's meaningful and I don't actually really want to take that away, but I think that because it is such a potent feeling of belonging and connection with other men that they probably don't get to experience anywhere else that they're probably very protective over it. Not even, probably they are very protective about it. And I think that one of the biggest fears is if that kind of exclusivity in connection, gets taken away, well is viewed as being taken away by being shared with women, that men kind of like lose out on that sense of belonging with, and to each other. You know what I mean?

And so kind of going along with like your brotherhood and friendship point, I think that, um, the exclusivity of priesthood authority is sometimes what men bond over and gives them opportunity to build those friendships. And so that's not a bad thing. And so I almost wish that we could figure out a way that we could still nurture that like sense of love and brotherhood between men while also opening up priesthood authority to women in a more broader sense, you know? 

Elise: [00:43:57] Well, that was going to be my question. Like, it's interesting to think about why, including women feels like a threat or feels like a loss for those who hold the priesthood, as opposed to like, just opening the door wider, opening the community wider. Um, if women and others were able to participate fully in what the church calls the priesthood, I don't think that it would water, like it shouldn't have to water down or take away from a loving brotherhood or like unity or community.

Channing: [00:44:31] So as, as we are kind of talking about moving more into like an imagination of what priesthood authority and ordination and power all of that, what priesthood could look like instead of what it does look like, my question kind of is like, well, first maybe we need to explore like what priesthood power actually is. And then maybe turn outward from like our own limited understanding within the LDS churches, maybe turn outward to other examples of what, like priesthood, like what power and authority look like in other traditions. And maybe that can give us some new ideas. So Elise what are your thoughts on like priesthood power? Because I know that we made that distinction earlier between authority and power, but I'd love to pick your brain on that a little more.

Elise: [00:45:18] I think I've been using, I've just been calling it like God power God's power, like divine power. Um, mostly because I think if we think of priesthood power, then it's equal would be priestesshood power. But I even still don't think that that's the most like wide spread that we could go. So I don't know. I think about it as God's power and having access to that. I feel like that's something that we all have internally, but then I get into the, to the weeds, like, well, how does having access to God's power or calling upon God's power differ from having faith or from having the Holy Ghost with us or from how does it differ from personal revelation?

And maybe that's a poor question to ask, it's what I'm thinking right now is like, maybe that's a poor question to ask because maybe it's not different. Maybe those are all elements of God's power too. And there's probably elements of God's power that we don't know yet or haven't experienced. But I also think in the, like in the Doctrine and Covenants, when it talks about all of the like spiritual gifts, like those things sound like God's power to me too. Like the power of translation, the gift of tongues, like the gift of miracles to bless and heal. Like all of those spiritual gifts sound like God's power to me as well. So I don't know. I think everyone has access to God's power because I think we are divine and I think God is a loving God that wants to share their love and care and power with all of God's children. But what about you when you hear like priesthood power or God's power, what comes to mind for you?

Channing: [00:47:00] I think priesthood and power are actually the same thing. And so, um, I think the only, I think the distinction comes in priesthood authority because that's the authority to exercise power. But priesthood power I think, is really just tapping into that divine essence that lives within all of us. And so like the more in tune we are with our own self, like our own higher self, the more, not the more power we have, because I believe that we all have the same exact amount, like an infinite amount, but the more we're able to access it and the easier we are able to access it. And so I think, yeah, I think that's what priesthood power is. I think it's already equal. I think we all already have it. And I think like it's inherent to who we are like, we always say, like, I am a child of God and if that's true, then divinity already resides within me.

And so, yeah, I think the real, the only distinction that we really need then at that point is who has the authority. Authority means the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. And so like, and then the second definition is a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative sphere. And so I think at that point, like, yeah, it's whose voices are valued, whose presence is respected, who like has the opportunity to use their voice. And it's less about, are you fully capable or able or wanted here, you know what I mean?

Yeah. So as we're kind of parsing out what priesthood power is, what priesthood authority is and what these two things look like in other traditions, something that Elise and I are both passionate about is kind of looking at how other people participate in religion and what other traditions have like equally beautiful, but also different practices of maybe the same ideas. And one of the things that I came across as actually from a more pagan tradition, and this is from a book written by Mat Auryn, and I found the language to be so enlightening, um, about what priesthood looks like in another tradition.

So Mat Auryn says “Priests and priestesses are first and foremost, servants of humanity since every human is divine. Priesthood is a path of service, a priest or priestess guides, directs, and counsels others. They hold the door open to seekers just as the door was opened for them, they hold this space for healing. A priest or priestess helps point others in the right direction without telling them what to do.” And I think that this is a really insightful way to look at potentially not even like the most, best way ever to practice priesthood, but maybe a different option. One that might be able to inform or enlighten the potential practice of priesthood could look like in our tradition.

And I like this quote because one take like learning from other traditions gives us the benefit of not having to like sift through the baggage of what these words mean in our own tradition. Right? Like when we talk about priesthood in an LDS context, it comes with like so much baggage, so much emotional baggage, so much fear, so much like hesitancy that sometimes it's hard to see through all of that to really get at the heart of the issue. But when we look at it from another tradition, they don't have that same baggage and so it's a little bit more simplified and easier to access. At least I that's definitely me speaking for myself.

Elise: [00:50:54] Well, yeah. And like, I'm sure that every tradition has its own baggage, but we have the privilege of looking, we're outsiders looking in um, and so the baggage might feel less heavy.

Channing: [00:51:05] Yeah, exactly. So I thought this was a really insightful way of looking at priesthood and I do think it aligns well with like, um, our current theology around the priesthood. That priesthood is a path of service that, um, priesthood is about um, direction and guidance, but not necessarily dominance or, um, like an authority to other people's personal power. And so I, I just loved this quote, even though it comes from a tradition different from ours. I think that it has a lot to offer for our imaginative retelling of what priesthood could look like.

Elise: [00:51:47] Right. Right. That brings up things for me like, okay if priests and priestesses or priesthood and priestesshood like feels like service and guidance and counsel, then does it also feel like discipleship, and healing work and, um, community gathering. Like those are other words that I find really enriching when we think about God's power and priesthood.

Channing: [00:52:13] Right. And I love all of those words that you used because women can participate in these things and women already do participate in those things. Women are already disciples, they're already healers, they already like engage in the practice of faith. And so to me, and I would venture to say to you, the exclusion of women from priesthood authority doesn't make sense, given the context that we've seen it in, in the text today.

Elise: [00:52:44] I think one final question, and I don't necessarily think we have to answer it, especially because we will be talking about priesthood many times this, this year, but from the Feminist Mormon Housewives, I was reading an article and one of the questions that they had written was “Is the church's exclusion of women in the priesthood and church wide leadership roles, a result of our church leaders’ cultural backgrounds and mortal minds? Or is all of this actually what God wants?”

Those are big questions to grapple with. I'm sure if you've made it this far on the podcast, you probably already know what we think that this actually isn't what God wants, but this is just kind of a, um, we are, I think in, Beyond the Block's podcast, a couple of weeks ago, they had asked like, or they had mentioned that leaders are limited by the questions they're ready to ask um, and I think that's one element that comes into play here.

Channing: [00:53:38] Yeah, I would agree. So as you go through this week and are, you know, spending the 10 minutes that it's going to take to read all of the sections for this week's reading to, um, spend the time that you would normally spend reading longer chapters, maybe sitting with some of these questions and, um, exploring them and feeling them out within your own self and having these, like asking these questions to your friends, to the people that you trust, to those people that you can have a conversation like the one Elise and I just had.

And so we really love that we got to have this conversation that we were able to do something a little different than what we've done before. We hope that it offered you some value, some insights, some new ideas and new inspiration. And maybe even if you don't agree, maybe that offers you like your own insight. It's okay to disagree and not come to the same conclusions as us, but I hope that was still equally helpful, um, for you and no matter what way it was received.

So we love you. We hope you have the best week ever. And we'll talk to you soon. Bye.
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