What Priesthood Power Do Women Have?
Why Do We Have the Priesthood?
Imagine that a beautiful temple has been planned. The blueprints are finished and the supplies for framing, laying stone, plumbing, and installing electricity are all ready to go. But who will actually build the temple? And how? Where will you begin?
This is how Heavenly Father’s plan might look from the outside. All of the pieces of the gospel would be available to God’s children, but how could they take those materials to build up the ultimate structure: an eternal family?
This is one of the many reasons God has blessed His children by sharing His priesthood power. Because that priesthood power would be used to build up eternal families all over the world.
Let’s take a look.
2 Meanings of "Priesthood"
To begin with, it’s important to understand that the word “priesthood” has two definitions:
First, priesthood is God’s ETERNAL power and authority.
Second, priesthood is man’s mortal and TEMPORARY access to use that power and authority in building God’s kingdom.
That temporary access to God’s power is what we know as the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods, and the purpose of these priesthoods is to help build the structure of eternal families.
Author Jan Francisco explained it this way:
“. . . The scaffolding is the administrative arm of the Priesthood. It’s the callings, the Church administration, Bishops and Deacons, ordinances and church buildings. All of these exist to support and build up the family. . . [and] serve to lead us to the temple. . . The administrative priesthood in the church is essential to move the work along in our lives, but it is not an end unto itself. The callings and responsibilities move from person to person, releases happen often, and the title the men hold as “President”, “Bishop” or “Elder” is temporary. The titles of Father and Mother, however, last forever.”
Building Eternal Families
So while an eternal family– or in our analogy the temple— is being built, it is surrounded by a temporary scaffolding of administrative priesthood power. The deacons haul the water under the watchful eye of an adult, while the Relief Society presidency helps design the entrance hall. The bishop coordinates first aid to anyone who gets injured, while the Apostles call out instructions and encouragement as they hold the blueprints. The prophet oversees the entire project, handing out responsibilities, and making sure everything is being built beautifully and according to code.
This building process will take a long time, but it will eventually end. Over the years the workmen and women will change. The blueprints may have slight modifications and new ideas may be shared among the workers. But eventually, when the building is finally finished, the scaffolding will come down. It is not permanent. What is permanent is the structure of the family that the administrative priesthood has helped to build: the patriarchal order of the priesthood we find in eternal families.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “There may be wards and stakes in heaven, but I don’t know anything about them. I’ve never heard any reference to any such unit. The only things that we know for a governing principle. . . in heaven are families. That’s all we’ve been taught and so far as I know it’s all that’s there. That’s why we have temples. We unite people in temples family to family to family and someday, somewhere have this entire family together under the Fatherhood of God.”
That is what God’s priesthood power on earth is intended to do: to build up the eternal family structure.
So while men are the ones called to preside over the temporary ADMINISTRATIVE arm of the priesthood, the eternal FAMILIAL (or patriarchal) ARM of the priesthood requires the union of WOMEN with MEN in eternal families. . . and that structure will never end.
Why Only Men?
But what about right now? Is it unfair that men seem to be the ones in charge of overseeing the building process?
Well, there are three important things to remember:
- God has not explained why things are run this way and asks us to trust His plan in faith. But it’s important to remember that those who hold priesthood offices are commanded by God to use His power to bless others, not themselves. God’s priesthood power cannot be used for personal gain– it is always used to spread blessings outwards.
- Women may not be the ones who are presiding over the entire building project (aka the ones who hold priesthood keys and offices), but they DO have priesthood power. As women help build up eternal family structures they are invited to enter God’s temple where they– right along with the men– receive a gift of priesthood power. But what is this power? Sister Sheri Dew said, “It means that we can receive revelation, be blessed and aided by the ministering of angels, learn to part the veil that separates us from our Heavenly Father, be strengthened to resist temptation, be protected, and be enlightened, and made smarter than we are— all without any mortal intermediary.” So do women hold temporary priesthood keys and offices? No. But they DO have access to eternal priesthood power through temple ordinances.
- Similarly, when a woman receives an official calling to work on a particular area of the building project she is given priesthood authority over that part of the project. If she is made responsible for designing beautiful stained glass windows, she has priesthood authority to do so, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?”
So while women don’t hold offices in the temporary administrative arm of the priesthood they do have access to both priesthood power and priesthood authority. And in the eternal scheme of things, after the scaffolding has been removed, they will rule together with their husbands in a celestial family government that never ends.