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Joseph’s Statements on Women & Priesthood (Part 3 of 9)

In a previous interview with Dr. Jonathan Stapley, he stated that when early Mormon women healed, it wasn’t through Priesthood.  Dr. Margaret Toscano disagrees with Jonathan’s position.

Margaret:  I think that there’s quite a bit of evidence to show that. Again, I think that the big difference [between Jonathan and me is how we connect God’s power with priesthood power]. And it’s funny. I said this in my 1984 essay [that Joseph’s view of priesthood is different than how the Church views it today]. I think today in the Church, when we talk about [that] it’s the power of God, we think about the organization. It’s the power of God, where you can have an office in the Church or have a calling in the Church or whatever. But we don’t see it as–and even though, obviously, we acknowledge that you have to have spiritual power– I don’t think we see it as this necessary power that is part of the process of sanctification. The more I studied Joseph Smith’s statements about priesthood, I became convinced that for him, priesthood was kind of this series of ordinances, and that the ordinances are both a conduit to connecting to spiritual power, but they’re also an outward expression of what should be happening in the interior for us. So, I mean, even if you think about the whole idea of the power of godliness, it’s the power to make you godly. I think that’s partly what it means. So, we kind of focus on the church ecclesiastical function.

Margaret:  I think Joseph Smith was more concerned with the spiritual cosmological aspect of it. So even though Joseph Smith didn’t use the term cosmological, he used, again, the fullness of the Melchizedek [priesthood], the priesthood of Elijah, the Messianic priesthood.  Those were terms that Joseph Smith used, and he connects that. He used the term the fullness of the priesthood. You have this full power of the priesthood to bring you into the presence of God, which, of course, the temple does symbolically. It represents that journey of the soul from the pre-mortal world to go back to God. I see the endowment of priesthood as being part of that.

Margaret:  I want to say one more thing about this, I think for Joseph Smith, he saw the fullness of the priesthood as residing in individuals, that when you are given priesthood, God plants his power in you. Whereas, I think in the Church, we think of priesthood as the power residing in the institution. Then the institution can grant you power to act within the Church structure. But I think Joseph Smith saw priesthood, it was an endowment of power. It’s called an endowment. You’re endowed with power, and it’s internal. Now, obviously, you cannot act. You can’t ordain yourself to be an elder or you can’t say, “No, I’m really called to be the bishop.” But again, that’s an ecclesiastical thing. But I think from Joseph Smith’s perspective, that that spiritual power was the center, and that was the most important part of it.

GT:  Well, that’s interesting, because I think the issue, especially when I was talking with Jonathan, but I think with the essay as well is, in modern times, we have kind of conflated priesthood with priesthood office. I know Jonathan’s point, and I think the essay’s point, too, as well is, women were not ordained teachers, priests, deacons, elders, high priests, etc. I think everybody can get on board with that. The problem is, this definition of priesthood–today we equate priesthood with priesthood office. But that’s not necessarily how Joseph viewed priesthood.

Margaret:  No, I don’t think he did.

GT:  When we say that women have priesthood, or even Joseph Smith, when women have priesthood via the endowment, or even you said earlier, baptism, which kind of surprised me when you said that. That use of the word is completely separate from priesthood office. So, is that the issue? Is [the issue] that modern people equate priesthood with priesthood office rather than spiritual power? I mean, is that a way to view this issue?

Margaret:  Well, I think that that’s part of the problem. But I think it’s more complicated than that in the sense that, again, if you go back to these women, Eliza Snow, Bathsheba Smith, Sarah Kimball–people called Eliza Snow, a High Priestess–I think that those women really did think that the Relief Society, which was a Church organization, it’s not as though they saw it as a separate organization, or it wasn’t part of the Church. But I think that they saw their roles in the Relief Society as a kind of church function. Now, again, that didn’t make them Elders in the Church, right? So that’s one issue. I do think that in those 19th century women, [they] saw more of an overlap than we ever would.

What are your thoughts?  Check out our conversation….

Margaret Toscano analyzes Joseph statements to the Relief Society concerning priesthood power.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Dr. Toscano.

545: Critiqing Women & Priesthood Essay

544:  Strengths of Women & Priesthood Essay

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