The Gospel Topics essay on women and priesthood references a 2014 talk by Elder Dallin Oaks. Dr. Jonathan Stapley said this talk was groundbreaking by saying that women in the LDS Church exercise priesthood power as they perform their callings. Does Dr. Margaret Toscano agree with that interpretation?
Margaret: First of all, the idea that Dallin Oaks emphasizes that– and I’ll quote my own essay here–he emphasizes that “the authority women have is only delegated authority deriving from the priesthood authority of male leaders, and that such delegated priesthood authority has a limited scope, only relating to women’s church callings while they serve in them.” Now, in a way, you could say that same thing holds true for men. But the idea is that [the power] it’s not in you. I think the endowment and Joseph Smith [contradict that]; he was interested in that priesthood power being internal. Now again, yes, you have to have delegated authority in order to serve in an office. You can’t call yourself. I’ve never argued that you should, or that you should ordain yourself or call yourself or anything else, because there has to be a structure of the Church. But I think it’s important that he [Oaks] says, “It’s only delegated authority.” So it comes from male leaders, whereas I think the power of priesthood comes from God, Himself, that the ordinance symbolizes that. So that’s one thing where I don’t see it as groundbreaking. But again, I think it’s really important.
Margaret: The other thing is that that the Church–they still want to make this really strong distinction between only men have keys, only men have offices. Only men have these outward signs. Women can have authority and power, but they cannot have keys, they cannot have anything else. I think it’s really interesting. The term “keys” is one of the things that the Church essay discusses. So, Joseph Smith said to the women in Nauvoo. He said, “I turn the key to you. I turn the key to you.” I don’t have the full quote with me right now. I could dig it up. But I won’t take the time. “I turn [it],” he said, “to you.” “I turn the key to you.” And “better times are ahead for you women, that you’re now going to enjoy blessings you haven’t before because I turn the key to you.” Interestingly, in 1908, when B. H. Roberts was editing the History of the Church, he changed that phrase, “I turn the key to you.” He changed it to, “I turn the key on your behalf.”
Margaret: It’s just one little preposition, right? Who cares? But it’s really important. Because I think when Joseph Smith said, and I think I mentioned this before in our other interview, and I actually could dig up the picture here. There was a 1936 Relief Society picture where you have Joseph Smith giving the key. He’s giving the key [to women]. It’s right over there. I could dig this up. He’s giving the key to women. Why did B. H. Roberts change that? Actually, they had been arguing about this before. We think George A. Smith, in the 1850s may have started that, because it says, one is, again, delegated. Okay, I turn the key in your behalf. That’s kind of like Dallin Oaks’ statement, “I turn it in your behalf. But I’m the one that has it.” Because the keys are only in males. Whereas Joseph Smith is saying, “I give you the key. You women can open the doors for yourself now.” I think that’s very significant. It’s interesting that B. H. Roberts also changed another phrase.
Did Joseph give the Relief Society keys? Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous conversations with Dr. Toscano.