LDS Priesthood encompasses both spiritual and ecclesiastical aspects. Dr. Margaret Toscano compares and contrasts her position on female priesthood with that of Dr. Jonathan Stapley. Where are they similar and where do they converge?
Margaret: Both Jonathan and I say, yes, if you look at 19th century views on the priesthood, not just women in priesthood, but even the larger issue of priesthood, I think we agree on two things. The 19th century did view it differently than we do now. They had a different view. I think both Jonathan and I really like to focus on the spiritual dimension of priesthood, the notion of how people use the priesthood in kind of a private way. Jonathan emphasizes that a lot with looking at blessing rituals, and so forth. Those are the two areas where we agree that current views are different. Maybe the way I could say that is that I think that when people think of the priesthood in the Church now, they think of it as the priesthood offices that men hold, and then their callings, how they function within the church ecclesiastical structure. Most people think of the priesthood in those terms. So, even if you think of that definition that’s used in the Church of what is the priesthood? It’s the power of God. Right? I think all of us have heard of that.
Where we disagree, and maybe it comes from a different focus, is that I think that if you look at Jonathan’s book, he uses a lot of documents from the 19th century Utah period, to look at how did people think and use priesthood in the 19th century, again, not so much in the ecclesiastical sense, but kind of on a private level? So, that’s his focus.
Mine, the focus I’ve always had, is looking at Joseph Smith, and looking at everything that Joseph Smith said and did, and asking, “How did Joseph Smith view the priesthood?” My work really does focus on Joseph Smith’s views on priesthood. In that sense, I believe that Joseph Smith, and here we’re going from kind of just general how he saw priesthood in general to how he saw it with women. I feel like Joseph Smith’s statements and actions mean that he felt that women not only were they supposed to have priesthood, which he began to give them, but also that he felt like that there was a Church function with that. Because of the priesthood that they received through the endowment, that they had various functions that they can perform within the Church. I think Joseph Smith felt like that the Relief Society was supposed to be women’s priesthood organization. So, that’s really where Jonathan and I very much disagree. He sees the idea that, “Yeah, they had the spiritual authority and power, but it didn’t give them any justification for functioning within the Church structure.” I think that’s the big difference. I think there are ways in which he and I overlap in the way we look at it, but I think that’s the kind of central difference.
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