In our next conversation with Dr. Jonathan Stapley, we’ll talk about the Mormon idea of a priestess. Of course, that inevitably leads to a discussion of the Ordain Women movement. Would it be acceptable to Ordain Women if women could heal by laying on of hands, or do they want ecclesiastical authority?
GT: The scriptures talk a little bit about a priestess. Could you see an office of a priestess or if women became ordained, or would they still just be a priest?
Jonathan: Let me take a step back and frame that within the context of my book, what I would argue. The term priestess is a function of what I call the cosmological priesthood of the temple. Look, I don’t follow the theological assertions of, for example, the Ordain Women movement. So, I don’t feel like I can fairly characterize what they’re asserting. But my sense is that they are asserting for an ecclesiastical parity.
GT: That would be my hunch as well.
Jonathan: And so I would argue that even though they might be referencing or they might point to evidence of the cosmological priesthood in the past, they would be pointing to that and making assertions about ecclesiastical priesthood bureaucracy at the present. And so, I think that it’s important to carry, anytime that we’re talking about the past and in the LDS tradition and the relation between women and the priesthood, we have to make those important distinctions between ecclesiastical and kind of temple cosmological priesthood dynamics. And so, that being the case, I think there are lots of ways within the Mormon tradition that is faithful to the revelations and our historical development that can involve women more prominently in our ecclesiology and our liturgy than is currently present. I think that’s a non-controversial statement to make.
GT: If, say in October General Conference, President Nelson got up and said, you know, we’ve studied a Jonathan Stapley’s work. We looked back at these ritual healings that women used to do. We’re bringing that back. Do you think that would be good enough for people like were the Ordain Women movement?
What do you think? Check out Jonathan’s answer, as well as the rest of our conversation on the best source for Mormon history, science, and theology…. (And don’t forget to check out part 1 and part 2!)