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Elder Oaks Groundbreaking Address on Women & Priesthood (Part 4)

In April 2014, Elder Oaks gave a sermon on women and priesthood.  Dr. Jonathan Stapley said this was no ordinary talk.  He called it theologically groundbreaking!  I was a bit surprised how revolutionary Stapley felt the sermon was.  It seemed to me to be a response to the Ordain Women movement which was asking for women to be allowed to attend the priesthood session of General Conference.  I saw the address under a different light than Jonathan.

GT:  I remember just thinking, “Oh, this is just to placate the Kate Kelly people and to say, ‘Women, you’ve already got priesthood.  You just didn’t know it yet.’”  But you’re saying this is a theological change.

Jonathan:  When Elder Oaks delivered that sermon, I was looking around like, does anyone else [recognize this?]  This is mind-blowing.  I couldn’t believe it. And everyone else was just like, “Oh yeah, this is just Elder Oaks.”  Revolutions happen sometimes a very subtly apparently.

Jonathan: It’s certainly a linguistic shift and language frames our reality. So, it is certainly, for example, an interesting piece from Elder Oaks’ sermon was he was quoting in many parts from a sermon that Joseph Fielding Smith gave to the Relief Society in a general Relief Society meeting.  And in this meeting Joseph Fielding was as I remember, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve at the time, discussed women’s authority in the church and how they were heirs to a great heritage, but also heirs to authority and their capacity of the work in the Relief society and the temple. But he was quick to say, you have authority to do this work. You have authority in the temple, but authority is not the same thing as priesthood.

Jonathan: And Elder Oaks takes this sermon he talks about, he quotes Joseph Fielding Smith, how women have this great authority in the church and this great heritage. And then he stops and says, what else can this authority be except priesthood? Right? So, it’s this really wonderful kind of re-imagining of what these terms mean. At the same time, reaching to our past to grab hold of our past and make sure we’re still connected, but also in very interesting and creative ways, refashioning it in a way that makes more sense for the present.

Do you think Oaks talk was groundbreaking?  Let me know!  Check out our other conversations on women healers, Ordain Women, and click the video below to learn more about this conversation….

Elder Dallin Oaks gave a revolutionary sermon in April 2014 on women & priesthood.
Elder Dallin Oaks gave a revolutionary sermon in April 2014 on women & priesthood.
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The Mormon Priestess and Ordain Women (Part 3)

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!

If the LDS Church ordained women, would they be priests or priestesses?
If the LDS Church ordained women, would they be priests or priestesses?