Repost of “The Mormon Priestess”


The following post is simply reposted to the LDS Anarchy blog from Feminist Mormon Housewives [originally authored by Elisothel].

*note*It has been reblogged onto this site with permission from the author

The original source = The Mormon Priestess

[use “MormonPriestess” as the password]. 

In my opinion, the author’s expositions are based on suppositions that I do not share.  In other words, I don’t think she is pointing out sufficiently interesting doctrinal points or where she is pointing out interesting points, the conclusion she draws from them are not sound.  So this post is now here so that anyone who is interested may pick it apart according to whatever standards they hold, without the kind of censor one would get from fMh.

The rituals and liturgy of the LDS temple reflect a very consistent internal logic of gender theology.  This essay is my attempt to outline that internal logic, especially with an eye toward the temple ceremony’s messages to women about their identity and spiritual condition.

Women operate as priestesses to God in temple initiatory rituals, which were also used as the template for female-conducted healing and blessing rituals in the early restored church.  Just as the inititiatory ritual blesses parts of the body, pioneer priestesses blessed the body parts of the expectant mother, and healed the body parts of the ill.  Women also operate as priestesses to God when administering in the True Order of Prayer at an altar in the temple.

I suspect that women may start to see themselves more as priesthood actors, which is a wonderful thing.  Elder Oaks explained temple priestesshood as being Melchizedek priesthood power that women utilize under the keys of the temple president.  If only men hold keys and offices, but both men and women can use priesthood power, it is possible that, should the leaders decide it,  women’s exercise of their power in the church could recapture the female priestess practices of the early Restoration era, and perhaps even extend to other areas.

This model of women using priesthood is compelling, and I am so grateful that women and men will be able to speak of it openly going forward, but it is overshadowed by another narrative. The word priestess is actually part of the formal, liturgical temple vocabulary, but it does not denote a woman who is using godly power under the direction of a temple president.  In the temple, woman are promised that they will become “Priestesses unto their Husbands.” Women pledge spiritual allegiance to a husband who will someday be exalted as a god like Heavenly Father, whereupon the wife’s power, her priesthood, will come through the exalted husband.  In this model, the woman is eternally dependent on her husband for a connection to God the Father.

Priestesshood In the Female Initiatory: Priestesses to Elohim and to Husband

The initiatory process undertakes a symbolic cleansing, annointing, and dressing of the body.  Since the initiatory is body-centric, and since men and women have different bodies, male temple workers administer only to men, and female temple workers must administer to women.

The washing is reminiscent of baptism, absolving the initiate of sin and promising purification.  The body is then anointed to receive future blessings.  A symbolic adornment of ritual clothing called the “garment of the holy priesthood” is performed, and the clothing declared “authorized”.  Female temple workers declare authority to enact the initiatory rituals:

“Sister _______, having authority, I wash you preparatory to your receiving your anointings, and whereas you have obeyed the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a true and honest heart, and have been faithful in keeping your covenants, your sins are forgiven and you are clean every whit.”

“Sister _________, having authority, I pour this holy anointing oil upon your head [for and in behalf of _________, who is dead] and anoint you preparatory to your becoming a queen and a priestess unto your husband, hereafter to rule and reign with him in the house of Israel forever.”  

“Sister_______, having authority, I place this garment upon you, which you must wear throughout your life.  It represents the garment given to Adam when he was found naked in the garden of Eden and is called the garment of the holy priesthood.”

(Since 2005, the wording has changed to “under proper authority the garment placed upon you is now authorized and is to be worn throughout your life…”  This wording reflects the new practice of initiates already wearing the garment instead of it being presented to them. The wording “under proper authority” is also used by the men when they perform this ceremony.)

The garment each patron is given is a piece of ritual priesthood clothing.  This priesthood raiment is further developed through the endowment ritual in the shoes, robes, headwear, and other accouterments for both men and women.  Women are clothed in priesthood robes “preparatory to officiating in the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood.”

Certainly, a female temple worker administering initiatories is administering ordinances….however, though the female temple worker is acting as a priestess for God when administering the ordinances, she declares that each patron’s destiny is to become  a priestess not to God, but to her husband.

Priestesshood In the Endowment

The temple ceremonies mention priestesshood only three times.  As discussed above, in the initiatory ordinance a woman is anointed to become “a priestess unto your husband.”  The endowment ritual commences with introductory wording that bridges the initiatory ordinance with the upcoming endowment:

“Brethren, you have been washed and pronounced clean, or that through your faithfulness you may become clean, from the blood and sins of this generation. You have been anointed to become hereafter kings and priests unto the most high God, to rule and reign in the house of Israel forever. Sisters, you have been washed and anointed to become hereafter queens and priestesses to your husbands. Brethren and sisters, if you are true and faithful, the day will come when you will be chosen, called up, and anointed kings and queens, priests and priestesses, whereas you are now anointed only to become such. The realization of these blessings depends upon your faithfulness.”

Modern Mormon women are not instructed on the meaning of the label “priestess unto your husband” or “queens” beyond their own personal interpretation.  No official definition is offered in modern General Conference talks, Church manuals, Relief Society classes, or official proclamations, nor is there any formal instruction for women to understand how to use their priesthood power, unless they are called as a temple worker.

The only venue that DOES explain “priestess unto your husband” is the temple itself. The meaning of the phrase is communicated over and over again in the temple rites, and we often miss it because both men and women see what they want to see – that they are all participating in the endowment ritual from Adam’s perspective.   Women are used to this.  We do, after all, largely use the language of male spirituality at church and as a community (we are to “become like Heavenly Father” even though this is literally impossible for a woman).  It is no wonder that women often seem to interpret their temple journey as a parallel version of Adam’s journey, with expectations of parallel blessings and spiritual status.

The Law of Obedience

Usually when Mormons discuss the status of women in the temple, they focus on the Law of Obedience. Before the changes to the temple ceremony in 1990, Eve said the following:

“Adam, I now covenant to obey your law as you obey our Father.”

And the female participants in the ceremony were instructed:

We will put the sisters under covenant to obey the law of their husbands.“You and each of you solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will each observe and keep the law of your husband and abide by his counsel in righteousness.”

After the changes to the temple ceremony introduced in 1990, Eve said:

Adam, I now covenant to obey the law of the Lord, and to hearken to your counsel as you hearken unto Father.

And the female participants in the ceremony were instructed:

We will put each sister under covenant to obey the law of the Lord, and to hearken to the counsel of her husband, as her husband hearkens unto the counsel of the Father. You and each of you solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will each observe and keep the law of the Lord, and hearken to the counsel of your husband as he hearkens to the counsel of the Father.

This change of “obey” to “hearken”, and the omitting of “your (the husband’s) law in the Lord” to “law of the Lord” were considered the significant changes that possibly reflected a more equitable position of women in the gospel.

However, regardless of the nature of the verb in this vow, the relationship between Adam and Eve was completely unaltered:  in both cases Eve covenants to Adam, and not to God.  Both Adam and Eve refer to Elohim as “Father” before they are called to covenant, but when called to covenant, Adam says his covenant to “Elohim”.  Nowhere in the temple endowment does Eve say God’s name (though she does say Lucifer’s name), including when she covenants.  The single time she portrays a covenant relationship, she utters Adam’s name.

The Two Endowments

The old version of the endowment contained the following paragraph, which has been removed from the current transcript:

ELOHIM: Eve, because thou hast hearkened to the voice of Satan, and hast partaken of the forbidden fruit, and given unto Adam, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; nevertheless, thou mayest be preserved in childbearing. Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee in righteousness.

This paragraph establishes the curse of Eve as an eternal God-Man-Woman hierarchy.  Though the above quote was omitted from the current version of the endowment, this hierarchy is repeated and made clear in the Law Of Obedience, where God instructs how Eve is to obtain her salvation:

Inasmuch as Eve was the first to eat of the forbidden fruit, if she will covenant that from this time forth she will obey the law of the Lord and will hearken unto your counsel as you hearken unto mine, and if you will covenant that from this time forth you will obey the law of Elohim, we will give unto you the law of obedience and sacrifice, and we will provide a Savior for you, whereby you may come back into our presence and with us partake of eternal life and exaltation.

EVE: Adam, I now covenant to obey the law of the Lord, and to hearken to your counsel as you hearken unto Father.

ADAM: Elohim, I now covenant with thee that from this time forth I will obey thy law and keep thy commandments.

God stipulates that if Eve covenants with Adam, and Adam covenants with God, then a savior will be provided for them.  That is, Adam and Eve’s redemption is contingent upon the pattern established in this exchange, wherein Eve covenants to Adam and Adam covenants to God.

This moment creates a pattern that is binding on the remainder of the ceremony.  It is the only moment where the Adam and Eve actors speak their covenants. Once Adam’s covenant to Elohim is spoken, the patrons become participants instead of observers when, immediately following the actors’ exchange of covenants, the audience makes three successive covenants for themselves: the Law of Obedience (to mimic Adam and Eve), the Law of Sacrifice, and the covenant not to reveal the first token, name, and sign.  As soon as the patrons mimic the law of obedience, they take the place of Adam and Eve for the rest of the ceremony and are represented by a witness couple at the altar.

The moment the patron makes the Covenant of Obedience, that person declares his/her God.  The One that a person ultimately obeys is the One the person ultimately worships.  Adam declares Elohim, but Eve declares Adam because Elohim told her that her salvation depended on her doing so.  At no time in the temple does Eve explicitly covenant to Elohim.  Adam is established as her master.  I posit this is true for every covenant Eve makes.

A female temple patron usually understands that she goes to the temple to make covenants with God (again, we adopt the language of the male spiritual experience), but she does not.  Female patrons make covenants to the future exalted husband.  Her future exalted husband will replace her Father as her god.  This transaction starts with the husband learning the wife’s name (a symbol of stewardship, like Adam naming Eve),  continues through the husband/wife ceremony at the veil, reaches into the sealing ceremony where the wife gives herself to the husband and the husband receives her (but does not give himself), and will progress through every successive covenant they make (second anointing, god resurrecting a man but husband resurrecting the wife, etc).

During the endowment, every covenant made after the Law of Obedience follows this wording:

“You and each of you solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will each observe and keep/observe the law of (obedience/sacrifice/the gospel/chastity/consecration)…”

or:

“I, _______, covenant before God, angels, and these witnesses, that I will never reveal the (first/second) token of the (Aaronic/Melchizedek) priesthood, with its accompanying name and sign.”

In both phrasings for all remaining covenants, patrons covenant before witnesses, but the phrasing does not say to whom.  The whom is established with the first covenant: Elohim receives covenants for Adam, Adam receives them for Eve.  As the ceremony continues, Adam will administer ordinances  to Eve, not just receive her covenants, mimicking how God is administering to Adam.

We don’t readily see this because in the physical space of our view, the witness couple representing Adam and Eve are at the same altar with Elohim presiding, so it looks like both the man and woman covenant to Him and receive from Him.  However, the male proxy for Elohim only gives tokens to Adam. Also, in modern temples, it is temple workers who administer tokens to patrons so when a female temple worker gives tokens the relationship is not obvious.  But in a live session, Elohim gives tokens to Adam over the altar, Adam gives them to Eve, then Adam and Eve give them to the patrons.  All tokens women get are through their husbands, not from God.

This hierarchy of tokens is reinforced in the ceremony at the veil where Elohim accepts the husband’s tokens as his Lord, and the husband accepts the wife’s tokens as her Lord.

Two different endowments are going on, as if there are two different temples in the same room – one for men and one for women – where each individual views not just his/her own endowment, but also the parallel but distinctly different endowment of the opposite sex.  The endowment creates two individuals of different spiritual status, and acts out the relationship between the two in the veil ceremony, names, tokens, and marriage rites.

Woman, therefore, cannot have priesthood in this mortal life, because God only administers to men.  A woman’s power comes not from God the Father but instead directly through the husbandgod’s exaltation.  In mortality, the husband is not yet divine, so the woman is not yet a priestess.  Once he is exalted (calling and election made sure, which can happen after death or during the second anointing), the woman inherits her priestesshood and she can administer to her husbandgod with power.

The Two Exaltations

The dual-endowment insight suggests two different exaltations. If a woman’s deity is her husband, and she provides his eternal increase (children), and she is his priestess, this means she is not, herself, a deity. A priest and a deity have a specific relationship – one worships the other. The deity loves and upholds covenants to the priest, but the priest is not the deity’s peer.

Even when a Mormon man, who is a priest to Elohim, is exalted, this does not make him the peer to Elohim.  Elohim remains the exalted man’s god, or his Patriarch, forever.  An exalted man remains a priest to Elohim and worships Him. Every increase the exalted man gains is also an increase to Elohim, so man will never catch up to or surpass Elohim – Elohim is that man’s god forever.  Mormonism proclaims that as sons of God all men can also become gods, and this implies there are many gods…but a man does not worship them all, just the god who covenants with and exalts him.

If a woman could be  priestess unto God, she could be exalted by Elohim and unto Elohim, and become a goddess.  But she is a priestess to her husband in her afterlife, not to Elohim. Ultimately therefore, I believe the temple establishes that it is the man who has the direct access to Godly power and apotheosis, and woman has as her promise access to her husbandgod’s power (priestesshood) but NOT, under this definition, access to apotheosis.  She shall be exalted but not become a goddess.  Thus we do not worship her, pray to her, or entreat her for favor.  She is not a source of divine power to the human family, but a source of power to her divine husband.  She is a “Mother in Heaven” but not a “Heavenly Mother.”  The man alone will become a Heavenly Father, a deity, and a deity can have many, many priests (sons) and priestesses (wives).

Church leaders seem divided on the issue of whether or not women are exalted into goddesshood.  Joseph Smith may have believed they were, as is reflected in D&C 132:20:

“Then shall be gods, because they have no end;  therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them.  Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”  (The “they” refers to a married couple, as established in verse 19.)

When Bruce R. McConkie interpreted this scripture to mean that women would be goddesses in his famous book Mormon Doctrine, Marion G. Romney – who was appointed By President McKay to identify errors in the book – listed “women to be gods” as one of those errors.

Certainly there are many women these days who believe that female exaltation means goddesshood – but few believe that a goddess is to be prayed to, worshiped, considered a source of scripture or priestesshood, or to operate in most other capacities reflective of the Mormon idea of “godhood.”  President Hinckley expressly forbade praying to Heavenly Mother in his famous 60 Minutes broadcast.  So what is the Mormon notion of female exaltation?  This is still a question.  Our most developed doctrine of female afterlife remains polygamy.

Nor does the temple shed much light on the nature of eternal womanhood.  Often women are told that men have priesthood and women have motherhood.  Elder’s Oak’s talk alluded to the power of creating life as something only women can do.  However, the power to create life depends on a mother and a father (indeed, this is the basis for the Church’s arguments against gay marriage), so men are also endowed with the power to create life.  To complicate things, in the temple, the creative triad of Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael create life without women being present at all.  Elohim and Jehovah create Michael, not Elohim and a Mother in Heaven.  If motherhood/creation is a woman’s endowment of power, where is that exercised in the primal account of creation?  It is not mentioned.  Not only that, but Elohim and Jehovah also create Eve.  And they create Eve FROM Adam.  No woman was used to create man, or woman, and in fact according to the account, woman was created FROM, BY and FOR man.  Priesthood, it seems, can create life without a female input, so how am I supposed to take the argument that motherhood is a compliment to priesthood seriously?  If indeed, a mother were instrumental in the creation of Adam and Eve, why isn’t she shown in the temple?  Would she be a goddess if she were?

Some may suggest that men and women partake of the endowment together so that each knows their place in the relationship.  The woman can know that her priestesshood to husbandgod will follow the pattern of her husband’s priesthood to Fathergod.  With this knowledge she can assist her husband (as his helpmeet) to his godhood whereby she will inherit his power as his priestess. To be the husbandgod’s priestess, I believe, means to provide progeny (eternal increase). Consider again the paragraph omitted from the pre-1990 ceremony:

“ELOHIM: Eve, because thou hast hearkened to the voice of Satan, and hast partaken of the forbidden fruit, and given unto Adam, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; nevertheless, thou mayest be preserved in childbearing. Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee in righteousness.”

To be “preserved in childbearing” is often interpreted to mean that a woman’s mortal life will not be lost during the childbirth process.  However, women do die in childbirth, and there are many women/girls who never experience giving birth at all.  If this statement by God were to apply to every women, it would have to be talking about birth/childbearing in an eternal sense – the begetting of spirit children with her exalted husband.  If we interpret the above paragraph to be discussing woman’s childbearing of spirits, then “thou mayest be preserved in childbearing” is talking about how childbearing preserves a woman’s own eternal (not mortal) life.  That is, her access to salvation/preservation, despite her curse of spiritual death (eternal separation from God), is to bear children for her husbandgod.

She disobeyed God the Father, and fell from Him, so to ensure her access to salvation, God provided woman a husbandgod, with whom she can also be a creator.  She is a creator (mother), and a kindombuilder (queen), but she does not wield ultimate authority (goddesshood) over those creations.  Her authority is limited to her ability to directly administer power under her husband.  Hence we continue to learn that the man “presides” because ultimately that is the order of things.

In this model the family is central to the gospel because the family is the kingdom that each couple seeks to build in their exaltation.  Eve’s fall (spiritual death and subsequent disqualification for priesthood) is healed not through Jesus, but through her husband’s exaltation because he is the pathway to God the Father and thus the pathway to overcome spiritual death/separation from God.

Because of Jesus and the atonement woman can be resurrected (live forever) and sanctified (cleansed from sin), but it is through the husband that she is exalted (receives power and eternal increase).  It is little wonder that wifehood and motherhood are women’s highest identities, roles, and attainments in Mormonism, since according to the temple they are the bases of female salvation.

The Two Falls (Adam’s Fall, Eve’s Curse)

In the temple version of the Garden of Eden account, the primary Fall that takes place is Eve’s while Adam remains in good standing with God.  Eve retains a curse – not to suffer during the childbirth process – but to be demoted away from direct access to God the Father, a condition that Mormons define as “spiritual death”.  The temple teaches that Eve’s fall is qualitatively different from Adam’s, and that thus her journey back to God is also different from Adam’s, requiring an eternal submission to her husband as her god.

Both Adam and Eve transgressed, yet the temple reflects that Adam’s redemption is full and allows him to become a priest to Elohim and a god in his own right, so why would Eve have to covenant to Adam and not get to covenant with Elohim, also receiving a full restoration of her relationship with Elohim?

I suggest that Eve’s “curse” was a “fall”  in that she eternally lost her potential to be a priestess to Elohim.  Her only access to exaltation is to be a priestess to another god to whom she is completely devoted body and soul, and to whom she will exercise obedience (unlike her disobedience to Elohim).  For woman, the husbandgod replaces the Fathergod.

In the temple account, Eve’s sins were to listen to Satan, and to remove Adam’s agency to keep both of God’s commandments.  Adam’s only sin was to listen to Eve, and in doing so he actually was doing mankind a favor.  The transgressions are qualitatively different.  To mend all things, Adam must not listen to Eve again but instead, she must obey him in order to set right her tragic series of events.

In the omitted text, one of Eve’s sins is listed:

ELOHIM:  Eve, because thou has hearkened to the voice of Satan….

And later, in text that is still in the ceremony:

ELOHIM:  Inasmuch as Eve was the first to eat of the forbidden fruit, if she will covenant that from this time forth that she will obey….

Both Adam and Eve had to keep both commandments (don’t eat of the tree of knowledge, multiply and replenish the earth), so as soon as Eve broke one, she removed Adam’s ability to keep both commandments even though he had done nothing wrong.  That is, her act interfered with Adam’s free agency.  After she had sinned by partaking of knowledge, Adam could either keep the fruit commandment and lose all progeny by remaining alone in Eden, or else he could break the fruit commandment but still be able to gain progeny.  Adam is put in a position where he has HAS to break a commandment, so he chooses the one that he perceives to be the most important – that is, he chose progeny (“I will partake, that man may be”).  In this context, his act was valiant.  Adam was still punished for his transgression to eat the fruit and to listen to Eve (his penalty was to die /gain mortality and be ejected from the garden) – but unlike Eve, he did NOT remove agency from another or listen to Lucifer (in fact, earlier in the ceremony he rejects Lucifer), so Adam did not lose his potential to gain priesthood unto God.

In this view, Eve’s sin was qualitatively different from Adam’s, and the temple suggests that her act was one that invited spiritual death that could only be overcome by eternally submitting to Adam’s agency, the very agency which she had wounded in Eden.  This is the temple narrative for why women must submit to men and not have direct access to God.

Our modern discourse about Eve does not reflect the temple’s perspective.  In modern rhetoric she is cast as a hero:

“Eve set the pattern. In addition to bearing children, she mothered all of mankind when she made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness. Like the Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us.”  (Sherri Dew, Ensign, Nov 2001)

Elder Oaks has put forth some of the most interesting doctrine of Eve, when he discussed the Fall at length in another landmark General Conference address, the Great Plan of Happiness, in 1993:

“It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and “Adam fell that men might be”.

Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall.   Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it. Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least.” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” 

I see this as a marker of great progress and promise.  Perhaps the temple ceremony will be changed to reflect Mother in Heaven’s creative capacity, as well as Eve’s heroism…instead of ignoring one and using the other as a reason to put all women under men’s presiding power.  The temple has so much promise to exalt women! We seem to be heading in the right direction.

However, the current temple ceremony indeed teaches us that Eve fell and must submit to be reclaimed.  Man may not be punished for Adam’s transgression, but women are still punished for Eve’s.  If women are not punished for Eve’s transgression, why the need to submit to a husbandgod?  If Eve’s action was heroic, courageous, and necessary, why is Eve not commended for her sacrifice and woman anointed a priestess to Elohim?

The obvious problem with the temple portrayal of Eve’s curse and necessary submission to Adam is that the atonement of Christ should be powerful enough to overcome anything Eve did.  Why couldn’t Eve repent to fully regain her access to Elohim without a husband intercessor?  The temple doctrine suggests that woman is paying for Eve’s sin instead of letting the Savior atone for it.  Why would Christ not be her intercessor, as Christ is intercessor for Adam himself, by which she could then become a priestess to Elohim?  I believe this is the great conundrum of how women are portrayed in the temple narrative: it limits and contradicts the power of atonement.

The Two Endowment Rituals Enshrined in More Than Words

The analogy, Man is priest to Fathergod  as Woman is priestess to Husbandgod permeates the temple through ritual acts.  I could go into far more detail about how tokens, names, the headwear, the veil ceremony, the sealing ceremony, and even the second anointing reflect the relationship of God/Man/Woman and Husband acting as god to the wife.

In any case, the point is that just by virtue of being a woman, I cannot covenant to, access, or return to my Fathergod without a husband.  If I can use priesthood power under a man, great.  But how can we name a woman equal, who cannot receive a token from the Father’s hand, who cannot receive a priestesshood from Him, who is dependent upon her husband to heal her spiritual death, all because of a sin she did not herself commit?

To call a woman equal under the terms Elder Oaks described in conference would be to ordain her a priestess to Elohim, which priestesshood she practices, like her brothers, under the keys of an authorized leader.

This is not simply a question of what is a woman’s power – it is a question of who is a woman’s god, and how does a woman heal her breach with the Father, and why isn’t the atonement enough to make her worthy of priesthood?  It is a question of what is a woman’s eternal inheritance, and the nature of her future divinity.

I cannot expect the temple to change without a completely innovative, foundational shift in Mormon thought. Of course, the gospel has built-in mechanisms for change in its construct of ongoing revelation.  I do hope women start see themselves as agents of priesthood power, and are further introduced into new ways of ministering and administering in the Kingdom.  But we need more.  Our spirits shrivel in the darkness.  If this Restoration is ongoing, please, let us heal the remainder of the Great Apostasy.

Before the Restoration, our Church fathers longed for their divine Father, yearned for details of their eternal identity, and experienced a righteous desire for direct divine access without a priest standing between them and their God.  Their prayers were answered and we laud them as heroes.

Those of us who are women longing for our divine mothers, who yearn for details of our eternal identity, and who experience a righteous desire for direct divine access without a priest standing between us and our God, remain unanswered and patiently wait for the scorn from those who mock us to go away.

One day, I hope to teach my daughters that they can exercise their priestesshood power under a leader with keys.  I hope to watch them heal and bless.  I hope to teach them that Eve was a hero who sacrificed herself on behalf of humankind, and for them to learn this also when they attend the temple.  I hope they see their creative power of motherhood on display there.  I hope they meet a goddess there.  I hope to teach them that they covenant with God, and that He gives them tokens.  I hope I can witness a sealing ceremony where my daughter and her husband give and receive each other, and know each other’s names.  I hope each of my daughters knows that her identity in the universe is as a Daughter of God, not as wife of a Son of God.

For I know that to be true of myself.

I thank Elder Oaks for his bold words, and hope many more will be forthcoming about the nature of women wielding priesthood, and how we can expand our capacities.  I hope the Church leaders discern how much we Mormon women yearn for their leadership.  I hope they know there is real curiosity and real pain behind our questions.  There is so much more for we sisters to learn about ourselves.  I hope someday we get to show how much more powerfully we could build Zion, when trusted with a power and a chance.

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The scattering of Israel ain’t over, yet


The scattering of Israel has been the gospel topic du jour in my mind lately.  I thought about the prophecy about the state of Israel ceasing to exist and its inhabitants being scattered and then my mind turned to the seed of Lehi on the reservations and I asked myself, “Can the Indians truly be considered in a scattered state if they are gathered onto reservations?”  I then wondered if they, too, would be further scattered off of the reservations.  My curiosity piqued, I then took up the scriptures to find out if there was any prophetic indications that the scattering of this land’s remnant (Lehi’s seed) was not yet over.  Here’s what I found and how I ended up reading (interpreting) the text:

1 Nephi 22:7

Nephi, expounding Isaiah 49:22-23 to his brothers Laman and Lemuel, said:

And it meaneth that the time cometh that AFTER all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded, that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered.

Now, notice the timeline of Nephi’s prophecy.

First, “all the house of Israel” will be scattered and confounded.  That includes the current State of Israel.  So, this prophecy is still future to us.

Second, only AFTER “all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded,” the Lord will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles.  I have always been taught that we Americans, the citizens of the United States of America, are that mighty nation that scattered the Indians, but according to this new reading of the text, we are just a shadow fulfillment.  After Israel ceases to exist as a State, I suppose we do, too.  Then there will be another Gentile nation afterward upon this land, “a mighty” one, which the Lord God will raise up.

Third, it is this other Gentile nation, raised up by the Lord God on this land, after the USA has come and gone, that kicks the seed of Lehi off the reservations.  The U.S. Federal government oversees the Indian reservations, so if there is no more federal government, there is no more federal protection for the Indians, and their land is, essentially, up for grabs.  No one today dares take the reservation land from the Indians because it is essentially federal government land, and doing so would pit one against the feds, which is a no-win situation.  But without the feds, the Indians, which truly are weak these days, are easy prey.

Helaman 15:12

Samuel the Lamanite prophesied the following to the Nephites:

Yea, I say unto you, that in the latter times the promises of the Lord have been extended to our brethren, the Lamanites; and notwithstanding the many afflictions which they shall have, and notwithstanding they shall be driven to and fro upon the face of the earth, and be hunted, and shall be smitten and scattered abroad, having no place for refuge, the Lord shall be merciful unto them.

Although it is true that the Indians have been moved off of their traditional lands, and thus scattered from these lands, the reservations can still be considered places of refuge.  Only if they are kicked off of the reservations, and the reservation lands are occupied and inherited by the Gentiles (so that there are no more “reservations”), and the Indians are scattered among the Gentiles, only then can this prophecy of them “having no place for refuge” be literally fulfilled.  This interpretation shows, yet again, that the scattering of Israel is not yet complete.

Mormon 5:9

And also that a knowledge of these things must come unto the remnant of these people, and also unto the Gentiles, who the Lord hath said should scatter this people, and this people should be counted as naught among them—therefore I write a small abridgment, daring not to give a full account of the things which I have seen, because of the commandment which I have received, and also that ye might not have too great sorrow because of the wickedness of this people.  (Mormon 5:9)

There are two things about this prophecy: first, that the Indians will be counted (by the Gentiles) as nothing, and second, that the Indians will be counted among the Gentiles.  In other words, they will be scattered off of their lands and assimilated into the Gentile populations.  So, there will be no more Indian lands, no more Indian tribes, no more “Indian” anything.  They will completely lose their identity and will incorporate into the Gentiles, yet the Gentiles will not view them as full persons.  This reminds me of the 3/5 person accounting of slaves for direct tax apportionment, as written in the U.S. Constitution.  If I had to venture a prophetic guess, I would say that the seed of Lehi, at this future point, will enter the Gentile population as slaves, which is why Mormon uses the term “naught” to describe how the Gentiles will count them.

Now, taking this further—for I will treat this interpretation as a prophetic mood, at this point, and see where it leads—if indeed they will enter bona fide slavery among the Gentile population of the new, mighty nation raised up by the Lord God upon this land, then the prophecies of the Book of Mormon which speak of them being brought down into captivity and being brought out of captivity will be fulfilled literally.  So, although legal slavery has been abolished in this Gentile nation, the next Gentile nation to appear on this land will bring it back.

Three groups of captives; three divine deliveries

The Book of Mormon prophesies of three groups of people that will be brought down into captivity and then delivered by the power of God: a group of Gentiles, the saints of God and the remnant of this land.  Here is an example concerning the Gentile group:

And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.  (1 Nephi 13:13,19)

And these scriptures show the captivity and deliverance of the saints and remnant:

And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.  (1 Nephi 13:5)

Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.  (2 Nephi 3:5)

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.  (1 Nephi 14:14)

Now, by way of explanation, this righteous branch that Lehi spoke of is the remnant of his seed in the latter days*.  Jacob prophesied the following:

And behold how great the covenants of the Lord, and how great his condescensions unto the children of men; and because of his greatness, and his grace and mercy, he has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them; and in future generations they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel.  (2 Nephi 9:53)

It would appear then, according to these scriptures (and others that I will not get into), that prior to the final scattering of the remnant upon this land and their entrance into captivity (slavery), a great and abominable church must be in existence, one which brings the saints into captivity (slavery) and which, perhaps, is also responsible for the captivity of the aforementioned Gentiles (who go out of captivity) and the subsequent captivity of the remnant.  The appearance of that great and abominable church is a prophetic marker, which indicates the final phase of the scattering.  It should be fairly easy to identify the church when it is formed, since slavery (and other abominations) will be one of its tenets.

Mormon 5:20

Finally, Mormon also wrote this, concerning the scattering of the remnant of this land:

But behold, it shall come to pass that they shall be driven and scattered by the Gentiles; and AFTER they have been driven and scattered by the Gentiles, behold, THEN will the Lord remember the covenant which he made unto Abraham and unto all the house of Israel.  (Mormon 5:20)

This means that the scattering of Israel begins with all the other tribes of Israel (they are the first to be scattered) and ends with the seed of Lehi (they are the last to be scattered.)  And only after the seed of Lehi is finally and fully scattered, then and only then will the Lord remember the covenant that He made to all the tribes of Israel, to bring them out of captivity, gather them, restore them to their lands and to the knowledge of their fathers, etc.  Then the last tribal branch that was scattered (the seed of Lehi) will be the first tribal branch that will begin to be gathered, and so on and so forth (first to last and last to first.)

*And when they repent and come to Christ, they shall take upon themselves the name of Nephi, calling themselves Nephites, which is a topic I might fully unfold in a future post.  In the meantime, see here and here.

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