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We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? —President Dallin H. Oaks
Women can and do indeed participate in the priesthood. They are given priesthood authority, function under priesthood authority, exercise priesthood authority, and have in mortality and will have in eternity, if they so choose, the power and authority of the holy priesthood.
We will look at seven ways this is so. It is hoped that the reader will carefully explore the scriptures cited herein and the prophetic voices that teach and bear witness to these powerful truths. It is the author’s belief that as members of the Church become more familiar with and conversant in these truths, many potential misunderstandings, frustrations, and pains will be avoided.
How important it is to be “instructed more perfectly in . . . principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God” (D&C 88:78) and all this for “the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13; emphasis added).
1. Women Can Receive and Exercise Priesthood Authority in Their Church Callings
One of the most plain and frequent ways in which women receive priesthood authority is in their Church callings. In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn that “All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this [Melchizedek] priesthood. . . . The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things” (D&C 107:5–8; emphasis added). Any calling, office, or position that anyone holds in this Church comes through and is given by virtue of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Callings in the Primary organization or Relief Society, for instance—these are not separate authorities, functions, or callings from the priesthood. No, as we just read in Doctrine and Covenants 107:5, “all . . . offices in the church are appendages” or a literal part of the holy priesthood.
A memorable and recent teaching on this specific point of doctrine was made very clear by President Oaks when he said:
We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.
Elder Ballard has given a second witness to this principle, instructing that women not only can receive priesthood authority in their callings, but they exercise it as well: “Those who have priesthood keys . . . literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power.”
Likewise, Elder Neal L. Anderson has taught the same principle, adding a clarifying detail:
We know that the keys of the priesthood, held by members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, direct the work of the Lord upon the earth. Specific priesthood keys are conferred upon stake presidents and bishops for their geographic responsibilities. And they call men and women by revelation who are sustained and set apart to exercise delegated authority to teach and administer.
From these three prophetic witnesses, it is clear that women may receive and exercise priesthood authority in their Church callings. This applies even with callings given to the young women of the Church: “A young woman called and set apart to serve in a class presidency functions in her calling with delegated priesthood authority.”
When it comes to callings in the Church, it should thus be noted that both “women and men are delegated power and authority by those who hold priesthood keys.” There is no contest, there is no need to worry or complain. There is no disadvantage or advantage to either men or women.
When it comes to priesthood authority in our callings, we are essentially all on the same standing. Ultimately, all power and authority resting in the priesthood goes back to the Savior Himself:
Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood pertaining to His Church. He has conferred upon each of His Apostles all the keys that pertain to the kingdom of God on earth. The senior living Apostle, the President of the Church, is the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys (see D&C 107:91–92).
2. Women May Receive and Be Given Priesthood Authority Eternally
Women not only receive and exercise priesthood authority here in mortality, but if they are faithful, they also can and will receive priesthood authority eternally. President M. Russell Ballard has declared, “In the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife.”
Celestial marriage in the temple is for time and all eternity. Furthermore, it has been revealed, as we have stated previously, that temple marriage is a priesthood order that women can enter, even the fulness of the priesthood for all eternity. Not only will women be in this order of the priesthood for all eternity, but they will likewise be given authority in the priesthood for all eternity as well.
President Joseph Fielding Smith declared,
There is nothing in the teachings of the gospel which declares that men are superior to women. . . . The most noble, exalting calling of all is that which has been given to women as the mothers of men. Women do not hold the priesthood [meaning priesthood keys or an ordained office], but if they are faithful and true, they will become priestesses and queens in the kingdom of God, and that implies that they will be given authority.
Now, some might ask what this authority is of which President Smith is speaking. It is true he does not specifically clarify, though the statement in the sentence is in context of the priesthood. However, to quote President Oaks once again, “We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?”
3. Women Can Receive All the Blessings of the Priesthood
Another way in which women receive the priesthood is that they can receive all of the blessings that issue from the priesthood. President Oaks said, “Priesthood power blesses all of us. Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men.”
Sheri Dew has also taught,
My young sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman . . . The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. . . . Sisters, we as women are not diminished by priesthood power, we are magnified by it. I know this is true, for I have experienced it again and again.
President Joseph Fielding Smith likewise taught, “There is no exaltation in the kingdom of God without the fulness of the priesthood . . . we all know that the blessings of the priesthood are not confined to men alone. These blessings are also poured out upon our wives and daughters and upon all the faithful women of the Church . . . The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons.”
The following was taken from the book "Royal Daughters with Priesthood Power: 7 Ways Latter-Day Saint Women Receive and Exercise the Priesthood" currently on sale at cedarfort.com.