There’s a new party line emerging in the Church about the priesthood. It is this: “No one blesses themselves through the priesthood, so everyone is equally blessed by the priesthood.” This is becoming the neat little response to concerns about the men-only nature of God’s power. And I find it terribly insulting.
Is it true that no one “lays their hands on their own head”? Yes. But to suggest that receiving ordinances is the only way one is ‘blessed’ by the priesthood is preposterous. It flies in the face of everything I was taught as a young man and my personal experience as a priesthood holder. I will mourn a great loss if this becomes the official interpretation of the priesthood.
My first post for Rational Faiths (and still one of my proudest contributions) was about the ways in which holding the priesthood blessed my life. I listed three:
- By encouraging me to live righteously so I can exercise God’s power,
- By giving me meaningful opportunities to serve, and
- By allowing me to participate frequently in performing holy ordinances.
None of these are available – in the same ways – to faithful women or men who do not hold the priesthood. When women are not offered God’s power in the same way as men, it will not have the same impact on the way they think of righteous living. While women may have many meaningful opportunities to serve, some of the most meaningful to me have been priesthood leadership positions from which they are barred by their gender.
Though we are literally “blessed” by receiving priesthood ordinances, I have never found anything in this world like the feeling of conveying those blessings as God’s instrument. Standing in the water with a new convert you have taught to make them a new member of the Church. Placing hands on the head of the sick and calling down the healing powers of heaven. Ordaining a family member. Setting apart a member for a new calling. Signing off on a temple recommend. Giving someone an affirming worthiness interview. The list could go on.
Though each of these experiences had as its purpose serving others, they were sacred experiences for me, too. We know we are blessed when we serve. So why are we pretending that principle doesn’t apply to priesthood holders?