SALT LAKE CITY – The newly-released essay "Joseph Smith's Teachings about Priesthood, Temple and Women" says that while no LDS woman has ever been ordained to the priesthood, women in the LDS Church exercise priesthood-like authority without ordination, particularly in leadership positions within the Relief Society, Young Women's and Primary organizations.
The essay was one of two released Friday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the other detailing the Church’s position on the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother.
Neylan McBaine, author of the book “Women at Church”, spoke in reaction to the essay on women and the LDS priesthood.
“They were very careful to distinguish between priesthood authority, priesthood rights or keys, and then priesthood power,” McBaine said.
McBaine said the essays allow for enhanced conversations.
“I definitely feel that the essay has opened a door,” McBaine said. “It uses language that’s different from our lay-rhetoric in our local wards and stakes (terms for local LDS Congregations). I think if we read the essay carefully and start using similar language, then we will certainly be doing ourselves a favor as we go forward in raising our daughters and granddaughters in the church."
But, the essay doesn't open the door as wide as some would like.
“Ideally, the words I hoped for would be, 'We will be ordaining women’, and I didn't expect that to come out in a statement,” said Debra Jenson, Chair of the Executive Board for the group Ordain Women.
The group is made up of more than 700 people who have requested that the LDS Church formally give the priesthood to women.
“We look forward to that revelation,” Jenson said.
Still, Jenson said she finds the new essay encouraging.
“We're thrilled that our leaders are engaging in the conversation,” she said.
The second essay published Friday, "Mother in Heaven" addresses a concept which has been discussed by LDS faithful for generations.
“So glad to see it,” Jenson said. “Heavenly Mother is someone that women are supposed to emulate and that we hope to return to, and we know nothing about her.”
Both of the essays can be read in their entirety, here.
Members of Ordain Women said they view these essays as part of a continuing conversation, not the final word on the topic of women and the priesthood.