Women and the Priesthood

June 7, 2008

Q. What is the LDS position on women as priests/pastors/leaders/whatever they are called?

woman-preacherWell, the Church’s position is that women are very capable leaders. The women’s organization (Relief Society) is led by 4 women (president, 1st counselor, 2nd counselor, secretary) with the same organization in the Primary (children’s classes). Women also lead the teenage girls (Young Women Organization) in the same fashion. Women give sermons for the whole church, and they teach Sunday school lessons. However, the main body of the congregation (called a ward, or a branch) is led by men.

As far as women being priests, pastors, or whatevers, that just isn’t women’s job. Okay, that sounds sexist, but it isn’t, just hear me out (and know that I am a woman).

See, God isn’t running a democracy and He doesn’t have to give His power to everyone to be fair. He is running a theocracy; and it works well because He knows everything, understands what we need, and is completely Good.

So He has assigned the worthy men the role of carrying his authority to preside over the church, give Priesthood blessings, and serve as God himself would serve. This is really good for men, in general. It gives them the opportunity and responsibility to take care of others, serve, and become selfless. Men sometimes have a hard time looking outside themselves, and with this responsibility solely on their shoulders, they are solely responsible to God for how they do. If they don’t do what they are supposed to bad things can happen. That’s how apostasy comes about.


He gave women an equally responsible job–they are in charge of raising their children to be God-loving, respectful, and well-balanced. This is a huge job: like the Priesthood, they are accountable to God for how they do; and, like the priesthood, the responsibility helps them take care of others, serve, and become selfless. If they don’t follow through with their duties, and their children grow up without knowing God, or keeping His commandments, bad things can happen. That’s why the earth was flooded.

Both men and women are heading for salvation, but since our natures are so different, God has given us different responsibilities to round out our weaknesses and accentuate our strengths. That’s why God’s theocracy works–everyone in His kingdom is working toward the same goal and He has tailored their roles to get them there.
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9 Responses to “Women and the Priesthood”

  1. Bethany Brown

    If a woman’s “job” is to be in charge of raising children, then what is the woman’s job if she is unable to have children?

  2. Jan

    Such a good question.  I really like the idea from Sister Holland that Eve was called the Mother of All Living long before she ever had a single child.  There is something in the nature of women that nurtures, loves and brings to the forefront the potential for greatness in every person.  You don’t have to be a biological mother to act on those intuitions.
    Children grow up and move away pretty quickly anyway, and yet women are responsible for being mothers for their whole lives.  So whether it is your own children or the children in the community, or even being a nurturing, loving and wise friend to those you love, there are opportunities all around to fulfill our role as “mothers”.

  3. Bethany Brown

    With all due respect, I would hate to believe that my sole purpose of being on the earth is to only take care of children, or to just be a friend. I can be a great friend and have a job outside the home too. My best friends happen to be my coworkers. And I understand what you are getting at. But I cannot have children, nor do I want any. My sister has 2, but lives in another state. I love them dearly, but a weekend visit is about all I can take! 🙂

  4. Thaddeus

    Bethany, I appreciate what you’re saying, and we do need to adapt the general principles of the gospel to individual circumstances. Take a look at what your saying, though, and fill in the blank with something else: would you feel more fulfilled if your sole purpose for being on the earth is to be the CEO of a successful company? Or a marine biologist? Or a tax preparer? Or a farmer?

    It’s fine to have a good job, but I give family higher priority every time.

    The Lord knows us and our needs (and our ultimate, long-term desires) better than we do. He occasionally gives us reminders of these priorities to us through His prophets.

    See a related article I wrote earlier about Mormon Mommy Blogs

  5. Alexander

    I agree with Thaddeus.

    Also, sometimes I think the role of fatherhood can sometimes be overlooked when the familiar “feminism vs. motherhood” debate is raised.

    What I mean by this is that while a woman’s primary role in life is to a good wife and mother figure, a man’s primary role is to be a good husband and father figure.

    In other words, man’s primary responsibility in life is also his family role, and not his career, the same as with women.

    Family roles are not meant as alternatives to careers; rather a successful career can augment a good family man or woman, provided all things are kept in balance.

  6. Charlotte

    I agree with Bethany. I think what she is trying to say is that it is insulting and oppressive to us women who don’t want to be mothers or nurturers to be told that it is our most important purpose on earth. That is not to say that we think being a CEO or a chef is most important in life. It is to say that we are full human beings, with many diverse aspects of ourselves that are equally as special and as worthy. To say that the “mothering” aspect of women is the most important and should define her is basically equating her to a womb. 

  7. Patty

    Bethany and Charlotte,
    I am curious if you 2 are LDS? 
    I happen to be a mother of 4.  Bethany said, “I would hate to believe that my sole purpose of being on the earth is to only take care of children…”  and Charlotte complied w/ this, saying it is insulting “to be told that it is our most important purpose on earth.”
    We can all give tribute to the mom’s of this world – especially our own – none of us would be here w/out them 😉 . However, like you two expressed… this role is not our sole purpose on earth.  A woman’s (and man’s) purpose of being on this earth really is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Just Check out these verses: Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11; Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4.
    Speaking of families and our roles: 1 Corinthians 7 says that some choose not to marry and that is OK because they can care more for the things of the Lord and how to please Him rather than the spouse.
    It would be wise to always put the Lord foremost and never put others ahead of Him or in His place (almost turning families into idols). Jesus said it like this Matthew 10:37 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
    Whether your role is a wife, mother, daughter, boss, third world missionary, or window washer… we do that the best and do it all for His glory. Colossians 3:23, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

  8. Jan

    I’ve been ruminating on this all day and night.  I just want to add a couple of things:
    1) Bethany and Charlotte, I’m sorry if my response offended or oppressed you.  That was certainly not my intention.  Bethany asked what about women who “are unable” to have children, and so I framed my response to that question.  If she would have asked about women “who do not want to have children”, that would have elicited a different response.
    2) Equating motherhood to being “just a womb”, and implying that motherhood denies that “we are full human beings with many diverse aspects of ourselves” is also oppressive and insulting.  Being a good mother is one of the most difficult, educational and rewarding jobs that there is on this earth.  I have become more myself in the last four years as a mother than I was in my pre-kid adult life (even with a career, self-satisfaction and more money).  Mothering stretches you to the very limits of what you think you can handle and pushes you to become more than you think you can be.  Saying that those kinds of growth only occur in the workplace is simply wrong.
    3) As the world changes and life situations become more complex, the LDS church has also become more flexible in its views of women’s roles.  I know a handful of women, faithful Latter-Day Saints, for whom working is absolutely the best thing for them.  Most of them have kids, and their families are blessed for their mother’s work outside the home.  I also know a lot of women who stay home with their kids and that is the best for them, and their families are equally blessed.  I think that the Church’s position on what a woman should do with her life is simply: Follow the Spirit.  The steps for following the spirit are simple– think about your problem, then pray to ask the Lord what He thinks is best.  I find it is easier to already come to a decision and then ask Him if that is right–it’s easier to get a clear answer when I have a clear question.  Then DO what He inspires you to do.
    Anyway, I thought I would chime in here on what the Mormons believe, since that is the point of the website.

  9. bethany

    Charlotte: well said.
    Patty: No, not LDS, which is why I asked the question here on this website. :). I used to be Baptist for many years. However, for the past 15 years I have been agnostic.