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In a 2014 SquareTwo article, I attempted to lay out my understanding of priesthood. There I set out this summative diagram, and I embellish it here to preface my remarks in this essay:

It is my belief that it is becoming increasingly clear to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that women hold divine power, just as men do. Consider this pictogram from the Church:

Consider also statements from our current General Authorities, of which these are but three:

We in the Church are now ready to admit that women have been both endowed with and wield priesthood power. This new understanding has been remarkable and so needed in our faith community. It is a huge step forward, one for which I am personally grateful, and which tracks changes in the temple ceremonies. The heavens are indeed beginning to open.

I believe that we are but in the initial steps of that opening, and that there is more to come. I believe we are close to understanding that there are two divine powers in the universe: the power of the divine masculine and the power of the divine feminine, and that these powers are not the same, but operate on the same principles and towards the same end—“the immortality and eternal life of man.” Furthermore, when joined, these two powers together constitute divinity.

We openly say that men are ordained to hold offices in the priesthood, acting as apprentices to their Heavenly Father, and are able to utilize the power of Heavenly Father in their work building the kingdom of God here on earth. What we have been reluctant to say, but perhaps is time to say, is that women are apprentices to their Heavenly Mother, pre-mortally ordained to the priestesshood [1], and are able to utilize the power of Heavenly Mother in their work building the kingdom of God on earth. [2]

It is currently fairly easy within our faith community to assert that marriage in the new and everlasting covenant provides an additional endowment of power to worthy members. It is well known, for example, that marriage is a prerequisite for men to hold higher ecclesiastical position in the Church. But what we currently lack is the language to say why there is a greater endowment of power. But if we understood that there is a unique divine feminine power, we would be able to articulate that when men and women marry in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, together they hold what I am terming the PPriesthood [3], combining the power of the priesthood and the power of the priestesshood, and making PPriesthood the most powerful force in all Creation.

Is it not obvious? Sometimes I wonder why we are so reluctant to say what we kind of all already know.

I think perhaps some of the reticence may actually stem from the vagaries of the language we use. I think we have often confused “priesthood” with “PPriesthood,” or been cavalier about the distinctions between the two concepts. I remember as a new convert being told that the priesthood was the right given to men to exercise the power of God on earth. Well, that’s technically not true. “God” means an exalted man and an exalted woman united in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. The Power of God therefore means the powers of our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother combined. So, no, men do not use the power of “God” on earth because men do not hold the power of Heavenly Mother. Even Heavenly Father does not hold the power of Heavenly Mother. What men have the right to wield, if they are worthy, is the power of Heavenly Father on earth—the priesthood.

Indeed, it is useful to define priesthood as the power of Heavenly Father on earth, and the priestesshood as the power of Heavenly Mother on earth. The exercise of priesthood in mortality is the apprenticeship whereby men grow into Heavenly Fatherhood. The exercise of priestesshood in mortality is the apprenticeship whereby women grow into Heavenly Motherhood. I point this out because some are fond of saying that motherhood and priesthood are not analogous. But that misses the point. The purpose of priesthood is to become a Father in Heaven; the purpose of priestesshood is to become a Mother in Heaven. So priesthood and priestesshood are analogous, as are Fatherhood and Motherhood which are the ends of priesthood and priestesshood.

As a result of this increased understanding, the movement to ordain women to the priesthood always seemed to me to be at its core quite misogynist. The thought that somehow men could lay their hands on a woman’s head and give her the power of Heavenly Father just “makes reason stare.” No, I don’t need a man to offer me the power I possess by right under the hand of a divine Woman—I don’t need a man to access the power that I as a woman am given by birthright! And furthermore, it makes no sense that I be given the power of a Heavenly Father (priesthood), for I am destined to become a Heavenly Mother and hold the priestesshood, thank you very much.

This expanded understanding also clarifies why heterosexual marriage in the new and everlasting covenant is such an important goal for God’s sons and daughters, whether or not they are members of the Church. In this earth life, the direct path to experience how these two different but equal spiritual powers combine to become the Power of God is a loving temple marriage. However, I would argue that even in a loving heterosexual marriage not sealed in the temple, one can nevertheless begin to feel the grandeur and the joy of the Power of God.

This understanding also underscores why marriage must be founded on the truth of the husband’s and wife’s equal standing before God and before each other. A couple will never be able to wield the PPriesthood if one of the spouses is understood to be—or is in practice treated as—a subordinate. The priesthood and the priestesshod are powers equal in might, though different, and are wielded by God’s sons and God’s daughters who are equals, though different. Notice we eschew the worldly meaning of the term “equal” here—“equal” does not mean two things are the very same, or identical. In the divine perspective, two things can certainly be different and yet equal [4], and that concept is at the very core of heterosexual marriage, the template for the greatest power of all, the Power of God.

Indeed, one of the most important lessons of the Garden of Eden story is that Adam and Eve were equals with different stewardships in the unfolding of the Great Plan of Happiness. Furthermore, because each had a different stewardship, each had to hearken to the other. Adam had to hearken to Eve in order for the door to mortality to be opened, by her whose right it was to open it and preside over it. Eve had to hearken to Adam for the door to heaven to be opened, by him who right is was to open it and preside over it. Two hearkenings, two stewardships, two powers at work in the Garden of Eden, all symbolized by the Two Trees there.

In our faith community, we are all familiar with the ordinances of the Tree of Life presided over by the sons of God in their apprenticeship to Heavenly Father: baptism, confirmation, endowment, sealing, ordaining to priesthood office. Why are we shy about naming the priestesshood ordinances of the First Tree, such as pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation? After all, an ordinance is by definition (in the Church Handbook), “a sacred physical act with symbolic meaning.” Do we not sense that some of the physical acts that women undertake are sacred and laden with symbolic and spiritual meaning? That they mirror the pathway of ordinances overseen by the sons of God? That they, indeed, mirror the Atonement of Christ? The most beautiful exploration of this mirroring, in my opinion, is a classic piece by Analiesa Leonhardt entitled, “The Sacrament of Birth,” and if you have not yet read it, I enthusiastically encourage you to do so. The essay will forever change the lenses by which you see women and their work in this fallen world.

Consider in addition some interesting reflections along this same line from a variety of more recent CoJC sources:

Pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation all seem pretty clearly to be ordinances. I would even go so far as to suggest there are keys associated with these ordinances. In an April 2014 conference address, President Dallin H. Oaks explained to us that, “At general conference many years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that there are other priesthood keys that have not been given to man on the earth, including the keys of creation and resurrection.”; [President Oaks then cites President J. Reuben Clark as saying that women] “possess . . . the complement of the priesthood powers.” He might also have made reference to an analogy used by President Boyd K. Packer back in 1993, which suggests the same:

“Once a man received as his inheritance two keys. The first key, he was told, would open a vault which he must protect at all cost. The second key was to a safe within the vault which contained a priceless treasure. He was to open this safe and freely use the precious things which were stored therein . . . The man went alone to the vault. His first key opened the door. He tried to unlock the treasure with the other key, but he could not, for there were two locks on the safe. His key alone would not open it. No matter how he tried, he could not open it. He was puzzled. He had been given the keys. He knew the treasure was rightfully his. He had obeyed instructions, but he could not open the safe. In due time, there came a woman into the vault. She, too, held a key. It was noticeably different from the key he held. Her key fit the other lock. It humbled him to learn that he could not obtain his rightful inheritance without her.”

Now, the power of the Mothers-in-training is not limited to physical birth, of course. Indeed, I bet every mother who has read the Harry Potter series instinctively knew exactly why Harry was not killed by Voldemort as a baby—his mother had coated him in a spell woven of motherlove, a spiritual force much more powerful than the evil creature that assailed him. Real examples abound; one CoJC mother, her daughter threatened, recounted, “I prayed to the Lord with all the energy of my heart, in grief and despair, begging him to help me. And in response I felt one of the clearest spiritual impressions I have ever received. The spirit told me, ‘You are her mother; you have power. What do you want us to do?’” Understanding finally that she had the power, she called upon the powers of heaven as was her right as a mother, and the threat to her daughter was overruled. [5]

I do believe there are some important differences between the nature and exercise of the power of the priestesshood and the nature and exercise of the power of the priesthood. I was going to expand this essay by discussing what I see, particularly the clear strength of women’s dyadic power, a form of “Specific Authority,” as versus a more collective “General Authority.” But I feel to stop here, and perhaps will pen an essay for the next issue of SquareTwo on that subject.

In closing, I would like to echo and emphasize a prediction made by Sheri Dew: “I believe that the moment we learn to unleash the full influence of converted, covenant-keeping women, the kingdom of God will change overnight.” [6] Why? For then we will have unleashed some of the most powerful beings in the universe: the daughters of God. The first (to lead out in the Plan of Happiness) shall be last (that is, subordinated throughout human history), and then at the end of times, will become first (that is, will lead out in power) once more.

Watch for it . . . watch what happens when Zion’s daughters rise in their might and claim the power they had not even known they possessed, and unite that power with the power of Zion’s sons . . . That is the day evil’s defeat will be assured; that is the day Satan will mourn his prophesied fate. Do you want to hasten that day? Then put forth real effort to ensure women are treated as equals and understand their God-given power as daughters of God.

A bit ironic, isn’t it, that the final victory of Zion depends on how we treat women, especially how we treat women in the Church of Jesus Christ where we know the truth of these things?

NOTES:

[1] I suggest pre-mortally, for reasons laid out on other essays, such as http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerTwoTrees.html. Or there are other possibilities to think of, as well. It is important and relevant to remember that under the Mosaic law, when a woman gives birth to a daughter, she is set apart not just for a cleansing period after the birth, but for a special extra period of time that is the exact same length as when a man is set apart for ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood. Compare Leviticus 8:33 with Leviticus 12: 2, 5. [Back to manuscript].


[2] It is interesting to note that in the early days of the Church, there was much talk of priestesshood. For example, Eliza R. Snow asserted “[Joseph Smith] wanted to make us, as the women were in Paul’s day, ‘A kingdom of priestesses.’” (Clawson, Clara L. “Pioneer Stake,” Woman’s Exponent 34, Nos. 2-3 (July and August 1905): 14.) I find it noteworthy that Snow had to use the word kingdom, for there exists no English language word to convey what she meant. [Back to manuscript].


[3] I use the two “P”s to both avoid confusion and emphasize that the power of God is the power of both the priesthood and the priestesshood. [Back to manuscript].


[4] I find this strongly implied in Abraham 3:19. [Back to manuscript].


[5] Quoted in another great essay on this topic: http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleNibleyMotherhood.html [Back to manuscript].


[6] Sheri Dew (2013) Women and the Priesthood, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, p. 163. [Back to manuscript].



Full Citation for this Article: Cassler, V.H. (2020) "Understanding the PPriesthood," SquareTwo, Vol. 13 No. 2 (Summer 2020), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerPPriesthood.html, accessed <give access date>.

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