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Latter Day Sisterhood in Mormonism

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Back in June of 2014 I wrote an article here on OpEdNews about women and the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CJCLdS for short). Little did I know then that I had a little over a year left in this denomination. My understanding of this topic has evolved from this time, but I still agree with what I wrote, for that denomination. I still believe they have the right to change this, but it required revelation and not merely the desires of the people. And I understand that this revelation must come from God to the majority of the Saints in this denomination, not merely the white men at the top.

As a point of clarification, it should be understood that revelation in this denominations is defined in their Doctrine and Covenants (DaC for short) 107: 23-24, which reads:

"The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned."

Seeing that their denomination did not take keys of the "three presidents previously mentioned" with them when their group departed from the original denomination, seeing that they were merely the largest splinter group from the abandoned church, revelation is when the 15 Apostles all vote in unison. And, if one carefully reads the leaders of this denomination speak of their revelations, this is what we hear: that they are all moved by the Spirit to vote as one. And that's fine, it's exactly how their scriptures state they must do things.

But, it leaves the question of other denominations. And we know women were ordained in Biblical times:

"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cen"chre-ae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the Saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well." (Romans 16:1 RSV.)

Clearly, this woman was a deacon. So the office of deacon cannot be for 12 boys or men only. This is but one example. There are others. And, this idea found in the Bible is also what we saw forming in Joseph Smith Jr's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The original "Female Relief Society of Nauvoo" was founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois. The prophet Joseph Smith organized the women under the priesthood on Thursday, March 17, 1842, in the second-story meeting room over the prophet's Red Brick Store. Twenty women met with the prophet, John Taylor, and Willard Richards to start the new organization.

In forming the Society, the prophet Joseph Smith stated "he was going to make of this Society a kingdom of [priestesses] as in Enoch's dayas in Paul's day" (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, p. 22). The prophet's wife, Emma Hale Smith, was elected "Presidentess Elect," and Joseph "read the Revelation to Emma Smith, from the book of Doctrine and Covenants; and stated that she was ordained at the time the Revelation was given, to expound the scriptures to all; and to teach the female part of community; and that not she alone, but others may attain to the same blessings" (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, p. 9).

It was proposed that the organization go by the name "Benevolent Society." However, Emma Smith convinced the attendees that the term "relief" would better reflect the Society's purpose. At this point, the men left the room so the Society could be about its business. Presidentess Elect, Emma Smith; the original Elect Lady, remarked that "each member should be ambitious to do good" and seek out and relieve the distressed.

Organization and Teachings

The original Nauvoo Relief Society had the same priesthood offices as the male organization.

"If any Officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the Institution, let them be appointed and set apart, as Deacons, Teachers &c. are among us." (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, p. 8; March 17, 1842.)

Under the prophet Joseph Smith Jr. the sisters of the Nauvoo Relief Society were taught to use the priesthood.

"Thursday 28 at Two o'clock after-noon met the members of the 'Female Relief Society' and after presiding at the admission of many new members. Gave a lecture on the priesthood, shewing how the Sisters would come in possession of the privileges & blessings & gifts of the priesthood & that the signs should follow them. such as healing the sick casting out devils &c. & that they might attain unto. These blessings, by a virtuous life & conversation & diligence in keeping all the commandments." (Joseph Smith's journal; April 28,1842.)

The Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book confirms the prophet's journal.

"Prest.[sic] Smith continued the subject by adverting to the commission given to the ancient apostles 'Go ye into all the world' &c. no matter who believeth; these signs, such as healing the sick, casting out devils &c. should follow all that believe whether male or female. He ask'd the Society if they could not see by this sweeping stroke, that wherein they are ordained, it is the privilege of those set apart to administer in that authority which is confer'd on them and if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on.

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A graduate of Franklin University with a degree in Digital Communications, David is the co-president of the Church of Jesus Christ in Christian Fellowship, a nondenominational Latter Day Saint/Mormon movement. In the past, he was a full time (more...)

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